Diamond District
January 13, 2016
Diamond District
Houston Modern Luxury

If, in fact, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, the new and much ballyhooed River Oaks District just may be the friendliest place in Houston. The BFF list includes Cartier, Chopard, Patek Philippe at deBoulle and Van Cleef & Arpels, with red-carpet favorite Harry Winston coming this spring. 

The new Diamond District is officially open for business and, given ongoing chatter about the economic slowdown in the city’s important energy sector, some have wondered if the timing for such an onslaught of stratospherically luxurious retail is well- timed. “Whether River Oaks District will succeed will depend on the usual Houston unknowables,” writes typically astute gadfly Mimi Swartz in Texas Monthly, “mainly, how low oil will go before it shifts upward again.”

Still optimism is high among retailers in the center. Riding the ups and downs is expected in Houston and many, such as Cartier, say they are focused on the city long term. “We’ve been in Houston since the early 1920s and opened in the Galleria in 1979,” says Cartier North America President and CEO Mercedes Abramo. “There’s a natural synergy between Cartier and the River Oaks District. Going into the future, this is not a short-term investment for us. We believe in Houston.”

Cartier was the very first jewelry store to bow in the River Oaks District, mesmerizing shoppers with a massive, twinkling teardrop chandelier, a collection of private salons and a full slate of jewelry collections, watches and accessories. 

For its part, Van Cleef & Arpels is set in an art deco space, while the jewelry designs are decidedly now. Van Cleef & Arpels patented the Mystery Set technique that creates a setting with invisible prongs. Between the workmanship and quality of gems, select Van Clef & Arpels rings reach as high as $70,000, while diamond necklaces soar to $325,000. 

Houston newcomer Patek Philippe at deBoulle touts a similarly cool elegance and doesn’t mind being social—there’s a bar here—or showy, putting its seven-figure pieces in the front windows, like a stunning $3 million yellow-diamond ring. It’s a definite invitation to ogle—and come in and stay awhile—a philosophy honed by owners Karen and Denis Boulle of Dallas. 

The husband-and-wife duo searched extensively for a place to expand their brand in Houston and found River Oaks District a perfect fit. The owners pride themselves on their vast collection of timepieces by Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe, vintage pieces, fearless use of colorful gems and exclusivity. “We don’t make multiples of anything,” says a boastful seller. “There’s not another one of anything in the back.” 

The arrival of Chopard to the Diamond District—its first Texas boutique—magnifies the sparkle. A Cannes mainstay, the Swiss-based company is known for not only jewelry, but also luxury watches. Chopard’s store exudes a warm, rosy feel and, while the pretty earrings, necklaces and bracelets range from $200 to $20,000, it’s the high jewelry that are showstoppers. Pieces like ruby and diamond chandelier earrings set in 18K gold and a limited-edition emerald-cut Colombian emerald weighing 25 carats, attached to strands of emeralds attached to diamonds.

Still, the million-dollar question—literally—remains. Will anybody be buying? Jim Gilmer of UH’s Institute for Regional Forecasting says probably. “It’s not 1982. It isn’t that kind of downturn,” he says. “The energy industry is suffering, but companies like Hewlett-Packard, companies not tied to the energy industry, will continue to perform and do fine.” And, Gilmer points out, the upper echelon of consumers, the “tip-top” of retail, are largely immune to downturns anyway—and items like high jewelry are seen as investments and retain their value.

Besides, Gilmer predicts that, within about a year, the energy industry will start to shine again. Bright, like diamonds.

Link to original article here.


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