My Sparkly Valentine

As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, thoughts of enchantment and romance swirl about. Flowers, quiet dinners and jewelry are all popular and beloved and cherished. We interviewed Rhett Outten of Croghan’s Jewel Box , the oldest family owned jewelry store in town, for the inside scoop on sparkly gifts to give your Valentine this year.

Croghan's Jewel Box

Croghan’s Jewel Box has such a storied legacy. Please tell us about the history of the store. 

My grandfather, William Croghan, started Croghan’s Jewel Box just before World War I and when the War broke out, he closed up shop to be a foot solider! He was trained at the Philadelphia School of Horology as a hand engraver and apprenticed in jewelry repair and bench manufacturing. The beginning of Croghan’s consisted mostly of my grandfather taking in and performing jobs at his bench. My mother graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Journalism and wanted to be a writer. my grandfather asked her to come help a little bit in the store after graduation and she never left. She created the atmosphere that exists today with an interesting collection of jewelry, estate finds and gifts. We are still known for our hand engraving and have four bench jewelers in a studio on the second floor where we do repairs and create custom made pieces by hand. My sister, Mariana and I are the third generation to operate the store and my nieces, Kathleen and Mariana (Mini) have just joined the business. It is so thrilling to have youth, enthusiasm and knowledge that the fourth generation brings to the table!

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Croghan’s has been in business for more than 100 years. What do you think endears shoppers to your store?

We are truly a family business. We grew up with our customers as my mother and grandfather did. Back in the day, Papa used to close up for 2:00 dinner and as he left the shop he would take whoever was there home for a proper lunch a few blocks away on Church Street (think postman, customer, visitor to Charleston, salesman!). Our mother taught us how important it is to contribute to this community that we love so much. We are deeply involved in many city activities and non-profit organizations. With the surge of visitors to Charleston, we find ourselves often playing the part of concierge , as advice of a local is cherished. We have made restaurant reservations, booked tours and even given people rides back to their hotel if their bags are too big to carry or if its raining! We truly want people visiting to love Charleston as much as we do. We feel lucky to have grown up in this magical place and we like to share that with people.

The Jewelers Circular Keystone Magazine reports that over 981 jewelry stores nationwide closed in 2016. So often visitors do not have a family owned store in their hometown where an owner is present and has a passion for their graft. 48 percent of our business consists of out of town customers. We find that exciting! We get to be a part of the most meaningful events in people’s lives… engagements, weddings, christenings, graduations, anniversaries! It’s an honor to have served four generations during such occasions. Of course a Social Media presence and website have brought us into this century and make it easy to stay in touch with customers.

You are known for your estate collection. What makes it special and how do you curate it?

We love estate jewelry and silver. We like to say it has a soul. It is special because so often the techniques used to create it are no longer used in the industry. Like diamonds are no longer cut by hand ad rarely do you see hand filigree work on the inside of a ring. Plique de jour is a French application that looks like colorful class but there are very few people in the world who can create this now. We have each piece of estate jewelry examined by one of our four gemologists on staff before it goes in the case! We literally shop the world for our inventory. We have wonderful contacts in London, the far east and all over the country that we have partnered with for generations.

It seems that estate and vintage pieces are very much in demand – why? And what should a buyer look for?

Estate Jewelry is very often one of a kind! It is for the person who wants a special piece of jewelry that they will not see on anyone else! It is also for the sentimental customer who has happy memories of seeing antique jewelry on their grandmother or the history buff who has a thirst for everything Georgian. Antique jewelry is unique, and it is fun to sell in a jewelry store that is more than 100 years old and set in a 1790′s Charleston building. People who visit here usually love history and the charm of estate jewelry is usually appealing. In terms of what to look for you have to be careful because this jewelry has usually been worn and “loved” as we like to say. So you need to be sure that clasps work properly and prongs have been checked so that stones stay secure.

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Every day you help select gifts for special occasions. Which piece or pieces would you recommend for Valentine’s Day?

Anything engraved on Valentine’s Day make a gift extra special! And of course we have beautiful heart lockets and charms as well as crystal amulets by Temple St. Clair.

What items or collections are you most excited about right now?

