A King Street Gem: Up Close and Personal with Rhett Outten of Croghan’s Jewel Box

tsg-croghans-pebble-stone-ring While we’re not about to quit our day jobs just yet, we admit that working in a jewelry store has always sounded appealing. Being surrounded by beautiful things, helping people select gifts for special occasions, learning about the craftsmanship involved in creating a piece…the job certainly has its perks. Speaking with Rhett Outten, co-owner of Croghan’s Jewel Box, only confirmed our suspicions that the profession is worthy of dream-job status—especially when the establishment in which you spend your days happens to be the oldest family-owned jewelry store in Charleston, South Carolina.

tsg-croghans-silver-trophy-tulips Started more than 100 years ago by Outten’s grandfather, William Croghan, who studied hand-engraving in Philadelphia and served as an apprentice, Croghan’s is a jewel box of a shop located on Charleston’s vibrant King Street. Housed in a building built in 1790s, it is charming inside and out, and a destination for clients whose families have been coming to Croghan’s for generations as well as the College of Charleston students who pop in for the occasional gift.

tsg-croghans-past While today Croghan’s is a bustling shop, the store wasn’t always quite so lively. Describing the early days when her grandfather would go to work and sit at his bench making jewelry, Outten says, “It was a laid-back little place.” It was so laid back, in fact, that Outten’s grandfather closed every day at 2 o’clock and took whoever was in the store home for lunch with him to her grandmother. “Sometimes they’d reopen,” Outten says, “Sometimes they wouldn’t.”

It wasn’t until Outten’s mother, Mary, started working at Croghan’s after she graduated from college that it became more of a retail destination. A journalism major, she had no inclination toward jewelry making, but knew how to transform it into a store. Outten and her sister, Mariana, eventually joined the family business as well, and recently Mariana’s daughters, Kathleen and Mini, have been brought into the fold.

tsg-croghans-gold-bug The arrival of the fourth generation has brought new energy—and new jewelry lines—to Croghan’s. At her mother’s suggestion, Mini, who majored in art at Clemson and interned with the Met in New York City post-graduation, designed a Charleston-inspired jewelry line soon after returning to her hometown. The first piece she created was comprised of little cockroaches lined up in the shape of a cross. Outten explains, “Cockroaches are everywhere down here, and we’re called the Holy City because no buildings are taller than our steeples, so we have this beautiful skyline of steeples. She said, ‘You look up and see a cross, and you look down and see cockroaches, and, you know, we’re all god’s creatures.’” Outten named the line the Goldbug Collection, a reference to the Edgar Allan Poe short story “The Gold-Bug,” which the author wrote while stationed on Sullivan’s Island, a barrier island not far from Charleston.

tsg-croghans-shopping In addition to influencing jewelry designs, Charleston and has kept Outten and her family inspired—and in business—over the years and through tough economic times. ““We love where we live. I get inspired in Charleston just waking up in the morning and looking outside. The streets are bumpy and the trees are old and it’s just got such a personality. We have the best customers in the world, and they keep us inspired. There’s always a big project going on, and it’s just fun to get up and go to work every day because there’s always something new happening.”

That “something new” can be any number of wonderful things—fashioning a beautiful pin out of two high school sweethearts’ high school rings as a 50th anniversary gift. “We engraved their names and date and we created this beautiful pin out of their two high school rings, and you know, you would have thought we had silverplated the Taj Mahal,” Outten recalls. “That was just so fun to be a part of. The value of those things is not much, but the value to them is huge.” Other recent projects include transforming a diamond row bracelet a woman inherited from her mother into three modern-style bangles for her daughters, and remaking engagement rings that her grandfather made in his generation that had been reset in yellow gold in the 80s and are now being reset back into platinum.

tsg-croghans-diamonds Speaking of engagement rings, Croghan’s has created a space on the second floor of their shop that is set up to look like somebody’s dining room (except that it happens to contain a microscope gem lab) where men can contemplate their choices in a quiet environment away from the hustle and bustle of the downstairs store. As a bonus, a fire escape that goes up to the back door allows clients to arrive and depart private meetings undetected.

tsg-croghans-rings-and-silver Clandestine meetings to pick out diamonds, beautiful cuffs adorned with gold bugs, one-of-a-kind antique jewelry and silver pieces that have such soul…if this all sounds almost too good to be true, Outten might agree with you. “Selling jewelry? Are you kidding me? We’re surrounded by incredibly beautiful stuff every day, all day. And none of us take it for granted. We just feel really blessed.”

