Perry Sporn started selling jewelry in New York City to pay his college tuition and
opened his first jewelry store in Saratoga Springs in the early 1980s. Today Sporn has 20 stores and 550 employees throughout the Northeast and Quebec.
After selling national brand jewelry made all over the world, Sporn was inspired to create his own line designed and produced right here in the North Country. The inspiration for the Devotion line came out of a desire to create an affordable American luxury brand. “Well over 99% of diamond jewelry in the world is produced in Thailand or India,” explained Sporn, who holds four patents for the diamond cuts he developed and uses in Devotion pieces.
“Diamonds are judged by four criteria: cut, clarity, color, and carat,” explained Alicia Blanchard, manager of Perrywinkle’s Plattsburgh store. The cuts create the flat surfaces and angles that refract the light and create the sparkle. “Normal diamonds have 58 facets, Devotion diamonds have more,” continued Blanchard.
All of the diamonds for the Devotion line are hand-selected by Perry. “About 99% of the diamonds in the world do not meet our Devotion standards,” clarified Sporn. The diamonds that make the cut are brought back to the North Country to Perrywinkle’s exclusive diamond cutting facility.
Devotion rings are handcrafted in 18 karat gold or platinum. “Each design is made to order with the diamonds the customer selects from our inventory,” explained Blanchard.
“Most people don’t know that Perrywinkle’s has always made cus- tom jewelry,” noted Blanchard. “Customers come into the store and work with one of our designers to create the look they want. Once they approve the sketch, a wax mockup is created and then the final product is created,” Blanchard explained. “Custom is a great way to get what you want and stay within your budget.”
The jeweler in Perrywinkle’s Plattsburgh store has over 30 years expe- rience in the industry. Perrywinkle’s brought Neva Peat to Plattsburgh eight years ago. Now she is right at home both at Perrywinkle’s and in Plattsburgh.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this area reminds me strongly of my home in Colorado,” Peat observed. “And Perrywinkle’s has the professionalism and the vision that inspires an artist like me.”
Peat has a passion for jewelry design and customer service. “There is simply no feeling quite like sharing the joy of a young couple just starting out together by designing their wedding set, or commem- orating a life’s memory by combining family stones and personal stories into a new piece of wearable art,” explained Peat.
Custom designed jewelry is not the cost-prohibitive gift it once was Blanchard explained. “Our custom pieces start at about $1,000. When custom designing a piece of jewelry we can adjust the amount and types of metals and stones to fit within a customer’s budget. Custom offers a lot of flexibility.”
Custom design is also a common theme at another North Country jewelry store. Shawn Kneussle designs custom pieces that reflect the spirit of the region and are big sellers in and outside our area.
“A customer from this area brought some of our jewelry on a visit out west. The uniqueness of the design got some attention and now we are doing custom work for people in Colorado, Montana, California, and Florida,” explained Kneussle.
After 20 years in the jewelry industry, Kneussle opened his own business, Kneucraft Fine Jewelry, with his wife Kim in 2005. Since its beginning Kneucraft has grown into a 3,000 square foot facility with four full time jewelers and a full time wax carver.
One of Kneucraft’s focuses is on the non- profit and charity world where custom design is essential. Kneussle has designed a number of exclusive pieces for fundraisers for school and athletic associations, as well as disease- focused non-profits and even private clubs.
Kneussle attributes the popularity of his design work to a ordability. “ e ability to do everything locally helps keep our costs down and drives our local business. It is comforting for customers to know that we can do all of their repair work without sending their jewelry out.”
“We are finding that we have a great niche as jewelry designers,” stated Kneussle. “I was approached at a local event by a man who shot an elk and wondered what we could create with the antlers.” Kneucraft designs all sorts of decorative items from pendants to knife handles.
“I thrive on oddball ideas that are out there and we create them,” Kneussle stated. He attributes the popularity of his design work to affordability. “The ability to do everything locally helps keep our costs down and drives our local business. It is comforting for customers to know that we can do all of their repair work without sending their jewelry out,” said Kneussle, proud of the equipment and skill they have assembled at Kneucraft.
His team includes some experienced tal- ent and some “homegrown” bench jewelers Kneucraft sent to school to learn gold-smith- ing, master stone setting and hand engraving. Despite a small labor pool in the region for this skilled industry, Kneucraft manages to be fully staffed. “We have a great team,” he explained. “At any given time we have 20-30 custom pieces in production. We don’t really have a down time, but fourth quarter is by far our busiest time,” he remarked. “We do one third of our business in the last two and a half weeks of the year.”
Both Kneussle and Blanchard recognize recent changes in the jewelry market. What used to be considered a market for those with large disposable incomes has opened up to everyone. National brands like Pandora are featuring lines of less expensive jewelry, encouraging small, multiple and repeat purchases. Jewelry stores are seeing a whole new group of customers coming through the door.
Through custom jewelry lines, Kneucraft and Perrywinkle’s are catering to this new kind of jewelry buyer, as well as passing on some local flare through their designs — jewelry designed and produced right here in the North Country.
Perrywinkle’s Fine Jewelry
75 Smith eld Boulevard
Plattsburgh, New York 12901
Kneucraft Fine Jewelry & Design 672 Route 3
Plattsburgh, NY 12901