New York—Longtime industry veteran and fine gemstone specialist Joe Menzie will retire at the end of the month, but he won’t be leaving the trade altogether.
Menzie started in the industry in 1973, leaving a job as a social worker in Yonkers to begin his jewelry career at his grandfather’s fine gemstone business.
“Back then, there were only about 10 guys my age in the business. Everybody else was much older,” he told National Jeweler in a recent interview.
He left his grandfather’s company to run the gemstone division for a Swiss company called Golay Buchel in the early 1980s prior to opening his own company.
In addition to providing fine gemstones to the industry, Joseph Menzie Inc.
also performs appraisals, sells estate jewelry, offers stone cutting and lapidary services, and creates custom jewelry.
During his career, Menzie was vital in opening gemstone markets in Korea, Dubai, and China.
He served as president of the International Colored Gemstone Association from 2003-2007 and was also on the ICA board for more than a decade. In 2013, the organization honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
He was also a founder of think tank New York Jewelers Group, which has been around for more than two decades and continues today.
One of the biggest changes to the industry since he started, Menzie noted, is the digital aspect. Among other things, it has decreased the time and money spent shipping items to clients now that trade members can show them digital images of a product.
“Before, we would use language and descriptive vocabulary to talk about stones, and we still do that, don’t get me wrong. But now everybody wants to see a picture of something first before we ship it. I think, as we do better with digitalization and these types of communication tools (like Zoom), it’s going to really change it up. For the better.”
Menzie said he’s had the timing of his retirement planned for at least the past eight years, picking it to coincide with several factors: his birthday, the lease ending on his office, and a favorable real estate market for sellers so he can sell his apartment at a profit.
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But even as he retires, his business isn’t coming to an end.
Menzie said Nash James owner Bryan Aderhold, who already operates out of the same office space, had always been the person to whom he wanted to leave his company.
“He’s super at what he does. I have complete faith in him, and all my salesmen like him. He’s very service-oriented, like I was. He’s very knowledgeable. He’s got good inventory.”
He also noted Aderhold’s strength in making his business present in the digital space and across social media channels.
Menzie will stay on through the end of the year to help with the transition and introduce Nash James to his accounts.
“When I formed Nash James Enterprises in 2016, I was starting from scratch with not much more than a vision and a passion for colored gemstones. Joe offered me a place to operate from and has taught me a lot about the business over these past few years,” Aderhold said.
“With a similar business model and approach, we are excited to incorporate Joseph M. Menzie Inc. into our operations, and we look forward to continuing Joe’s legacy as a provider of colored gemstone solutions for our clients and partners. It’s an honor and a privilege, and I’m excited to carry the torch for this industry legend, mentor, and friend.”
Menzie said he’ll still be around the industry with a few projects, like marketing and promoting colored stones to consumers to make them a “demand item” and working with overseas manufacturers to establish Permanent International Jewelry Exhibitions in the U.S., set up in response to the challenges COVID-19 brought and offering permanent spaces for them to have goods stored and displayed to allow purchasing to happen without the necessity of travel.
He also will continue the trips to gemstone source regions he started a few years ago
through a separate company, Gemstone Expeditions
. This year, it will include a trip to Montana sapphire mines and California’s Pala mine, with international trips eventually coming back online.
“I had a good run. I made a lot of friends in the industry,” Menzie said. “I always tried to tell the truth and be ethical, so I can walk around with my head held high. And I have a lot of respect from my peers, which is something you can’t buy. You have to just earn it.”