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Designing An Emerald City Gem

Jeweler stays custom to its core in a new Seattle location.

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Joseph Jewelry, Seattle, WA

OWNERS: Joseph & Danny Boukhalil; FOUNDED: 1996; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION:2018; ARCHITECT: Adel Dagher of International Lead Architects; EMPLOYEES: 19; AREA: 2,000 square feet; TOP BRANDS: Joseph Jewelry, Sylvie Collection, MARS, Galatea; ONLINE PRESENCE: 103 5-Star Google reviews; 19,,000 Instagram followers


Joseph & Danny Boukhalil

Joseph & Danny Boukhalil

SAY THE PHRASE “destination jewelry store,” and many people picture a big, heavily advertised monolith in a suburban parking lot. Joseph Jewelry has turned this perception on its head with a design-oriented downtown Seattle shop that specializes in completely customized engagement rings, the latest manifestation of a dream that Joseph Boukhalil brought to America from his native Lebanon.

Boukhalil got his start in jewelry while still in his teens, studying classic techniques from the friend of his master-jeweler cousin and later learning 3D modeling at Downey Designs International in Indianapolis, where he began work in 1986. A decade later, Boukhalil was ready to take the next step, opening a business with his brother Danny. Joseph Jewelry’s flagship store landed in downtown Bellevue, WA, which in 1996 was emerging as an upscale commercial and residential district for the Puget Sound region’s surging tech economy. By 2018, the brothers were ready to expand across Lake Washington into downtown Seattle.

Joseph Jewelry’s new location sits in an elegant 1920s midrise building along 4th Avenue, with an unassuming entrance on a block that sees far less traffic than the bustling scene at nearby Pike Place Market. As Seattle’s downtown core continues to recover from the pandemic, guests are usually asked to ring for admittance to the shop, but that only heightens the experience of entering a special enclave. Accessible luxury is the vibe, with white marble adding texture to the décor’s soft tones of teal and rose gold. Floor-to-ceiling glass screens subtly incorporate the store’s logo, and interior walls preserve elements of the original architecture. A diamond-inspired,
Tom Dixon-designed lighting fixture based on one featured at Milan Design Week features an app-controlled kaleidoscopic display of colors.

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Many of the engagement rings and wedding bands on display are prototypes, “so when clients look at them, they know it’s not a production piece that we built in the hundreds or thousands,” says store manager Tony Hoag. Working with a design consultant and other team members, couples can use these rings as inspiration, often drawing elements from several designs and incorporating their own ideas on the spot in the store’s comfortable lounge-like environment.

As the ideal ring takes shape, CAD modeling and 3D printing of wax models give clients a precise idea of what the final piece will look like. “We ship (the models) for free, and we do that as many times as it takes to make sure they love it,” says Hoag. “There are no surprises. If they don’t love it, we’ll build them something else.”

Seattle Brothers Create a Personalized Version of a Destination Jewelry Store

The downtown Seattle store stands to capitalize on tourist traffic as the cruise industry rebounds.

“Our main focus is that the client is satisfied,” adds marketing manager Lauren Motsinger. “We check in at every stage to make sure they’re really liking their ring, and if not, we’ll do anything to make it right.”

Joseph Jewelry creates about 90 percent of the inventory at its Bellevue location, though the company occasionally partners with others for rings it cannot manufacture. The everything-in-house dynamic extends to Joseph Jewelry’s website and content management system, lovingly built and maintained by chief digital officer Dwayne Morman, with top-notch photography by Alexi Peycheff. The website includes an extensive online catalog of more than a thousand past custom creations, and a California couple actually flew north to visit Joseph Jewelry based on the quality of its website photography.

Explaining the company’s digital focus, Motsinger says Joseph Jewelry strives to offer the same experience whether people shop in the store or online. “It’s not just ‘add to cart’ and you’re done,” she adds. “It’s still the same custom process. There’s really no difference other than how our salespeople are communicating with the client.

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“Jewelry is so interesting because people have different perspectives on how they’d like to purchase it,” she continues. “Some people are great seeing everything online, but other people really like to be hands-on with the whole process.”

