In pandemic times, if you can’t go to the bling, the bling will come to you.
Some of New York City’s high-end jewelers say they’ve had record sales over the past 11 months, all because they’re making house calls.
“Our sales are up 300 percent since the pandemic started,” Michel Piranesi, a jeweler who’s worked with Lionel Richie, Jackie Collins and socialites galore, told The Post.
Over the past several months, he’s been summoned — traveling on his own dime, negative COVID test in tow — by customers from Manhattan to Atlanta, Southampton and Palm Beach, Florida, where he sold a nonagenarian six necklaces for $380,000 at her waterfront manse.
In some cases, it turns into a party. For her birthday, Jane Scher hosted a jewelry show at her daughter’s Upper East Side apartment, hosting about eight girlfriends for cake, Champagne, temperature checks and shopping. Van Cleef & Arpels dispatched three salespeople to deliver an assortment of baubles.
“It was amazing and so intimate,” said Scher, an aesthetic nurse at SkinTight MedSpa. “I love jewelry, and I went to the jewelry store all the time before COVID. But I couldn’t have my friends in the store now.”
She picked up a pair of the company’s signature Frivole diamond and yellow-gold earrings for $15,700, with a matching Alhambra diamond and black onyx necklace that sells for more than $100,000. “At least we got to shop and have a good time,” said the 60-something. “We’re lucky that shopkeepers are flexible — and trying to stay alive, too. It’s a win-win.”
In yet another show of the class disparities of COVID, Piranesi thinks people are eager to shop for luxe baubles right now because “the wealthy became superwealthy and made tremendous money in the stock market over the past 12 months.
“For people who have money, [buying jewelry is] like buying coffee. It’s like buying a toy. People got stuck in their homes and they just wanted to cheer up, so they bought jewelry,” Piranesi said. He added that social and political upheaval also spurred a shopping frenzy. “A lot of people with money don’t know what’s going to happen… they think a crisis can happen overnight. They buy diamonds just in case. With a piece of art or building, you can’t put it in your pocket.”
Jewelry designer Helen Yarmak has a sprawling Fifth Avenue showroom that’s still open, but told The Post that she and her team are largely making house calls these days — around five a week, comprising about 40 percent of recent business.
“People miss the luxury lifestyle,” Yarmak said, noting that she’s seeing major purchases. “Big stones give people energy and they need that, especially [now]. In a difficult time, they don’t want to buy fake — they want to buy something real.”
Not everyone is comfortable letting an extra person into their home right now, though. Jeweler Jonathan Schwartz was called by a couple to a Sands Point, LI, home a few months ago to show a $10,000 Rolex and a $5,000 Cartier watch for their daughters, only for the wife to refuse him entry. Instead, the deal went down by the pool.
“It’s not ideal and not the proper jewelry environment, but nothing about the COVID world of the past year has been normal,” Schwartz, of Delmonte-Smelson Jewelers, said.
“Outdoor house calls are definitely more common now,” said Diamond District jeweler Adam Gil, who runs Engagement by Adam J. Gil. He regularly meets clients on benches throughout the city, bringing along his magnifying loupe for close inspections. He recently sold a $20,000 two-carat emerald-cut diamond atop the trunk of his car. “[The clients] were on one side of the car and I was on the other,” said Gil, adding that he misses the glass of Scotch that normally accompanies a sale in his store.
And there are unexpected perils of selling jewelry outside the showroom.
Yarmak was packing up her wares while at the home of a client in Central Park South when she noticed that a rare Paraíba-stone ring was missing. “We looked everywhere — we were a little stressed,” said Yarmak president Sebastian Ambrose, who searched the apartment for 45 minutes. Turned out, there had been a little “thief.”
“The daughter’s favorite doll was wearing a Paraíba ring with a diamond setting,” said Ambrose. “That was a huge relief. I’ll have a laugh about it — in five or 10 years.”
By Doree Lewak