Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cygnals: Russell Oliver: Jewellery Fetishist or True Patriot?

(The thought of discontinuing my old site,, has crossed my mind from time to time. A few articles from over there still get a lot of hits, so thought it prudent to republish them here. Besides, those articles -- many published more than a decade ago -- had tiny photos and scratchy RealAudio files, as was the style of the time. Now I can offer bigger photos when I have them, and MP3 audio if I can find the source tape. -- Scott)

From the pages of Cygnals Zine, Issue #8, Summer 1996.

If you've been up late watching TV in Toronto, you've probably noticed this guy begging for you to bring him your jewelry. He's Rusell Oliver. He spoke to Cygnals from his stately jewelry emporium on Eglinton Avenue West.

Cyg: For anyone outside Toronto who hasn't seen your ads, explain what you do on TV.
Oli: I basically go on myself, and I encourage people to come down and bring me any jewelry they have in the form of gold -- gold chains, gold bracelets, gold necklaces. I also encourage Cartier and Rolex watches or any big-name brand watches. I also buy diamonds, and I buy antiques and estate stuff. So what I do is I have encouraged people to come down, bring me their jewelry, and I pay them cash, on the spot, while they wait.

Cyg: How did you first get into these TV ads, these middle-of-the-night low-budget ads?
Oli: Well they're not really middle of the night any more. They started out that way, but now you'll find you'll see them on Oprah Winfrey, Dini Petty, Breakfast Television...

Cyg: ...And I notice you're also sponsoring the late-night movies...
Oli: Late-night movies I kept, because they're fabulous. If you watch any of those movies on Tuesday or Friday nights, you can't miss them, because they're sponsored by I'm constantly on there. What started me on that was, I was selling used jewelry and the market was pretty slow -- most people were coming in wanting to sell stuff. So I decided, well, rather than get involved too much in the selling of jewelry to people, let me try buying from people. And what happened was, people started coming on a more frequent basis as I started advertising. And when I went on TV and people saw that...and people who don't know where to go, they have no idea where to sell their jewelry, would say Oh well, here's a guy who encourages and wants our jewelry. They're intimidated to go anywhere else because they're scared. People go into a jewelry store and say "will you buy my jewelry" and they're afraid the answer will be, which it is most of the time, no, we won't, and they're intimidated by it. So they're happy to see a guy on TV who's saying I want your used jewelry, I need your used jewelry, I've got cash for your jewelry.

Cyg: You're pretty passionate about needing people's jewelry. How did you first get into all this?
Oli: I've been in the jewelry business for 25 years. But I've been on the other end. I've been on selling jewelry.

Cyg: So where do you get all this money to buy all the jewelry? Where's all the jewelry that people bring in go?
Oli: Uh, well, what we do is we export most of it. So we've got customers all over the world who are giving us money...and we take their money and give it to the Canadian public.

Cyg: And now you've joined the ranks of Bad Boy and Crazy Joe -- a sort of kitschy TV personality. Do you think people take you seriously or do they look at you like some wacky pawn-shop guy on TV?
Oli: It doesn't matter. How they look at me is not important. They look at me and they come down. They react...everybody reacts differently. Most people are, you know, quite impressed. But what is fabulous is that I am the only one that you can actually come down and meet me. Should you want to go to Bad Boy, you're not really going to meet Blaine Lastman. You may or you may not. You're taking a shot. He's got four stores and they're huge. You come to my place, I guarantee you're gonna meet me. You're g onna meet Russell Oliver in person. That's what it says on the commerical. And people love it. Because they feel they know me. You have a guy in your living room, and he's talking to you, a few times a day, which I am, they feel they know me. They come in, they feel comfortable, they smile, they're in a good mood -- everybody likes coming, because they feel like they're meeting a television personality. And, quite frankly, they are.

Cyg: And do these people ever have second thoughts about going through their old family heirlooms and bringing in old gold?
Oli: Sure, sure. It's an emotional experience, and I understand that. I sympathize with people, and I'm the first one to sympathize and say "look if you have any use for it, use it.." But if you don't have any use for it, it's silly to have it in a drawer, jewelry box, or even your safety deposit box. You may as well turn it into cash, which whether you need it or not is not the important -- your cash can make you cash. Whether you put it in the bank, get some interest out of it, or buy a GIC or put it in the stock market, you're gonna make money. Sitting in your drawer and jewelry box is not going to make any money, it's going to sit there as dead money. So turn it into cash and then you can use it for something else that might represent something that you get more enjoyment out of.

Bonus links:

Oliver Jewellery, Official Site

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