The Family Jewels

Many years before Audrey Hepburn had breakfast at Tiffany’s, another jewelry shop was indulging the New York elite: London Jewelers. Charles London emigrated from Europe to Glen Cove, NY, armed with training in watch repair. Stateside, he began working with a jewelry store in 1923, winding the great clocks of the estates along the Gold Coast of Long Island. His clientele comprised of the aristocratic families of the roaring 20s, including the Vanderbilts, Whitneys, and Pratts.

Charles’ burgeoning reputation and loyal following led to the launch of London Jewelers in 1926, then a quaint mom-and-pop shop that sold watches and fine jewelry. Fast forward 84 years and the same store still stands in Glen Cove, but now it’s one of five London Jewelers locations in the Hamptons, all which house the world’s most distinctive timepieces and brilliant baubles—eye candy to the exclusive region’s denizens and visitors. Four generations since its inception, under the operations of Charles’ successors, London Jewelers’ continued growth and success have proven that this family business can stand the test of time in an extremely competitive market packed with multi-billion dollar corporations—even in this current economic slump.

At a time when businesses are downsizing or closing altogether across the nation, London Jewelers is not only surviving—it’s thriving. The place to “just shop” in 1926 is a luxury lifestyle experience in the 21st century, one where more than 90 lavish designer lines are offered in pristine settings. “Every major brand wants to come to us and partner with us, because we represent all the brands so well,” says Randi Udell, a vice president at London Jewelers and Charles’ great granddaughter. “We treat them as part of our family.” Time and again, countless designers have opted to launch exclusively at London Jewelers; in fact, Ivanka Trump launched her fine jewelry collection at a London Jewelers location this past July.

Taking it one step further, select brands are more than just a name in the store; they are partners. David Yurman, Cartier, and the latest addition, Van Cleef & Arpels operate unique brand boutiques within the London Jewelers stores. When the Udells realized that Van Cleef wasn’t distributed in the Garden State, they opened a Van Cleef boutique in Short Hills, N.J., in order to allow the brand to serve that market.

“Our association with Van Cleef, which is a 100-year-old company, is reflected by London’s own tradition of 84 years and four generations of a family business,” says Randi’s mother, Candy Udell, president of London Jewelers. Randi concurs. “There’s nothing better for a brand than to have my family co-run and manage their store in a marketplace we know so well,” she says. “If a brand wants to open in the store, they come to my family.” Even though each brand boutique has its own distinct sign and entranceway, all are connected to London Jewelers, allowing shoppers to peruse through stores without going back out on the street.

“We do everything with the utmost respect to represent these European houses, like Van Cleef & Arpels, the finest jewelry house in the world,” Randi says. “We are great counterparts of Van Cleef because we have the same core values as they do. We run similar businesses.”