BOSTON — Three ornate crystal chandeliers still twinkle in the center of the store. But apart from that nod to heritage, it’s a new era for Dorfman Jewelers, the family-owned firm that’s been a landmark at 24 Newbury Street since 1967.
Copresidents and brothers Douglas and Jonathan Dorfman unveiled the results of a six-month, million-dollar renovation last month.
“We wanted to make it disruptive, yet elegant and modern — completely modern,” Douglas said. He said he expected “double-digit” sales increases post renovation, but declined to give projections. Dorfman also owns the jewelry-cleaner brand Connoisseurs, which has global mass-market distribution.
For the reopening, the Dorfmans have brought in 20 new designers, including Fred Leighton, and made a big commitment to Alexandra Mor, who takes over a 250-square-foot salon in back that formerly housed Van Cleef & Arpels.
Overall, the assortment maintains its strong commitment to European design, the passion of founders Barbara and Sumner Dorfman. Dorfman has always served as a counterpoint to Boston’s other luxury jeweler, Shreve, Crump & Low, with its venerable American pedigree.
As Shreve did years ago, Dorfman is shaking off a certain reserve.
The old store facade was a windowless slab of golden marble with a crest and a recessed door. The impenetrability “worked for and against us,” Dorfman admitted. Now, the front is all glass and features Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe and Mor at front.
“Our goal was to literally make the store transparent,” Dorfman said.
The palette is pale and pretty — lavender, iridescent oyster, and silver — with carpeting and white lacquer consultation tables.
“The idea was to make it feminine and pleasant for a woman to shop here, without making it uncomfortable with men,” Dorfman said.
In the new assortment, there are more colored stones, more whimsy and more “approachable” price points, Dorfman said. He cited Verdi’s chalcedony, pearl and diamond ring for $4,500 as emblematic.
Jewelry is grouped in small vitrines, each with a Lucite plaque with the designer’s bio.
The goal was to provide provenance, said Gerard Riveron, the store’s executive director. “Jewelry shouldn’t be anonymous. There is a human being behind each piece.”
Personal connection is certainly the goal with the Alexandra Mor partnership. Mor will come to Boston each month to work with clients on custom pieces (starting at $40,000) and to learn about retail. The New York-based designer previously sold only on 1stDibs.com and by appointment. But during the 18 months prior, Mor’s sales in Dorfman were strong enough that the store approached her about becoming, along with Patek Philippe, an anchor presence.
For her Dorfman atelier, Mor has created 100 new pieces and a bridal offering called Vows by Alexandra Mor. Each piece has an 18-karat gold inner band and “AM,” her initials. She chose the word “Vows” because of its broader connotation — meant to encompass not just engagement rings, but pieces for commitment ceremonies, renewals and other moments.
“Frankly, all bridal was starting to look the same,” said Dorfman. “Alexandra is one of the most talented designers out there. We see her as a way to differentiate bridal and do something far more personal. Otherwise, it becomes a commodity.”