Small Business Focus: The Jewel Boutique

Harmeet Singh at The Jewel Boutique.

By Carol Tannenhauser

“You dream it, I’ll make it,” said Harmeet Singh, owner of The Jewel Boutique on Broadway, between 97th and 98th Streets. “We are one of the very few places in the city that specializes in the custom design of jewelry. We also do a lot of restyling and repurposing: taking your pieces and redoing them, so you can use them differently.

“If you inherit something from your great aunt and it’s not your style, we take apart the gems and see what’s good and we can reuse,” Harmeet explained. “A woman inherited a ruby-and-diamond bracelet, wore it once, and it stayed in the safe. We took it and, in the end, she got five stack rings, a necklace, earrings, and she wears everything. Unfortunately, we do a lot of redesigning of engagement rings, too,” he said. “Divorce.”

Harmeet is an observant Sikh. His parents were from India, but moved for work to Kuwait, where he and his brother grew up. In 1982, when he was 18, the family immigrated to America, and he became an instant patriot. “It’s a blessed life we have here,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. After Kuwait, it was total freedom to do anything.”

Anything, that is, except not be a jeweler.

“I was under my father’s guidance,” he laughed. “That’s the Indian way. I was going to be a jeweler; I had no choice. My father had a wholesale Swiss-watch business. In 1989, he opened a small store on 70th and Columbus. In this country, with watches you also have jewelry. I liked the jewelry part: the gems, the colors. People would come in and say, “Can you design a ring for me?’ I liked to draw, so I started drawing jewelry and I was pretty good.”

Times changed. In 2007, The Jewel Boutique moved to its current location. “As rents got higher, you moved north,” Harmeet explained. “Technology also got to us and we started doing the drawings by computer, then making 3D printings of wax. Just as a printer goes back and forth printing in ink, you can inject wax through it and it takes about 10 to 12 hours to build a piece of jewelry that you can hold. The customer can see and try it on to make sure it’s 100% what they have imagined. Once the customer okays that, we cast it in whatever metal we’re going to use.

“In hindsight, I love this business,” Harmeet said. His father has since passed away. “It’s very satisfying because you’ve created and produced something and you’re making the customer happy. I get to travel to gems shows, where I can buy whatever I want. There are miles and miles of stones. I pick my own, one by one. I look for special cuts, rare colors, rare stones. I have things you won’t find even in Tiffany’s.”

“I don’t know where else I’d go,” said Karen Marshall, a longtime customer, who had stopped in to pick up something and drop something off. “There isn’t any other place like it around here. They have wonderful things and they’re wonderful people. It’s warm and it’s friendly. We’re thrilled that they got their lease renewed. That’s what we talked about at my book club last Thursday night!”

Harmeet laughed. “We have a very decent landlord. We negotiated in September and he gave us a break, because he wants us to stay. So, we’re here for another 10 years. If the landlord hadn’t worked with me, I would have had to pack up.”

“Silver Bells” played softly in the background, as a young man entered the store, looking for a necklace for his girlfriend for Christmas.

“Of course this is a busy time,” Harmeet said, “but so is Valentine’s and Mother’s Day and birthdays and anniversaries. People are being born every day. Anniversaries are more in the summer. Engagement rings are more May through September.

“This neighborhood has been a blessing for us,” he said, smiling. “There are so many families in which I know the parents for 20 years and now the kids are grown and I’m doing their engagement rings. At the end of the day, it boils down to trust. Like a doctor and lawyer, you need a good jeweler.”

Photos by Carol Tannenhauser.

West Side Rag has been profiling small businesses, which are disappearing from the neighborhood at an alarming rate. To read more in this series, click here.

COLUMNS, NEWS | 19 comments | permalink
    1. Beth Everett says:

      Hameet took an old broach left to me by mother and created a lovely wedding band for me. It is truly a wonderful place!!

    2. katherine says:

      We had a wonderful experience buying simple gold wedding bands from him.

    3. Bruce Bernstein says:

      Harmeet is a wonderful man, and runs a great business. his jewelry is beautiful.

      thank heavens his landlord saw the win/win solution for everyone — including the landlord — and signed a reasonable new lease.

      for those who say the problems with small businesses on the UWS have nothing to do with greedy landlords: we have here the exception that proves the rule.

    4. Koh-i-noor says:

      Sounds like a lovely guy and an asset to the neighborhood. I hope he hasn’t encountered ignorant bigotry or worse on account of his appearance, as some Sikhs have.

      • Carol Tannenhauser says:

        Harmeet replied: “This neighborhood has always been good to us. I never felt any racism or anything like that. People have just appreciated our work.”

    5. David says:

      I love this place. They have done almost every type of work for me: from replacing watch batteries and bands, to repairing jewelry, to making me a ring to replace one that was lost, to fabricating additional links to a band for a watch I got as a gift. All the work was excellent and they are as nice as can be. A wonderful shop to have in our neighborhood.

    6. Paul RL says:

      These guys are wonderful. Personable, friendly, honest, and knowledgeable. I highly recommend for watch repairs. Keep up these small biz pieces, WSR!

    7. Lrahip says:

      He did a great repair job on our wedding rings. Matched them perfectly.

    8. gina gold says:

      I agree: they are lovely! They pierced my daughter’s ears and did a great job. They’ve fixed my watch several times. They have beautiful opals and do great custom work. I’ve found them to be trustworthy, reasonably priced and pleasant to work with. So happy they’re in the neighborhood.

    9. Linda Umans says:

      I have often thought of stopping in, and now I will!

    10. Dixie says:

      I depend on this local jeweler who always fixes old pieces for me and makes repairs. They’re always kind and I love having them as a neighbor!

    11. Joan says:

      For many many years I have repaired jewelry, designed new jewelry, and purchased new jewelry with this, my favorite place. Harmeet is a true gentleman! He never pushes,. He is a superb designer of new pieces. I cannot rave about him enough!
      Sign d,
      Joan Soncini, PhD

    12. MB says:

      Thank you for profiling this business! They treated a fragile old family ring with care when it needed to be repaired. I love that their beautiful shop window graces our neighborhood!

      • diana says:

        My family’s favorite jewelry place for many years!
        Harmeet and staff are welcoming, professional and sincerely very pleasant. The quality of the work is outdtanding and the
        numerous pieces are absolutelity beautiful.
        Thankful for having them here!

    13. How I wish I still lived on 99th & RSD! I would have visited your store daily. I design and make necklaces and could have found many ideas at The Jewel Boutique, and bought from you as well. Alas, now I live in Maine and your elegant store is far, far away.

    14. Andrew Schulman says:

      Just want to join in with the others; great shop, great person.

    15. Michelle says:

      I’ve tried other jewelers in the neighborhood who are closer to my house, and wasn’t happy with their work. So now I go out of my way to go to this store. Very good craftsmanship, quick service and lovely people. And the opals! Maybe someday…

    16. ctp says:

      I am so glad you shared this profile. I need a pair of earrings fixed and I will definitely be going to him. By any chance, does anyone know if the shop he had on 70th and columbus was a very tiny jewelry boutique that had charms for bracelets and unique handmade jewelry? I remember a shop like that in the 80s but can’t recall the name. It was so tiny, on the east side of the avenue.