When Charles London emigrated from Poland to Glen Cove in 1923, the self-taught clock maker hoped to earn enough money for his family to join him in the United States. To do so, he went house-to-house selling his clock repair services. After working for a jeweler, London opened his own store on School Street selling and servicing clocks and watches. His Gold Coast mansion clients—like the Pratts, Vanderbilts and Whitneys—secured him with the task of winding 50 clocks per home each week. When the wealthy industrialists started asking to buy rings and necklaces, he incorporated jewelry into his store and London Jewelers was born.
London’s family arrived in the late 1920s and his daughter Fran spent many hours in the shop learning the jewelry trade. Fran eventually started designing jewelry herself and when she married Mayer Udell in 1946, the couple worked full-time at the store until their son Mark and his wife Candy took the reigns. “I worked with my parents and had breakfast with my father every morning at 7am for 41 years,” recalled Mark, now the CEO of London Jewelers. The combination of Mark’s business chops and Candy’s talent for design and marketing led to the explosion of the family business.
After opening a second store in Greenvale in 1980, the Udells had the formula down for the company’s future endeavors. Along with their in-house brand, the London Collection, and hundreds of marquis designers, the couple added stand-alone boutiques to their 1984 flagship location in Americana Manhasset. “We had amazing relationships with luxury brands,” Mark said, “so we opened separate stores with Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Chanel and David Yurman in 2003.”
Long Island’s premier, independent, family-owned jeweler is known for its impeccable customer service. Although their inventory has now expanded to include baby gifts, frames, crystal and even cigars (with walk-in humidors at two locations), London Jewelers is still a full-service jewelry store that will appraise, clean, repair and customize items. “We won’t turn anything down in the jewelry or watch categories,” said Mark, adding that there is an art to repairing each brand. “Whether it’s changing a watch battery, resetting a family heirloom or buying a $50,000 engagement ring, every sale is equally important.”
The family business extends to the fourth generation with Randi and Scott, who are both jewelry designers and VPs of the company. Randi worked with her mother in designing two of the bejeweled, million dollar Fantasy Bras worn by supermodels on the televised Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows. And Scott runs the TWO by London engagement shops, which utilize advanced technology that enables customers to research and design their own rings.
And London continues to thrive. The largest independent jeweler has stores in East Hampton (opened in 1996) and Southampton (2002), and in August, opened a new Manhattan location at the lauded Westfield World Trade Center shopping mall, which includes a TWO by London section and a stand-alone Roberto Coin boutique. In the midst of expansion and a prestigious anniversary, president Candy Udell spoke with Pulse about this season’s looks, up-and-coming designers and how London Jewelers is celebrating its big “nine-o.”
What jewelry trends are you seeing for fall?
Gold is the big trend. Yellow or rose gold accented with diamonds continues to be a focal point for us. Rose gold softens every skin tone and we love seeing pieces set with a mix of white, cognac or black diamonds. Sapphire also adds a pop of color. With watches, we’re seeing styles that are sleeker, diamond-encrusted, two-toned or with a blue face from brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Do you have any favorite fall looks?
Stacking great bracelets and layering long necklaces, mixing different styles for a more customized look. It’s all about balance and we’ll add interesting “casual lux” rings or earrings by brands like Shay, London Collection or Hueb.
Who are some emerging designers you’re excited about?
We take on new designers all the time. I love working with California designer Julez Bryant who uses pink and hammered gold with different stones. We have a new line called Walters Faith that has a very structural look using gold and silver. And from Italy there’s Vhernier, a company influenced by contemporary art that makes beautiful gold jewelry with added layers of color.
What are your best sellers at both low and high price points?
Our London Collection includes beautiful silver pieces that start at $99, including diamond locket pendants and bangle bracelets. We always do well with luxury brands and find that classics such as diamond hoops and solitaires are always popular, along with celebratory gifts like diamond anniversary eternity bands.
Will your Manhattan location feature any unique items?
We’re carrying different lines and we’re also working with the Women’s Jewelry Association to feature young, up-and-coming female designers every two months. The Manhattan store is going to be very accessible cost-wise. For the fall, we’ve designed charms of numerous city landmarks that can be hooked onto a necklace or bracelet. We’re starting these in silver and may elevate them to gold.
How are you celebrating the store’s 90th anniversary?
We had an open house party in June at the Manhasset location, which was lovely, but we’re doing events through December. There was a big party in our (remodeled) Watch Salon & Loft at Americana Manhasset in October for its grand re-opening and our anniversary. There’ll also be a cocktail party to introduce the Manhattan store this month. And we’ll have dinners with brands like David Yurman, Cartier, Chanel and Van Cleef & Arpels.