Why a Jeweler Honored a Gift Certificate from 1969

IndependentsNov 14, 2019

Why a Jeweler Honored a Gift Certificate from 1969

It cost Bensons Jewelers owner Ken Stein $150 but turned out to be worth thousands in free publicity.

The original gift certificate for silverware issued by Benson Jewelers to Catherine (Cathy) Swindell, now Jones, in 1969, when she got married. The store redeemed it this week even though it quit selling silver decades ago. (Photo courtesy of Ken Stein/George Jones)
Washington—A couple weeks ago, Bensons Jewelers owner Ken Stein got an email from a man asking if his store carried silverware.

“No,” the jeweler replied, adding, “Gosh, who does anymore?”

It was an odd and seemingly dated question, but one that turned out to have a terrific backstory that has generated an untold amount of free, positive publicity for the Washington, D.C.-based retailer.

The man who sent the email was 77-year-old Pasadena, Maryland resident George Jones.

Jones and his wife Cathy had been thumbing through their wedding album on the occasion of their 50th anniversary when they found an unclaimed gift certificate from Bensons.

Dated Nov. 8, 1969, the certificate was for “one teaspoon, one place knife and one place fork” in the “Rose” pattern by Stieff and was signed “B. Singer.”

Stein said he believes the signatory was Betsy Singer, who “did a little bit of everything” during her time at the store and, likely, was its silver specialist (the store, he noted, used to have a specialist for everything.)

Singer no longer works at Bensons, and Stein, who started at the store in 1979 and bought his father Paul out of the business in the ‘90s, said they haven’t carried Stieff, or any silver, for decades.

But he saw both charity and—he’s clear and unapologetic on this point—opportunity in honoring the couple’s gift certificate, even though he had to go out and spend $150 to buy the silverware from Replacements, Ltd.
“I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he said, “and my extreme business savvy just said, ‘This is a good story.” 

He was correct, on both counts.

George and Cathy Jones had their new silverware from Bensons Jewelers put in a shadowbox frame along with a copy of the original gift certificate from 1969, Ken Stein’s business card, a picture from their wedding 50 years ago and a letter telling the story of the certificate’s late redemption. (Photo courtesy of Ken Stein/George Jones)
George and Cathy Jones had their new silverware from Bensons Jewelers put in a shadowbox frame along with a copy of the original gift certificate from 1969, Ken Stein’s business card, a picture from their wedding 50 years ago and a letter telling the story of the certificate’s late redemption. (Photo courtesy of Ken Stein/George Jones)

The Joneses were, by Stein’s account, “very excited” to receive another wedding present.

The couple was so excited, in fact, they had the three-piece silverware set framed, along with the original gift certificate and Stein’s business card. 

The savvy Stein shared the story with local media and, as so many stories do these days, it spread like a spill, with the jeweler fielding calls from all over the country.

“When the story broke, I had calls from California, Connecticut and New York, from total strangers, and they’ve said, ‘You’ve restored my faith in humanity.’” 

NBC News 4 Washington covered the story, and so did Washington Post columnist John Kelly, whose headline alone should land him in the running for a Pulitzer Prize.

Stein got emails via his website pledging future allegiance to the store, a few of which he shared with National Jeweler on Wednesday. 

“Dear Bensons,” one man wrote, “I saw the ‘feel good’ story today on NBC News 4 of you honoring a 50-year-old gift certificate. Great job on your part, I will certainly use Bensons for my future jewelry needs. Thanks for [an] act of kindness seldomly seen.” 

On Tuesday, a man came into the store to shake Stein’s hand. He left two rings, one for a re-engraving and one for an appraisal, and said he would be back to pick out a piece of jewelry. 

Stein said he’s also received a few hundred comments on Facebook, where he shared the news stories on his personal page, and the tale even spurred a five-star Google review. 

“Do they turn into money in the till? Time will tell but [in the meantime] I’ve restored some faith in humanity,” he said. 

“A lot of people are miserable. A lot of people are angry and mad and divided.” 

This story is none of those things and, because of that, people were happy to share it.

Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

The Latest

Buccellati jewelry
FinancialsMay 17, 2024
Richemont Appoints Van Cleef & Arpels’ Nicolas Bos as New CEO

The announcement coincided with its full-year results, with growth driven by its jewelry brands.

Watches of Switzerland Mall of America store
FinancialsMay 17, 2024
Watches of Switzerland’s Fiscal-Year Sales Flat

Looking ahead, the retailer said it sees “enormous potential” in Roberto Coin’s ability to boost its branded jewelry business.

My Next Question webinar series graphic
Recorded WebinarsMay 17, 2024
Watch: Preparing for Trade Show Success

Jewelry trade show veterans share strategies for engaging buyers, managing your time effectively, and packing the right shoes.

Royal Chain gold chains
Brought to you by
Record Gold Prices Have Consumers Undeterred. Here’s Why.

Despite the rising prices, consumers continue to seek out the precious metal.

Cartier ring-tailed lemur brooch circa 1991
AuctionsMay 17, 2024
Piece of the Week: Cartier’s Ring-Tailed Lemur

This little guy’s name is Ricky and he just sold for more than $200,000 at Sotheby’s Geneva jewelry auction.

