Landmark purchases call for lifetime expertise. Raju Mehta of El Paseo Jewelers has spent 46 years sizing up everyone’s favorite gem.
By Lisa Marie Hart
Before he was a young man, before most people even learn to drive a car, Raju Mehta was learning the family business. Loose diamonds were the household’s livelihood when Mehta was growing up in India. He has been romancing the stone to bring resplendent joy to clients since he was 15 years old.
To say he knows how to source a supremely fiery rock is an understatement. “I have done every part of the diamond business except mining,” he says. “What I do now is the most fun part, because the people are very nice in this valley. They have really given me a great pleasure to work in the store.”
We sat down with Mehta at El Paseo Jewelers to find out why his clients love shopping for diamonds with him.
How did you work with loose diamonds at such a young age?
I started cutting diamonds in India, then had people cutting diamonds for me, and then I was selling polished diamonds. There were independent contractors who would come to us and we would give them a rough diamond to cut. They would bring it back to us, and we would sell the polished diamond to other wholesalers. I migrated to the United States in 1982. My brother and I built up a pretty big business selling loose diamonds, manufacturing jewelry, and supplying to retail stores all over the country. At one time, we had about 200 people working for us.
When did you come to El Paseo?
We have had a store on the street since 1998. (We used to be on other side of the street across from Armando’s.) We have a great following of customers. I have sold to three different generations already: grandfather and grandmother and their kids and the grandkids. I have people who walk in wearing things they bought from me in 1998.
What accounts for your clients’ loyalty?
Anything you buy from us, you can upgrade it anytime. And you’ll get 100 percent trade-in value for most of the things. We do all the small repairs for free and free appraisals. We give a lot of customer service, and our terms are very easy. If they are surprised with a gift and they want to come exchange, there’s no problem. We take good care of our customers.
When can they find you at the shop?
I’m here every day. I’m working seven days a week. I enjoy it. I won’t take one day off from the first of January. My next day off will be Easter Sunday.
What do you look for in your staff?
I don’t have any staff who came out from the jewelry industry. I like to train them in the way we work. I have 46 years in this business. You have to always keep learning, but I think I have a tremendous amount of knowledge of product, how to make it, how to distribute it, and how to take care of it. This makes all the difference.
Your store literally shines!
I’m a diamond person. Basically, I have played with diamonds all my life. I have sold a million-plus carats in loose diamonds as a wholesaler and done a tremendous amount of wholesale and retail diamond business. Diamond jewelry is our biggest seller. I have an affinity with diamonds, I grew up around diamonds, and it makes me want to continue selling diamonds. Our jewelry is not a trendy. We are more known for statement pieces.
What sets you apart most?
What makes us different is that we are diamond dealers. I have two brothers in New York who are diamond dealers, and I have two brothers in L.A. who are diamond dealers. And I was a diamond dealer. So I understand the diamond business from the bottom up. That makes us very different than anybody locally. We can do special orders, like a diamond cut to your exact specifications, very quickly.
You are also active in the community.
We are part of a lot of events and charities. I believe if this valley has trusted me with their business, it’s my responsibility to give back all the time.