By  on March 20, 2013

Naples, Fla.-based Marissa Collections is investing big in the glitz game.

The veteran designer emporium launched a jewelry gallery within 1,400 of its 10,000-square-foot, pale pink historic property on Third Street South. Expanding from a dozen to 20 designers, the broad presentation is Southwest Florida’s premier destination for the category.

“Our clients are taken aback by the selection, on top of which, it is tailored to their lifestyle,” said co-owner Jay Hartington.

The boutique typically carried a handful of jewelry from its 50 clothing collections, which includes shops-in-shop for Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors and Brunello Cucinelli. Independent jewelry designers then began requesting trunk shows and the opportunity was immediately evident with a built-in clientele that favored the latest designer labels in a market limited to family jewelers and department stores.

“These women already own big diamond rings and studs, so it had to be special looks and rare stones like paraiba tourmaline, which is the color of the most beautiful Caribbean water,” said Hartington.

Despite their value, pieces aren’t meant to be stored in a safe. Styled with jewelry in the dressing room, women learn how to get mileage from a pair of $10,000 earrings. The splurge is further justified in that the boutique doesn’t buy on consignment, preferring to emphasize its quest for the most important pieces by having the confidence to purchase them.

“They’re realizing it’s better to buy something unique even if pricier that you’ll actually wear,” he said, issuing a jewelry gallery introduction catalogue titled “Great Expectations” with “drop a hint” stickers for husbands. “We have to alter men’s jewelry buying habits, which are based on investment and price negotiation, versus emotion and aesthetics like women.”

Decorated as a garden, the jewelry section features custom digital wallpaper of birds, blooms and butterflies in a vividly colored palette layered with shimmery flecks, and faux boxwood that extends to the exterior where a wine bar and café are planned. Racks of men’s and women’s clothing, and a bar for skin care and cosmetics weave throughout for cohesion among the departments, as does the private jewelry viewing room’s oversize dressing room.

Every designer does at least one annual personal appearance. Well-lit glass cases hold other designers whose brands appear on custom plaques. New names range from Wendy Yue, a Hong Kong designer known for fantasy-themed lips and flying monkeys, to Monique Péan, who has built a presence for materials like fossilized walrus tusks.

“We don’t want to cannibalize designers, so even if someone is amazing, say a Gurhan, we wouldn’t carry it since we already have Yossi Harari for 24-karat gold,” said Hartington, who also carries Irene Neuwirth, Arunashi, Mattia Cielo, Colette and Sylva & Cie, among others. “They’re all exclusive to Southwest Florida, and the majority to the state.”

Based on sales of $427,000 during a preview party for the official debut in January, with an additional $721,000 in the following two weeks, he projects jewelry sales will increase about 90 percent in 2013 compared to last year. The gallery coincided with the Web site’s relaunch. By year’s end, Hartington expects Web site jewelry sales to jump from 9 to 18 percent, and reach 40 percent by 2014.

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