It may not seem like the kind of jewelry store that caters to celebrities, but Cleveland’s DeWitt Diamond & Gold Exchange has established a client list stacked with musicians, athletes, actors, and entertainers. One of the store’s custom pieces will even appear in a movie released next year.
Store owner Evan DeWitt’s star-studded odyssey began in the early 1980s, when he met British band manager Jack Riviera. At the time, Riviera was an avid collector of fine watches. The day he entered DeWitt’s store, Riviera had a specific watch in mind, but could only describe what it looked like. After a lengthy discussion about the watch in question, DeWitt finally arrived at the make, model, and manufacturer of the watch and sourced it for the Riviera.
Appreciative of DeWitt’s knowledge and ability, Riviera opened up a little bit about the music talents he managed. Back then his top clients were Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe (“Cruel to be Kind”), and Paul Carrack (of Squeeze and Ace fame), to name a few. Eventually, the music manager’s clients became the DeWitt’s customers as well.
As the two became friends, Riviera would send clients to DeWitt. The store owner would even fly to New York and other major cities to personally deliver jewelry and watches. And the more celebrities and notables DeWitt serviced as valued customers, the more word-of-mouth spread.
For more than 30 years, DeWitt estimates he has picked up three to four celebrity clients each year, making his current celebrity client list roughly at 100 and counting. “I sometimes have to pinch myself to believe it,” says DeWitt. “A guy from Cleveland doing business with so many famous people.”
And DeWitt’s location probably even contributed to his success. Sure, celebrities have a lot of money, but like most people, they don’t want to pay more than they have to for jewelry. “Typically I can source or manufacture something for a celebrity client for one-third less than say a New York City–based retailer,” says DeWitt.
Given that DeWitt’s celebrity client list started with a music manager, the bulk of his notable clients come from the music industry. In serving entertainers of all types, DeWitt has found that certain celebrities have specific jewelry tastes. “Musicians, rappers, and athletes tend to go for flashy or meaningful custom pieces,” says DeWitt. “Whereas actors and people from the entertainment industry—such as film producers and directors—tend to gravitate toward my estate jewelry.”
Part of DeWitt’s success in dealing with celebrities and athletes is treating them like every other customer. He engages them in dialogue that gets to the heart of what type of jewelry or watch they’re after, listens attentively to get the details right, works closely to make sure they’re kept abreast of the sourcing or manufacturing steps, and gives them a fair price.
One thing DeWitt has learned about working with celebrities at all levels of the entertainment industries is their appreciation for not only being treated like regular folks, but also discretion. DeWitt walks fine line between honoring his celebrity clients’ need for privacy and his need to promote them as regular customers to advance his business.
Before DeWitt takes a picture of him and a celebrity, and then posts it in the gallery section of his website, he asks permission to use the image for promotional purposes. And he only asks to be photographed with easily identifiable or “colorful” celebrity customers.
DeWitt doesn’t like to drop names, but some of his famous clients on his website gallery include members of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. The Cleveland-based hip hop group won a Grammy in 1997 and two American Music Awards in 1998 and 2007.
Evan DeWitt with Bootsy Collins
“It’s incredible to watch these award shows on TV and see your jewelry on celebrities, especially those taking home a trophy,” says DeWitt.
Other notable music talents in DeWitt’s gallery section of his website include famous funkster Bootsy Collins and legendary rocker Alice Cooper. Of all his famous clients, DeWitt has a special liking for Cooper. “He’s really a very low-key, down-to-earth, and sincere guy,” says DeWitt.
A recent coup for DeWitt was having a custom men’s ruby ring he created take center stage in the filming of I, Alex Cross. DeWitt had a number of opportunities to make jewelry for the actors filming of the movie in Cleveland, including wedding bands for Tyler Perry, jewelry repair work for Cicely Tyson, and the custom ruby ring for Jean Reno. The detective thriller will be released in 2012.