RDI Diamonds: Secrets Revealed

When we set out to write this article, we traveled to Rochester, NY. Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, Rochester isn’t shy about hosting giants. For 40 years it was a ‘hotbed’ for manufacturing superstars like Kodak, Xerox and Bausch and Lomb. Today it is a reinvented ‘white collar’ service economy. We knew of RDI Diamonds, as they are an advertising partner, however, we had no idea that we were in the midst of another industry giant.

Started in 1992 by Michael Indelicato, RDI Diamonds was a young man’s dream.

“I didn’t come from money.  My parents were immigrants. I was taught hard work. My father worked a manufacturing job at Xerox but had an entrepreneurial spirit. He was always selling something on the side. Watching his natural sales ability drove my business vision. When I was 16, Dad started selling gold chain. I was 17 when he got cancer and died fairly quickly. I began selling off the remainder of his gold to help my mom and sister.”

He was a 17-year-old Italian kid trying to break into the jewelry business from his mother’s basement in Rochester, NY. On that day, a giant was born.

Now, in it’s 21st year, RDI Diamonds is in the midst of another milestone, its 21st straight year of DOUBLE DIGIT GROWTH! We wanted to see the secret to this unprecedented growth, to understand how they do it. What was it that was putting this company on a collision course with the moon? Their secrets we could not wait to uncover. Although they are on the manufacturing side of the jewelry industry, we hoped that our readers could find inspiration for their own businesses by hearing about RDI’s explosive growth.

“Our first rule is to keep it simple,” says Indelicato. “I believe in fundamentals. Our advantage is that we speak to over 1000 different independent jewelry stores per day. Our company has over 8,200 calls a week specifically about diamonds and filling diamond orders. We have a lot of information at our disposal and we are eager to share, in hopes of helping everyone get better. We receive calls every week from jewelers who thank us for helping them make the ‘tough’ sale.”

Andrew Rickard, RDI’s vice president of operations, says, “Sales education is a corner stone of what we do. We spend an hour a day talking about sales and selling. I visit a lot of stores and rarely see them spending time on sales training. If you want to become better sales people, you have to work at it. You can’t ‘practice’ on clients. Your sales staff has to be confident. That confidence will come with being comfortable in every situation. We are very good at preparing our staff and our clients for what they will encounter.”

“We expect growth,” Indelicato goes on to say. “We don’t care about the economy, or politics, or any thing else going on. For every person who uses those things as an excuse for not having a good month, I’ll find you a competitor who had their best month ever! It’s less about the circumstances and more about the mind-set.  Success is a choice.”

We were starting to see a clearer picture;  training, and a healthy appetite for success. But was that it?

“It’s a big part of it, but not all of it” says Rickard. “You have to be able to back those things up with the right products at the right prices, and you have to be able to stand behind them. We are pretty good at those things too.”

RDI Diamonds has well over 8,000 loose diamonds. By industry standards that’s a massive inventory, unparalleled in the U.S. wholesale business.  “Sure, there are larger players in the market who turn their goods more frequently, but none of them have the everyday ‘on hand’ inventory that we have. That makes us very powerful in the international marketplace,” says Indelicato. A review of some on-line wholesale listings confirms that RDI Diamonds has the largest list on record in the U.S. at the time this article was printed.

 Is just having the inventory enough? “No, it has to be the right items. You have to have what your clients want. A tall order when you do business with clients in all 50 states and Canada! That’s why we carry GIA, AGS, IGI, EGL USA, EGL and even uncertified goods,” says Indelicato.  He goes on, “I love finer made goods and I still do all the buying, ‘cherry-picking’ the goods my vendors bring me.  I hate parcel buying. With parcels you are always going to get stuck with some items that are hard to sell.”


“I buy aggressively and sell aggressively. We don’t make the margins of our independent clients, but we don’t have to. We hustle for the volume,” says Indelicato.

“Pretty basic, I know. We have the item and make sure it’s competitively priced, says Rickard, who adds, “we’ve also learned the finer points of assisting our clients by creating stock programs aimed at closing more sales on the spot. Jewelers can’t just count on memo anymore.  We live in a world of  ‘I want it now!’”

RDI Diamonds conducted several surveys during 2011, 12 and 13, all to bring more clarity to their clients. They found some interesting trends. “First, we were shocked by the disparity between those that carried stock and those that didn’t. Our high volume, high
sales ratio clients carried ‘bread and butter basics’. There was a clear tend there,” says Rickard. Further, they obtained size, quality and pricing information. “From there we launched our stock program called Simple Solutions. It is an introductory program of the right diamonds in the right quantities at the right price points. The initial results exceeded our expectations.  We helped a ton of independent clients sell more diamonds!”

“The strategy of buying off the street is sound, but flawed,” says Rickard.  He goes on, “You can’t count on it. You don’t know what is coming through the door today. You can’t count on the size, shape or ‘white and eye-clean’. I don’t like to build my business on a guess, or a hope. I want a sure thing.  The Simple Solution loose program is a sure thing!”

“The best thing about it,” says Indelicato, “It comes with our ‘100% Sell Thru Guarantee’. This means:  sell the item or send it back for full value. It is a 100% stock balance program. I just don’t see anyone in diamonds offering that. We were building on our ‘Life- Time Trade Up’ (full value back on memo diamonds toward the upgrade), but this is a stock balance. Staying ahead of the curve is necessary in this competitive environment.”

The industry has been noticing. More and more companies have had to alter their approach to keep up with RDI Diamonds and their explosive growth. “Its funny, but every month I see more people offering free overnight shipping or a web-site link. We’ve been doing those things for years. If mimicking is the highest form of flattery, I’m very flattered!

The jewelry industries foremost training expert, Shane Decker agrees.  In 2011 he aligned with RDI Diamonds because he too believes in the company. “Their team is tremendous. They have integrity. That’s something I don’t see enough of in this business. They do what they say and walk the walk! Between the staggering size of the inventory, the multiple certifications they carry, the life-time trade up, the virtual diamond inventory, it’s amazing what they bring to the table. I refer them constantly because they are the best in the business.”

 He goes on, “They offer the best in-store sales tool in the business, the Mobile Diamond Connection.” Modeled after the top 5% of retail sales people that RDI Diamonds has encountered over their years of research, the tablet based sales tool helps retail sales associates better qualify the client and secure a secondary appointment. “A number of RDI Diamond’s clients have seen significant sales improvement from the implementation of this tool” confirms Decker.

Now we are really starting to see a clear picture. Anything else?

“Just persistence, says Indelicato. “You can’t give up.  Have we made mistakes? Of course, but you can’t let them deter you. You have to use them as the driving force for where you want to go. I’m sure some people reading this have encountered us and didn’t have a great experience. I will not rest until we ‘right those wrongs,’ and make everyone a fan. We just have to keep working harder. I hope this article opens up some of those doors and brings some clients in. Regardless, we believe in what we are doing and believe we are the best alternative in a very competitive environment. I’m not satisfied yet, so we are going to keep getting better.”

The picture has become very clear. RDI Diamonds, a giant indeed.

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Author:Jewelry Business Advisor