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Jewelry District Gets Online Guide

November 22, 2000|Lee Romney

Tens of millions of dollars change hands daily in downtown L.A.'s jewelry district, but ask your average Angeleno where to go to buy gold and precious stones and you'll likely get a nervous stare.

The district, with its maze of retail outlets and reclusive high-security manufacturers, is a word-of-mouth kind of place. Now, a young Armenian entrepreneur has launched a Web site that aims to make shopping there easier and less intimidating.

So far, LAJewelryDistrict.com has put the inventories of nearly two dozen retailers and wholesalers online, and hopes to grow that number to 1,000 by spring. The site serves vendors, who can log on to purchase mountings, check new designs or monitor a law enforcement crackdown on Colombian theft rings.

It also serves consumers, who can peruse retail offerings. The site was created by Peter Boyadjian, president of Gemspot, Inc., which plans a comparable mega-site for New York's jewelry district and also designs sites for individual companies.

Boyadjian is aware that online jewelry retailers like Miadora.com have flamed out in the dot-com shakeout. But his site is different, he argues, because it brings traffic into brick-and-mortar retail stores. Most consumers won't buy jewelry online but the site allows them to shop, place a hold deposit on jewelry, then visit the retailer for a fitting.

The site plans to generate revenue through fees to wholesalers, and by selling close-out merchandise that vendors would otherwise be forced to melt down.

The site received 50,000 hits since it went up three weeks ago, although it has not yet been advertised, Boyadjian said. It has also generated phone calls to Boyadjian.

Among the callers: a Peruvian planning a brief visit to the district (Boyadjian hooked him up with appropriate retailers), and a Sacramento woman shopping for her wedding ring. Boyadjian customized a portfolio of six rings for her, which she reviewed online. The result: a $10,000 order, he said.

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