555 E. Durant Ave., Aspen, Colo.
For a town of only 6,500 full-time residents, Aspen’s jewelry scene is remarkably crowded. There are some 25 stores that feature fine jewelry, making the competition among local retailers fierce. But Aspen Jewel Box owner Sarah Hunt has found a secret for success: Her intimate, uncluttered boutique, located in the North of Nell Building on Durant Avenue, offers unusual yet sophisticated contemporary designs and timeless period pieces in a warm, inviting atmosphere free from the intimidation that can dampen the shopping experience at jewelry stores in a similar price bracket.
Hunt opened Aspen Jewel Box in 2005 after a successful career in antique and period jewelry sales. Formerly located in a tiered courtyard near the west end of town, the boutique moved to the prime address of 555 East Durant Avenue, in the heart of Aspen’s downtown shopping district, five years ago. “You have to keep growing your business and in Aspen location is everything,” says Hunt. It was a move in the right direction. The store is now steps away from the base of Aspen Mountain near the entrance to the world-renowned Silver Queen Gondola and adjacent to the recently opened Residences at the Little Nell, one of the world’s most expensive fractional ownership properties and home to many of Hunt’s clients. From the outside, gem-loving window shoppers can peek directly into the store’s glass displays. From the inside, customers can watch as snow falls around them—creating a picture-perfect snow globe effect.
OLD MEETS NEW
Like the city itself, Aspen Jewel Box is a place where past meets present. Thanks to Hunt’s vintage aesthetic—derived from two decades in period and antique jewelry sales—even her contemporary collections nod to the past. Modern Italian designers such as Federica Rettore and Mattia Cielo and Greek designer Elena Votsi are the stars of her glass-domed showcases. “These designers use unusual materials and produce pieces that are incredibly well-made,” she says. Monique Péan, for example, uses fossilized wooly mammoth and fossilized walrus ivory in her work. For period pieces and antiques, Hunt scours shows and personal estates around the world, searching for jewels that are at once ageless and beautiful.
Hunt likens high-end jewelry business to the art world: The more sophisticated the shopper, the more meticulous the buyer must become. Such is the case in this famous ski town, where clients have been building their collections for years. “People who visit Aspen have traveled all over the world,” Hunt says. “They have incredible, discerning taste and are looking for unusual things to create an identity for themselves.”
Buyers return knowing there will always be new, exceptional items at Hunt’s store, where prices range from $2,500 to well beyond $100,000. The search is a labor of love for her. “You’ve got to work and work and look,” she says. “Either by way of customers or trade shows, you take every lead you can to see if [a piece] is right. I’ve seen some great pieces that I wouldn’t buy. Maybe they would sell much easier than things I adore, but when you buy for your store and for your clients, you have to keep in mind your style too.”
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