Mark Silverman, owner of Matthew’s Jewelers in Plantation, Fla., spent years on the design and manufacturing end of the jewelry industry. Like his father before him, he gained a reputation for exceptional work – but he wanted more. He wanted the satisfaction of seeing the joy his designs gave the people wearing them.
“I like to design and see my customers’ reaction to what we do,” Mark says. “We’ve taken pieces that were left to people and repurposed them. A piece of jewelry doesn’t come to life until it’s worn and enjoyed. That’s what does it for me. Before, I would send a piece to North Carolina, and the jeweler there got to see the customer’s reaction and we didn’t – but we do now. I do most of our manufacturing; we import our own diamonds, and I travel to India. I’m still doing what I cut my teeth on. It’s the best of both worlds.”
The original name of Matthew’s Jewelers was Design Gold, when Mark’s father, now retired, established the business in Chicago in 1965. “My dad had a manufacturing partner in Italy,” Mark says. “He did designs in the States, and they were fabricated in Italy. He set diamonds here, and he distributed and marketed here.
“Dad had started as a colored-stone importer. Once, Mom wanted some earrings and they could find nothing at the trade shows. So he made them for her, and that’s how Design Gold started, as a manufacturing company.”
In 1979, Mark joined the company at 20 years old. “I was taking up time and space in college (at the University of
Colorado), studying business management with a minor in skiing,” he laughs. “It was a waste of money. On Christmas break, I went home to Chicago and said I wanted to join the family business.
“I got my GG from GIA in Santa Monica. I then went on the road for three years as a rep for my parents’ company in 13 states in the Midwest.”
The Silvermans moved to South Florida in 1980, building a manufacturing facility in Hollywood. They did business there until 2003, manufacturing for retailers all over the country with eight salespeople on the road. In 1995, they opened a retail store in Weston, 25 miles west of Hollywood.
“A few years later, I saw the handwriting on the wall that manufacturing was leaving this country, unfortunately,” Mark says. “I didn’t want to be an importer. I needed a second retail outlet for my own goods – we had an overabundance. I found a vacant property in Plantation and built an 8,500-square-foot building. We use 4,500 square feet and lease the balance to three tenants” – UPS, a hair salon and a dry cleaner, allowing Mark and his wife, Andrea, to operate without overhead. The store was named Matthew’s Jewelers in honor of the couple’s first son.
Meanwhile, the strip center housing the Weston store sustained major hurricane damage, and the center was slow to make repairs. Mark decided to close the store in 2005. “I ended my career with trade and decided to focus on manufacturing directly to the consumer.”
Now, manufacturing is done only for Matthew’s Jewelers. Most of the jewelry in the store’s showcases is made in a factory attached to Matthew’s Jewelers showroom. Customers can watch the manufacturing in progress via a large window between the showroom and factory. They can look at hundreds of unusual pieces in the showroom for ideas and incorporate different elements to let Matthew’s create a unique and personal piece.
Never a Day’s Work
Mark met Andrea in 1986, when they were set up on a blind date. They have two sons, who are pursuing their own dreams. “I told them, ‘If you find what you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life,’” Mark says. “One is a chef, and one is a video game designer – and they love what they are doing. The chef recently moved to Chicago. No restaurants were open because of COVID, so he’s delivering pizzas. This is a chef who’d worked at Michelin-star restaurants and had great job offers. He didn’t have an attitude – he has a good work ethic. And my IT son is working from home for a large publicly held company, so he’s fine.”
Andrea is the store’s marketing director, “or marketing genius,” Mark says. “She was in the medical field when we met. After we had kids and she wanted to go back to work, I said you should work here. She said no. I said, ‘Part time?’ She said no, then yes . . . and that was 20 years ago.”
One of Mark’s crowning achievements, he says, was winning the De Beers Diamonds International Award Competition in 1996.
“The De Beers award was over the top,” Mark says. “I designed diamond spurs with 18-karat gold. They were life-size. They picked us up in a limo for the airport and we were flown to Paris, where the spurs were featured on the runway. They are here now – for sale! I haven’t pushed, but yes, they are for sale for $68,000. You can wear them or put them next to your winning horse trophies. Most designs that win these competitions aren’t practical, but fantasy made into reality.”
Like many independent retail stores these days, Matthew’s welcomes dogs. Topaz – Taz for short – was a Havanese that served as the store’s first mascot, walking along the top of showcases to greet clients. Other employees brought their dogs in, and clients started bringing their own to visit. It’s a big part of the store’s warm and welcoming atmosphere.
“We have great people up front,” Mark says. “We have a great team effort with 11 of us here, and it works well. We’ll see what will happen to what we’ve built. When you enjoy something like this, it’s hard to give up.”