Rapaport Magazine

The Joy of Jewels

It’s all about romancing the jewelry for Soraya Cayen, owner of Cayen Collection.

By Nancy Pier Sindt

Victor Velyan for Cayen Collection
When Michael Cayen, a builder, proposed to his wife Soraya, more than a decade ago, he wanted to give her more than just one ring — so he gave her an entire jewelry store. It was the perfect choice. Soraya grew up surrounded by gemstones and had spent 15 to 20 years sourcing and selling them to an international clientele.

Soraya was born and raised in Belo Horizonte, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, one of the richest mineralogical sites in the world that produces an incredible variety of stones. She “grew up in the gem trade,” she says. “My brother-in-law, Eros, introduced me to the business when I was 13 years old and I fell in love.”            


Soraya’s early career had her traveling the world buying gems and selling gems to designers and manufacturers. Still, she always longed to have her own retail store —“I wanted to bring everything I saw to the public and tell them about it.” She says she also noted a general resistance to lesser-known gemstones and a preference for traditional stones. “To sell stones that are rare and exotic, I try to learn all that I can about them and present the information to my clients in a simple way that they can understand and relate to. I believe educating my patrons instills in them some of the passion I have for gems. It also promotes trust and loyalty.”

For the jewelry-store proposal, Michael, who is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the store, and Soraya selected a small, 800-square-foot, freestanding space just two blocks from the famed Highway 1 in Carmel, California. From the beginning, Soraya had very definite ideas about exactly what she would be selling and to whom. “I knew who I wanted as clients so I designed jewelry to suit them.” The clients she envisioned were fashionable women like herself, who had the means and taste to put together signature jewelry wardrobes.

Today, Soraya’s client list includes a wide swath of the locals, as well as tourists. She is blessed with an “upper-echelon,
wealthier clientele, aged 40-plus, who are sophisticated and have high expectations.” As a result, she doesn’t do a lot of diamond engagement ring business, but rather concentrates on anniversary rings, in which she offers a large selection of styles. On average, diamonds range from 2 carats to 8 carats, in  VS to SI clarity and D to F color.

Soraya also favors fancy color diamonds, because they are “exotic and rare.” She explains, “I also love gemstones that get an important characteristic from what appears to be an accident in nature. As such, fancies fascinate me and pinks are my absolute favorite.”

Regular inventory includes a range of loose diamonds and some stunning high-fashion pieces. One of Soraya’s favorites is a pair of 9-carat-total-weight hoop earrings that can be customized by the addition of 4-carat “charms” that dangle from the hoops. She says she loves these earrings because they are both luxurious and versatile; they can be worn with or without the charms.

The store’s branded collections run more to “artistic designers,” with a selection that includes Krementz, Paula Crevoshay, Munsteiner, Susan Helmich, Ray Griffiths, Nicholas Varney and several others. “The cases in the store are mainly dedicated to individual designers, but if I believe two items from different designers are a perfect complement to each other, I will present them as such,” says Soraya.

“Physically speaking, my cases are very full but I always allow for some negative space between items and use different elevations to separate the merchandise. I also like to present color groupings that complement each other and create a flow that makes it easy for my patrons to select a favorite piece without being completely overwhelmed. I am really big on presentation so my displays are always being revised,” says the retailer. “I like the cases to look fresh and cohesive at all times. During a busy season, we might redo our entire display as many as four times in one month to accommodate stock shifts. It is a lot of work for all of us, but the result differentiates us from most other jewelry stores in town.”


Soraya’s approach to the physical store’s overall design theme was just as meticulously thought out. The interior, with its golden walls and artistic touches throughout, was designed to capture the charm of a Bavarian chateau. “I wanted a living room/salon feel,” she says. She credits the look to local interior designer Mary Lee Singer, who she admires “for her ability to create soothing environments that are elegant, comfortable and welcoming. The concept was to have a jewelry store that felt somewhat like a room in my home, a place where clients would be treated more as guests and less as simply ‘customers.’”

Window displays are different from in-store cases. “The merchandise in the windows is presented as I believe a client could pair it,” Soraya explains. “I mix the different jewelry styles we offer and present a suggestion as a jewelry stylist through my windows.”

This latter concept is also one of Soraya’s selling techniques. “A large portion of my customers are female self-purchasers,” she says. “They choose the pieces they want with or without their husbands.” She says she loves it when her clients mix designer pieces and put together their own look. In fact, she often helps them build their jewelry wardrobes by showing them how to combine different pieces. For example, a client who owns a classic diamond-and-gemstone ring is encouraged to pair it with a bold necklace or earrings from a more avant-garde designer.


Soraya’s philosophy is to buy and wear jewelry for enjoyment and pleasure, not to lock it in a safe; she feels that one should wear jewelry and revel in its beauty. She greatly admired the actress Elizabeth Taylor, who wore fabulous jewelry with confidence and ease. Soraya loves the story of Taylor jumping into a swimming pool wearing a diamond-and-ruby necklace just given to her by then-husband Michael Todd. “She was never intimidated by jewelry,” Soraya notes.

Apparently, this retailer shares that trait with Taylor. Soraya’s current favorite pieces include two wide cuff bracelets designed for her by Victor Velyan, both set with Paraiba tourmalines — one of Brazilian stones, the other African.  A long rope of South Sea pearls with diamond briolettes is also part of her everyday look.

Soraya says she loves to design jewelry, but no longer has the time. When she is not in the store, she is attending trade shows or sourcing gemstones, in Hong Kong, New York, Tucson and Las  Vegas. Sometimes, she gives her finds to designers to create exclusives. “I prefer to work with the designers from my store and I also enjoy putting clients face to face with jewelry creators.”

To this end, Soraya regularly schedules in-store trunk shows and special appearances where clients can meet the designers. At these shows, the client is able to see a more extensive collection of the designer’s work. It’s a benefit for designers because it gives them the opportunity to interact with the women who collect their jewelry. And these events are a great plus for the store because they provide “another dimension to the retailer/client relationship.”

Even in uncertain economic times like the present, says Soraya, women who love jewelry and have the means will continue to buy it, especially from retailers who understand their passion and offer them unique styles.  “Purchasing a jewel at Cayen should feel like attending a chic, casual and festive get-together, as opposed to a commercial transaction where I deliver merchandise to a customer. I love what I do and I want my patrons to love the experience of acquiring a jewel at Cayen as much as they will love the jewel itself.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - August 2012. To subscribe click here.

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