Ask Carmel area jewelers about their craft, and their eyes sparkle as brilliantly as their gemstones.
These are passionate people. They’ve traveled the world, searching for a specific diamond or an exceptional Rolex. They make red-carpet celebrities shimmer, and they bring new fiancées and long-time sweethearts, alike, to tears. They polished their skills as far away as Turkey, Brazil and Argentina; yet, when it was time to set up a showroom, all chose this inspirational oceanfront community.
Carmel’s stylish scene includes jewelry designers, estate traders and merchants of the finest brands. And, in every case, their stories are as remarkable as their specialties.
When Michael Cayen chose a wedding gift for his bride, Soraya, a single jewel wasn’t enough. Instead, he gave her a jewelry store.
Just two weeks after marrying, the couple leased what would become the Cayen Collection storefront. Five years later, Soraya and Michael showcase their own pieces as well as designers including Paula Crevoshay and Carolyn Tyler.
Before launching her own collection, native Brazilian Soraya worked in her home country’s gem industry. Celebrities have selected her vibrant sapphire and tourmaline designs for red carpet walks. Still, she wants her jewels worn in all settings.
“From jeans to cocktail dress to the opera, to me that’s the whole concept of jewelry,” she says. “It should be enjoyed always.”
Like the Cayens, Lussori co-owner Lawrence Kosick chose Carmel for its charm and quality of life. He then purchased the former Greenwich Time which became Lussori. According to Lussori Director of Retail Operations, David Berck, the city also attracts the store’s sophisticated clientele.
“Our philosophy, on the watch side and the jewelry side, is to offer the finest, the most luxurious and the best, at any cost,” he says. “And, substance is important.”
Lussori recently began carrying Michael Beaudry’s collections, along with already-popular Savransky and Hearts on Fire diamonds. Also featured are Porsche Design, Roger Dubuis and other timepieces selling for upwards of $200,000.
For discriminating out-of-area clients, Lussori’s concierge brings merchandise to the location of choice for a personal, on-site shopping experience. Designer Kirkor Kocek, who crafted a cross for Pope John Paul II and cufflinks for former President Ronald Reagan and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, also occasionally makes personal deliveries. He recalls presenting a four-carat diamond to a Sacramento client. Both she and her husband cried with happiness.
“It was a beautiful feeling, being part of that,” says Kocek. “When people buy here, we become part of their lives.”
Kocek began as a jewelry apprentice at age 12 in Istanbul,Turkey, polished his craft in the city’s famed Covered Bazaar, and opened his own Carmel shop in 1973. He says quality distinguishes his pieces.
Not far from Kocek Jeweler’s San Carlos location is the Doud Arcade, where Robin’s Jewelry Carmel-by-the-Sea opened in April. While owner Robin Mahoney enjoyed her 1960’s Carmel High School jewelry-making class, she never dreamed of opening a store in her hometown. Then, at age 40, she took a silversmith class at Monterey Peninsula College and was inspired. Her new Doud Arcade store comes after 12 years in the Mid Valley Center.
Nature impacts Mahoney’s whimsical designs, with silver mermaids and dragonflies gracing pendants crafted from turquoise, coral and labradorite. “My clients don’t just want jewelry that matches an outfit,” she says. “They want jewelry that’s personal. They want a keepsake with a story. Basically, I’m not a fine jeweler—I’m a fun jeweler.”
Josh Bonifas grew up watching his father, John, and mother, Sandy, select rare diamonds and antique Victorian and Art Nouveau pieces from collections worldwide. Today they work together at Fourtané, which opened in 1950 and has been in the Bonifas family for 25 years.
Set on busy Ocean Avenue, Fourtané’s elegant inventory includes jewelry dating back to the 1800s. Each piece is hand selected for the store, which is also authorized to sell both vintage and new Rolex watches.
Nearly 80 percent of Fourtané’s business comes from repeat customers, according to Josh. One of the most memorable sales was an extremely rare, custom-set Golconda diamond worth more than $350,000.
“It’s almost like a museum,” he says, describing how the public flows wide-eyed through the store.
Wilke’s also has a customer base seeking exceptional pieces from the Georgian and Edwardian eras to Art Deco and beyond. The third-generation business started in Illinois. As it made its way west to Carmel, the estate jewelry offerings expanded. The store now features both rare period designs and hard-to-find signed pieces from prestigious brands such as Van Cleef & Arpels and Buccellati.
Owner Andres Czerwiak describes his clients as investors, collectors and discerning connoisseurs who value magnificence.