15 Favorites from Croghans

1. Estate Citrine and Diamond Earrings  //  2. Hand engraved antique bangle  //  3. Oval Diamond Ring with halo  //  4. Goldbug Stud Set  //  5. Single Stone Engraved Diamond Band  //  6. Estate Gold filled fob with Initials  //  7. Emerald and Diamond Ring  //  8. Hammered disc drop earrings  //  9. Estate Sterling Mini Pitcher  //  10. Emerald Cut diamond Ring  //  11. Crystal Fan Earrings  //  12. Diamond and Sapphire 3 across ring  //  13. Sterling Silver Diamond Etruscan Bangle  //  14. Estate Chrysoprase Fob  //  15. Sterling estate friendship trophy c. 1873

Croghan’s Jewel Box // Charleston, SC // 843.723.3594

 

May
7
2015

Heartfelt Gifts for Mom

The Scout Guide: Mother's Day Gift Guide

Mothers are deserving of appreciation every day, but this Sunday offers the opportunity for a truly thoughtful and special celebration. For those in need of inspiration for a last-minute gift for Mom, we’re pleased to present a few of our favorite options from the TSG network:

TSG-mothers-day-2015

Clockwise from top left: For moms who like to spend time in the garden, a French faience blue-and-white pot from Greensboro’s Caroline Faison Antiques will dress up any outdoor space. // Speaking of mothers with green thumbs, a great local garden center like Palm Beach’s Amelia’s SmartyPlants is a wonderful place to find gifts that will keep on giving (and growing). // A bottle of rose is a lovely way to say “I love you.” Those in Knoxville can visit Corks Wine and Spirits to make a selection. // Show mom she’s a star by gifting her with a stackable 18K yellow gold and diamond star movable bead bracelet from Hyde Park Jewelers in Denver. // A gorgeous coffee table book like Hunt Slonem’s When Art Meets Design, available from Houston’s Biscuit Home, is the gift of inspiration and eye candy all in one impressive package. // Add a sophisticated sparkle to this Mother’s Day by presenting your parent with a pair of pearl and oaxaca blossom earrings from Charleston’s Hampden. // An enduring gift she’ll be sure to appreciate: “Misty Day in the Fields” by Charlottesville-based artist Isabelle Abbot. // Pretty and practical, you can’t go wrong with an Axis Satchel from Austin’s Finell Co. // A handwritten note from the heart can be the best present—especially when penned on a “Best Mom Ever” card from Minneapolis’s Brown Ink. // Oh so stylish and as comfortable as a slipper, a silver Bottalato Loafer from Marissa Collections in Naples will surely make Mom smile. // Every woman deserves a fabulous hat, and the Rosie Assoulin one above, available from Raleigh’s Vermillion, is guaranteed to be Mom’s new favorite accessory.

May
6
2015

Scouted: Mather Side Table

Scouted: Mather Side Tabel

We love mixing the old with the new, so this side table is right up our alley. Crafted by Cleveland-based Rustbelt Reclamation, which makes their products using locally salvaged materials, it combines contemporary design with high-quality wood harvested from structures bound for demolition. Measuring 18” x 18” x 21.5,” the made-to-order table gives new life to pieces of structures from the past and will look lovely beside a bed for many years to come. 

