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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Belmond Wedding Stories: Sarah and Jeffrey

Charleston, S.C. is a city filled with sweet love stories and romantic charm. So what better location to celebrate a timeless love story than Belmond Charleston Place, located in the heart of the historic city? A classic venue for couples to create wedding memories that will be cherished for years, Sarah and Jeffrey Wamble decided it was the perfect locale for their wedding celebration.

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Sarah and Jeffrey first spotted each other on Sarah’s 28th birthday in New York City while having drinks after work with friends. They worked at the same large advertising agency in the city but had never met, and fate just happened to bring them to the same bar on the same night. Sarah spotted Jeffrey across the bar and was brave enough to approach him after fighting off some initial nerves. Her move was a success, as Jeffrey offered to buy her a drink, and the two immediately hit it off. The pair says they spent the rest of the night chatting and, “the rest is history!”

Sarah has a long and beloved history with Sullivan’s Island, located just north of Charleston, having visited with her family during the summers since her childhood days. She first brought Jeffrey to the special island in 2010, and it’s where the couple exchanged their first “I love you’s.” Three years later, at the same sandy summer spot, Jeffrey got down on one knee and asked Sarah to be his wife.

Having a special tie to the Holy City, the two chose Belmond Charleston Place to plan their wedding because they believe it is “by far the nicest hotel in downtown Charleston.” They love that it offers the “upscale, premium experience that discerning New Yorkers expect but maintains the historic, Southern charm that makes it distinctly Charleston.”

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The newlyweds celebrated their nuptials at the iconic Riviera Theater at Belmond Charleston Place. Inspired by the floor-to-ceiling murals in the ballroom, they chose a 1920s theme and simple color palette to highlight the true beauty of the theater. The Riviera also has special significance for Sarah’s family, as her father would frequent the theater as a young man on dates.

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Bloom at Belmond Charleston Place created the bride’s gorgeous bouquet featuring an arrangement of hydrangea, freesia and mini calla lilies. Bloom finished the design by wrapping the bouquet in ivory ribbon and material from Sarah’s dress, and pinning it into Sarah’s family Bible for a special, personal touch.

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Catering was also provided by Belmond Charleston Place, and the couple says everyone at their wedding raved about the food. Cocktail hour featured bacon-wrapped blue cheese stuffed angus beef, shrimp and crawfish cakes and tuna tartare on wonton crisps. After guests had mingled and munched on hors d’oeuvres, dinner was served buffet-style and included a gourmet mac and cheese bar, gumbo with dirty rice, baron of beef with asparagus and custom sliders. The perfect finishing touch to the evening, the gorgeous multi-layered wedding cake was red velvet and carrot with cream cheese filling and buttercream frosting.

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Sarah’s tip for anyone planning a wedding soon? “Don’t stress, and have fun!” Belmond Charleston Place was truly thrilled to host Sarah and Jeffrey’s wedding night and we wish them nothing but abundant love and happiness!

(All photographs courtesy of Todd Surber from King Street Studio)

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Spring Blooms in Charleston

When the sun begins to cast warm rays on the city’s historic buildings and backyard gardens blossom vibrant splashes of color, you know spring is finally here. Charleston is known for its quiet and charming secret gardens, Palmetto trees and local flowers sprinkled throughout the city. While Charleston has a long list of reasons for travelers to explore the city, the blooming flowers of spring are among the highlights. Spring in Charleston brings a variety of floral delights; the most breathtaking regional flowers consist of Azaleas, Wisteria, Tea Olive, Tulip Trees and Camellias.

Wherever you turn in Charleston you will surely see Azaleas blooming in hues of pronounced pinks, brilliant reds and warm purples, adding sweet, rich pigment. Azaleas, also called “the royalty of the garden”, are from the rhododendron family and one of the most sought-after shrubs, producing brilliant full color.

Spring in Charleston most certainly brings Wisteria, a wispy, willowing plant that climbs and wraps around historic stone buildings and arching iron gates, welcoming guests as they arrive. The curious vines of a wisteria can reach as high as 65 feet above the ground and spread out 32 feet wide.

The fragrant Tea Olive’s dark glossy, green leaves and dense foliage can be discovered all throughout Charleston in the form of well-manicured hedges providing shade and privacy. These sweet shrubs bloom tiny but amazingly fragrant, creamy white flowers which give gardens a crisp and fresh aesthetic.

You can also find beautifully strong and tall Tulip Trees blooming light pink flowers. The Tulip Tree, which is part of the Magnolia family, can grow as tall as 80 feet at full maturity. Often selected for their joyful robust tulips, the tree also provides cool shade for Charlestonians on warm spring days.

Camellias, another Southern favorite come, in many different shapes and sizes, yielding hues of red with colors ranging from starch white to rich pink ombré. These gorgeous trees, growing up to 65 feet tall, can be seen February 14th – March 23rd at Middleton Place Camellia Walks, where visitors can admire hundreds of varieties of Camellias dating back to the 1950’s.

The Festival of Houses and Gardens held in Charleston March 21st – April 20th celebrates historic downtown residences dating back to the 18th century, providing outsiders a rare opportunity to experience some of Charleston’s most beautiful, private gardens.

Floral insights were provided by Bloom at Charleston Place. Utilizing local product as much as possible, Bloom provides stunning floral arrangements for weddings and events, creating some of the most breathtaking arrangements inspired by the city of Charleston itself.

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