The Pandemic Closed Jewelry Stores—So the Gems Came to Us Instead

Jill Newman
·2 min read
Photo credit: Graff/Getty
Photo credit: Graff/Getty

From Town & Country

When a Cartier client was celebrating a significant birthday recently, representatives from the maison presented a selection of jewelry at the family’s backyard party so the birthday girl could choose her favorite piece. “It truly transcended the transactional,” says Mercedes Abramo, president and CEO of Cartier North America, “and became an incredibly personal celebration.”

This isn’t Cartier’s standard protocol, but with the coronavirus pandemic, its resulting travel restrictions, and a hesitancy on the part of customers to return to stores, the jewelry house call is staging a comeback.

Such private visits were nothing out of the ordinary a century ago, when a premier jeweler was as intimately engaged with his patrons as the family doctor. None was as charismatic—or knew his clients so well—as Pierre Cartier, who routinely traveled the world to make house calls. In 1910, when he purchased the extraordinary 45-carat Hope Diamond, he already had someone in mind for the notorious blue stone: the 26-year-old mining heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean. It took some convincing, but Cartier visited McLean’s Washington, DC, home several times with the rock before she finally gave in and purchased the diamond for $180,000 (about $5 million today).

Photo credit: Library of Congress - Getty Images
Photo credit: Library of Congress - Getty Images

Private visits underscore the personal relationships that jewelers can foster with their clients, becoming trusted advisers on both significant acquisitions and sentimental gifts. “I’m thankful they feel close enough to us to invite us into their homes,” says Marc Hruschka, Graff USA’s president and CEO. House calls also mean getting to see the latest creations as soon as they’re released.

At Marissa Collections in Naples, Florida, the store’s team visited clients with fresh jewels from Arunashi and Irene Neuwirth. “There is an organic romanticism in finding the right piece for a client because you know just what they like,” owner Jay Hartington says.

When Russell Zelenetz, a partner at Madison Avenue’s Stephen Russell jewelers, offered to hand-deliver a client’s recently repaired Art Deco Cartier bracelet en route to the Hamptons, she asked to see some new jewels as well. So he packed a bag—and she purchased another piece. “With jewelry, it’s all about trust,” Zelenetz says. “It’s a far more intimate purchase than most things, so you really want to know who you’re buying from.”

It won’t be long before we are mingling in crowded stores again, but the luxury of jewelry house calls will undoubtedly continue—because who wouldn’t love opening the front door to someone bearing a case of sparkling gems?

This story appears in the February 2021 issue of Town & Country.
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