Weekly QuizMay 16, 2024
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge by answering these seven questions.
Take the Quiz
202.18 carat fancy intense yellow diamond The Yellow Rose
AuctionsMay 16, 2024
Christie’s Holds 2 Sales Despite Cyberattack

Though its website has been down for a week, Christie’s proceeded with its jewelry and watch auctions on May 13-14, bringing in nearly $80 million.

The Allnatt yellow diamond
AuctionsMay 16, 2024
Sotheby’s Withdraws 101-Carat Yellow Diamond from Auction

Despite the absence of “The Allnatt,” Sotheby’s Geneva jewelry auction totaled $34 million, with 90 percent of lots sold.

Header image w logo.jpg
Brought to you by
From Registration to Return: 10 Tips to Protect You Before, During and After a Tradeshow

Tradeshow risks are real. Get tips to protect yourself before, during and after and gain safety and security awareness for your business.

National Jeweler columnist Lilian Raji
ColumnistsMay 16, 2024
The PR Adviser: What the Designer Should’ve Done

Lilian Raji gives advice to designers on how to make the most of great publicity opportunities.

Mothae Diamond Mine Lesotho
SourcingMay 16, 2024
Lucapa to Shed Stake in Lesotho Diamond Mine

The mining company wants to divest its 70 percent holding in the Mothae Diamond Mine in an effort to streamline its portfolio.

National Jeweler columnist Peter Smith
ColumnistsMay 15, 2024
Squirrel Spotting: Why Retailers Struggle to Fire Brands

Why do so many jewelers keep lines that are not selling? Peter Smith thinks the answer lies in these two behavioral principles.

The Argyle Phoenix red diamond
AuctionsMay 15, 2024
Red Diamond Breaks Records at Phillips Geneva

The “Argyle Phoenix” sold for more than $4 million at the auction house’s second jewels sale.

Jewelers of America 20 Under 40 2024 recipients
Events & AwardsMay 15, 2024
See Who’s in JA’s 2024 ‘20 Under 40’ Class

The annual list recognizes young professionals making an impact in jewelry retail.

Brilliant Earth Logan Hollowell jewelry collection
FinancialsMay 15, 2024
Brilliant Earth’s Sales Fall Flat in Q1

While overall sales were sluggish, the retailer said its non-bridal fine jewelry was a popular choice for Valentine’s Day.

Rough diamonds from De Beers
SourcingMay 14, 2024
Anglo American Confirms It Is Looking to Sell De Beers

The mining giant also wants to offload its platinum business as part of an overhaul designed to “unlock significant value.”

The Yellow Rose and the Allnatt yellow diamonds
AuctionsMay 14, 2024
2 Huge Yellow Diamonds Are Heading to Auction

Christie's is selling one of the diamonds, moving forward with its Geneva jewelry auction despite the cyberattack that took down its website.

Born Leaders Platinum Born campaign
MajorsMay 14, 2024
Platinum Born Taps ‘Born Leaders’ for New Campaign

The ad aims to position platinum jewelry as ideal for everyday wear.

Instappraise Trifold Brochure
GradingMay 14, 2024
Instappraise Adds Trifold Brochure to Appraisal Offerings

Retailers can customize and print the appraisal brochures from their store.

White, pink, and blue lab-grown diamonds from Lightbox
Lab-GrownMay 13, 2024
Lab-Grown Diamond Brand Lightbox Cuts Prices by 25 to 40%

The move follows a price-drop test run in Q4 and comes with the addition of a “quality assurance card” from GIA for some loose diamonds.

Christie’s New York
TechnologyMay 13, 2024
Christie’s Website Brought Down by Hackers, Watch Auction Postponed

The site has been down since Thursday evening, just ahead of its spring auctions.

Madeleine K. Albright’s Patriotic Leopard Brooch
AuctionsMay 13, 2024
Madeleine Albright’s Jewelry, Pins a White-Glove Sale at Freeman’s | Hindman

The late former U.S. Secretary’s collection went for quadruple the sale’s pre-sale estimate.

Kimberly Adams Russell
IndependentsMay 10, 2024
Frank Adams Jewelers Names New CEO

Kimberly Adams Russell is taking over the role from her father, David Adams, marking the third generation to hold the title.

Birth of Venus necklace
CollectionsMay 10, 2024
Piece of the Week: Carina Hardy’s ‘Birth of Venus’ Necklace

As a token of womanhood, this necklace depicts when Venus was born from the sea.

Roberto Coin Fleur de Lis jewelry
MajorsMay 09, 2024
Watches of Switzerland Pays $130M for Roberto Coin Inc.

The deal gives the retailer control over the distribution of Roberto Coin jewelry in the U.S., Canada, Caribbean, and Central America.

Lauren K Mosaic necklace
TrendsMay 09, 2024
Amanda’s Style File: Shine Bright, Moms  

Show your mother some love with a piece of fine jewelry.

Kyle Edward Fine Jewelry
IndependentsMay 09, 2024
Kyle Edward Fine Jewelry to Close Salisbury Store

The company’s Easton location will remain open.

Jewelers Board of Trade logo
MajorsMay 09, 2024
JBT Elects New Chairman

Brian D. Fleming of Carla Corporation was elected to serve a one-year term in the role.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy