November 28, 2007 > Jeweltrain
By Emma Victoria G. Blanco
How do you transform a beloved rock shop to a jewelry store focused on showcasing red carpet glamour pieces? Ellen Nott did it with persistence, passion and a lot of hard work.
Since opening its storefront in November 1993, Jeweltrain has been operating primarily as a lapidary, rock, mineral and bead store. Though Ben Nott's passion for rocks "gave birth" to Jeweltrain, the fossils, crystals, rounded (cabishon) and faceted semiprecious stones that mingled with precious gems and pearls seemed incongruous with what his wife had in mind. So, two years ago, he officially retired and she took over the reins.
Ellen had other plans for Jeweltrain. She felt that the store needed to be steered toward a different direction - one that focuses on her greater passion for the design, the construction, wear-ability and aesthetics of gemstones. So, on June 21, 2007, renovation of the store began. Existing jewelry showcases were re-laminated and refurbished. A center island of showcases and towers was added. A much needed office, discreet and unobtrusive to buyers, was built in the back corner. Added mirrors, glass and metal halide "crystal" lighting, designed especially for jewelry stores, help illuminate the brilliance of the gemstones and the beauty of the designs. State of the Art stereo and security systems completed the renovation in time for a "soft opening" that took place on Aug. 8.
Sitting in the midst of typical office clutter, one cannot help but notice Ellen's infectious pride and excitement about "her new store." She wants Jeweltrain and its merchandise to be recognized as "fine and unique, eclectic and different." Jeweltrain, she said, "specializes in color - colored gemstones, colored diamonds - and pearls," and now aims to be the family jeweler. "I want to see the husband who comes in for the birthdays and anniversaries; the wife who comes in for something just because she wants something; the parents who come in for ideas for special occasions like graduation; and when the children grow up, I'd like to see them come in for bridesmaids gifts" Ellen added.
Early exposure to the gem and mineral industry was inevitable for Ellen, a native San Franciscan whose family's involvement in the industry dates back to the early twentieth century. Her great-grandparents relocated to Stockton from San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake and established Stockton Jewelers on "Main Street" in Stockton. Her aunt and uncle, Esther and Clifford Krueger, prominent gem and mineral collectors, were active in the San Francisco Gem and Mineral Society and California Federation of Mineralogical Societies and had a combined collection that now belongs to the Academy of Science. Ellen herself has served as Show Chairman for the San Francisco Gem and Mineral Society since 1993. When discussing her showcase pieces, she lit up and described the jewelry with the eloquence and enthusiasm as only a connoisseur would.
Ellen currently handles all aspects of Jeweltrain's business. She particularly enjoys indulging her passion for finer things and takes the most pleasure from the creative side of the business, particularly the design and manufacture of the jewelry. In order to appeal to a broad customer base, Ellen maintains a collection of classic pieces, but also makes a point to keep up with current trends by attending important industry trade shows in Tucson, Las Vegas and Hong Kong. She works exclusively with her designers and manufacturers, such as Leo Chan and Nikolai Tsang.
Chan is the Founder of Channings Creative Fine Jewellery, Ltd. (based in Hong Kong) and designs and manufactures jewelry for worldwide wholesale clients. Jeweltrain has become its primary retail arm in the United States. Chan has been instrumental with the transformation of Jeweltrain Rock Shop to Jeweltrain. He and Ellen work closely to provide uniquely designed jewelry with spectacular colored gemstones with the goal of bringing a touch of elegance to everyone. Chan said, "Because creativity and artistic interpretation is a peek into one's soul, I most enjoy the appreciation of my creativity from Ellen and her clientele. I get the most satisfaction when they wear my jewelry on a daily basis. [They can] feel great [by] adorning themselves so easily just by visiting the store in Fremont. Imagine that - a store in Fremont that carries couture designs and great craftsmanship! One does not need to be in SF for that!" In 2006, CCFJ purchased the brand rights to "Choplin". Established in France in 1896, Choplin has previously been distributed through brand stores in Le Mans and Budapest and is popular throughout Europe and new to Asia. The brand will be introduced to the United States at Jeweltrain's Grand Re-Opening on Dec. 7.
Tsang is the designer behind Jade by Nikolai which creates exquisite handmade jewelry using all nine colors of Burmese jadelite. Ellen said, "[The] necklaces are varied and luxurious, her carvings are unique and her earrings suggest depths of personality and an almost mystical belief in perfection consistent with this ancient stone." Jeweltrain is one of only a handful of U.S. retailers Tsang said she chose to carry Ellen's designs because "Ellen is so passionate about her store and knowledgeable of so many different gems and raw boulder (material). [She] impressed me greatly about her true appreciation and love for gems."
Twelve years ago, a chance encounter with Tricia McMahon, Founder of "Bras for Body and Soul" (a specialty bra shop and extended services for all women, including women who have had breast surgery) and Executive Director of HERS Breast Cancer Foundation (which is committed to improving women's access to physical, mental and spiritual well-being) developed into a friendship. Ellen, whose mother is a two time breast cancer survivor, has always wanted to find a way to contribute to the cause. Jeweltrain, together with Choplin, has designed the "HERS Pendant" to honor breast cancer survivors everywhere and to support ongoing research at the foundation. The pendant will be making its debut at Jeweltrain's grand re-opening (Dec. 7). It is expected to be priced at $199.95, with 25% of the sales going to the foundation.
Jeweltrain prides itself at providing one-of-a-kind designs at attractive price points. Though specializing in high-end jewelry, Ellen insists that the store carry something that will fit everyone's budget; from $5 freshwater pearl bracelets to a multiple-strand seed pearl necklace from Japan that retails at $12,000. For those looking for that special gift this holiday season, Ellen offers a few suggestions. Someone who has everything may appreciate a pendant with a concave-cut gemstone, a reversible ring, or a "starter set" of the interchangeable pendant. For someone who is hard to shop for, she suggests a classic piece such as a string of pearls or a simple pair of pearl earrings that can compliment a casual experience or the most formal affair.
Ellen stated that Jeweltrain was built on honesty, trust, ethics, and 50 years experience. They stand behind what they do, and while other Tri-City jewelry stores may function on similar principles, Jeweltrain has a special niche in the industry. "A piece of jewelry has to be unique to you... and that's what [we] have," she added.
Upcoming Jeweltrain events:
Holiday Extravaganza Sale
50% most in-store items
Annual Sidewalk Sale
Sat. Dec 8: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
75% off fresh water pearls and beads
Fri. Dec 7: 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
hors d'oeuvres and music
Meet Jeweltrain's exclusive designers and featured artists
New designs, including the HERS pendant, benefitting the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation
43494 Ellsworth Street, Fremont
(Mission San Jose near the post office)
Mon - Thu: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Fri: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sat: 12 noon - 4 p.m.