GO-TO GLOBAL

BY AMANDA BLACK | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

Kelly and Geoff Sigg are new to Charleston, and their boutique, Porter Conrad Jewelry, has been open just a little over a year—but you’d never guess it. In this little slice of serenity, just steps from the hustle and bustle of Market Street, reclaimed barnwood adds warmth to a back wall and to cases filled with glittering gems—from opal earrings to geode cuffs and delicate silver necklaces. The Siggs have worked hard to make their store homey and approachable for any jewelry lover.

The Siggs have been married for 23 years, and for almost two decades they’ve been in the jewelry business. When they decided to move to Charleston from Connecticut to open Porter Conrad (named for their son and Geoff’s grandfather), they wanted to do things a little differently. Featuring their own designs and unique stones, like Herkimer diamonds (a type of naturally faceted quartz), the couple has crafted a one-of-akind jewelry experience. But just how they manage to do it while offering products at a range of price points is the real story.

Unlike many big box stores, which sell similar designs and products, the Siggs travel around the world to create their pieces. First, they track down their favorite gems, like Larimar, which is only found in the Dominican Republic, and Tabasco geodes, which are a deep charcoal hue. Then, they work closely with family crafters in villages in Bali, Thailand and India.

Thanks to their years in the industry (and their well-stamped passports), the Siggs have padded their address books with incredibly talented people. But these business associates are much more than just contacts. “We’re like family,” Kelly says. They’ve traveled the world to attend funerals and religious ceremonies, and the couple’s son, Porter, even came along for many years, becoming friends with the children in the villages they visited.

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“We’ve learned a lot from our associates,” Geoff says fondly. Over the course of our conversation, both Kelly and her husband talk freely about their travels and how they’ve been able to experience different cultures through the eyes of their local friends.

Geoff says that it’s wonderful to see how the lives of their business associates change, in part because of their company’s practice of cutting out the middleman. “Probably 90 percent of the jewelry that you see in stores passes through three or four hands before it eventually ends up in the case. But we meet and pay the artisans directly, so they benefit,” he says.

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The Siggs have spent almost 15 years cultivating their relationships abroad, and it shows in their merchandise. Each piece is unique in its own way. That’s in part due to their scouting trips. “We get on our scooter and go on a hunt,” Kelly says.

“We’ll see something in the architecture or a wood carving and take a photo,” Geoff says. “Then we bring it back to the artisan and ask, ‘Can you make something like this in silver?’”

That creative freedom is on full display in their boutique. While some high-fashion jewelers feature accessories that are almost intimidating to don, Porter Conrad’s easy-to-wear designs offer something for every occasion and style preference. “I don’t think jewelry should be out of touch,” Geoff says. “We want everybody to be able to enjoy it.”

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Of course, some people wonder what it takes for a couple to go into business together, but judging from the Siggs, the key is to have a common passion. Kelly remembers how excited they were to find an affordable source for Tabasco geodes, saying: “When we found a vendor for those geodes, we were high-fiving and running around! We both have a shared love for our work.”

And it shows in the way they run their company.

Amanda Black is a full-time writer and editor and part-time freelancer living in Charleston.