Twenty years ago, with a small casting oven in the basement of his parents’ house, Joe Genovese began making custom jewelry for Genovese Jewelers. Today, the business uses the latest technology and sophisticated equipment, but the philosophy remains the same. “We realized that any time we ever had any issues, it was because we were depending on other people and we had no control over the process,” says Genovese, the jeweler’s second-generation owner. “Manufacturing items here allows us to make a higher-quality piece of jewelry while being more efficient.”
Established in 1981 by Michael Genovese, Genovese Jewelers carries an inventory that is 50 percent made on site, and the majority of the business comes from custom orders for individuals. Eight bench jewelers and three full-time CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) designers allow the jeweler to produce up to 100 engagement rings a week, Genovese says. While the process may sound intimidating to a potential customer, the sales staff guides a client by showing samples and drawing a rough sketch before the designers create a computer rendering that is converted into a wax model. “The customer can actually see it and try it on before we cast the jewelry,” Genovese explains. “They love it because they can follow it every step of the way and there are so many points where we can make changes to get it where it’s perfect.”
And in the end, if a client isn’t completely satisfied with the custom piece, they aren’t stuck with it. “We’ll keep remaking it—I’ll die trying to get it right because I want them to come back, and encourage their friends to do so, as well,” Genovese notes.
While customers may assume that a custom item equals a higher price tag, Genovese says it actually costs less because he is able to control all of the direct expenses. On a daily basis, he and his staff come up with new ideas for jewelry, from plans for a simple engagement ring, to a pendant setting for a 14-carat tanzanite. “The key is to not only have an eye for what is going to translate into a pretty piece, but also understand the engineering of it—it has to be able to be worn on a daily basis.”
Offering a large inventory at the Creve Coeur showroom that covers all price points and ranges from classic pieces to current trends has allowed Genovese Jewelers to actually grow its business throughout the recession. “If you want to sell more jewelry, have more pieces in the cases,” he says. “The cost of our inventory is higher, but the more we have, the more we sell. People don’t want to use a catalog; they want to see what they’re going to get.”
The business is ready for the holiday rush—able to turn around custom items in a week—and Genovese looks forward to helping new shoppers, as well as the loyal clients who have returned year after year. “The definition of a good customer is not someone who comes in and can buy a $100,000 diamond ring, but someone who, when they think of jewelry, they think of us.”