Diamonds on the Rock has solid reputation in La Jolla

BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT:

If you're looking for anything diamond, your first stop in Bird Rock should be Diamonds on the Rock at 5630 La Jolla Blvd. The showroom offers quality diamond rings, diamond jewelry, wholesale diamonds, estate jewelry, and a whole lot more.

Diamonds on the Rock opened three years ago, replacing Mimi & Red when it moved down the block. For owner Debra Levine, it was the destination spot she'd dreamed of when she was carving out her career as a gemologist. You could say diamonds are in her blood.

"I grew up in the jewelry business," she explains. "My grandfather was a jeweler. We lived in Endicott, New York, the home town of IBM. My grandfather was a peddler, and he opened a jewelry store in 1919 because my grandmother wouldn't marry him unless he had a store; she wasn't going to marry a peddler!"

After college, Levine ended up working with her dad at his jewelry store for about a year. "He told me, 'Well, if you want to be a jeweler, you should go to gemology school,' so that's what I did," she laughs.

She attended the Gemological Institute of America, which is now in Carlsbad but at the time was located in Santa Monica. Right after she got her diploma as a gemologist, the Institute offered her a job in their laboratory. She became a diamond grader, writing up quality analysis reports to certify a diamond's composition. It was a prestigious position; she was working at the most respected lab in the world.

But after a little more than two years, Levine said it was time to more on: "It was interesting, but it was kind of boring because you're just working in the dark basically, looking under a microscope." She was able to transfer to the Institute's school and taught a diamond course there.

Soon after that, she met her husband who was a diamond importer. They had a wholesale business together, selling diamonds to jewelry stores. After operating a couple of jewelry stores and then working for a number of other jewelers, Levine decided to break out on her own again.

Her son Max came to work with her and they opened the store together. "I love when people come in and they're getting married," she smiles. "It's so fun when you build relationships with people. People also come in with things they've had or inherited, so we get to re-create things for them."

She also does appraisals and repairs, and sells diamonds wholesale. And most of her jewelry is custom-made. "I'll pick the diamonds and you'll feel the difference in the weight," she insists.

Levine knows the retail landscape is changing because of the Internet. But Diamonds on the Rock offers something online businesses can't touch. "What sets me apart is I can give you my advice," she expalins. "There are no two diamonds that are the same, so you have to look at them and really evaluate them. I can give you the same price, but at least you'll have some expertise and help."

And Internet ads can be deceiving. "You look at the picture and it looks great, and then you get it and it's like this skinny little thing and it can't be sized and they don't tell you anything, so you really don't know what you're getting," she says.

Levine knows that longevity is the key to a successful jewelry business. "You don't have an engagement or an anniversary every day, so everything takes time," she explains. "A woman will come in and see something, and six months later, the husband will come in and say, 'Oh my wife saw that and now it's our 10-year anniversary, so I want to get it for her.' So the longer you're in business, the better."

She said she gets most of her business through personal references, and making people happy is important to her. "Whether they're buying something for $1,000 or $100,000, I really want to help them. I treat people like I want to be treated. It's really personal for me."

Diamonds on the Rock, 5630 La Jolla Blvd., in the Bird rock area of La Jolla. Store hours are 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. (858) 750-2190. diamondsontherock.com

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