It’s a little over 100 years ago in Charleston, the Welch & Eason Standard grocery on Meeting Street is selling peaches and pimento cheese, and ladies are shopping for furs at Furchgott’s on King. Just down the block, William “Bill” Croghan has just opened Croghan’s Jewel Box, an engraving and jewelry store, on the skinny side porch of a single house at 308 King St.
Fast-forward two generations: Welch & Eason and Furchgott’s are gone, as are most businesses that opened in turn-of-the-century Charleston, but Croghan’s Jewel Box is still there in the care of the hospitable and indomitably positive Mary Loretto Croghan Ramsay. Ramsay has expanded the store, taken classes on how to run a business and coined the phrase “308 Wonderful King.” She kept the store thriving through the lean economics of the ’60s and ’70s, in part by placing ads in the Charleston News and Courier that informed customers that a gift from Croghan’s is “tenderly given, rapturously received and lovingly remembered.”
Her generosity of spirit is shared by the third generation of Croghan’s owners, Mariana Ramsay Hay and her sister, Rhett Ramsay Outten, granddaughters of the original owner. Today at Croghan’s, customers will find selections from jewelry designers around the world, including coveted pieces from Temple St. Clair, Seaman Schepps, Jude Frances and Mazza.
When I visit, Hay and Outten have just finished an expansion into the upstairs dining and drawing rooms, Croghan’s second expansion in a century. This lovely space is reminiscent of old Paris and will be the scene of an upcoming trunk show. During the show, customers will get a peek at the new space as Croghan’s opens their upstairs drawing room for a show featuring West Coast designer Ari Madilian of Single Stone.
Madilian’s designs fit hand-in-glove with Croghan’s because he repurposes vintage stones into contemporary jewelry and considers himself merely a caretaker of beautiful things. This attitude is reflected in Single Stone’s hallmark, a dedication to old world craftsmanship. “We take time to do things by hand, we spend the time and energy finessing pieces so they are just perfect. Everything is one-of-a-kind and handworked,” Madilian says.
Both Madilian and Croghan’s emphasize the importance of seeing antique jewelry in person. “Once you see them with your own eyes, you’ll realize there is a charm that is different than anything else out there. We are foster parents for these diamonds. They’ve been around such a long time, we just make sure we don’t get in their way,” Madilian says.
The Single Stone trunk show takes place on October 10th and 11th and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Everyone is invited to enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres while browsing the Single Stone collection in the upstairs living and drawing rooms.
Back upstairs at Croghan’s, Outten and the staff are tidying up after a party welcoming Kathleen and Mariana Hay, the fourth generation, to the Croghan’s business. Kathleen Hay has just moved home after three years in New York where she earned her graduate gemology degree from the Gemology Institute of America, completed an internship with Cartier and worked for a high-end wholesale jewelry house based in Manhattan. Mariana (Mini) Hay graduated from Clemson in 2013 with a major in art and is interested in the design and manufacturing end of the business. She has created her own jewelry line for the store. Both young ladies bring a modern aesthetic and vibe to the century-old family business. “We want every generation to feel comfortable here,” Outten says. “We never find ourselves without a lovely $20 or $30 present to recommend, if not a $20,000 or $30,000 ring to take home! You don’t have to put on your fancy clothes; we want everyone to feel the love we have for this business, this city and the customers at 308 ‘Wonderful’ King Street!”
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer who lives in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.