Like many people, January serves as a time of reflection for me. It’s the month we crunch our final numbers for the year to see where we grew (and where we didn’t). It’s the month we do our staff reviews and assign new roles accordingly. It’s also the month when we look ahead and decide how we want to plan our business and define our brand in the coming months. So, with all this thinking about what we are, I also got to thinking about what we’re not, and how these qualities compare to other jewelers and jewelry designers…
This means that when we design something, we create it to be durable, wearable, and long-lasting. Why? Because we take care of our designs for life, and while we want to see our lovely clients again, we don’t want to constantly repair a problematic ring that keeps losing diamonds or cracking at the shank. I see so many “designer” pieces come through our shop for repairs that — while beautiful — are simply poorly designed for real wear and therefore break. We are always transparent with our clients if a design has an element to it that will render it more fragile and, otherwise, we expect our clients to be able to wear their pieces without too much daily worry. We think your jewelry should be precious, but not…precious.
One thing I can’t stand is feeling like someone is pushing me towards a purchase that I’m not 100 percent sold on. I don’t like traditional jewelry stores for this reason; the climate is just too “sales-y” for my taste. We want clients to feel welcome, comfortable, and perhaps even creative in our shop. I know that most of the purchases in our showroom are for special occasions and I therefore want my clients to have a warm memory not just of the milestone, but of the entire experience they had designing or choosing their special commemorative piece. This means I’m not selling you something — I’m helping you create a memory. (Yes, I realize how cheesy that sounds, but if you’ve visited our showroom, you know I mean it.)
Did you know that many “jewelers” in the area are actually just jewelry retail shops, meaning that they don’t have a bench jeweler or goldsmith on site? More often than not, any sizing, setting, finishing, or repairs are done off-site from the jewelry retail store. As such, the person you’re talking to in the shop isn’t actually the person who will be managing your job and your jewelry will be sent somewhere else to be repaired. Even more unbelievable (to me), is that these shops don’t take care of their own custom designs, meaning that if your prongs keep getting loose on that beautiful diamond ring you bought downtown…you need to pay another jeweler to get it fixed again and again. Sure, almost anyone can sell jewelry, but it takes real talent — and management — to take care of it. We are very committed to maintaining our in-house workshop in the face of ever-increasing pressures to export our labor elsewhere, and we think our work product is worth it.
This is actually a big challenge for us. I know that when our clients visit our shop, they want to talk to someone who has an in-depth knowledge of antique sterling silver and a thorough understanding of jewelry restoration and a creative eye for custom work. On top of all this, I expect anyone who works at our shop to be friendly, approachable, and customer service oriented, a trait many experts in our field often lack. Because of this, our client team consists of Tim (my husband and our shop’s co-owner), Ana (our stellar manager), and myself. That’s it. It just doesn’t make sense for us to have someone working with clients who doesn’t have a thorough knowledge of our trade, so we keep our client team tiny (this is, of course, in addition to our stellar workshop team, Lawrence, Ricardo, and Stevie).
This means that between the three of us, all phone calls, emails, appointment, and client walk-ins must be accomplished in addition to our work of performing appraisals, photographing our products, executing CAD designs, sourcing gemstones, doing repair work, and generally running our business. This also means that where some stores can respond to things like Yelp inquiries within two hours, we usually need about a day to get to it. We may not be able to answer the phone or a voicemail immediately. Sometimes, if a client doesn’t have an appointment, they will need to wait a few minutes before we can work with them. This is also why our hours may seem a little limited — we need time to work! This is the trade off we make for being thorough and knowledgeable, which works for most but not for all.
Every business has their own profile and we feel strongly that our approach, while a little different from what most may be used to, is just right for us. If you haven’t visited us yet, check us out. And if you have — and loved us — spread the word! Don’t be afraid to leave Yelp reviews, rate us on Wedding Wire, and vote in “best of” polls (the season is coming). Not so impressed? Email me directly with your comments and I’m happy to address them. The nice thing about being independent is that we’re adaptable, so your suggestion might be implemented!
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.