With one quick glance through the storefront window, an unwitting passerby might surmise that they happened upon the hottest new deli in town. It’s lunchtime at Charleston Gold & Diamond Exchange, but sodas and sandwiches are definitely not on the menu of this bustling business located in Mount Pleasant’s Belle Hall Shopping Center. As the customers inside ooh and aah over the latest additions to the store’s many showcases, the store manager, Brian Cohn, steps out of his office to assist his busy sales staff.
Cohn says that lunchtime is always busy at this full-service jewelry store, often with 20 or more customers at a time shopping for that special piece, consulting on custom designs, browsing for bargains, or having a watch battery replaced or jewelry piece repaired. It’s at these peak times when the native Texan seems to be in his element, the living embodiment of that old adage, “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Charleston Gold & Diamond Exchange opened in 2000 as South Carolina’s only retail outlet for DGSE Companies, one of the largest jewelry, rare coin and precious metal dealers in the country. In addition to its Mount Pleasant store, the company currently operates six retail stores in the Dallas area and one in Highland Park, Illinois.
Cohn says that having the buying power and resources of a large company with a 50-year track record of success is advantageous to his local enterprise. He is also quick to point out that Charleston Gold & Diamond Exchange operates on an independent basis. “We are a hometown local business— establishedand built 15 years ago. We know our regular customers by name, and they know us. When customers come in, we want them to feel comfortable in their surroundings. My staff and I have worked very hard to create this environment where each and every customer feels as if they are number one. We are known throughout the Charleston area for this feeling and our superior customer service.”
Despite his loyal clientele, Cohn says he is still often asked, “What is this place and what do you do?”
“Many people,” he says, “think we are a wholesaler that sells to other businesses in our industry, which is half right. We are a wholesaler, but we also provide this wholesale-type pricing to anyone who walks through our door, regardless if they are a dealer or a retailer. Everyone receives that same great price and service.”
This unusual business model is possible because of the way Charleston Gold & Diamond Exchange acquires the store’s vast inventory of new and estate pieces.
“Our new items—primarily watches and jewelry—are purchased through store buyouts and manufacturer closeouts. [Others are] manufactured jewelry items from our production center,” says Cohn. “Due to our buying and production processes, we can sell at much lower prices than other fine jewelry stores.”
Another unique feature of Charleston Gold & Diamond Exchange is that it typically sells one-of-a-kind items. If you want five identical pieces, you won’t find them here. “We’ve learned that owning a unique piece is important to many of our customers,” explains Cohn. “It’s another way we are unique in the marketplace.”
An example of this is a showcase that features Tacori closeouts. “We sell brand new Tacori for half the price our customers would normally pay, and we get a lot of it,” he says.
Selection is also a major factor when it comes to his new jewelry. Engagement rings and semimount settings fill one showcase, the most of any store in the area. “We have 10 times more semi-mounts than you see here,” claims Cohn. “We also specialize in GIA certified diamonds. No one can match our selection or our prices on GIA diamonds, so that’s what we sell the most of. A customer can pick out a semi-mount and we can set the diamond of his or her choice. If customers don’t see exactly what they want, Doug Green, our third generation master jeweler with 25 years of experience, can design and make a custom piece especially for them. Charleston Gold & Diamond Exchange creates approximately 30 custom engagement rings a month. That’s among the many things we do for our customers.”
Another entire showcase features diamond ear studs. “What you see in the case is nothing compared to what is in the back,” notes Cohn. “We offer ear studs from 1/4-carat diamonds up to 10-carat diamonds. All selections, all sizes. Anything you desire.”
Charleston Gold & Diamond Exchange purchases all types of estate jewelry and watches—one piece to many pieces at a time. “Our customers can’t believe the prices of our pre-owned, namebrand jewelry,” continues Cohn. “Names like David Yurman, Roberto Coin, Mikimoto, Tiffany and Cartier. We get all types and kinds, and it sells very quickly.”
The display cases hold namebrand, pre-owned watches, including Rolex, Breitling, Cartier, Tag Heuer, Panerai and Chopard, to name a few. “We receive merchandise almost daily,” says Cohn, “but if a customer doesn’t see exactly what he or she is looking for, we can usually find it.”
Wholesale pricing, an unmatched selection of new and estate jewelry and watches, and superior customer service offered by a friendly, knowledgeable staff are what make Charleston Gold & Diamond Exchange the most unusual jewelry shopping experience in the Charleston area.
“We’re celebrating our 15th year in Mount Pleasant, and our 10th year in this location,” concludes Cohn. “I love being part of the Mount Pleasant community and look forward to continued success in growing this business.”
Patra Taylor is a full-time freelance
writer in Mount Pleasant.