We have just refilled our estate case after the holiday season. Our selection of antique diamond rings is fabulous and includes lots of enameling and filigree settings. We also have a whole new lot of estate gold lockets that are unusual. These start as low as $200.00! Also… our Goldbug collection is so fun and exciting! My niece’s collection of gilded palmetto bugs has taken us all by storm!

What is your ideal romantic evening in Charleston?

I like things pretty simple! After all of the parties and hard work involved over the holidays at Croghan’s, a quiet easy dinner at home, or if its good weather, something grilled outside in the courtyard sounds ideal to me! I just helped a client plan a 30th wedding anniversary dinner though, which included a horse drawn carriage ride to champagne awaiting them in a cupola atop one of our beautiful historic buildings at sunset and a dinner at one of our wonderful restaurants… which happens to be in a courtyard as well. There is something about hidden spots in Charleston behind historic brick walls and iron gates that is so very romantic! Don’t you think?

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Learn more of our exclusive Valentine’s package that will bring the bling.

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Start a Holiday Tradition at Belmond Charleston Place

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, with the streets decked out in holiday finery, homes strung with garland and the magical sound of carriages clip-clopping through the streets of Charleston. If you lean more towards palm trees and sunshine for winter weather, look no further than starting your own holiday tradition at Belmond Charleston Place.

The Battery

Allow yourself to be transported back in time with tours through the Aiken-Rhett House Museum and Nathaniel Russell House. These homes are rich in history, and widely recognized as icons in Charleston, offering a glimpse into life during the 19th century. Seasonally decorated, these homes exemplify the city’s approach to preserve the beauty of historic landmarks.

Nathaniel Russell and Aiken-Rhett Houses

Continue your new holiday traditions by exploring picturesque Charleston. Stroll along King Street, feast your eyes on the beautiful and abundant decorations, and continue to Marion Square with a cup of hot chocolate and view the colorful and enchanting lights and decorated trees.

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Prior to retiring to your luxurious accommodations, visit the lobby level of Belmond Charleston Place for its most beloved and memorable tradition, the holiday train. Designed and exclusively built in 1999 by Promotional Railroad of Piedmont, S.C., this beautiful G-scale train display features a replica of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE). With a hand-carved eight-foot mountain, hundreds of handcrafted trees, and a small-scale world of shops, inns and hotels, the VSOE holiday train takes visitors on a snow-covered journey through alpine Europe.

VSOE Holiday Train

Let the elevators whisk you away to your suite, and continue to revel in festive celebrations with your loved ones. Indulge in a private holiday meal, served by a butler and prepared by our award-winning chefs. Allow us to focus on the details, while you focus on your friends and family. With our award-winning food and beverage program, and completely customizable menu, this will be a tradition to continue for years.

With mild winters, beautiful décor and joyous festivities, this season is the perfect time to visit Charleston and start your own holiday traditions. Experience this blissful time at Belmond Charleston Place for a holiday to remember. Book now> 

Charleston Place

 

 

 

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Experience the magic of the Belmond Holiday Train

Inspired by the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE), the world’s most legendary train and one of Belmond’s seven luxury rail experiences, the Holiday Train is one of Belmond Charleston Place’s most memorable traditions. Since 2001, this fully operational replica has been traversing the hotel’s grand lobby every holiday season. Visitors will marvel at the train’s intricate design as it travels over more than 300 feet of track. The immense spectacle of the scenery is certain to grab attention. Complete with a hand carved, eight-foot mountain, hundreds of handcrafted trees and a miniature world of ski resorts, hotels, inns, shops and vintage automobiles, the glorious scene takes visitors back to alpine Europe during the early 20th century, with the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express was in its early days.

Visitors this year will be able to witness the addition of an underground subway, courtesy of model train designer and enthusiast Lou Nappi. The Nappi family has been arranging the impressive model train scene for nearly two decades, with four generations of family members working to put the centerpiece of the Belmond Charleston Place lobby together.

Watch our time lapse video of the magical Belmond train come to life. The Belmond train operates daily from 9am to 10pm in the Charleston Place lobby from November 23, 2016, to January 2, 2017. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has often been called the “king of trains and the train for kings” – quite fitting for this behemoth among miniatures.

 

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