A Jewel in the Berkshires

In the town of Northampton, Mass., stands a unique jewelry store called Silverscape Designs. What makes it unique is its location, design components, personnel, founder’s vision, and what the building was in its former life: a bank. Silverscape is not only a classic building but also one of the cleverest uses of retail space I’ve ever seen. It is a building that a true visionary—jewelry designer and entrepreneur Denis Perlman—saw as a home for beautiful jewelry.

Avi Raz, president of A & Z Pearls, introduced me to Silverscape manager Michael Zibman at the JCK Las Vegas Show. Michael invited me to visit the store the next time I traveled to New England. As it happened, I planned to be in Maine for the Tri-State Jewelers Convention in June.

When I was a sales representative covering New England, Northampton was a small town with one account that I’d visit two or three times a year. The town now is a thriving, “with-it” place, and right in the middle—at the main intersection—is Silverscape.

Silverscape’s home began life in 1928 as the grandest building in New England. On opening day, the bank gave a rose to every woman who visited. (Who said bankers weren’t merchants at heart?) The building was crafted of exquisite materials including black marble, granite, and limestone. Done in Art Deco/Art Nouveau style, it had many unique features such as extraordinary brass chandeliers and a stained glass ceiling. The building also featured a ladies’ lounge where the ladies visiting the bank could smoke, since in those days they were not permitted to smoke in public.

When the bank decided it really needed that new-fangled merchandising notion of drive-through banking, Perlman jumped at the opportunity to purchase the building. He tracked down some of the elements of the building that had disappeared, including the magnificent brass lighting fixtures, and designed showcases and special lighting elements that tied into the design of the building’s archways. A lot of thought and talent went into the revival of this work of art. However, in a tragic turn of events, Perlman was killed piloting his own airplane after the store opened.

Fortunately, what Perlman started, Michael Zibman has continued. Silverscape has a strong focus on design and quality and offers a variety of unique products. For example, in the Glass and Gifts Room, customers can find unusual works of art, from $6,000 vases to $95,000 chess sets, and custom-made chestnut chests. Michael has assembled a diverse cast of sales staff, jewelers, and back-room personnel.

Lazare Kaplan diamonds are the featured diamond product, with a typical color grade of “E.” But Silverscape is not only for the wealthy: There’s a wide assortment of reasonably priced silver and other jewelry to accommodate the style and financial needs of the college crowd.

What’s in this column for you? There is plenty of opportunity. All you need is a little vision, a dash of creativity, and of course lots of hard work. But remember, luck tends to favor those who are prepared.