Gemologist Shannon Demoulin has been a part of the Rio Grande gemology department since 1990 and has been integral to its evolution into a boutique, concierge service that offers each customer one-on-one, personal service in selecting the right stone.
Shannon chose to become a jeweler because she was passionate about hands-on artistic creation but wanted to do something different than her mother, a painter. She soon found that being a jeweler required just as much talent but had a much faster turn around time when it came to sales.
“I used Rio as a supplier in college,” Shannon says. “When my husband and I moved to Albuquerque, I started in the Raw Materials department at Rio. Gold and diamonds—that was the department! It was just Kevin Whitmore (now the product manager for Rio’s Metals line), Mr. Bell (the bench jeweler who founded Rio Grande) and me,” she says.
Shannon was the first person who was not a part of the Bell family to work with diamonds at Rio. She is also one of a handful of associates at Rio who worked alongside Saul Bell, the founder of Rio Grande. You can feel how proud she is of this when she recounts those early days.
“I was so lucky to learn from and work with Saul Bell,” she says. “He was an amazing man. He taught me how important it is to deliver exactly what the customer wants, and then some. He was very serious when it came to work and customer service. But he also was funny and I so miss him. I still have a photo of Mr. Bell on my desk. He will always be there reminding me that the customer is the most important part of my work.”
When Shannon started at Rio in 1990, the agent who took a customer’s order also packed and shipped the order. As the company grew, maintaining this one-to-one system became impossible. Today, Shannon and her counterpart, Chris Hoffman, focus solely on helping customers source the perfect diamond or gemstone.
“There have been so many changes working alongside the Bell family for so many years–exciting changes,” Shannon says. “We’ve always gotten better. We’re serving so many more customers now. Really, that’s what I thrive on: customer service. I’m in the right seat on the bus, as they say, because I so enjoy helping the customer find the right stone.”
Being a part of Rio’s Gemstone Team means being a good listener. Shannon doesn’t have a list of questions she runs through with each customer–she just listens. She knows how to identify what is most important to the customer in the stone. Is it the color? Is it the clarity? Is it the shape or the size?
“It never makes me nervous to send a stone out to a customer who hasn’t seen it because I know that as long as I’m happy with the stone, there won’t be an issue matching it to the customer’s needs,” she says. “We have a clear expectation of what we’re looking for. If they want an I-2 stone, it’s going to be heavily included, but it still needs to be pretty to me.”
Shannon is proud of her ability to balance quality and price for customers because it allows them to get create the piece of their dreams while maintaining a reasonable budget.
“I can say, ‘Yes, it’s definitely an I-2, but it’s still got a lot of life in it.’ Or, ‘That ruby is really a dark red and it may not be really clean, but the color of the red is really pretty.’ We always make sure to find what their needs are and know that that’s what you brought in. I would never try to sell them something they’re not looking for,” she says.
One of Shannon’s customers is very specific about the cuts on his diamonds and he never wants any fluorescence. So, even when he orders stock, Shannon knows to handpick his diamonds to ensure he gets stones that are up to his standards. “When he calls in,” Shannon says, “he talks to me because I know what he’s looking for–I know what he’ll like. We’ve worked together now ten or twelve years.”
It typically takes 24-48 hours to find the right stone. If it’s particularly unique, it may take a couple weeks. Shannon thrives on the challenge of finding the perfect stone.
She recalls a particularly challenging situation in which a customer was trying to find an exact match for a diamond she had sold years before. “Finding a stone with the cost, size and clarity to match what she wanted took about three months,” Shannon says. “She had divorced the man who had originally given her a stone and she sold it. Then, years after, she decided she wanted that same stone back again! Since she knew she couldn’t get that original stone, she wanted to get one as close to it as she could in a dollar amount she could afford. We finally found it. That was the most complicated search I’ve had recently–it was a four-carat cushion-cut.”
When you need to find the perfect stone for a design, give Shannon a call at 800.257.7026.