LONDON — Leo de Vroomen talks about jewelry like a nutritionist might discuss extra-strength vitamin supplements.
"The right jewelry makes you look good and feel better," said the jewelry designer, holding a necklace made from South Sea pearls and green tourmalines the size of litchi nuts. "This costs about $34,000, but wearing it makes you feel like a million dollars."
While the Dutch-born de Vroomen has been a jeweler since the Sixties — when he began as a goldsmith’s apprentice in The Hague — he opened his first freestanding store here last month on Elizabeth Street, home to milliner Philip Treacy, dress designer Ben de Lisi and the French bakery Poilane.
The 60-year-old de Vroomen, whose jewelry is sold at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, said the store has given him a new freedom of sorts.
"I finally have a place to show my jewelry in the environment that I want," he said. "There is nothing more satisfying than being able to sit in front of a customer and advise her and talk about my work. I consider myself a couturier and approach this work with missionary zeal."
The 280-square-foot store has clean lines and a cozy feel. The floors are made from oak and the jewelry is displayed in five oak cabinets along one wall. The brightly colored paintings hung on the other walls are by de Vroomen’s wife, Ginnie. The jeweler declined to reveal overall sales for his line, but said he expects the store to have a volume of about $2.25 million in the first year.
De Vroomen, who considers himself first a goldsmith, also built a workshop in the basement of the store where he makes his prototypes. In the age of megabrands and sprawling luxury goods companies, de Vroomen relishes being a lone goldsmith working on a small street in Belgravia.
"I love that very European idea of having the workshop under the store," he said.
Sporting a sapphire pinkie ring and star ruby, enameled cufflinks, the jeweler waxes lyrically about the mechanics of jewelry making. He talks about the "millions of hammer blows" that go into making a repoussé gold bracelet, a bracelet’s clasp that "closes like a BMW door," and the intricate architecture on the underside of an emerald and diamond brooch.He also believes in the sheer power of a good piece of jewelry. "With a fabulous coat and the right ear clips, a woman can go anywhere," he said.
De Vroomen has no regrets about opening his first store at the age of 60.
"Had I done this in my early days, I would have taken on any commission — even a bad one — because I was so hungry," he said. "As a result, I wouldn’t have developed as a designer. Now I have the confidence — and the option — to turn down requests and make only the jewelry I want to make."
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