What’s in a name? Quite a lot when it comes to family-based jewelers. The accumulated expertise in estate jewelry – handling jewels and dealing with customers – attracts a clientele that can span multiple generations.
“The fact that we have been around for as long as we have demonstrates to people that we are a business they can rely on and trust,” says Mark Schaffer, director of New York-based antique and jewelry business A La Vieille Russie. “It’s a family tradition that we build relationships…that last a lifetime.”
Established in 1851, the company seeks pieces that “utilize materials and stones in innovative ways,” he relates. “We don’t acquire anything that we would not want to own ourselves.”
The fact that we have been around for as long as we have demonstrates to people that we are a business they can rely on and trust.
Mark SchafferDirector, A La Vieille Russie
A legacy to live by
Establishing trust is also part of the business model for Lee Krombholz, third-generation owner of Krombholz Jewelers in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Clients see us present at our store and have had positive experiences in the past,” he says. Many “have shopped with us in a multigenerational capacity.”
Krombholz’s daughters Izzi and Kirtley are the fourth generation to join the company, which opened in 1940. Over the years, he has maintained its identity but continued to adapt it to reflect the current owners. “This authenticity is extremely important to our family.”
His guiding principles: “Always act with clients’ interests in mind. Without integrity and trust, you can’t have a successful business. Always be fair. Make sure what you are selling will have lasting quality. Only sell jewelry you believe is a good value. Don’t rush an order just to finish a job; make sure it is done correctly. Always treat clients with respect.”
Only sell jewelry you believe is a good value. Don’t rush an order just to finish a job; make sure it is done correctly.
Lee KrombholzThird-generation owner, Krombholz Jewelers
Seeing customers as people
As the third-generation owner of Walton’s Antique and Estate Jewelry, which has deep roots in Franklin, Tennessee, Julie Walton Garland has clients who fondly remember her grandmother. Melba Walton founded the business nearly 50 years ago, and “her kindness toward everyone who came in the showroom is one of our most important founding business concepts,” says her granddaughter. “She cared for her clients as people, not just another sale. We have continued her legacy in that way and have built on it to create an even more personalized customer experience.”
To that end, the store — which specializes in pre-1940s antique and estate jewelry — offers extensive after-sales support, including “cleanings, repairs, resizing, maintenance, etc. Our clients can rely on our trusted jeweler to take care of their cherished pieces for generations to come.”
We send handwritten, personalized thank you notes with coffee gift cards to clients who make referrals.
Julie Walton GarlandThird-generation owner, Walton’s Antique and Estate Jewelry
Drumming up supply and demand
“As our history progresses, so do the pieces considered over 100 years old, which has widened the timeline of our inventory,” Schaffer notes. “We noticed an increase in interest in 20th-century jewelry even before the current trend.”
For wider appeal to the next generation of collectors, he says, his company has developed more sources for “extremely high-quality and rare mid- to late-20th-century designed jewelry.”
Krombholz has acquired good sources as well. “Because we have bought and sold antique jewelry throughout our history, we are a trusted place to sell,” he says. “We are very lucky with the number of people who come in to sell us their heirlooms.”
One way he makes antique pieces more relevant is repurposing them. “For example, we regularly convert stickpins, brooches and various components into charms, ring tops and earrings.”
Garland uses word of mouth to grow her client base. “We support, encourage and recognize client referrals,” she says, “We send handwritten, personalized thank you notes with coffee gift cards to clients who make referrals.”
She also maintains long-term relationships with dealers around the world; hers is a company that “dealers trust and want to work with. Our professionalism, quick response, and extremely prompt full payments
make us an exceptional business partner, [and] word quickly spreads throughout the industry.”
This article is from the July-August 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.
Main image: Cartier yellow-sapphire and diamond ring, circa 1950, from A La Vieille Russie. (A La Vieille Russie)