Originally published in The Boston Herald June 23rd, 2009
Chillin’ and grilling for the average Joe means a backyard bash and a few brewskis. For Celtics center Kendrick Perkins it involves a smile brimming with diamonds, the bejeweled mouthpiece of the elite rap and sports set.
That the Celtics center recently spent thousands on oral bling is no surprise to jeweler Richard Berberian of Reading, who has dozens celebrity clients on his roster.
`If they win, I win,’ Berberian said of Boston’s players and `playas.’
More surprising is the unpretentious locale of Berberian’s business, Elyse Jewelers: an unassuming spot on Main Street in Reading, neatly set back from gas stations, an insurance company and a garden center.
`Geographically, it’s the apex of everything around here – Boston, the Mass Pike, New Hampshire. It’s private, it’s safe, it’s easy to park. It works really well for celebrities and athletes,’ Berberian said. `A lot of people come in and see the type of jewelry I carry and
say, `It doesn’t look like Reading.’ That’s because my market, for the most part, isn’t.’
A glance at his star-studded walls tells you that the glitterati leave with shining grins, designs combining geometric shapes and stones. His accessories have adorned Channel 7’s Victoria Block, Mario Lopez and Shelley Hennig of `Days of Our Lives.’
Berberian just wrapped up a season accessorizing `Superstars of Dance’ hosts Michael Flatley and Methuen’s own former Miss USA, Susie Castillo. He’s also enjoyed an `American Idol’ hook-up: one of his latest pieces, a stunning 113-karat blue topaz pendant necklace, was
slated for exposure on America’s top-rated show – until, for the first time in the show’s eight-season history, no female contestant made the finale.
`I like working with color, making larger pieces using gemstones that are more nontraditional,’ said Berberian. `I’m doing a lot of work with lesser-priced but striking gems like beryl. I’ve made some really cool pieces out of topaz and quartz – striking gems but not over-the-top expensive. I like building more substantial pieces that grab your attention.’
He’s captured the eye of Canadian-cum-Boston designer Samuel Vartan, with whom he worked for Boston Fashion Week.
Vartan, who has used the same metal belt designs of Berberian’s that have adorned the likes of Paris Hilton and supermodel Karolina Kurkova, said: `His work really does have a very Mediterranean cultural theme to it. Europeans like nice, exorbitant jewelry and his is very obviously tastefully done, but it can easily be the other way around.’
There are several affordable pieces in Berberian’s My First Gems collection, a line ranging from $95 to $2,999 (for one-carat ideal-cut diamond studs) geared toward children. But he’s quick to note, `It’s not kiddie jewelry.’
`It’s not necessarily small, either,’ he said. `Everything is set in gold or platinum; you can wear it your entire life. I’ve sold as much of this to adults as to people’ buying for children.
One versatile three-in-one diamond-pendant design features concentric circles that can be worn together or individually with just the yellow-gold or diamond circles. Sales of the ideal-cut diamond studs have been steady, he said, especially in graduation season, and Berberian envisions a long future for them: `Quarter-carat sets might be too small for a young woman. But they’d make perfectly matched side stones to any engagement ring.’
And Berberian is feeling the love: Despite the economically driven lag in the retail jewelry market, Elyse’s bridal business is going strong. (He recently ran a Jordan’s Furniture-like promotion, where if it rained on a couple’s wedding day, their rings were free; Jordan’s offered free furniture if the Red Sox [team stats] won the World Series.)
`I think it’s to the point where if it’s time for a young couple to get engaged, it doesn’t matter what the economy’s doing. If it’s time to pull the trigger, you pull the trigger,’ he said. `Maybe instead of spending $10,000, they’re backing off and it’s going to be $7,000. But all the boomers kids are coming of age. There’s a huge crop of kids getting engaged and married.’