BELLEAIR BLUFFS - Jewelry designer Robert Young, in business here for more than two decades, is expanding.
He bought the 700-square-foot space next door to his Belleair Bluffs business and plans to use it to more than double his showroom. The expansion also will feature a redesigned exterior. When completed, he will have invested more than $150,000.
"I'm at a point where I'm thinking towards growth," said the 54-year-old New York City native. "I want the showroom to be a lot bigger for the comfort of my clientele, and I want the exterior to express something about what we do here."
What that is, he said, is big-city jewelry design on a par with Hollywood jeweler Harry Winston.
Most of the jewelry in the store is designed and made in-house, and most are Young's concepts. He and his three designers work together on many pieces.
"We collaborate on very many, and we adjust on almost all," he said. "We use everyone's abilities and sensibilities to the max. It's not unusual for one of us to look over another designer's shoulder and say, "Move that line over a little bit' or "Why don't you try doing it this way?"'
The showcases feature the chandelier diamond earrings and the antique and colored diamonds that appeal to buyers looking for unique diamonds with some nostalgia and charm.
"I'm predicting this season is going to be very big for diamonds, especially the large fancy cuts and some of the colors, particularly the yellows," Young said. "That's what's going in my advertisements, and that's what I'm putting in my showcases."
Already on display in his showcases are diamond stud earrings - 4 carats each - for $83,000, an antique cushion-cut 3-carat diamond set in a platinum ring encrusted with 114 small diamonds for $36,500 and a 35-carat tourmaline pendant with a magenta sapphire and 107 diamonds for $45,000. He has a 350-year-old 4-carat rose-cut diamond that he is currently working on. It likely will become a pendant, he said.
Young said his ideas come from his travels, books he has read and dreams. The works of Miro, Henry Moore, Picasso and Dali also have inspired some of his designs, he said. Each of his pieces has a history that he enjoys explaining, like the gold totem earrings with intricate African masks - inspired by his own mask collection.
Local businessman Harry Hoover said he has been a customer for at least seven years. He has had diamond necklaces, earrings and rings made for his wife, his two daughters and daughters-in-law, he said.
"He does a great job of interpreting what I want done," Hoover said of Young. "He takes so much personal pride in what he does, and he has such enthusiasm." Hoover said he usually selects diamonds because he likes jewelry that "sparkles."
"I have been very pleased on all counts with his work," Hoover said. "Every time I go in there, I buy something."
Stella Lasseigne of Palm Harbor has been a customer for six years.
"Robert has made some of the most extraordinary and exquisite pieces I've had the honor of owning," she said. During the years, he designed a new setting and earrings from her 36-year-old wedding ring, a necklace and matching earrings in a sea theme and a separate diamond piece that looks like a starfish and is worn on a thick gold necklace.
"Everything is in excellent taste, and you can tell they are one of a kind," she said. "He has the ideas and the flair. He's just an exceptional talent."
Young attended George Washington University and the Corcoran School of Art, both in Washington, D.C.
At some point during his studies at the Corcoran, "I had an awakening," he recalled. "I suddenly realized I really wanted to be an artist, and I wasn't there just to goof off." He had a store in Georgetown for a few years in the 1970s. During that time, he made a sculpture and an emblem that were given to honor famed anthropologist Margaret Meade and then-first lady Rosalynn Carter.
Jewelry has been an enduring passion, he said.
"It's possible for jewelry to transcend our lives in terms of its longevity," he said. "Some jewelry I made could last 300, 800 or even 1,000 years - that's one aspect.
"That jewelry is just pretty and adorns our body and is part of the fashion world is something I've always enjoyed. And then, the reasons for giving jewelry so often are celebratory occasions - the birth of a child, an engagement, a wedding or an anniversary. Jewelry is always happy."
Robert Young Jeweler Extraordinaire
250 Indian Rocks Road N, Belleair Bluffs
Specializes in one-of-a-kind designs in colorless and fancy colored diamonds, colored gems and pearls
Four jewelry artists and a business manager
"If I'm going to give a gift, I want to give something that has a hierarchy of life, something that goes on living. Just about everything else wears out - jewelry continues on." Harry Hoover, customer.
"I would highly recommend anyone who wants extraordinary jewelry in exquisite taste to go there. Robert is one of a kind." Stella Lasseigne, customer.