Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

S Shopper Stories


LONG JEWELERS

Traveling the world to find the best diamonds

by Sheryl Williams


Each year, Steve Long travels to the famed Diamond District in Antwerp, Belgium to personally select the dazzling diamonds available at Long Jewelers in Chesapeake.

Each year, Steve Long travels to the famed Diamond District in Antwerp, Belgium to personally select the dazzling diamonds available at Long Jewelers in Chesapeake.

Marilyn Monroe may have sung her iconic, breathy rendition of  “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” on the big screen back in the 1950s, but Steve Long, owner of Long Jewelers on North Battlefield Boulevard in Chesapeake, can attest that the sentiment still holds true today. When asked what stone is the most popular, his answer comes without hesitation: diamonds.

Raised in northern Virginia, Steve moved to Hampton Roads in 1988 at the suggestion of his brother, who owns two jewelry stores in Virginia Beach. Both men are first-generation jewelers. “Many people assume we’re from a long line of family in the jewelry business, but we’re the first,” he explains.

When asked if anything in his background hinted at a future career in jewelry, Steve recalls that his dad had a cigar box full of old watches that he kept in a drawer. “I would go into that drawer, open up the box, carefully remove each case, and admire the intricate workings inside,” he recalls. “Then I’d put them back very carefully to make sure he’d never know. They were so old that they probably didn’t work anyway,” he adds with a laugh.

With 30 years of training and experience in the industry, Steve can help avoid problems encountered by customers who are new or unaccustomed to shopping for diamonds. While many people are familiar with the “four C’s”—cut, color, clarity and carat weight—they might not realize the importance of correct proportions. A diamond with skewed proportions will have less sparkle because of the way the light hits the diamond. If a diamond is cut too deep, light will shine through the table or crown and “leak out” the bottom.


To stroll through Long Jewelers is to be dazzled by the diamonds on display under glass and in the area’s only walk-in jewelry store vault.

To stroll through Long Jewelers is to be dazzled by the diamonds on display under glass and in the area’s only walk-in jewelry store vault.


Other vendors, offering diamonds that have been placed in settings elsewhere, will often give customers the diamond’s approximate weight—which can vary, more or less, from its actual weight by 15 percent.   Steve explains that in such cases, customers usually get less, not more, than they pay for. A customer may believe he is buying a carat—100 points—when the diamond may actually be only 85 points.  Steve weighs each diamond himself, never misrepresenting the weight to his customers: a carat is always a carat.

Steve is proud of his staff of experienced professionals, including two full-time jewelers and a master appraiser—one of about ten in the country to have joined every national appraisal group and received the top designation. Steve conducted a national search before finding him in Kansas eight years ago.

In addition, Long Jewelers is the only jewelry store in Chesapeake with a walk-in style bank vault. “We had to tear down the outside wall of the building and transport it here in pieces on a small forklift,” Steve recalls.

To provide his customers with the best possible choice of diamonds, Steve goes the extra mile—all the way to Antwerp, Belgium.


...armed with each customer’s list of requirements,
Steve journeys to Antwerp,
where he spends hours pouring over hundreds of diamonds...
using his trained eye to choose just the right diamond
for each customer.


Beautiful Antwerp has been connected to the diamond trade since the 15th century, when a local diamond cutter, Lodewyk van Berken, invented the scaif, enabling cutters to create sparkling, multifaceted diamonds for the first time. The industry changed forever, and orders—many from European nobility—poured in. Located on the River Scheldt, Antwerp now is the home of the Diamond Quarter district—a one-square-mile area through which over three quarters of the world’s rough diamonds pass. The largest diamond district in the world, over $16 billion in polished diamonds pass through its exchanges each year.

It is into this blend of storied past and present-day big business that Steve Long travels once a year from Chesapeake to purchase diamonds.

First, he meets with his customers to learn what their needs and expectations are. Always respectful of budget, his goal is to find the very best diamond possible for the money. Then, armed with each customer’s list of requirements, Steve journeys to Antwerp, where he spends hours pouring over hundreds of diamonds, presented in parcels, using his trained eye to choose just the right diamond for each customer. Since he purchases the diamonds straight from the cutter and imports them himself, he eliminates the middle man and can offer the best price possible.

It is intense work that requires visual acuity and stamina. “Taking a jeweler’s loop and grading diamonds gives many people a headache; they can’t do it for long periods of time,” Steve explains. A diamond grader trained through the Gemological Institute of America, he must remain focused while examining diamonds for many hours. “After I choose the diamonds I want, I negotiate the best prices, then place orders,” he adds, “so it can take quite a while.”

Some loose diamonds are brought back to the store to offer walk-in customers. “Many brides today prefer selecting the loose diamond, then choosing the ring or having it created for them,” Steve explains. “We can hand-carve it or we can use Computer Assisted Design and Manufacturing (CAD-CAM) machines to help in crafting unique pieces.”

While it may seem tempting to buy diamonds on the Internet or from a large wholesale retailer simply for a  low price, the value of an experienced, knowledgeable professional can’t be overstated—especially for a purchase as significant as an engagement or anniversary diamond. And the personal touch—having Steve there to answer questions—is priceless. Many of his customers have become like family through the years; some of their children and grandchildren return to Steve for his guidance. “All the hard work is certainly worth it when a customer is happy with the result,” Steve says with a smile.

Marilyn was right: diamonds are still a girl’s best friend. And if that sparkling ring on her finger comes all the way from Antwerp, Belgium—personally selected for her by a master jeweler—what a story she has to tell!




Long Jewelers

701 N. Battlefield Blvd.
Chesapeake, VA 23320

757-436-1920
http://www.longjewelers3.com/