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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Love in the Lowcountry

It’s easy to have a unique, romantic agenda on Valentine’s Day in Charleston, where one can find romance in the unexpected; from the flowers blossoming through cast-iron fences, to the sun setting on the Ashley River. This Valentine’s Day, we encourage you to break away from the typical card and flowers and spend the day with your significant other discovering the beauty in each other and in Charleston.

Picnic at Battery Park
Heading in the direction of Battery Park, make your way down King Street, and stop in Bull Street Gourmet where you can choose from a wide assortment of sandwiches, salads and hot and cold beverages. Take your picnic items to the end of King Street where you will be surrounded by antebellum homes, and find yourself at historic Battery Park under a canopy of age-old Oak trees. Either bring a blanket, or plan on sitting at one of the many benches surrounding the park. For a scenic route we have provided walking directions.

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Carriage Ride Downtown
A carriage ride is a wonderful chance to explore the city and get insight into what Charleston was like years ago. Don’t worry if the weather seems to be a bit brisk, the carriages often have blankets, allowing you to snuggle up next to your loved one.

Sunset or Moonlight Sail on the Schooner Pride
What could be more whimsical than sailing around the Charleston peninsula with the one you love? Feel the sea breeze in your hair while enjoying a kaleidoscope sky on the sunset sail or enjoy the live acoustic music on the moonlight cruise.

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Couples Champagne Massage
Relax at The Spa at Belmond Charleston Place and surprise your sweetheart with our signature Valentine’s Day Couples Champagne Massage. Enjoy a 50-minute or 80-minute couples Swedish massage. No Valentine’s Day massage is complete without a glass of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. To schedule a massage, call (843) 937-8522.

Stroll down Pitt Street Bridge
Located just ten minutes away from downtown Charleston in Mount Pleasant, walk hand in hand down Pitt Street Bridge, where you will take in sights and the beauty of the Lowcountry. After, stop in authentic Pitt Street Pharmacy and share an old-fashioned milkshake with your date.

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