They say it’s better to give than to receive, especially during the holidays. Judging by the years of special gift shopping at Genovese Jewelers, that’s true. “Men love finding the perfect gift for the woman in their lives,” says Joe Genovese, president of the family-owned business. “They’re nervous, they’re excited, and sometimes they need a little advice, which we’re happy to give. But the look on a man’s face when he finds just the right thing is unforgettable.”

Genovese has been seeing that look for a long time. He started working in the store as a jewelry polisher when he was 14. “My dad, Michael Genovese, began the business in 1981 and set a high standard: Pursue excellence and make every customer a friend,” he says. The younger Genovese continued the tradition when he took over day-to-day operations more than 10 years ago, and added some innovations of his own.

He bought a larger store in Creve Coeur and invested in state-of-the art computer-aided technology that allows the on-site designers to create custom jewelry molds. “Today, we offer not only a beautiful selection of watches and high-quality jewelry, but a complete in-house design, manufacturing and repair service,” Genovese says. “We have 11 bench jewelers and a gemologist on staff, and we import our own diamonds.”

Genovese’s latest innovation, available just in time for the holidays, is the Isabella Collection, an original line of diamond and colored gemstone rings, pendants and earrings made of Argentium silver. “We’ve always stayed away from sterling silver, because it tarnishes and it’s soft, which makes it difficult to repair,” he explains. “But when the price of precious metals went through the roof, we needed an alternative to keep fine jewelry affordable. Argentium silver, invented by a silversmith in the 1990s, has a clear tarnish so it doesn’t turn black, and it can be laser welded, so it’s easy to repair.” The Isabella Collection retails for $200 to $800.

Genovese estimates that more than half the store’s inventory is custom-designed, a process that allows a high degree of control over every aspect of labor, design and material costs. “It gives us a competitive advantage over everyone else—in many cases, a one-of-a-kind custom piece is less expensive than a ready-made piece,” he says. Increased sales and profits enable the business to keep consumer costs down. “Our profit margin is about half the industry standard,” he notes. “We definitely believe in passing savings along to our customers, and over the years, they’ve repaid us with their loyalty, repeat business and referrals.”

Working from customer photos or sketches, Genovese’s designers create 3-D images of the desired item on a computer, then make wax models for customer review. “We tweak it until it’s exactly what the customer wants, then finish the piece with whatever stones and metal the customer selects,” he says. Turnaround, even during the busy holiday season, ranges from three days to three weeks.

Despite the faltering economy, business is better than ever, Genovese reports. “We actually gained a significant market share this year, and we’re looking forward to a prosperous new year,” he says. “Jewelers usually cut back on inventory during a recession, but we’ve expanded. Whether you choose from one of our jewelry lines or have a piece custom-made, there’s plenty of selection—and the price is right.”