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Jewelry Store Continues Under New Ownership, Mixing Old Ways with Modern Technology

It’s one of 51 stores reported closed or under new ownership in September.

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Pictured here are Mary Loose Deviney, right, with her late mother, Francis Elizabeth Gibson Loose

AMONG THE 51 STORES reported closed or under new ownership in September by the Jewelers Board of Trade, there’s been a changing of the guard at Tuel Jewelers, a mainstay of brick-lined, pedestrians-only Main Street in Charlottesville, VA, since 1945.

History is everything in Charlottesville, founded in 1762. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe were born here. Jefferson’s Monticello is a few miles outside town. The University of Virginia, which he founded, is based here, on a campus designated as a World Heritage site. Tuel’s — whose most consistent seller over the years is the silver Jefferson cup, designed by the third president — dates its own history to the era when railroad watchmakers and repair shops began to add jewelry items, mostly for men at first, tie-tacks and cufflinks, then engagement rings and wedding jewelry, creating a post-War generation of hometown jewelry stores. 

Local resident Francis Elizabeth Gibson went to work as a bookkeeper for Tuel’s in 1953, gradually earning GIA certification through a correspondence course. In 1975, with the support of husband Hermann Loose, a Swiss-born cattle rancher, she bought the store, thus becoming the first female merchant in town.

Francis Elizabeth Gibson Loose’s last day at work was Dec. 28, 2017. When she died eight days later, at 86, the local movie theater mourned her with a marquee reading “A jewel is lost in downtown.” By the time Francis Loose’s daughter Mary entered the store in the 1960s, at two days old, Tuel’s already was on its way to becoming the community center it remains today.

“After 9-11, this is where people came to just sit in the chairs and talk,” says new owner Mary Loose Deviney. “I mean, it’s a store, a way of deriving income, sure, but Tuel’s is so much more than that. It’s almost a creature, a living thing in this community. I don’t really think of myself as the owner. I’m more like the caretaker.”

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Mary Loose Deviney left home to study accounting at college, then returned to Charlottsville take care of her grandmother, working at the store part-time. She had intended to move away to a position with one of big eight international accounting firms of the 1980s, but then after her grandmother’s death she took her mother aside and said, “I think I’d like to stay on, if you’ll have me.” 

Any regrets to passing on a chance at a larger world than her hometown?

“Oh no, not a one,” Mary Deviney says. “That was one of Momma’s lessons. Try to live without regrets.” 

Mary combines her Old World skills with customers and on the bench with savvy modern business training, sprinkling her conversations with references to “our analytics.”

Although sales are all still rung up on a crank cash register in the front of the store, there’s a modern computer system at work in the back. 

“I have always felt that technology is our friend,” Mary says, citing its influence on the manufacture of today’s lighter, cheaper jewelry. “I think the more people wearing jewelry, the better, you know. They develop the habit.”

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As for technology’s effect on sales, there is almost a shrug in her voice as she says, “An internet site can’t make repairs or size a ring. The colors on the internet are not true to life. Photographs are easily manipulated as to size. At this point, people have had that one or two bad experiences buying online. They know that if they want quality they have to go to an honest-to-goodness jewelry store.

“Our business is about relationships, and relationships are long-term.”

Any changes in store under the new caretaker of Tuel Jewelers?

“Oh no, no, no,” says Mary Deviney. “I think our customers would revolt.”

Editor’s note: Of the 54 stores in the JBT’s preliminary figures for September– slightly more than the 51 stores reported in final numbers for the previous month — three were listed as consolidations, eight as acquisitions, and the balance as discontinuances.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 76 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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Marie Antoinette’s Jewels Sell for $36M

Other key items sold in the $2M+ range.

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This pearl and diamond pendant sold for $36 million at auction.

A pearl and diamond pendant that was owned by Marie Antoinette, queen of France, who died in 1793, sold at auction for more than $36 million, CNN reports.

