Reaching Refined Palates

June 1999


Reaching Refined Palates

One jeweler in posh Pacific Palisades markets himself in a discreet but powerful way

Flamboyance is not something David Humphrey is comfortable with. Yet his jewelry has graced actresses and music superstars at such high-profile events as the Academy Awards. Not bad for a retailer who opened his store &#150 David Humphrey Fine Jewels Ltd. &#150 less than two years ago. His experience and understated marketing strategies are examples you may want to consider for your own business.

"The worst thing that can happen to a jeweler is to have the wrong store in the wrong location," he says. "I went for the right store in the right location." David Humphrey Fine Jewels, Ltd. is discreetly positioned in a walled, shady courtyard in Pacific Palisades, a posh neighborhood in Los Angeles. His store sits between a church and a chic Italian restaurant where, if you're sitting outside to sip a cappuccino on a sun-dappled afternoon, you could miss the store altogether. But once you see it there's no turning back.

In the window you see sumptuous but understated jewels, an eclectic mix of ancient and modern, all celebrating the glory of gemstones and jewelry craftsmanship. "I wanted a place that people would stumble across – giving them the feeling of a 'find.' But I chose an affluent area too, where people are well-traveled and have a refined appreciation of art and beauty," he says.

Humphrey believes in the power of connections and started to establish them long before he opened his store. In the past two decades he has forged friendships and business relationships with many people, including museum curators and auction house directors with whom he can share information about ancient pieces he buys or sells. "These people are scholars, consummate experts with high standards," he says.

He also lists fashion designers among his friends, including Deborah McGuire, whose boutique is nearby. This relationship led to soul singer Aaliyah wearing a moonstone necklace from his store at last year's Academy Awards; Billy Crystal's wife also borrowed jewelry for the event, as did Quincy Jones' daughter, actress/ singer Jolie Jones. "Each of these things is like a little brick," he says. "Slowly but surely, they've been built into a business."

The jeweler also has developed into an in-demand speaker, addressing such groups as the Women's Jewelry Association, banks, churches, social clubs and museums.

The Store
The interior of David Humphrey Fine Jewels Ltd. is a feast for the eyes, from the glazed buttery yellow of the walls and dark wood crown molding to the woven wool tiger-pattern rugs, oriental sliding doors and exotic plants. Quartz halogen lights call attention to the handmade wooden cases and the carefully selected diamond and colored gemstone jewels, minerals and archaeological curiosities inside.

The Jewelry
"I am fiercely independent and have a laser vision as to what my jewelry needs to be," Humphrey says. "I make sure we offer the very best quality and that it's at the same high standard as in days of old."

To that end Humphrey has established an exclusive relationship with one of Beverly Hill's most talented jewelers, Ricky Basta of Eichberg Jewelers. "Through Ricky, I can offer customers the most exquisite pieces," says Humphrey. "He takes my ideas and turns them into reality."

Humphrey recently bought 10th century silver gilt horse bridle ornaments and had Basta make modern attachments using 18k gold, diamonds and garnets to form a suite. "I wanted something the right kind of customer would cherish and protect," he says.

Years ago, before he had a store front, Humphrey quietly sold ancient treasures and select gemstones to a few chosen customers in Los Angeles. During this time, he would visit Richard T. Liddicoat, chairman of the Gemological Institute of America and a friend, mentor and inspiration. GIA staffers recall looking forward to Humphrey's visits and the treasures that would tumble from his pockets one by one: an Art Deco cat's-eye pin, a magnificent Paraíba tourmaline. His store today captures that same sense of mystery and wonder.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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