Friday, April 16th, 2021

Shopper Client Stories


Directly importing the world's most beautiful diamonds

by Candance Moore

Steve Long, Owner of Long Jewelers <BR> Photo by Michele Thompson

Steve Long, Owner of Long Jewelers
Photo by Michele Thompson

Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but for the spouse, son, or other devotee shopping for the perfect diamond in the right setting, "best friend" may not be the term that comes to mind. Trying to navigate the labyrinth of diamond vendors, dealers, and corporate retailers not only keeps the diamond industry ensconced in mystery but easily frustrates anyone searching for that elusive "perfect diamond."

Fortunately, Steve Long- the plainspoken, no-nonsense owner of Long Jewelers in Chesapeake- set out thirty years ago to make the upper echelons of the diamond market directly accessible to local customers. No endless stream of middlemen, no confusing jargon, and, most importantly of all, no settling for whatever diamonds just happen to be available. Instead, Steve takes an annual trip to Antwerp in northern Belgium- the fabled city where the art of modern diamond cutting was introduced. The very heart of the world's diamond market, through which 55 percent of the world's rough diamonds pass, Antwerp is home to the most talented and experienced diamond cutters. In a fairy tale setting of ancient castles, cathedrals, and statues, the city's skilled artisans hone their craft. Whatever they are presently creating will be next year's hot new look. Given the demand for their work, these craftsmen have no time for amateurs or neophytes.

"The barriers to these people are very real," Steve notes. "Not only are they inaccessible to the average customer, but they are also inaccessible to many people working in the jewelry industry. Most of the clerks who sell diamonds in other stores would actually be barred from the meetings that I attend. What gets me in the door is the reputation that I worked over thirty years to cultivate."

 While Steve's memberships in the Independent Jewelers' Organization and the Retailer Jewelers' Organization did grant him entry-level access to Antwerp, it was at first only brief meetings with a few of the more open brokers. Steve quietly impressed them with his depth of knowledge, appreciation for quality, and work ethic. As he made a name for himself among the elites of the world's diamond market, doors began to open.

They eventually opened to the inner sanctum where raw diamonds pulled from mines are cleaned, cut, and carefully assessed by those who know diamonds best. Some of these craftsmen grew up in Belgian families whose lineage goes back five hundred years to when Antwerp first became the center of the diamond trade. As Steve grew in confidence, he mastered the delicate balance of going tete-a-tete to negotiate a deal with his impressive hosts.

But once a deal is made, what a deal it is, allowing Steve to return to Hampton Roads with pitch-perfect diamonds that are sure to win the praise of his customers. He insists that seeing the face of a young newlywed light up with joy more than compensates for the bustling negotiations in Belgium.

"It is quite intimidating," he admits with a smile. "Armed guards, redundant checkpoints, a quickness to end a meeting at the first hint of trouble - not everyone can handle the pressure. Technical knowledge isn't enough to leave those rooms with a deal."

"My customers have women in their lives they want to honor, and they have a vision of what they want, but the entry barrier puts it out of their reach," Steve explains. "It's my great privilege to help them make her dream come true. I go to Antwerp and negotiate with their best interests in mind, and bring back to them a diamond with a story. I've done this for many years now, and I'm proud to say my customers are never disappointed."

Steve leaves Antwerp each year with a collection of purchases, some for customers on deposit and others for public sale in his store, shipped promptly from Belgium to Chesapeake, making him quite literally the first area jeweler to become a direct diamond importer. While customers might assume this inside track is too expensive, Steve points out that there is no middleman or costly overhead, bringing an Antwerp diamond surprisingly within many budgets.

Once the diamond arrives at Long Jewelers, the fun begins of setting it in a ring or necklace designed for maximum dazzle. Steve speaks with his customers in understandable terms, pointing out to them their many options. Even men who hate shopping for jewelry have remarked that Steve removed their anxiety. He offers terms, payment plans, processes, and services in a simple, straightforward manner.

Since Long Jewelers offers on-site repair and polishing, a diamond can be easily maintained by the same team who created it. This gives Steve a chance to cultivate relationships with customers who come in to have their jewelry cleaned. Should the time come later for an upgrade, trade-in values are generous, and personal preferences are remembered.

"My customers have women in their lives they want to honor
I go to Antwerp and negotiate
 with their best interests in mind,
and bring back to them
a diamond with a story."

 - Steve Long

"There's no reason for simple maintenance to require an outside lab as used by many other stores. Handing a diamond over to a new clerk every time you're in the store, wondering how many hands it will pass through, waiting weeks to get it back, all for an actual task that only takes ten or twenty minutes," Steve asserts. "This makes customers reluctant to keep up that sparkling shine. When I tell them that we'll have the repair done in the time it takes to admire our new selection, they are pleasantly surprised."

This year, Steve's voyage to Antwerp will take place in late October. Customers are welcome to visit his Chesapeake store for an inquiry. If they're interested, a simple deposit will secure the retrieval of a diamond to meet their personal taste. Even if customers don't know exactly what they want, Steve enjoys patiently guiding those who are new to the diamond world. His Antwerp purchases arrive in plenty of time to craft a complete piece for a holiday gift.

"I'm always looking for ways to make the process simpler at a higher value," Steve concludes. "My customers count on me to do all the work while they sit back and enjoy a woman's happiness."

Long Jewelers

701 N. Battlefield Blvd.
Chesapeake, VA 23320