211 The Strand, Alexandria, Va.
The cobblestone-studded Old Town—Alexandria, Va.’s historic town center/shopping mecca—may cover less than 1.5 square miles, yet it’s home to six fine jewelers. Another 10 or so stores sell jewelry of some sort (estate, charms, costume, and more). Yet despite—or perhaps because of—its off-the-beaten-path waterfront location, the 20-year-old Mystique Fine Jewelry Designs has established itself as the go-to spot for gold and distinctive gemstones in a peaceful, river-view setting.
Inside the sun-soaked store, you might be tempted to curl up on the settee under a faux-fur throw. And that’s exactly what owner Elizabeth Mandros was going for. “I was trying to capture a living-room atmosphere,” she says. The cream-and-white color scheme “is totally me,” she laughs. “The teal is soothing, and I like the animal flair. It’s earthy, but with a little edge.” The “man’s chair” is a bit feminine—a French wing chair upholstered in a delicate diamond-and-dot fabric—but there is macho reading material: The World of Cigars.
She Sells Seashells
“This special table is all made in shells found throughout the world. My mother, Anne Mandros, is the designer,” she says. Anne also made the shell-covered mirrors—all for sale—scattered throughout the store. “A lot of designers come and pick them up for showrooms.”
The Simple Life
Mandros keeps her cases, like her floor, clean and uncluttered, relying on a modest, carefully curated selection of designers, including JudeFrances and Zasha (“We sell a lot of the hoops with the charms”), Lauren K (“We sold out and have to get more”), and Alberto Parada: “He actually works here,” says Mandros, gesturing to the affable gentleman behind the counter. “This”—Parada’s 18k rose gold, diamond, and carnelian ring ($4,200)—“was worn and purchased by one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Pointing to a pair of moody blue gemstone drops, she adds: “Alberto just made these.” The kyanite earring charms ($750) dangle from delicate rose gold diamond hoops ($550). These are the stones, says Mandros, that her customers snap up. “We sell very few rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.” Another thing Mystique doesn’t sell much of: silver. Mandros stocks Leslie Greene’s sterling line (“It’s got a patina, a rhodium finish, so it works with your platinum or white gold”), but otherwise, “our clients still want gold, and they’ll pay for the gold.”
The name Mystique, Mandros says, refers to “the mystique” of diamonds and “the lure and beauty” of gemstones. “That’s what intrigued me—unusual gemstones. In the beginning, that’s all I sold. I went to Brazil and bought scads of stones.” She still gets swept up in the romance of the business. “Jewelry is not about discounts; it’s not about mass-produced manufacturing. It’s a keepsake that you carry down through generations.”
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