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Almaza Jewelers

Almaza jewelers proves not everything’s big in texas

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Almaza Jewelers, Houston, TX

OWNERS: Ziad H. Noshie; YEAR FOUNDED: 1968; CURRENT LOCATION: 1992; LAST RENOVATED: 2012; EMPLOYEES: 4; BUILDOUT COST: $230,000; BRANDS: Lieberfarb, Benchmark, Charles Hubert Watches; AREA: 898 square feet; YELP:5 Stars; URL: almazajewelers.com


ADDING MORE EMPLOYEES, Noshie believes, would change the nature of the family business. Adding to the mystique of the hidden gem, is that the family tends to keep a low profile on Houston’s lively social scene, donating to causes but rarely attending the associated galas, preferring to retreat to their house in Galveston for family fishing trips.

And because they want to keep the business personal and intimate, and avoid adding staff, they do very little advertising. “It keeps a certain exclusivity to the business,” Alissa says. “We know everyone by name, we know their family stories. If we advertised a lot, we would get too many people and we would falter in customer service. They come to us for customer service.”

If a customer walks in the door, after being admitted by buzzer, whoever greets them likely knows them already, and if they don’t, they will engage the newcomer in casual conversation while committing their name, face and hobbies to memory, and pouring them a glass of award-winning wine or grappa, crafted by Noshie himself.

Most of the jewelry displayed in the cases is handcrafted by Noshie in 18K gold. The store specializes in custom bridal and colored stones.

His cases are already so full of his finished jewelry that there is precious little room for anything else. And Noshie decided years ago not to compete with himself by bringing in well-known brands. They do have a collection of simple studs, sterling silver and watches, which are brought out on request.

The store is tastefully decorated with Noshie’s collected treasures of a lifetime, which lend it a global museum shop feel. In fact, says Alissa, her dad rotates décor between the store and his own house, which looks like the mother museum from which the shop sprung.

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Italian glass artist Gianpaolo Nason specially designed the chandelier in the center of the store to fit in the small space, since most of his creations were made for high-ceilinged rooms in Italy.

The store’s “lucky charm” is a limited-edition mosaic statue of the Virgin Mary, made in Italy in 1971. A 5-foot Buddha, purchased during a business trip to Thailand, lends a sense of peace and mystery to one wall.

Noshie’s office is filled with African and Asian art, including mastodon ivory carvings, housed in rosewood cabinets made in Hong Kong. The showroom’s wood floors are covered with just a sample of Noshie’s large rug collection from Iran and Afghanistan.

“They are just things,” Alissa says of her dad’s collection, “but beautiful things enrich your home and your life.”

Noshie is the son of Hashim and Elfat Noshie. Hashim moved his family from Lebanon to Ghana, West Africa, where he worked as a rough diamond dealer while also operating a general store. When Ziad Noshie, who was born in Ghana, first came to the U.S. to study at the University of Houston and what is now the Glassell School of Art, he knew “not one soul” in the States, yet he felt at home anyway, and became a citizen in 1976. “It’s a wonderful country. I’m the first one to clap when the wheels of the plane touch down in Houston,” Noshie says. “I will never leave Houston.”

Noshie does leave his store, but often he leaves to do more lapidary work at home. It makes too much noise in a retail setting, and his shop isn’t far from his sales floor. He also works off-site on his wine hobby — he has transformed a city townhouse into his own winery.

Since his daughters joined the business full-time, Noshie has been dealing with new customers less than he used to, spending as much time as possible in his perfectly arranged, neat little shop. Of course, Noshie still makes time to see his old friends and clients, sharing with them his award-winning wine.

It’s natural, given his interest in his hobby, to assume that Noshie will one day retire and buy a vineyard in the Texas Hill Country, the Napa Valley or Tuscany, but he says no way. “I will never leave Houston. I don’t plan to retire and I don’t plan to be a vintner. My dad told me, ‘Son, you cannot hold two watermelons in one hand.’ The wine is a hobby and it will always stay as a hobby.”

