By Katherine Gotthardt
When Terry Quinn and his wife, Joy, travel the world in search of the finest jewels, their adventures result in much more than pristine stones. They often end in friendships.
The owners of award-winning Quinn’s Goldsmith have nurtured their relationships and business for 29 years now. Located in Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge, the 3,000-square-foot store features unique pieces created from jewels the Quinns hand-pick during their travels. And their efforts pay off.
Unique International Travels, Unique International Friendships
Quinn recalls a trip to Thailand where he met a family at a jewelry show. “We bought sapphires from this woman and her daughter,” he said. “The sons work the mine, the daughter polishes the stones, and they go to the market once per year. They gave us friendship bracelets as a thank-you for buying from them.”
Quinn described the economic terrain like this: “If you go to Thailand, you go up to the top of an extinct volcano, and you search for big areas with overturned dirt. That’s where the family owners have gotten too old, so they dig up one pile per year to search through for stones.”
The Quinns then walked down and onto the farm to see how the family operated their business.
“They are barefoot, doing this stuff in the mud, and picking stones,” he said. “My wife patted me on the back as I was hoeing, helping them dig and wash off the dirt. We bought rough stones from them to show people what the stones look like before the cutting and polishing.”
“The table they showed the jewels on was an old, rusted-out tractor with a sheet of plywood on top,” Quinn continued. “The house was a little shack. This is the way they live. It was humbling. You felt like you were helping them by making a purchase of their uncut stones, like it was a gesture thanking them for letting us visit their mine.”
The Quinns’ world travels have a financial benefit as well. “The jewels cost several hundred percent less than in the U.S. because the people we deal with own the mines,” Quinn said. “They are the owners and distributors. If we hadn’t gone to that show, we’d never have met them.”
On another trip, the Quinns met a pearl owner with a 17,000-acre pearl farm in China. “He brought us to dinner and gave us gifts,” Quinn said. “Now my wife has something to remember forever.”
Back in Time
The youngest of nine children, Quinn recalled his father’s reaction when he said he wanted a ten-speed bike: “My father said, ‘Good. Get a job.’”
“I was a paperboy, and I started bugging a goldsmith on my route because I always saw him making things,” Quinn said. “I wanted to go inside and see what he was doing, so he brought me in and he showed me. That’s how I got started. I loved learning how to make things.”
Quinn’s father also made things—rosary beads. One day, he asked his father why he didn’t sell the beads. “My father said, ‘If I bring someone closer to God, then I’ve been paid.’ That was a good lesson because he helped people.”
Quinn eventually took a jewelry making class in high school. The second year, he became a student teacher.
“When I was eighteen, I got crazy hair, thumbed my way to Alaska and worked on a fishing boat during the salmon run,” he recalled. “That was one of the scariest jobs of my life. You definitely grow up and learn the value of money.”
In the 1980s, Quinn joined the Air Force, but once he got out, he became an apprentice jeweler for Kay Jewelers in Springfield Mall. Eventually, he started his own business in Occoquan and opened a second store at his current location. “After seven years of running two stores, it became too much,” he said. “We decided to consolidate.”
The Quinn’s of Today
Quinn describes the move to Woodbridge as phenomenal. He is always in one location, for one thing. And there is plenty of foot traffic, too.
Five full-time jewelers serve a stream of customers. “People come in continuously for repairs and appraisals,” Quinn said. Service and custom jewelry make up about one-third of the business.
Quinn also attributed the store’s success to the way he selects stones. “We hand-pick stones, and I’m super picky,” he said. “They show you a petri dish with 500 stones, and you have to pick your top five. Then I take home about three. Some of them aren’t cut right. When we get to hand-pick stuff like that, it’s really different for the consumer.”
Going to Thailand cuts out middlemen, so he is able to keep pricing manageable, too. Business is booming. “This has been the best increase in one year than we’ve seen in a long time,” said Quinn. “It’s been incredible, especially in this kind of industry, where it’s a want and not a need.”
In the end, though, it goes back to relationships. “Customers trust that we’re the people to buy from,” he said. “That makes all the difference.”
Learn more about Quinn’s Goldsmith at quinnsgoldsmith.com.
Writer Katherine Gotthardt is vice president of content marketing for Prince William Living and President of Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. Learn more about her at KatherineGotthardt.com