“The people who buy here just love beautiful things,” says Czerwiak. “They have become experts after years of acquiring jewels.”
Customers of Hesselbein’s Jewelers, in the Crossroads Shopping Village, increasingly seek out bigger diamonds and fancy colored stones, according to owner Art Hesselbein. His showroom houses a glittering collection of classic brands, ranging from Faberge pendants to Mikimoto pearls to watches by Rolex and Patek Philippe. Fine jewelry sales are complemented by an increasing percentage of custom-designed pieces
“We do just about everything in house, from service to fabrication to special orders,” he says.
Hesselbein opened his first store in 1968, but traces his family’s tradition of fine jewelry back 180 years. He learned the craft in Europe from his father and his grandfather; today, he employs a full-time watch technician, a gold and platinum smith and four certified gemologists.
Louise O’Kief-Trout of Marchesa Jewelry raised three daughters, and two are now gemologists.The third, Connie Teal, is her partner in the family-owned business. A longtime designer and storeowner, O’Kief-Trout is proud that all three have joined the industry in their own way.
She points out that Teal brings extensive knowledge and a warm personality to Marchesa.
“Connie has been working in this business since she was 13, and she carries a tremendous amount of industry knowledge,” says O’Kief-Trout, who owned past stores in Idaho and Oregon. She and her daughter have operated at The Lodge at Pebble Beach for twenty-five years. In addition to carrying silver, china and jewelry by designers such as Gregg Ruth, Marchesa specializes in sensational large diamonds.
Family tradition and fine gems also figure into the success of B&G Jewelers, founded in 1973 by European-trained jeweler Manny Agacanyan. Sons Peter and Alex now operate the business.
B&G Jewelers made its reputation on contemporary and classic pieces, including simple gold bracelets and magnificent large diamonds, and has since opened an estate jewelry store near the original Ocean Avenue location.
The business boasts a coast-to-coast client list.
“We spend a lot of time building relationships,” says Manager Evelyn LeVine Sloan, who often receives notes of thanks from joyous customers. “Buying jewelry is a real trust thing.”
Trust, tradition and service are hallmarks at Tiffany & Co., which opened in Carmel Plaza in June 2005. The luxury retailer also attracts attention for exclusive collections by Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso and the late Jean Schlumberger. From the classic, six-pronged Tiffany Setting to the modern Lucida cut,Tiffany designers have set fine jewelry standards for 170 years.
In 2006, prestigious architect Frank Gehry partnered with the company. His bold lines and eye-catching shapes carry a distinctive energy.
“Frank Gehry’s work is very modern and very clean,” says Ellen Rollins, Carmel Tiffany & Co. director. “It’s all about the curves and the form and the function.”
Whatever piece a customer may choose, Rollins says the company prides itself on being part of people’s lives for generations.
Mark Areias, of Mark Areias Jewelers, often makes rings for second-generation clients. He believes relationships and emotions are his business’ foundation. One couple even comes in every year, on their anniversary, to purchase a piece of jewelry.
“Jewelry is very personal and people become emotional about it,” he says. “If we didn’t have sentiment, we wouldn’t be in business.”
Areias has built a full-service shop that includes repair and restoration services, Cartier merchandise and select estate pieces.
Custom design, however, makes up the majority of his work and the work of his experienced bench jewelers.
Trained in classical design and old-world traditions, Sarkis Sakiz of The Crossroads Jewelers has waiting lists of up to one year for his intricate custom pieces. Adorned with exquisite metal carvings and delicate filigree work, one ring, pendant or pair of earrings can take as long as a month to craft.
Individuality and craftsmanship are equally important to Sakiz.
“Sometimes I question myself, on those complicated orders,” he says with a smile. “But after the work is finished, I always feel proud. There is a lot of integrity going into each piece.”
Just as Sarkis Sakiz is known for fine gems in elegantly carved settings, so has Bradley D. Weber become known for his fourth Spectrum Award-winning piece, “Neptune’s Birth.”
The pearl, diamond and carved conch shell ring was featured on a limited edition Gemological Institute of America (GIA) poster in 2007. It is now part of a GIA display.
Weber opened Weber Goldsmith Gallery at The Lodge at Pebble Beach in 1999, after operating in Maui for 16 years. In addition to his own pieces, he carries lines by Stardust, Tramedoro and others. His jewelry philosophy is simple.
“You don’t thumb tack a Monet to the wall, and it’s the same with a meaningful gem or stone,” he says. “You put a great frame around it to make it look right. It’s all about what matters to the heart and what goes into the process.”