After 30 years oﬀering truly one-of-a-kind creations from her popular Bison Ave. store, Royal Jewelers at Newport North owner Melissa Weiler has announced she’s closing shop.
Of the millions of dollars of sparkling jewels that have graced her display cases, Weiler feels the purest “gems” of all have been her loyal customers, many of whom started as young newlyweds when she first opened and have since become proud grandparents, as well as lasting friends.
Although she worked for several years in the time-demanding corporate world of sales for the likes of Coca Cola and Merrill Lynch, Weiler realized that her passion lay not in employment for global entities, but in the running of her own small business.
This instinct crystalized during her MBA studies at UC Irvine. As if her two-year-long academic eﬀort didn’t consume enough time, she also was married and expecting her first child, as well as working and learning retail.
Weiler thrived behind the counter interacting with customers—so much so that she wondered if she might own and operate her own jewelry business.
Upon graduation with her MBA, she faced a hard choice: corporate life with a steady salary and benefits, or take the bold risk of starting her own business.
So coupled with the knowledge garnered from her graduate studies, Weiler researched the “Three L’s” (location, location, location), market potential, demographic mix, local economy and competition.
Conclusion: Take the risk!
After some serious negotiations with the leasing agent for the Irvine Company at that time, “they agreed to let me establish at Newport North versus another location at which another jewelry retailer had vacated. That was the first real challenge. The second was opening my store with no money or inventory,” Weiler shared.
Fortunately, her sister lent her $20,000, to be paid back within two years at 10 percent interest. “I paid oﬀ the debt well before that time,” she said with pride. “In the beginning and for two years after, I worked alone six days a week.”
In the few hours she had to herself, Weiler studied correspondence courses by the Gemological Institute to learn all about, naturally, gems. As she worked her way into the retail world, she learned that the global wholesale jewelry market was a male-dominated, handshake business: no sales contracts required or expected.
“Everything in the diamond business is trust and reputation,” Weiler revealed. “Abuse that, and you would get dropped from the system.”
In that system, a gem was “lent” to her for sale, and she would pay back the gem vendor before taking any profit for herself. It was true in 1995; it’s true today. She never disappointed.
As there was inviolable trust within the trade, likewise, that trust extended to customers, mostly female, who shared more secrets than one would find in a Danielle Steele romance novel. Those secrets included scandals, double marriages, aﬀairs, children’s’ problems and deep emotional accounts.
There is a book waiting to be scribed by Weiler, who is qualified to write one, having earned a Communications undergraduate degree from USC, where she also was named a Presidential Scholar.
Royal Jewelers’ clients ranged from the phenomenally wealthy to those less aﬄuent needing to pay on time to sustain the look they wanted and needed. In common, they all shared a love for unique jewelry, and their reasons for buying spanned the realm of imagination.
Arguably the funniest purchase was also her biggest sale: a near-perfect, eight carat diamond to a local financier, who bought it for himself simply because he wanted a diamond larger than the behemoth stone he had bought for his wife. His pinky virtually shone in the dark without a light source. Today, the elderly wife now sports it; their daughters are arguing over it.
Closing her successful store is bittersweet for Weiler. The world has changed, in some part due to the Covid pandemic; in other ways, because of a recent and traumatic robbery that underscores the risk in the jewelry industry; and the inflationary costs just to keep the doors open.
Perhaps most importantly, Weiler says she hasn’t enjoyed a real vacation in three decades. Despite her natural high energy, she’s tired and wants to try something else. TBA, as they say in product marketing: To Be Announced
What does this mean for her loyal customers? An incredible clearance sale beginning Tuesday, Nov. 8, in which all merchandise has been marked down 30 to 70 percent.
And what will glisten when that last diamond has been sold?
Tears of sadness at leaving one’s friends, lifestyle and the business she lovingly built; tears of joy at the new discoveries in her new future.