Wellington & Co. Fine Jewelry (505 Royal Street, 504-525-4855; www.wcjewelry.com) president and owner Tom Whisnant comes from a long line of luxury merchants. "I've been around the business my entire life," Whisnant says. "My grandfather had an antiques shop on Royal Street in the 1940s and my uncle has had a shop in the [French] Quarter for more than 40 years." While Whisnant says he has always loved antiques, he knew early in life that he wanted to specialize in jewelry.
Whisnant and his wife Brandy opened Wellington & Co. in 2003, aiming to create a unique, gracious experience for customers seeking antique, estate and contemporary fine jewelry. "Not only do we have a vast selection of items, we also have items in a wide range of prices," says Whisnant, a certified gemologist. "Because we're a small business, we have lower overhead ... enabling us to give our customers the best value for their money."
The shop carries one-of-a-kind and custom pieces in a range of prices, including a freshwater pearl pendant ($15) and a birthstone charm from the Baroni Collection ($55). "One of the biggest parts of our business is designing custom-made engagement rings for clients," Whisnant says. "We've launched our own line of [custom bridal pieces], the Wellington Signature Collection, which features antique-inspired settings that can be custom-made to fit nearly any size diamond."
Whisnant says many clients buy gifts of jewelry to celebrate milestones in life, including birthdays, engagements and anniversaries. Unlike other lavish trinkets, fine jewelry does not depreciate in value. "Because gold, diamonds, and precious stones are tangibles that hold their value, we are seeing more customers looking for investment pieces that can be worn and enjoyed and hold their value in a tight and uncertain market," Whisnant says.
As befits a business known for gifts, Wellington & Co. gives back to the community. It is active in local charitable causes, supporting organizations including the Preservation Resource Center, Children's Hospital, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Louisiana Children's Museum and WYES-TV, among others. "We feel that it is very important to be a vital part of our community," Whisnant says.