US Luxe Retail Guru Soraya Cayen Shares Mantras For Success

Soraya Cayen, owner and curator of the high-end jewellery salon Cayen Collection, who retails some 30 leading international brands, explains what it takes to make a global mark.

If selling high luxury jewellery is an art, then Soraya Cayen has mastered it! Soraya is a bit of everything — a gem purveyor, jewellery geek, historian, and an educator. 

She has a gifted eye to spot talent. At Cayen Collection, situated in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, she showcases curated haute jewellery collections crafted by nearly 30 avant-garde designers and heritage brands from across the world — each one bearing a distinctive design signature. Her uncompromising stance on quality, finish and innovation has won her recognition as the doyen among the US retail industry. And recently, the New York-based Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) voted Cayen Collection as one of “Top Five Jewelry Stores” in the United States.

The Cayen Collection salon.

Cayen Collection has been voted as the top 5 jewellery showrooms in America. What is it that makes it a cut above the rest?

I think passion is a great differentiator in any industry. That is the guiding force behind Cayen and I believe it is also a driving force behind the artists that we represent.

Tell us more about your journey that began nearly 20 years ago…

My journey began as a child growing up in one of the richest gemmological sites in the world, the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil.  That exposed me to a multitude of incredible gemstones and gave birth to my passion for the jewellery world. I went on to work with designers and jewellery houses as a gemstone dealer, but always dreamed of opening my own jewellery salon.

I wanted to open a store with a strong focus on coloured stones, an easy approach to jewellery buying and a strong focus on education. The concept was unheard of back then. When I entered stores and looked at things from a consumer perspective I always felt overwhelmed and under informed. Luckily, I happen to live in Carmel by the Sea, a community that has always been very supportive of the arts, and is home to a lot of great creative minds. It offered me the perfect background to open Cayen Collection, 19 years ago in July.

Your in-house Cayen Collection redefines luxury at its best. Are you also the creative head of your design team?

I love to dabble in design. Our in-house collection gives me the opportunity to showcase gems I feel really excited about, and styles that I feel would make great staples in a jewellery closet.

High-end jewellery displayed in the Cayen Collection boutique.

You are renowned for introducing your customers to an eclectic mix of top-notch luxury jewellery brands from all over the globe, including Oscar Heyman, Victor Velyan, Fernando Jorge, Lydia Courteille, Tony Duquette, David Webb, Silvia Furmanovich, Goshwara, KC Diamonds, Syna, Mattioli, and more. How do you handpick brands and what are the boxes that you tick for selecting them?

I am jewellery obsessed and look at jewellery night and day. My first criteria is to find an artist who presents a unique point of view.  A true creator … someone, who may be occasionally inspired by other masters, but has his/her own unique “jewellery  language.” Once a collection piques my interest, we can then take care of what I consider the business side of it, which has to do with inspecting the actual quality of work and establishing a relationship with the designer.

Opal and diamond earrings by Goshwara.
Oxidized silver floral pendant earrings set with champagne diamonds by Syna.
The blue titanium parrot ring from the Marie Antoinette collection by Lydia Courteille is patterned with aquamarines, brown and black diamonds and blue sapphires.
The Cascade necklace by David Webb features rectangular and oval-cut Ceylon unheated sapphires, pear-shaped Colombian emeralds, brilliant-cut diamonds.

You have a penchant for spotting and encouraging talented manufacturers, too, (read Victor Velyan) and help them build brands. Tell us the three top qualities that a jewellery retailer should have to be as successful as you are?

All I can truly say is that I work very hard. I am passionate about the jewellery I sell, the artists I represent and am very, very grateful for the trust each of my clients bestows on me. 

As for encouraging designers, it is my privilege and duty to encourage anyone who has the talent and gumption to follow their dreams. I have had many mentors throughout my career and feel that I am honouring them when I pass on the gift that was once given to me.

How has Cayen Collection fared during these incredibly peculiar times? How did you stay connected to your loyal clients?

We made it! We grew through these difficulties and are better at our jobs. We were blessed to have the support of a loyal clientele and an amazing staff that was willing to do whatever it took to keep our shops going. We did whatever it took to sell jewellery. Added more ways to connect with clients, like (through) Zoom. We set up customised windows for clients to come and shop for birthday and anniversary gifts without having to enter the store. We dropped off and shipped customised selections for clients to choose from and even set up shop in the courtyard outside the store, for a client who wanted to have the experience of trying multiple items before deciding what to purchase.  Human ingenuity is an incredible thing and it was an amazing experience to watch my staff come up with fantastic concepts to keep us going.

Is online becoming more important than in-store retail?

I believe online is equally as important as the in-store experience.  There is synergy required between both mediums to achieve success in sales.

What is the price range of the pieces you sell?

Our price point starts at $1,000.00. We do not have a cap. I cannot place a limit on an artists’ imagination or the rarity of a jewel so our cap can only be determined by the desire our clients have to acquire the best and most unique jewels in the world.

You have a couple of Indian brands among your offerings … Do you follow any other Indian designers or wish to collaborate with them?

India has an incredibly artistic heartbeat. I do follow other Indian designers and actually source a large majority of our loose gemstones from Indian suppliers.

Outline some major quality control fixes that are essential to compete with global brands, as it could help designer brands who want to expand their footprints abroad.

A high level of quality is imperative for us at Cayen.  There is nothing as powerful as destroying a relationship with a client and selling a jewel that keeps presenting problems.

We must stand behind the product we sell and need vendors that will do the same. Our partnership has to be one intended on making our patrons happy with their acquisitions.

Our stance on problems is always “how do we solve it, how do we make this good for the client.”

You are passionate about imparting knowledge on high jewellery, gemstones, cuts, provenance, etc. I’d say you are a curator par excellence who doubles up as a jewellery historian… Your comments on engaging the client and helping her make informed choices.

I believe that is my true calling. To educate my clients on the beauty and rarity of gems, and to convey the spirit and talent behind each jewel we show.

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