The Storyteller

For the ultimate conversation starter, owner Ryan Ryan advises you need look no further than the offerings at The Jewelry Bar on El Paseo.
Photography by The Jewelry Bar

“When you’re sitting in a restaurant and you see a woman with very interesting jewelry, you get a glimpse into [who she is],” says Ryan Ryan, founder of The Jewelry Bar on El Paseo in Palm Desert. The boutique, opened in 2014, vends about 25 lines of unique baubles — including Ryan’s eponymous collection — all carefully selected so patrons can convey their own story through necklaces and rings.

“I really do bring in some off-the-wall, very cool, and very chic artisan jewelry,” Ryan says. Shoppers seeking classic white gold and diamonds will likely find their match; however, the shop primarily focuses on colored stones, mixed metals, and other details that inject a little edge into the expected elegance of fine jewelry.

“I think women are freeing themselves from the rule book and … being more adventurous,” Ryan continues. “Everyday [jewelry] can be fabulous. There can be an emotion in the jewelry that gets someone to stop and look at it.” Playful pieces at The Jewelry Bar can lean subtle — picture a pair of simple gold hoops adorned with tiny thorns, like rose stems — or function as an outfit’s unmissable focal point, as with a spiky lava rock necklace dotted in diamonds. Either way, they start conversations and cast the wearer as someone who is unafraid to stand out.

Ryan got his start stringing beads at department stores like Bullocks Wilshire and Nordstrom. “I started thinking about what I could do to give these stores something they really didn’t have,” he reflects.

The born-and-bread Californian has previously worked in film and TV costuming departments. He has outfitted actors on everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to Glee — Rachel Berry’s iconic nameplate necklace? All Ryan.

No stranger to the red carpet, Ryan befriended actress Katherine Heigl at a veterinarian’s office and bejeweled gowns for her red carpet appearances for eight years. After opening the Kardashian family’s original Dash boutique in Calabasas, he decided it was time to design a shopping experience all his own.

In doing that, Ryan reflected on good times spent with his five siblings, most often trading stories and snacks at the well-worn edge of the kitchen island. So, Ryan built a large bar at the center of his brick-and-mortar with the hope of re-creating that cozy feeling. “Women come in, we greet them. The journey starts [and] we pull out a tray and we just start picking jewelry,” he explains. “They sit down at the bar, and we build a relationship there. It’s a sense of home, a sense of comfort.”

By offering guests a safe, welcoming space to browse and be themselves, Ryan has cultivated friendships that go beyond the average client-seller dynamic. Recently, when a longtime customer needed a pick-me-up after an operation, she flew Ryan to Kansas City to host a jewelry shopping party for herself and 10 friends.

Another patron tasked Ryan with selecting the perfect gift for his wife, who turns 72 in November. “He said, ‘It’s going to be our 50th anniversary [this] same year. She says she doesn’t need any more jewelry. You’re going to come up with something that’s going to blow her mind,’” Ryan recalls. “I hung up just feeling so grateful. And then the hunt is on.”