Dreams To Reality is Charleston’s Personal Jeweler Service. Owner Vincent Yee focuses on making jewelry special, not expensive, by creating custom jewelry that fits his clients’ budgets without sacrificing value.
“How do I differ [from jewelry stores]? You get 100% of my loyalty,” explains Vince. “I work on the same side of the counter as you.”
While personal jewelers are generally associated with affluence, Vince centers his business around creating special moments no matter the budget. “If someone wants a million dollar ring, I can get that for them, sure. But if they want a $25 silver ring I can get that too,” says Vince.
Dreams To Reality aims to change the way people think about jewelry – changing the narrative from ‘jewelry: expensive’ to ‘jewelry: special’.
What Does It Mean To Have A Personal Jeweler?
At Dreams To Reality, the client is also the employer.
“There are some jewelry stores that try to call themselves your personal jeweler, but they do not do anything personal for you,” says Vince.
“I want to make you feel comfortable. So I will come meet with you wherever it is convenient for you. I’ve met people at their homes, offices, coffee shops. I cater to my clients.”
This also changes the typical narrative. Instead of being swamped by sales associates, having to avoid making eye contact until you’re ready, and being shown several pieces that they think you’ll like, Vince simply asks: what would you like?
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked in jewelry stores and a customer says, ‘I need a wedding set’ and the sales associate says ‘Okay come over here, I’ve got the perfect one.’ How do you know? You don’t even know if they like white or yellow gold. You’re just making a sale,” says Vince.
“[When I say] you get 100% of my loyalty, what I mean by that is – don’t get me wrong, jewelry stores want to satisfy you as a customer. But most [associates at jewelry stores] are only getting paid 1% – 1.5% commission on each sale. The majority of the money they’re making does not come from the customer – it comes from the store,” explains Vince.
“So who do you think the sales associates are loyal to – the customer or the store?”
Creating custom jewelry is a unique experience. Rather than focusing on the sale, Vince wants his clients to feel comfortable and confident knowing that their jewelry dreams will be brought to reality.
“I consider us working together towards a common goal. It’s been a really great philosophy that my clients have loved,” says Vince.
What Can You Expect From Your Personal Jeweler?
“Being a personal jeweler, I can do anything a jewelry store can do – I just do it without the jewelry store,” says Vince. “I even do more than what jewelry stores do.”
“A lot of jewelry stores can get you a custom design but they can’t create it,” says Vince. “I do all the design work myself. I can bring up my CAD program so you can look at the design from all angles. I work directly with the client to make changes in real time so they can see it.”
“Due to me having a random shake in my hands, the only part I must outsource is the manufacturing,” says Vince.
While he specializes in creating custom jewelry, Vince also offers repair and maintenance services as well as inspections and free cleanings.
Of all his services, Vince says he can’t stress the importance of maintenance enough. In fact, it’s the most common thing that the majority of people neglect to do when caring for their jewelry.
“It’s always cheaper to repair than to replace,” says Vince. “If you have a loose stone, I can fix it for maybe $50 [for example]. But if the stone comes out, I’ve got to replace the stone, fix the reason why it came out, and then reset it. That’s a lot more expensive than just tightening the stone.”
What really sets Dreams To Reality apart though, is Vince’s appreciation for what makes each piece of jewelry special.
“Out of all the people who have inherited or been gifted jewelry, how many have said ‘look at my $5,000 ring?” Says Vince. “Very rarely will they tell you about the price – but they will tell you why it’s special.”
“It’s the story that comes with the piece that makes it individually special. And that’s why I love custom pieces because it’s a piece that was made for that person. I think that’s a great way to start a story – especially for a legacy piece.”
Creating Your Custom Jewelry With Dreams To Reality
To bring your story to life, Vince starts by defining the style and type of jewelry you’re looking for. If you have a general idea of what you want, he’ll ask you to share some inspiration pictures so he can understand your vision from your point of view.
“Another way,” explains Vince, “is we can get together and I’ll bring catalogues. If you see something you like we can get that. But if there’s not something that’s perfect, we can take those elements and with my CAD program I’ll bring them all into one design.”
As he designs your custom jewelry, Vince will share drafts to make sure the design is moving in the right direction.
“My CAD program pops out pretty realistic images, which gives my clients a good peace of mind that they know what they’re getting,” says Vince. “I do tell my clients – if this isn’t perfect let me know because I can change it right now, but after we cast it’s going to be extremely hard to change.”
“When you say it’s perfect, I’ll do some research to get you the best value. I’m not always the cheapest price, but I’m not always the highest either. I’m not trying to break people – I’m trying to bring that specialness back.”
At Dreams To Reality, value breaks down to a combination of cost and what you get.
“After I get this image of what they’re going after and what will make this piece perfect, I start looking for a stone in that value range,” says Vince.
Vince also looks to make sure that gemstones are the proper dimensions, with no chips, and have the right qualities stated on the certificate.
“I will get the client what they want,” says Vince. “Everything I do is really about the client.”
The Dreams To Reality Goal
For Vince, true success doesn’t have much to do with the jewelry itself.
“When I present a custom piece, I do stage it in a box,” says Vince. “The whole time the customer is looking at the box, I’m looking at their face. And when I open that box and see the smile that comes across their face – that’s my payment.”
“If I could run my business just off those smiles and happy moments – that would be awesome right there.”
One of his most memorable custom pieces involves a recent client. With four wedding bands, an engagement ring and a broken diamond pin – all from close relatives that had passed – she wanted to combine them in some way. A way to carry those memories with her each day.
Through working with Vince, they designed a custom bracelet that incorporated each piece.
“That bracelet wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s not for everyone else. It’s for that one client and she is ecstatic about getting to wear that bracelet and feel her loved ones close to her every time she does.”
Another one of Vince’s favorite custom design project is reinventing family heirlooms.
“Every now and then a mother passes away and of course her jewelry goes to the daughter. Sometimes there’s an age gap or they don’t have the same taste. So what do they do? They don’t want to destroy it. They keep it in a box all the time and don’t get to enjoy what mom passed down,” explains Vince.
“When they meet with me and figure out that they can take the stones out and custom design a piece that will fit their style and then set the mother’s stones in that – it combines the best of both worlds: the mother’s stones and the daughter’s style.”
“It’s awesome to get to see the look on their faces when they see they get to wear their mother’s stones and be one with it.”
Looking Forward To Bringing More Dreams To Reality
“I want people to know there’s another way to celebrate special moments without breaking the bank,” says Vince.
As he continues to help Charleston create and preserve special moments, Vince looks forward to industry developments that will enhance the custom jewelry experience.
“I believe in education and if I continue to educate myself on new products that come out – sometimes it’s new technology, a new stone, or a new way to alloy metals together for more durable results – that will continue to make me of better service to my clients.”
More than anything, Vince looks forward to the opportunity to help bring his clients’ memories and stories to life.
“One of the keys to success is focusing on doing a great job. Don’t focus on rewards. I’ve seen plenty of people who have focused on rewards but didn’t do the job,” says Vince. “If you focus on doing a great job the rewards will come.”