The Great Neck, N.Y.–based jewelry manufacturer traces its roots to 18th century Persia
Spend any amount of time in the jewelry industry and you’ll quickly get used to seeing the name Le Vian. Besides being a major exhibitor at numerous trade shows, including JCK Las Vegas, the Great Neck, N.Y.–based jewelry manufacturer has a red-carpet presence that rivals Chopard and Harry Winston. But if you think you know the brand, think again.
A few weeks ago, I spent a couple of hours with CEO Eddie LeVian at Le Vian headquarters (note the lack of spacing in the family name as opposed to the brand name) and was intrigued to learn that the LeVians have roots in the jewelry industry stretching back to 1746, when the Persian ruler Nadir Shah chose the family to be the guardian of the jewels he’d plundered in Asia (including a historic little trinket known as the Koh-i-noor Diamond). Read on to discover seven obscure facts about the prolific manufacturer that may surprise you.
Eddie LeVian at Le Vian headquarters in Great Neck, N.Y.
1. The company has a long history with single-source stones.
Eddie’s father, Abdulrahim Ephraim LeVian, emigrated to the United States in 1950 and, as Eddie tells it, became fascinated by single-source gems. He began to import Persian turquoise in the 1970s, before its source mine became extinct; at its peak, he was importing some 2 million carats per year.
By the same token, he grew equally enamored with tanzanite. In the 1980s, about a decade after the blue-violet gem was discovered in Tanzania, in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, he sent one of his sons to the country to arrange an export deal with the miners in a legendary plot known as Block C.
“We became the number one importer of tanzanite in the ’80s and ’90s,” Eddie said, adding that for a time, the company accounted for about half of all the tanzanite that was imported into the United States.
“My father had a safe and took the best of the best stones and put them in there,” he said. “He said one day they would be hard to find.”
A Le Vian Couture necklace and matching earrings featuring the deeply saturated tanzanite gems the company sourced direct in Tanzania
2. A ruby ring persuaded Eddie LeVian to join the family business.
Forty years ago, when Eddie was contemplating whether or not he should follow his father into business, he considered the ruby ring that his grandmother had owned and the way his father talked about it.
“He spoke of ‘pigeon’s blood rubies’ and handcraftsmanship,” Eddie recalled. “I realized jewelry is not just a luxury—it’s their legacy. It passes through generations over centuries. That persuaded me.”
Eddie joined the family business as a salesperson. “I realized there were two types of jewelry back then: good stuff geared for the top 1 percent, and the junk, geared for the 99 percent,” he said. “I felt that’s where our contribution could be. My thinking was that we would make things with genuine gems, target gems found only in one place that would later become more valuable, focus on handcraftsmanship, certify everything, and work on tighter margins to bring it to more households.”
In 2000, when his father passed away, Eddie and his four brothers and sisters became the current generation to run the family business. Eddie’s ascension to CEO came at a time when the trade was going through its own transition: “Jewelry stores needed newness and reasons to keep the guys coming back to buy things,” Eddie said. “So we said we’d invest a lot of money each year into new product development.”
The 4.5 ct. Burmese ruby ring that Eddie LeVian’s grandmother wore; the cushion-cut stone dates to the 1700s, but the Art Deco ring was manufactured in 1922 (photo courtesy of Le Vian)
3. The company makes 40,000 pieces per year.
In a relatively short time frame, Le Vian went from making a few hundred pieces a year to making 40,000, supported by a $10 million product budget, according to Eddie. The company maintains factories in the United States, Italy, China, and Thailand, and relies on each country’s specialty (i.e., Thailand for cutting stones, Italy for gold work) to dictate which pieces are made where.
Most of those pieces are one-of-a-kinds sold at trunk shows—“that gives us a big cult following,” Eddie said.
Le Vian Couture 18k Vanilla Gold ring with 7.05 cts. t.w. Robins Egg Blue Turquoise and 0.7 ct. t.w. Chocolate Diamonds and Vanilla Diamonds, $3,799
4. Le Vian’s annual Red Carpet Revue is 16 years old.
JCK Las Vegas became a springboard for the brand. In 2000, Le Vian staged its first Red Carpet Revue—a fashion show/jewelry extravaganza with celebrities, trend forecasts, and runway models—at the show. Now, Eddie invites the brand’s top collectors—those spending six figures—to the annual event, where they get first dibs on Le Vian’s production. He says about a hundred people take him up on the offer.
The company unveils its “gem of the year” at the event, representing the culmination of a lengthy process that takes into account the gem’s supplies and its potential for responsible sourcing—“because millions of carats of demand is created,” Eddie said.
Le Vian 14k Vanilla Gold ring with 13.5 cts. t.w. Deep Sea Blue Topaz and 1.1 cts. t.w. Vanilla Diamonds, $11,597
5. Celebrities are photographed wearing Le Vian approximately 300 times per year.
Together with its PR agency in Los Angeles, D’Orazio & Associates, Le Vian outfits the world’s best-known celebrities, from Scarlett Johansson to Michelle Obama, for red-carpet appearances big and small.
“The rule is: We never pay them to wear Le Vian,” Eddie said. “If they fall in love with the jewelry, they have to buy it.”
Once a piece has been worn by a celebrity and documented, it becomes part of the jeweler’s Red Tag collection.
The president and first lady at their final state dinner with Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi and his wife, Agnese Landini, in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18 (photo courtesy of Le Vian)
6. The company’s trademark way of describing its gems is called “LeVianese.”
In 2000, Le Vian introduced its trademarked Chocolate Diamonds concept and a whole gem vernacular was born. From Strawberry Gold, which refers to a warmer tone of pink gold, to Neopolitan Opal, a lustrous type of Ethiopian opal, the language associated with Le Vian’s jewels always conjures something good to eat.
“The language of food touches people in the old brain, which is more convinced by instincts than logic,” Eddie said. “By using the language of food, we’re trying to bring the business back to instincts, not things like G VVS2. We feel the biggest damage to the business has been this commoditization.”
Beyond bringing romance back into the industry, “the names enable us to define that narrow range of what we define as ‘chocolate diamonds,’ which is only about 4 percent of Argyle’s production,” Eddie said, referring to the mine in Australia where the vast majority of the world’s brown diamonds are sourced. Before the company popularized the stones, they were considered little more than rubbish.
“We’re giving everyday Americans a way to become collectors of natural color diamonds,” Eddie said.
Le Vian 14k Strawberry Gold earrings with 1.38 cts. t.w. Neopolitan Opal, Pistachio Diopside, and 0.57 ct. t.w. Vanilla Diamonds, $2,550
7. The next category Le Vian hopes to reinvent is watches.
Lately, Le Vian has put its focus on timepieces—specifically, diamond-set bangle watches for women designed with a nod to Art Deco. “It’s the fastest-growing part of our business,” Eddie said. The quartz-powered watches retail from $1,000 to $8,000. Watch this space!
Le Vian Time watch with 1.26 cts. t.w. Chocolate Diamonds and Vanilla Diamonds, $2,499