Many of life’s milestones are captured in jewelry: engagements, weddings, births and even deaths.
“Jewelry outlives us, and it gets passed on,” said Valerie Naifeh, jewelry designer and founder of Naifeh Fine Jewelry, which celebrates 25 years in business this month.
Jewelry is personal, and so is Naifeh’s approach to serving anyone who walks in her door. Some clients come to her to purchase a new treasure. Some bring her old pieces to be reimagined. Some simply present a loved one’s favorite piece and seek to preserve the past. Naifeh helps each person through a customer service process she’s finely tuned throughout the years.
Taking its owner’s talents beyond Oklahoma, Naifeh Fine Jewelry recently opened a second retail location at the Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho. It’s a destination Naifeh has frequented for both business and pleasure since 1999.
“Last September, my husband George and I were walking around the resort and saw that the jewelry store that had been here for 39 years was for sale,” she said. “I have famously said many times to many people over the years that I will never, ever, ever, ever have another retail store, but when I saw that sign on the door, I had an immediate reaction.”
The Sun Valley marketplace was lacking in luxury jewelry; opportunity propelled Naifeh forward. Opening last July, the new store offers the same jewelry lines and services found in Oklahoma City, while all repair and custom work comes back home to Naifeh’s talented design team.
Naifeh calls her initial entry into jewelry design, service and sales “a happy accident.” She was studying architecture and graphic design at the University of Tulsa when a professor recommended her for a job as an apprentice for jewelry designer Ann Garrett.
“I went to the interview as a courtesy,” she said, though the meeting landed her the position. “My very first day on the job, she showed me how to carve a very basic eight-millimeter wedding band … After about 30 minutes of working on this wax model, I was just flooded with joy. I remember just setting my tools down and sitting there going, ‘Wow, this is so much fun. I can’t believe I could make money doing this.’”
Driven by a desire to serve clients at the highest level, Naifeh established her own shop in 1998.
“After 14 years of working for other people, I just could not really provide the personal experience and service that I wanted to, and so I started my tiny little lease department in Balliets,” she said.
In 2002, Naifeh’s operations outgrew the Balliets space, and Naifeh Fine Jewelry moved into Casady Square. Naifeh moved her store to its “forever location” in Nichols Hills Plaza in 2019. Today, she is poised for even more growth.
“Things have gone so well in Sun Valley, the company came to us three and a half weeks after we opened and asked us to take the space at the other end of our building — and we’re going to do it,” Naifeh said. “So we’re already expanding, and we’re taking another 1,800 square feet.
This new venture — called Helios, the Greek word for sun — will feature gem minerals and onyx products and give Naifeh more space, more locations and yet more opportunities to serve clients in her own special way.