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South Bay Jewelry

Brian Carpenter and Gina Watson with client Orange County Real Housewife Lynne Curtin

South Bay Jewelry
Bridal and Diamond Store
26851 Aliso Creek Rd, Ste. B
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
Estate and Vintage Diamond Store
24321 Ave. DeLaCarolta H-10
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

Respect for fine jewelry and the art of creating it were the sole guides behind the business choices that distinguish South Bay Jewelry in two very specialized aspects.

A few years ago, the third-generation family-owned jewelry company made a bold move: It invested in equipping its flagship bridal and diamond store in Aliso Viejo with the means to manufacture custom jewelry entirely in-house. Very few jewelry stores in the nation do that – it’s accepted practice in the industry to outsource certain steps in the manufacture of a custom piece, such as wax mold casting or the setting of stones.

The difficulty for SBJ, however, was the ever-present and pressing demand for its custom creations. A design credo of “more stone and less precious metal” had long ago established a unique and immediately recognizable look that made the store’s custom pieces unusually popular. According to manager Brian Carpenter, whose in-laws Dave and Gina Watson own the company started by Gina’s uncle Winston Verdult in Newport Beach in 1969, the unpredictability of outsourcing was becoming a costly inconvenience.

“Issues in quality and timely turn-around plague nearly all jewelry stores due to the industry’s outsourcing model, but it was hitting us disproportionately because so many people seek our product,” Carpenter says. “That’s why we decided to go to the expense of bringing production all in-house.”

Customers love it, says Carpenter. They get better prices on the jewelry because the store isn’t paying any middlemen. The quality is better, and the turn-around time from sketch to finished piece has been cut in half. It’s paid off so well that that the store has hired seven new employees, even in this down economy.

The decision to bring all production in-house opened other doors, too: SBJ is the exclusive producer and manufacturer for OC Housewife Lynne Curtin’s Couture jewelry line. Together, they work to build their online jewelry business and expand to more shopping locations. Other clients are already in place for SBJ to manufacture their jewelry lines, as well.

The second of SBJ’s most distinguishing features is the carefully cultivated collection in its estate and vintage diamond store in Laguna Hills, with an emphasis on Euro-cut diamonds that defined elegance in past eras. Today’s diamonds are cut by machine; the Euro cut was done by hand, every piece one-of-a-kind. The technique is virtually obsolete, and the diamonds have become almost an endangered species, according to Carpenter.

“They’re hard to find because 20 and 30 years ago, people were taking these old-fashioned stones and re-cutting them in the modern ‘brilliant’ style,” he says.

The brilliant cut creates smaller facets for more intense light dispersal to achieve the glittery look popular in diamonds today, Carpenter explains. In a Euro-cut diamond, bigger facets affect the light dispersal so the diamond has a larger, mellower quality to its sparkle.

“The estate and vintage store has acquired a variety of pieces from great eras, such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and the Edwardian era with all its hand engraving. Young brides in particular seem to love the vintage look,” he says.

SBJ provides a full spectrum of services. Its master watchmaker is qualified to repair Rolex, Cartier, Patek Phillipe, and other ultra-high-quality brands. Jewelry repair and restoration are also offered. “We’re a trusted place where people feel comfortable bringing things of huge sentimental and monetary value,” Carpenter says. “Our work requires high levels of skill and patience. I guess you could say that’s what really sets us apart.”

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