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
– David Humphrey Fine Jewels Ltd. – 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
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,"
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 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.
"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
by Robert Weldon, G.G.
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.