I’m sitting at my desk preparing for the interview when I hear a pleasant voice from across the room. “Hi! Is Michelle Chan here? I’m here for my interview.” I jumped out of my seat. I looked at my clock, and sure enough, she was 10 minutes early. I turned around and greeted her – embarrassed that I made her wait. “Oh! No worries! I’m early anyways,” she says, “I can wait at the meeting room.”
She’s Becky Booker – one of Shop LC’s most beloved hosts. With her bleached blonde pixie cut hair and signature glasses, she is truly as warm and eccentric as I had hoped. She’s also known for being one of the most knowledgeable hosts as she graduated from the GIA as a Graduate Gemologist. I was excited to ask her all about her journey with jewelry.
As I sat down in the meeting room to set up, she adjusts her bracelets, smiling. She then turns to me and said, “ready when you are!” Becky was perhaps the most enthusiastic person I have ever met! Her warm smile was infectious. I was so curious to hear how her love of gemstones and jewelry began.
“I lived in a part of Texas where we didn’t have rocks. We had sand, and we had iron ore. We had red, sandy, clay. The far north-east corner of Texas in a town called Uncertain. You can look it up! My mom and dad were the first generation off the farm in their families. Their generation was the first generation to all finish high school – it was a big deal. So, my mom and dad had a little liquor store and a grocery store. There was a guy who said that there’s this little town that was about to vote to permit the sale of liquor, so if (my parents) moved back then they would be the only store in that town to sell liquor. So, we moved out there. There was this little school – there were 32 kids in my high school class. So, we were there in Piny Woods, and we would come back to my grandpa’s house. He lived in central Texas where the soil and geology were a little different. We would ride his tractor, we would go in the afternoon. There was a road that curved and a cut there where there was quartz in the rock, and when the sun hit the quartz, it would explode! It was the coolest thing! Quartz is still my favorite. Diamonds are really cool, but it goes back to me being a 6-year-old little girl riding a tractor (chuckles).”
At this time – I had no idea that she had such humble beginnings. But, how did it jump from a young girl manning the family’s liquor store to being one of Shop LC’s most recognizable hosts?
“So, I was a single mom…I was working at a mobile home place – I was doing bookkeeping. A friend of mine had a friend who had a jewelry supply store in San Antonio, and she said, “Hey – you should see this place because it’s way more interesting than what you’re doing, it’s way better hours.” So, I said “OK” and I went. I’ve always had a rock collection, a book collection, a leaf collection. That comes from me coming from a little town, where your parents would say, “here’s a spoon. Go outside and play” (chuckles). “Your bicycle is there, and we will see you in 7-8 hours.” It was a town of 200 people, so you’re allowed to do that. So, I went to work for this jewelry supply place and they sold everything. They sold gemstones, invitation stuff, gold and equipment. And the guy who owned the store was nice enough to train me. So, I actually learned how to make a rubber mold, I actually learned how to do a wax injection for a model, I actually learned melted gold and made a ring for my uncle (which he wore until he died). So, I learned that hands-on process. Even if you do it badly, you have a big appreciation because now you’re like, “Damn – I can’t do that.” So, from there, I went to a dealer and I totally got a bug and I decided to take the GIA Correspondence ‘coz I got this little munchkin at home I had to take care of. So, I’m on the phone with the GIA and they said, “listen – there is one slot in the class that just opened up. Can you be here in two weeks?” So, I closed my apartment, my mom and dad agreed to watch my kid for six months, and I went to class full-time at GIA. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Back then, when you took the class, (they called it) in-residence, which means you had to grade 200 diamonds, and you had to learn how to identify over 2000 gemstones, and then you had to take the exam and get 100% on the practical exam. You can’t miss one… It’s funny. People think it’s mysterious, but we have an innate ability and curiosity that makes us wanna know what things are. It’s really finetuning what we already have…It’s really developing our innate ability to observe certain things… There were maybe 28, or 26 of us. So, super intimate. It was such a diverse field. There were people from India, people from China, my roommate was from Chicago, there were people doing their second career. One kid really graduated from high school and came. A woman was finishing from nursing and always had gemstones as a hobby. So, we all have that one thing in common and it was really fun. It was really, really fine.”
As she was opening up to me about her story – I noticed that there was one common theme – change. How has the jewelry industry changed in the perspective of an expert?
“I think the biggest thing for me is technology. We have a product called Niassa ruby – it’s filled with a lead glass. There’s a process where they fill in with glass the natural breaks in the ruby. Those are called “glass-filled rubies.” Some people think that’s an abomination – that it shouldn’t be called rubies. I totally disagree with that. Because you have this thing from mother nature, then you have the science that allows you the two things – there’s a crossroads there. The benefit is for the customer. Yeah – you buy it with your eyes open and you buy it there. I worked in a jewelry store where it was unheard of to buy a 2-carat ruby, much less a 9-carat ruby or a 12-carat ruby. They’re just not affordable. The thing about that is that the pace is so much faster these days…and we don’t have obsolescence in this industry. We have extinction. We have gemstones that are harder to find, or can’t be found, or so rare you hardly ever see them because things do run out.”
Since she has been with Shop LC (or Liquidation Channel from back in the day), she has seen us transformed.
“We respond quicker to the customer. We’re more diverse than ever. Our website was non-existence to being a powerhouse. Especially this year! It’s just better. The audience keeps growing. So, we’re building the onion instead of peeling the onion. We build layers. I love how we embrace our bootstrap mentality…our chops are in the jewelry business doing straight up deals and buying them. We are a team globally. We have people that look for gemstones, people that cut them, people that set them.
I went to China with Ankur for 10 days – and I saw this guy polishing the earring backs. Doing every step along the way. We partner with other people. We buy from people that manufacture in China. It’s the same process as any brand name. It’s not different. The only difference is the label and the markup. I watched Ankur in action – he was back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, for about half a day. At one point, he just stopped – and says, “it’s not good enough for my customers”. I’m like “I’m so glad that I am with you, not against you. You’re crazy!” But he’s so good! He’s tough!”
Throughout the interview, it really surprised me with how genuinely passionate Becky was about jewelry. What about jewelry gets her so excited?
“That jewelry is how people connect with each other. There’re some people that believe it as a symbol of power and wealth. There’re people at the end of the scale that does crystal healing and chakra alignment. Whatever you’re buying that for, jewelry has the power to connect us with one another and ground us again to ourselves…it’s the connectivity to me that does it. We all want that look. We want the ability to choose that look. There’s always an emotional connection there. We blow the doors open for that and we make that connection available for us. If you want to know about how we do it, then shop with us on a Friday for $9.99. Imagine that feeling but with $99, or with $900. That same formula is there.”
We continue to chat about life until we forgot we were in an interview. Becky would continue to be as warm off-screen as she was on-screen. After an hour and a half, there was a knock of a door with one of our colleagues informing us that it’s their turn to use the room.
As we exit the room, she gives me the warmest hug and says, “this was so fun!” She then gives me another big hug before she smiles and says, “alright! Time to go home.”