Croghan’s Jewel Box

Downtown. 308 King St. 723-3594

It might feel a little intimidating to ring the bell to be buzzed into Croghan’s Jewel Box, but once inside, owner Mariana Ramsay Hay’s effervescent personality immediately makes one feel comfortable perusing diamonds, fine silver, and designer jewelry. Hay points out the noise from the jeweler’s bench and the laughter ringing out from across the room, reveling in the bustling, joyful atmosphere. “I don’t want my store to feel stuffy” she exclaims. Under glass, a veritable smorgasbord of exquisite jewelry is on display, including Art Deco-style Asscher cut diamonds and lush green emeralds of rare quality. It’s evident that the Croghan’s staff are proud of their work, and their love of jewelry shines through as they greet customers new and old.

Hay’s grandfather, William Joseph Croghan, a jeweler and hand engraver, opened Croghan’s Jewel Box in its current location in 1919. Hay has been in charge for the past 30 years, during which time she has seen some particularly interesting changes in her clientele. “I remember my mother telling me what pearls to put on with my outfit,” she reminisces. “These days, it is the younger generation that is guiding the fashion trends. Mothers look to their daughters to find out if they are in style.” Hay’s mother is the very stylish Mrs. Mary Ramsay, one of the key supporters of the cultural arts in Charleston. Mrs. Ramsay set a precedent for corporate support of local nonprofit organizations during her command of Croghan’s, and Hay gladly continues the tradition today. Many a fund-raising auction in Charleston has included a coveted piece of jewelry from the store. “Mrs. Mary Ramsay has provided the Charleston community with immeasurable support through her ongoing generosity to the many nonprofit organizations associated with the cultural arts,” says Gibbes board member and arts activist Harriet Smartt. “The arts scene in Charleston would be far less vibrant today without the generosity of Croghan’s Jewel Box,” Smartt says.

In 1998, an expansion tripled the size of the store. While those in the know used to come in the back door, today the business thrives on increased tourist traffic attracted by the large display window. A quick browse through Croghan’s reveals a variety of merchandise, from multicarat estate rings to whimsical earrings made with vintage beads. One of Hay’s favorite designers is the fun and funky Liza Stromberg, who creates unique pieces that can be had for around $100 or less. Croghan’s has a jeweler and gemologist on staff, and they specialize in custom engagement rings which, Hay reveals, do not have to be terribly expensive. Confused by the 4 C’s? The Croghan’s staff makes it simple with a personal consultation. “I always advise those on a budget to put their investment in the stone,” says Hay. “It can be reset later, it can become an heirloom.” The policy at Croghan’s is to provide superior customer service and to educate people as to how they can buy jewelry with confidence.

“We grow up with our customers,” Hay says with a smile.