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Chicago's Upscale Jewelry Stores


#1

Three’s an article in today’s Chicago Tribune (12/16/07) called
Rocks on a Roll, about the rise of Oak Street as a destination for
high end jewelry shops.

It is now home to Judith Ripka, Trabert and Hoeffer, Graff, Lester
Lampert, Harry Winson, Yurman and Me&Ro, according to the article.

Rocks on a roll

Already home to high-end shops, Oak Street now positively drips
with jewels

By Beth Wilson, Chicago Tribune
December 16, 2007

When Chicagoan Sugar Rautbord, author, socialite and publicist,
goes shopping for a significant piece of jewelry, she visits
Bulgari on Michigan Avenue and Graff on Oak Street.

But now Rautbord admits to additional temptations on Oak Street,
with high-end jewelers Harry Winston, David Yurman and Me&Ro
setting up shop just in time for the holidays.

“It’s like diamond row,” she said of Oak Street, which also
houses Judith Ripka, Trabert & Hoeffer, Graff and local favorite
Lester Lampert.

Indeed, the chi-chi side street to Michigan Avenue that’s known
for fine designer collections, ala Yves Saint Laurent, now has
added another feather to its exclusive cap. It’s become the
Midwest’s own luxury jeweler’s row.

Call it the battle of the baubles. Not that any of the new
tenants seem concerned. Executives from David Yurman, who
unveiled a 1,400-square-foot space, said sales are exceeding
projections almost weekly since its late September opening.

Women and men are scooping up pieces that range from $500
sterling silver bracelets to a $100,000 South Sea pearl
necklace.

The company initially looked for space along Michigan Avenue.

But, said Yurman CEO Paul Blum, “Jewelry is a very intimate
purchase. To be off Michigan Avenue, it’s more discreet, yet
it’s still accessible.”

The competition, Blum said, is beneficial. “It draws more
attention to the street.”

Harry Winston opened its largest U.S. retail space there, an
8,000-square-foot, three-level salon. It boasts a sea of
diamonds from $15,000 engagement rings to a $1.5 million
96-carat cluster necklace.

Investing in such a sizable space on Oak Street was a natural
decision given Winston’s healthy Midwest client base, said
corporate communications director Carson Glover.

“Our clients aren’t really in one specific area,” he said. “They
have a house in Aspen, a flat in London and an apartment in
Chicago. Harry Winston himself has relationships here going back
decades.”

That may help the jewelry house, as it sits just steps away from
Graff and that uber-luxury jeweler’s own 8,000-square-foot,
multi-level Oak Street location.

“I think it’s a very good thing; the more the merrier,” said
Henri Barguirdjian, president and chief executive officer of
Graff in America, about the new neighbors. “Oak Street is
becoming what Madison Avenue is in New York.”

Barguirdjian said there is a very strong market in Chicago for
the finest of jewels. Clients at the Oak Street store have not
shied away from purchasing diamonds in the 20-carat range, he
said. Prices at Graff begin at $5,000 for a diamond pendant and
rise to $2.5 million for a 30-carat emerald-cut diamond ring,
with the average sale reaching $400,000 companywide.

“We purposely wanted to make a statement,” he said of purchasing
the building on Oak Street. “We’ve set the example.”

More subdued in its jewelry and its presence, Me&Ro chose Oak
Street to launch its 900-square-foot Chicago boutique last
month, given that the former Oak Street boutique Elements (which
recently moved to Wells Street) was one of the first retailers
to purchase its line some 15 years ago.

Known for its stackable rings, hammered bangles and personal
amulets favored by the likes of Julia Roberts and Charlize
Theron, Me&Ro’s space is more serene, accented by its signature
pond, dark wood and red Venetian glass walls.

With prices ranging from $150 for a silver pendant on a cotton
or leather cord to a $26,500 white diamond briolette necklace,
Me&Ro also provides the most accessible jewelry of any of the
newcomers.

Regardless, Rautbord said Chicagoans will spend.

“This is a very rich, rich town, although it likes to say it
isn’t,” she said. And fine jewelry, unlike a couture gown, does
not go out of style, does not depend on one’s size, and does not
lose its value, she noted.

“I’d rather wear the same dress again and again with a great
piece of jewelry,” she said. “Jewelry is something that you can
wear for the rest of your life.”