From a jeweler’s point of view, the drive to New Jersey’s northern Bergen County is a typical snapshot of American prosperity: a well-spaced string of small, pretty towns with one or two mom-and-pops offering fairly consistent mixes of jewelry, loose stones, and gifts.
Then, for no discernible reason, in a town not appreciably different than the ones preceding, comes a store like Hartgers Jewelers in Wyckoff, with 3,000-plus feet of vaulted neo-French countryside architecture. The interior drips of that strangely attainable wealth that defines early 21st century America: chandeliers, lush carpet, case after case of designer jewelry, 50 feet of Breitling, Patek, Rolex, and other brands. Hartgers boasts the northeast lead in single door luxury watch sales, accounting for roughly half their business.
As with the other half dozen similar success stories I’ve seen, the answer isn’t in timepieces. In Hartgers, that’s in a smaller area, given pride of place up a few stairs at the north end. “Last year was big for diamonds,” says Jack Hartger, one of four brothers running the fourth generation business. Former 47th Street dealers, the family knows diamonds. And they know their part in the equation. “Watches pay the bills,” says Hartger, “but it’s a ring here and there, a diamond bracelet, a pendant, that makes the real difference.”
A very unusual difference—over two dozen diamond eternity bands—sits in two trays in the center diamond case. It’s the full catalog: bridal, fashion, stackables, sets; total diamond weights of under 2 carats to upward of 5; platinum and gold; shared prong, bar, and channel settings; rounds, fancy shapes, and colors, bands pairing diamonds with rubies, sapphires, or emeralds. Northern Bergen County is affluent but not showy, and while sticker prices are healthy, Hartgers keeps styling to a minimum. Half these bands retail in the $3,000 to $6,000 range, the others at $7,000 and up, but almost all are diamond intensive, SKU items, with multiple yearly turns.
The bulk of the truly bread-and-butter bands—topping out at 3 carats total weight—are from Dev Valencia, a New York eternity specialist known as much for well cut, well matched diamonds as their finely-wrought jewelry. “Shared prong is a best seller,” says Hartger, showing 1.90 and 2.75 carat total weight pieces. “It’s as safe as bar-set or channel, but shows more diamond and less metal.” The stones are ideals, or close. The 1.90, all F/VS, is priced at $4,995. The 2.75, G/VS2-SI1, stickers at $6,500. “I have to list a price by law,” Hartger says, knowingly, “and Dev Valencia prices for us at triple-key. But as our father taught us, over and over, when there’s a profit to be made, make it.”
Strictly speaking, however, these aren’t for sale. Unless the final stone is left out, leaving a width of metal (or sizing bar) at the back, you can’t size an eternity band. Any jeweler solvent enough to own his merchandise, like Hartgers, will see why this wealth of eternity bands is rare. Sizing is crucial to any ring, but more so with an eternity band, an everyday item where a slack fit will cause diamonds and prongs to rub against the middle finger and pinky. “Once in a blue moon,” says Greg Hartger, “a client with a size six finger will fall in love with a size six ring, and by that I mean an exact size six, but this is a special order business with five to ten day typical delivery.”
Very few eternities have sizing bars. It’s a purchase, seemingly, that consumers either commit to or not. For those who like the look but want to save, there’s always the partial eternities (half-around and three-quarters), and of course, three, five, seven-stone, and “Journey” rings. None of Hartgers’ eternities have the bars, making these two dozen-plus rings, in essence, models.