Rustbelt Reclamation  //  Cleveland, OH  //  855.641.1919

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May
4
2015

May Loves

Seven Things we love about May

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.”
—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

It’s difficult to select a favorite month, but May could easily take the top honors. A time of exquisite transition in nature, it also marks the start of a season of new beginnings. Graduations, weddings, getting ready for the change in routine that summer inevitably brings…May can feel like thirty-one days of excitement building, set against a backdrop of unbelievable natural beauty.

 

7 things we love about May 1. Monogrammed Slipcovers. Pretty and personalized monogrammed slipcovers are an elegant way to give furniture new life. Leontine Linens’s swoon-worthy designs are sure to inspire.

2. Men’s Aviators. As far as men’s accessories go, we find it hard t0 resist a good pair of aviators and Onward Reserve has great options that will add sophisticated style to any outfit.

3. Contemporary Consoles. Sculptural and sleek, this console from Bremermann Designs will add a contemporary vibe to any room or entryway.

4. Bombshell Blowouts. Timeless and chic, this spring we’re looking to the talented team at Wow Bar for the perfect bombshell coiffure.

5. High-rise Flared Jeans. The season’s ’70s-inspired pieces are a must-have wardrobe addition and these flared jeans from Vermillion will elevate even the simplest look to a new level of chic.

6. Fancy Fungi. Last weekend, TSG Co-founder Susie Matheson went foraging for morels and brought back an impressive collection. Some of our favorite looks are comprised of natural elements and unique mushroom prints available from And George are sure to add just the right amount of nature-inspired decor.

7. Mint Julep Popsicles. The Kentucky Derby will over before we know it, but the iconic mint julep is here for the season. Euan Watson’s “The Derby Boom Boom” recipe is our spring drink of choice!

May
1
2015

What to Drink on Derby Day

What to Drink on Derby Day This Saturday, the 141st Kentucky Derby will take place at Churchill Downs, and whether you’ll be cheering on the horses in person or watching the thoroughbreds race across a screen, chances are you’ll be sipping the Derby drink of choice: the mint julep.  While we love a classic cocktail, we’re always intrigued when they’re prepared with a unique and modern twist. So when our TSG Louisville editors informed us that Euan Watson, mixologist at their city’s acclaimed Bistro 1860, had created a concoction that was a finalist in this year’s Four Roses Bourbon Mint Julep Recipe Contest, we had to try it—and it did not disappoint.

THE Derby Boom Boom

2 oz. Four Roses Bourbon
1/2 oz. Pimm’s no.1
1/2 oz. brown sugar simple syrup
2 dashes rhubarb bitters
Crushed ice
1 silver mint julep cup
2 sprigs of mint

Muddle 1 sprig of mint (8-10 leaves) inside julep cup, making sure to cover all surface area inside. Add crushed ice.
Add bitters, simple syrup, Pimm’s, and, lastly, bourbon. Top off with crushed ice. Add mint for garnish. Sip and enjoy.

This sophisticated yet unfussy take on a typical mint julep is wonderfully refreshing. We enjoyed ours in TSG co-founder Susie Matheson’s engraved silver julep cups, and reading the inscriptions while sipping made the cocktails feel even more special and steeped in tradition.

For those not lucky enough to be in Kentucky this weekend, we highly recommend putting on a fabulous hat and mixing this delicious Derby drink before tuning in to “the fastest two minutes in sports.”

 Bistro 1860 // Louisville, KY // 502.618.1745

Apr
30
2015

SCOUTED: Children’s Ikat Aztec Jacket

SCOUTED: Children's Ikat Aztec Jacket from Tiny in Charlotte Pink, patterned, and the perfect weight for a warm spring day, the only thing we don’t love about this jacket is that it doesn’t come in our size. To complete the outfit, the experts at children’s boutique Tiny recommend pairing it with a floral top and pants and quilted pink purse, which sounds like a winning ensemble to us! Call and order this adorable piece for your little one today.

Tiny  //  Charlotte, NC  //  704.900.5776

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Apr
28
2015