Inside California’s Talisman Collection

Welcome to Andrea Riso’s “crazy store”

Opening a fine jewelry store that didn’t feel like a fine jewelry store was Andrea Riso’s lifelong dream. The retailer/gemologist, who opened Talisman Collection in El Dorado Hills, Calif., late last year, has been enamored of gems since childhood, but didn’t want to spend her days in a formal-feeling shop. And Talisman is anything but. The 3,000-square-foot loft is full of all manner of eccentric details: a digitally printed river with koi fish and piranha along the floor; a massive blue blown-glass “sky” piece by Dale Chihuly on the ceiling; an iPad station with beanbag chairs for kids; and a man cave featuring men’s ­jewelry, electric guitars, and a flat-screen TV. The sections break down to create a performance space for live music. “If I could build my own crazy living room, I think this would be it,” says Riso. Except, of course, “every third phone call is someone trying to sell me diamonds.”

Where did you get the idea for Talisman?

When I was in college, I was going to open a jewelry store that had live music and food and a gallery atmosphere. But life happened, and I took off on a corporate career. I ended up getting my master’s in communications and change management. Then I was thinking, God, I hate what I’m doing—I’m making a lot of money but I hate my life. I went to New York in 2011, and I was sitting on a train with two best friends when I said, “I’m going to open a crazy store that I want to spend my life in.” I saw a picture of jewelry from ­Atelier Minyon. I said, “I want to buy my first collection for my yet-to-exist store.” I went to Atelier Minyon and sat there with [designer] Alp Sagnak. Sitting down with him was what made me completely change course.

How did you plan out the sections in the store?

I had seen iterations of man caves in JCK, and thought about how there’s never any place to buy gifts for guys except in major metropolitan areas. I thought I could bring men in with great men’s jewelry and watches. I figured out what kind of table Mac stores use for iPads and created a tech oasis. I have huge jars of candy. I was struggling with how to cordon off areas, but when I stayed at the Wynn hotel for JCK Las Vegas, I saw that they just switched the carpet, so that’s what I did. I found a big diamond showcase on eBay, and that’s my only showcase.

How do diamonds and fine jewelry figure into your retail scheme?

Diamonds, to me, are a commodity. They are necessary and they are beautiful. But people save a lot of money buying from me. I don’t take a diamond ring and market it triple key, then mark off 30 to 50 percent for good customers. I wanted a progressive environment where the customer is educated in what they’re getting. My focus is absolutely on jewelry, but I let people create their own interpretations when they walk in. I gathered a lot of inspiration from Las Vegas and department stores and museums for the store. But of course you can’t touch anything at a museum, and people can turn my lights on and off if they want to.

Why did you decide to incorporate music into the store?

I really like guitars and live music. So the kids’ corner becomes a performance space and the man cave becomes more seating. If people want to pull down a guitar and start playing, well, then we have live music there, too. I have all kinds of people hanging out. A group of authors comes in every week and takes over the man cave and I give them wine and food. They think it’s catering, but it’s just more of what I’m ordering for myself anyway!

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