NOSTALGIA | Elleard Heffern by Judy Goodman
A century is a long time for any business to succeed, yet that monumental landmark is what local jeweler Elleard Heffern is celebrating this year. Three generations ago, Elleard B. Heffern Inc. began successfully cultivating clients, and now it is even serving a few fourth-generation customers! Located in Clayton since 1972, the esteemed jeweler is now run by Christopher ‘Kit’ Heffern.
Originally named Heffern-Neuhoff, the business opened in 1913 in a downtown office building on Locust Street owned by Kit’s grandfather, Samuel E. Heffern, and great-uncle George L. Neuhoff Jr. They billed themselves as purveyors of extraordinary gems and knowledgeable jewelers. The firm also sold fine silverware, silver plate and watches. As trusting relationships developed between staff and clients, the jewelers were able to cater to St. Louis’ most prominent residents, Kit Heffern says.
In 1955, Kit’s father, Elleard Heffern, who had earlier bought out his uncle, changed the name and moved it off the street level into a third-floor suite with private salons. Miss Adie Giesow was the star designer. The business strategy evolved into more private, one-on-one sales transactions, and original items by international designers also were introduced to customers. Elleard was an impressive force, graduating from Princeton in 1936 and training to be a registered jeweler with The American Gem Society. In fact, he was a founding member of the AGS in 1934, and his was the first AGS-certified store in St. Louis. He also became a certified gemologist.
So, what was it like growing up in the family business? “It was always interesting, though not an atmosphere in which kids could play, of course,” says Heffern. But even after he graduated from Tufts with a degree in electrical engineering, he was drawn to it. Forty-two years later, Heffern says it’s still exciting. “New gemstones are always being discovered, like Tanzanite and Tsavorite from mines in Africa, or Paraiba from Brazil. Designs continually evolve, such as the new sliced gemstones. Trends change, like platinum coming back as a bridal choice and Chinese freshwater pearls rising in popularity.”
Even now, 100 years later, Elleard Heffern is considered among the area’s top jewelry retailers. Three of the region’s five AGS certified gemologist appraisers work there, one of them Heffern. The store also is known as a foremost authority on estate jewelry, and for transforming older pieces into updated designs. Like other enduring businesses, it has grown and changed over the years, and of course, always gone the extra mile – even to the point of making house calls out-of-state!
Here's to Many More! by Blaise Hart-Schmidt Ladue News, December 23, 2013
For high-quality diamonds, pearls and jewelry, many of St. Louis‘ elite have trusted family-owned Elleard Heffern for a century.
The company began as Heffern-Neuhoff Jewelers, the collaboration of George Neuhoff Jr. and Samuel Heffern. Samuel’s son, Elleard, took over leadership, before passing it on to his son, and current company president Kit, who says great service, expert opinion and integrity have kep the store alive for 100 years.
The changes in society and technology have greatly impacted the store. Heffern says that in the early days of the company, most customers were men shopping alone for their wives, or with future mothers-in-law to pick out engagement rings. Today, many women buy for themselves, or come in to create wish lists for their mates to choose from. Customers can also shop online.
“We‘ve always loved jewelry, but it’s always about the client,” Heffern says. “That was the theme throughout the decades for us. My father always enjoyed it, as did my gradfather. And it‘s continued.”
When my grandfather, Samuel Heffern and great-uncle, George Neuhoff Jr., founded Heffern-Neuhoff Jewelers in 1913, they did so out of a deep appreciation for the inherent beauty of gemstones and fine metals. They believed in offering customers only the highest quality jewelry and knowledgeable, professional staff members. The store quickly gained a reputation for both superior jewels and personalized service. My grandfather and his staff knew their customers by name and built many friendships with those that frequented the store.
When my father, Elleard Heffern, took on the leadership of the store, he sought out unique designs and items suited to our customers’ individual tastes.
We eventually chose to move back to a ground floor location and display our jewelry in open cases, but continue to seek out the distinctive designs and cutting edge style offered by international designers, which had always been my father’s love. More importantly, we strive to continue my family’s tradition of providing the best possible quality, craftsmanship, and service to our clients.
President, Elleard Heffern Fine Jewelers