As reliant as the company is on technology, old-school craftsmanship survives at Joseph Jewelry. In both locations, master jewelers stand ready to facilitate adjustments and repairs with the aid of a laser welder that makes it easier to work on such fragile materials as emeralds and pearls. Hoag gives kudos to Eric Ly in the Seattle shop, who is a whiz at everything from repairing a beloved purse to resizing a new engagement ring, often with same-day service — a boon for people who are only in Seattle on business or leisure for a day or two.

Seattle Brothers Create a Personalized Version of a Destination Jewelry Store

Joseph Jewelry strives to create the same experience for clients whether they shop in store or virtually.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Joseph Jewelry had to close for three months due to Washington state’s “stay home, stay safe” shutdown. Amid that closure, its Seattle location was especially vulnerable to the vandalism that accompanied some protests over the death of George Floyd. “We had to board up, just to be on the safe side,” says Hoag, and the business installed a gate to deter theft. A security app paired with swift police response helped thwart one would-be thief during the height of the unrest.

As downtown Seattle rebounds, Joseph Jewelry expects to come back strong. The store stands to capitalize on walk-in traffic from tourists, especially the 1.2 million people who board Alaska-bound cruise ships in Seattle each year, but the locals are returning, too. “Every week, there are more and more people around downtown,” says Motsinger. Hoag adds that the pent-up demand from existing clients, coupled with the digital storefront, sustained the business through the leanest times. “I’m super thankful,” he says, and everyone at Joseph Jewelry is optimistic that the business’ best times are ahead.

Five Cool Things About Joseph Jewelry

1. cruise on in. About 35 percent of Joseph Jewelry customers live outside the Seattle-Bellevue region. Some discovered the business while in Seattle before or after a cruise vacation. Others find it online via the company’s Instagram or Pinterest feeds. “We have a lot of repeat customers,” says store manager Tony Hoag.

2. many paths. Joseph Jewelry’s team members have wide backgrounds that help them relate to customers from many walks of life. Degrees held by staff members range from history and economics to culinary arts and construction management, and together they have more than 250 years of combined jewelry industry experience.

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3. stay quirky. The Pacific Northwest is known for its eccentricity, and Joseph Jewelry celebrates this by collaborating with clients on whatever designs they fancy, from an octopus ring set with pavé and rubies to a platinum castle ring complete with turrets and diamond windows and doors.

4. watchful eyes. With its downtown Seattle location, Joseph Jewelry treads a fine line between safety and being welcoming to everyone who wants to visit. Briefings from the Jewelers’ Security Alliance help staff be aware of potential issues, and jewelers throughout the downtown core work proactively to share information.

5. global citizens. Joseph Jewelry lends support to organizations that are working locally and internationally to address poverty, with a special focus on helping children and at-risk mothers. The business also has committed to the Kimberley Process to ensure conflict-free diamonds, and it hand-picks suppliers to promote environmental sustainability.

PHOTO GALLERY (9 IMAGES)

 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Jennifer Acevedo: Traditional high-quality custom jeweler in an elegant, luxuriously appointed space. Nice to see the investment in e-commerce capabilities.
  • Emma Boulle:The exterior and interior are both very welcoming. They have a captivating Instagram page, and their marketing is elegant, yet fashion forward.
  • Gabrielle Grazi: Elegant showroom design using a mixture of varying color palettes and textures that are visually stimulating.
  • Andrea Hill: The store has a masculine, modern, hinting-at-industrial vibe that is unique and luxurious, and it works for a custom fine jeweler.
  • Larry Johnson: A dramatic place to shop that surrounds the buyer in jewelry options.

 

Try This: Build A Digital Foundation

While many businesses are now thinking “digital first,” Joseph Jewelry has a history of building its business on a digital foundation with no sacrifice in personalized, high-touch service no matter how people prefer to shop. “The most important tip we can give is to focus on customer service and authentic interactions,” says marketing manager Lauren Motsinger. “Serve the same genuine, knowledgeable customer service to online clients that you would give to clients in your showroom.”

Julie Fanselow is a writer, editor, coach, and dot-connector. She was the founding editor of SmartWork Media's magazine for eyecare professionals, INVISION.

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