So, you’ll find Noshie, as always, at his bench.

PHOTO GALLERY (11 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Almaza Jewelers

1. ALMAZA HAS ITS OWN WINERY.  Noshie is a star in Texas winemaking circles, winning more than 100 awards for red and dessert wines, made from California grapes. Customers are treated to a sample from Almaza Wine Cellars, Noshie’s winery, which is run out of a Houston townhouse.

2. A SPECIALTY IN COLORED STONES.  “My forte is colored gems,” Noshie says. “I can spot a nice Burmese ruby from across the room.” He travels to Malaysia, Japan and Thailand to buy loose stones, has mined his own fire and black opals in Australia and has a huge inventory of loose stones of all kinds.

3. WINNING DESIGNS.  In 1998 Noshie began to enter his jewelry in competitions, immediately winning first place in that year’s Platinum Guild International Competition for a wedding set. To date, he has won 66 national and international awards. “I took an oath that I would never, ever, sell a piece that had won an award,” says Noshie, who explains that those treasures are set aside for his daughters. He will, however, make similar pieces on commission.

4. A CODE OF ETHICS.  Noshie learned a strict code of business ethics from his father, who was a merchant of rough diamonds. He has committed to memory many things his father told him including, “Son, if a diamond is 0.99 carat do not call it a carat. You must call it 0.99 carat.”

5. THE QUETZAL.  In 2005, Noshie was inducted into the Gemological Institute of America Circle of Honor for his donation of the Quetzal, a jeweled bird objet d’art, to the GIA’s collection. Quetzal, which took 11 months to handcraft, is a 3-D, life-size replica of Guatemala’s national bird. The piece can be found perched on a branch of Moroccan black coral in the main rotunda of the GIA Museum in Carlsbad, CA.

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Questions with Ziad Noshie

1. MOST SIGNIFICANT MENTOR.  My father, because he was a shrewd Phoenician businessman.

2. FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK.  Minding the Store by Stanley Marcus.

3. BEST ADVICE EVER RECEIVED.  My father told me a long time ago, “If a diamond is 0.99 carat never call it 1.00 carat.”

4. WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH CUSTOMERS WOULD NOT ASK YOU? What religion are you?

5. WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH CUSTOMERS WOULD NOT ASK YOU? WHAT’S YOUR SIGN? Gemini

6. HOW DO YOU STAY CURRENT? I read trade magazines and attend gem shows.

7. WHEN I MEET PEOPLE, the first thing I notice about them is their jewelry.

8. IF I WERE A PRECIOUS STONE, I would be a ruby because of its magnificent power!

9. FAVORITE PLACES TO SHOP.  Italy and Spain.

10. FAVORITE LUNCH.  Soup and salad.

11. BEST VACATION ever When the family was all together on an overseas trip.

12. FAVORITE JOB at work that doesn’t involve customers When I am creating something beautiful for the store (jewelry).

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13. IF I WEREN’T A JEWELER I’d be a vintner or get involved with horticulture.

14. CAREER GOAL.  I would like to create a special piece that would go on a museum tour around the country, but have not started it yet … it is a bit of a secret!

15. CURRENT LIFE GOAL.  I feel I have been blessed and am just enjoying life day by day.

16. FAVORITE GEMSTONE.  Ruby and fine, Ural mountain chrysoberyl Alexandrite

17. FAVORITE STORE that’s not my own A few fine shops in Murano, Italy

18. I AM MOST FRUSTRATED when, I put all the love and effort into a job and a client does not recognize it.

19. I AM HAPPIEST when I make a client very happy.

20. WEEKEND ACTIVITY.  Going to my Galveston Bay house and fishing.

21. FAVORITE ART.  period Traditional African art and late Islamic Period art.

22. FAVORITE ALL-TIME jewelry designer Van Cleef & Arpels

23. THING I WORRY ABOUT THAT I KNOW I SHOULDN’T.  Leaving a legacy and my children carrying on the business when I am gone.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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