Rapaport Magazine

Big Diamonds In Boca

Boca Raton’s Altier has seen diamond sales grow stronger as professionals settle in the area or purchase second homes in the fabled Florida town.

By Nancy Pier Sindt

Altier Jewelers
Building on its history as the city’s first jeweler, Altier Jewelers has been a local institution in Boca Raton, Florida, for 52 years. Cutler Altier, third generation of the founding family and the current president and chief executive officer (CEO), grew up in the area and stays closely involved with its activities and citizenry — both locals and seasonal visitors.

The company was founded in 1960 by Joseph and Marjorie Altier. Their son William took over from them, and he was succeeded by his son, Cutler. The upscale shop is known for two things: status watches and big diamond jewelry. Altier is one of the few authorized Patek Philippe dealers in the country, featuring the brand in a newly designed shop-in-shop concept, as well as individual displays for big brands Omega and Piaget.

Diamonds and diamond jewelry make up a critical part of this retailer’s business, and Altier says it’s not unusual to sell stones of 5 carats and above. “It used to be old money in this area,” Altier explains, “but in recent years, there is lots of new money and the area has come alive again.” The change has been brought about by young professionals, who have either moved here permanently or have purchased second homes for seasonal use. The great majority of these new residents come from the Northeast and Canada.

The store is a freestanding, 3,000-square-foot structure located on the busy Federal Highway in the “downtown” East Boca area. It has classic styling with a white-columned exterior lit in the evening by pastel-colored lighting. The airy, Florida-style interior, with pale woods and large windows allowing in natural light, is centered by a large, five-tiered crystal chandelier. In 2011, the store underwent a redesign and opened just in time for holiday sales, saving its “official” grand opening for February 2012. The renovation doubled the selling space and includes a “jewelry bar,” where clients can sip champagne or sparkling water while viewing custom designs.


Diamond stock ranges from whites to yellows and the occasional pinks. While Altier qualifies that he never rejects a stone because of its clarity or color rating if it looks good and he thinks he can sell it, he says for his 2-carat-and-above stock, he prefers E to I color and VS clarity. For a large or well-cut stone, quality can go to SI. The great majority of diamonds have Gemological Institute of America (GIA) certificates.

Altier has an in-house jeweler and design studio creating custom designs that run the gamut from simple solitaires and diamond line bracelets to elaborate necklaces and cocktail rings. He also has a close relationship with a number of diamond wholesalers and sightholders who might make mountings for big stones and even finished pieces.

Big diamond jewelry is a strong category. “I’m working on a 13-carat stone right now,” Altier says. Another recent showstopper was a 28-carat diamond line bracelet made up of diamonds the retailer collected over the years.

Because of its south Florida location, the retailer’s business tends to have a strong seasonal pattern, but that, too, is changing. “It used to be that our season began September 1 and went until the end of April,” says Altier. “Now, it begins around December and goes until May or mid-June.”

Diamond engagement rings contribute a substantial part to the business. And here, too, the rule is center stones, usually in the 1-to-3-carat range. Sales are divided between the smaller sizes selected by recent graduates of the region’s two colleges and a 4-to-5-carat range for the second-home crowd.

The retailer actively buys estate jewelry, says Altier, noting that in this high-income south Florida region, not far from mega-moneyed towns like Palm Beach, it’s not unusual to have clients come in with “fabulous stuff.” The estate part of the business is handled by Cutler’s brother, William.


Tournament fishing is a big recreational draw in this area and Altier inherited a love of fishing from his father. It’s an expensive hobby, he notes, and fuel costs can tally up to $800 to $2,000 for a single day. Still, this outlet provides enjoyment for him and a boost for his business at the same time.

Altier began by entering local tournaments and designing such prizes as diamond-accented fish pendants for the winners. This participation helped pick up a lot of new business, he says. Now, his involvement with tournament fishing has entered a new phase. He leads a fishing team that competes from the store’s own corporate boat and sponsors a number of big tournaments in the region.

In addition to these outdoor activities, an active in-store schedule keeps customers coming back. Included are jewelry trunk shows, watch events with live auctions and raffles and charity fund-raisers that collect substantial amounts of money for causes such as the American Heart Association and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Once a year, the jeweler has a big in-store party and invites vendors to participate and show their collections. About 10 percent to 15 percent of the money raised at these events is given to charity.

Proud of his third-generation status, Altier, the father of three young children, says he hopes his kids will one day enter the family business. “It’s important for the family name to live on,” he says, “and anyone named Altier can have a place to work.”

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

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