Keeping Calm and Carrying On Amidst the Chaos of COVID-19

Keeping Calm and Carrying On Amidst the Chaos of COVID-19

What’s going on in the world?! And what are we doing here in Jersey City? 

Well didn’t I get back just in time?  My 90% empty airplane touched down at Newark Airport from Germany last Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. and it’s been mayhem ever since, as I’m sure it is where you live as well.  Mad dashes into NYC to check on delayed custom orders, status phone calls with just about everyone I work with, cat food purchases, Amazon deliveries of litter and detergent, food (I did not buy toilet paper, but so far so good!).


"Happy you are staying home with me, Mom"


Then, Monday morning comes, and Boom! Not unanticipated, but no less shocking.  Closures everywhere, curfew in place, and Jersey City falls silent.  My mom’s home in Germany is closed to visitors, my little sister is working from home (in the travel industry, not ideal), my dad, who is always well prepared, is kicking up his feet and having some wine.  He did his shopping slowly, methodically, and long ago.  He will keep busy with the garden and stay away from others.  He’s 79.

With most commerce on pause, only Earth herself can rejoice.  She’s getting her first breaths of fresh air in decades.  

Grander thoughts aside, let’s get back to the ground, specifically, the several square miles that is my home and place of work.  As you know, I work from home, JC is from where I ship, run the shop, take photos, field sales, and everything else.  I have trays and trays of Tucson purchases yet to process, and if the post office doesn’t close (very unlikely, it hasn’t closed anywhere else that I know of), business  continues.  I can get shipments from vendors whose shows were cancelled and who are in need of retail sales, and I can source new gems with perhaps a slightly extended timeline.

Johanna, social media and graphic design person, can work from home as needed, as almost all our business is virtual.  Karen can partly work from home as well and we are already switching her workload around.  My travel plans have gone bust for a while, which means we have more time to go over Etsy listings, old gemstone stock here, and reorganize, upgrade and improve as needed.  

Jewelry and custom orders are a bit of a different story, so let me explain the complexities.  Behind many of the retail outfits you see, even your stores in the mall, lies a vast network of manufacturers, many of them not very large.  Cecile Raley Designs works exclusively with small artisan shops, all the way down to one man or woman shows: Pierre, Ethan, Brandy, Vasken, John, Ricardo and Claire, Alex, just to name a few, make money only when they work.  And about half of them are sole providers, so nobody else in the household makes money.  As business halts, their nosedive is immediate.  So with the resources I have available to me, I will try to prevent that from happening.  

We don’t have travel restrictions in place yet (though they make come), but we will nevertheless interact in person as little as possible.  Some people have benches at home and will work from there whenever possible.  Setting and small jewelry work is therefore not disrupted as of just yet.  Rather than going to NY, I mail things out to them.  CAD work is also not affected, as that’s in any case remote.  Brandy, who has been a casualty of the cuts at her full time gig as of this morning, is standing by to make CADs if orders come in.  Jewelry parts can be ordered online and either delivered to the jewelers by the suppliers (since they are all in the same area) or they can be mailed.


Video of Brandy, working on CAD


The weak link is casting.  Taba, my go to casting service, is closed until further notice.  This makes sense as Taba is the largest office I work with.  Everyone else either has their own office or it is shared with just one person.  Taba has a few dozen people now (they were just a few people when I started) and casting requires more heavy-duty machinery so it’s nothing you can take home.

Some other casting houses are still open, so I’m going with a plan B and sending stuff to them, but the next few days will tell us how that is going to progress.  The news changes daily, so you may hear from me more often, though in less detail.


Sample CAD design


My biggest concern, however, are the people all the way at the end of this chain -  the miners and cutters in foreign places.  Africa doesn’t have much COVID-19 as of yet – so far as we know because it’s not like they have much testing either.  But it also doesn’t have money.  If my vendors don’t sell, they don’t source, if they don’t source, the system over there breaks down.  Even faster than it does here.

Is there a takeaway message for you here?  If there is, it’s not a deep one.  I’m not going to ask you to buy gems from me when you fear for your employment.  That’s not smart (for me or you).  

What I am saying is that we are still up and running, we can ship, and with perhaps some hiccups and extensions, we can also have stuff made.  We can do CAD designs with you if you’re bored, and we encourage you to send in ideas for our "Lonely Stones" design contest if you’re home and climbing the walls.

And I will ask that you keep each other in mind, and within the limits of your particular situation, do what you can to support your friends, neighbors and your local small businesses.

Be well and be safe!

Yvonne, Karen and Johanna