NEW YORK — Circa, a global buyer of jewelry, watches and diamonds from the public and trade, announced this week that Winona Capital Management has made a minority investment of $13 million in the company.

This story first appeared in the May 27, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Circa has been really rapidly growing and we weren’t really looking for money,” said chairman and chief executive officer Chris Del Gatto. “We met with a lot of firms over the past two years, but it was because of the relationship I formed with Winona that made me feel very good about this partnership. They really understand the business, and they want the business to grow the same way that I do.”

According to Del Gatto, who founded the company in 2001, Circa provides a liquid market for accessories for both the general public and trade industries. He divides the business into two distinct parts, describing the first “engine” as the one that buys gently worn jewelry from the public and the second part as a corporate leg that buys branded watches and jewelry directly from manufacturers and sells to discount retailers, including TJ Maxx, Costco, Sam’s Club and Loehmann’s and flash sale Web sites such as Gilt Groupe, Rue La La and HauteLook.

With respect to the former, Del Gatto said: “We provide a luxury service that never existed before, without all the stigma of what a liquid market meant. Whenever people thought about selling jewelry, you thought of a pawn shop. This shouldn’t be the case. With us, if you have a 3-karat diamond, you should be able to walk into a beautiful office and work with someone that’s an expert to get a check and a price that you couldn’t get anywhere else.”

This is the largest portion of the business — averaging about 65 percent — and Del Gatto maintains that a large part relies on advertising the company’s services in major publications such as The New York Times and Town & Country.

Circa currently operates offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Palm Beach, Hong Kong and Barcelona, but as part of the new deal inked with Winona, plans include opening four to six new offices over the next four to six years — both domestically and internationally in locations such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas, Madrid, Paris and Milan.

Additionally, the company announced last month that it finalized a long-term distribution deal with Milan-based watch brand Sector No Limits as an exclusive partner. Del Gatto said that Circa — which has been aggressively looking to sign a long-term deal with a specific brand in the category — will be responsible for building the timepiece company’s distribution in the U.S. and Caribbean, in both department stores and independent watch and jewelry retailers.

“I have focused on building on the strength of a brand and the power of the brand at retail,” said Phil Schwetz, director of Sector USA. “With its Italian design and influence, it’s truly a global brand. Using assets unique to Circa, we will create the resurgence of Sector No Limits in the U.S. market.”

The watches retail from $300 to just under $2,000 and will launch domestically for the first time at the JCK Las Vegas trade show next month.

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