Sotheby’s had touted Marie Antoinette’s collection as “one of the most important royal jewellery collections ever to come to auction.”

The pendant had been predicted to sell for only $1 million to $2 million. The sale took place in Geneva.

The sale resulted in a new auction record for a natural pearl, according to Sotheby’s.

According to CNN, other items in the collection that sold for significant amounts included:

  • A pearl and diamond necklace ($2.2 million)
  • A diamond double-ribbon-bow brooch ($2.1 million).
  • A “monogram ring with woven strands of Antoinette’s hair” ($440,000).

Read more at CNN

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‘Pink Legacy’ Diamond Sells for $50M, Setting Per-Carat Price Record

It was sold by Christie’s in Geneva.

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The Pink Legacy, an 18.96-carat fancy vivid pink diamond, sold for $50.4 million in the Magnificent Jewels auction on Nov. 13 at Christie’s in Geneva.

It was promptly renamed The Winston Pink Legacy by its new owner, Harry Winston.

“The saturation, the intensity of this stone is as good as it gets in a colored diamond,” said Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewelry for Christie’s. “To find a diamond of this size with this color is pretty much unreal. You may see this color in a pink diamond of less than one carat. But this is almost 19 carats and it’s as pink as can be. It’s unbelievable.”

While most pink diamonds exhibit a colorr modifier like purple, orange, brown or gray, the Pink Legacy shows no trace of a secondary color, according to a Christie’s press release. Its even color distribution, combined with a balanced saturation, tone and straight pink hue, qualify the 18.96 carat diamond for the “fancy vivid” color grading from the Gemological Institute of America.

Only one in 100,000 diamonds possess a color deep enough to qualify as “fancy vivid,” and the Winston Legacy set a record price per carat for a pink diamond, according to the release.

In the fancy vivid pink range, diamonds of more than five or six carats are rarely encountered. In fact, fewer than 10 per cent of pink diamonds weigh more than one-fifth of a carat. In the saleroom, fancy vivid pink diamonds over 10 carats are virtually unheard of — in over 250 years of auction history at Christie’s, only four such stones have ever appeared for sale.

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CEO of Major Jewelry Chain to Retire; New Chief Named

The president and COO has been promoted.

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SEATTLE, WA – Ben Bridge Jeweler, which has 95 stores in 11 states and one Canadian province, announced that Chairman and CEO Ed Bridge is retiring effective Jan. 31, 2019.

Current President and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Bridge has accepted a promotion to president and CEO. Having served as the first female president of Ben Bridge Jeweler, Lisa Bridge will now continue her service as the fifth generation to run the company.

According to a press release from the company: “Upon retirement, Ed Bridge will leave behind a 45-year legacy of honor, leadership and achievement including serving as chair of Jewelers of America and Jewelers For Children, board member of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee and the Jewelry Information Center, VP of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and chair of the Seattle Victims Fund, board member of both the University of Washington Hillel and Tyee Club.”

He has been the recipient of the AGS Lifetime Achievement Award and numerous other honors, including being inducted into the National Jeweler Retailer Hall of Fame, according to the release.

“It has been an honor and privilege working with our associates to create incredible moments and touch the lives of so many customers,” Ed Bridge said. “I cherish the relationships I have with our team and the treasured friendships with our many industry partners. I feel thankful to have had the best mentors and bosses one could ask for in my father Bob Bridge, my uncle Herb Bridge and Berkshire Hathaway’s CEO Warren Buffett. I had the pleasure of working with my cousin Jon Bridge as my partner for 28 years before he retired last year. It brings me great joy to know the company will be in such capable hands.

“Lisa will surely propel the business into its next phase and a bright future.”

Lisa Bridge said: “I am endlessly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from Ed and the generations before me. They have been generous with their wisdom and perspective and will continue to be an inspiration. I am humbled to be stepping in to this role, and I am excited to build a bright future with our incredible team. My mission as CEO is to help our customers celebrate wonderfully meaningful and joyful moments in their lives through the power of jewelry.”

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