Arts & Culture, Discovery

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 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!

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.

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?

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

Continue reading
Discovery

Drayton Hall, An American Icon

When a city is as old and historic as Charleston, preservation tends to be more highly valued than modernization. Dating back to 1738, Drayton Hall is an icon of this philosophy. The site has survived seven generations of ownership, wars, hurricanes, and earthquakes. In 1974, the National Trust of Historic Preservation chose to stabilize the estate’s architecture rather than restore it in effort to maintain its true colonial identity. Southern landscape historian Suzanne Turner once described it as, “the most significant, undisturbed historic landscape in America.” Located just 12 miles from Belmond Charleston Place, Drayton Hall offers a unique opportunity for discovery and education. Here are four reasons why you should visit this historic home. The plantation is one of America’s oldest that still welcome visitors, and offers experiences such as walking tours of the house, an exhibit gallery, gardens and a river view.Some visitors will appreciate the historic architecture and details of the structure while others will be enthralled with the native and exotic plants that embellish its stunning landscape. The oldest display of Palladian architecture in the country, the stabilization of this structure provides a glimpse at each period of life and design that it has encountered in it’s almost 400 year old history. From its iconic portico to African American tenant houses, the site has a million stories to tell about culture, ethnicity, art, and war. One of the main reasons the plantation has survived for as long as it has is credited to the community of laborers that continued to live on the property and maintain its structure and gardens until 1960. The Drayton family remained in possession of the property from 1738 to 1969. Now under ownership of the National Trust with the support of donors, such as the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, historians and Charlestonians can be confident that the preservation of Drayton Hall will be maintained for years to come. Admission to Drayton Hall is available from 9am to 3pm Monday through Saturday and 10am to 3:30pm on Sundays. Tickets are available for online purchase or through our Concierge. The plantation also offers the Distinguished Speakers Series, where invited professionals host a lecture and conversation about history, art, and culture. Make sure to check out Drayton Hall’s upcoming featured events: February 23, 2019 Historic Entertaining: A Seminar and Wine Tasting at Drayton Hall This event invites you to take part in a historic and entertaining tour followed by a wine tasting led by Rudi Barberi of Rudi’s Cafe and Wine Bar at Drayton Hall. This tour will uncover stories that are not included on house tours and immerse you in the history of the Drayton family and property. March 13, 2019 Distinguished Speaker Series: Mitchell Owens of Architectural Digest on Connoisseur with a Crown: George IV — Collector, Tastemaker, Spendthrift This lecture will kick off the week of Winter Antiques in Charleston with Architectural Digest’s Editor of Decorative Arts, Mitchell Owens. He will delve through the styles and collections of George IV, including his homes, furniture, china, and art selections. April 18-19, 2019 Two-Day Landscape Painting Class with Drayton Hall Artist in Residence Laura Lloyd Fontaine Join Drayton Hall’s Artist in Residence for a two-day landscape painting class on the grand lawn. Known for her contemporary impressionism with a traditional flair, local artist Laura Lloyd Fontaine’s work can even be seen in our lobby.
Continue reading
Arts & Culture, Discovery

An Evening at the Theatre

Now that the hustle and bustle of the new year is settling down, it’s the perfect time to dress up, hit the town and treat yourself to a night out. Charleston’s vibrant and robust theatre scene is a great way to celebrate the coming year. From grand auditoriums to comedic hot spots, this coastal town offers a big city level of limelight options.
Gaillard Center

If you’re looking for a grandiose experience that will stun your senses with some of the best artistic performances, look no further than the Gaillard Center. This immense, newly renovated 1,800-seat auditorium is the cultural center of Charleston and offers a wide range of shows from classical ballet and opera to modern dance. Perhaps the most iconic performance location in Charleston, Gaillard Center serves as the premiere venue for the world-renowned Spoleto Festival USA and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
Theatre 99

If grand opera and folks in tights aren’t your thing, venture to Theatre 99 to enjoy some comedy gold. As Charleston’s best place for stand up comedy and improv, this comedic enclave will have your rolling on the floor laughing as you experience some of the South’s top talent. If you’re looking to take a step out of your comfort zone or even brush up on your comedy skills, visit during the daytime for one of Theatre 99’s improv training classes.
PURE Theatre

You’ve tried the grand concert halls. You’ve had your go at the comedy troupes. You want something edgier; more modern. PURE Theatre has what you’re looking for. This reputable King Street Theatre showcases a strong ensemble of 13 professional actors that emphasize provocative, contemporary performances. Their focus on risk-taking and passionate commitment on the stage sets them apart.
Dock Street Theatre

For those who want more than just a wonderful performance, why not visit the oldest theatre in the country? Dock Street Theatre, which has graced Charleston’s historic French Quarter neighborhood since 1736, showcased the nation’s first opera performance, Flora, and continues to wow audiences today. With its beautiful wooden auditorium, wrought iron balcony and sandstone columns, it regularly features one of Charleston’s most reputable acting troupes, the Charleston Resident Acting Company. The theatre displays a wide range of events from musicals to plays. The newly renovated bar and outdoor patio also offer a great spot to socialize during intermission.

Since the 18th century, Charleston has been considered one of America’s premiere cultural centers, combining the magnificent splendor of its European influencers with the boldness and individualism of the American spirit. Today, that heritage remains and is personified in its diverse and blossoming theatrical culture. Make it a night out to truly remember and enjoy a luxurious meal with live jazz at the Charleston Grill after the performance.

Continue reading