Bringing ‘Fire’ To The Family Business

| February 21, 2013

By ASHLEY ANDERSON
Staff Writer
The Voice-Tribune

As a bright, young 23-year-old, Benn Davis entered a business known to make women smile. Now, 97, the jewelry store owner-turned “volunteer” of Seng Jewelers is the happiest he’s ever been, according to his grandson, Scott Davis, current co-owner of the store.

“Ninety nine percent of the time it’s a happy and enjoyable business,” said Lee Davis, Scott’s father and fellow Seng Jewelers co-owner. “What other business can you be in that every woman is happy to see you?” Scott echoed.

A long history of success in downtown Louisville, plus incredible growth and transformation, has led Benn to his present state of joy. “He’s in the best mood I’ve ever seen my entire life just because (the store has its) own identity,” Scott said. “He started this store, and we wanted our own name and we wanted to advertise all in-house and do everything in-house. And all he ever wanted to do was make his own product that nobody can compare to.”

Founded in 1889 by the Seng family, Benn purchased the company in 1938, opting to continue the former owner’s name, while introducing his own relatives into the operation. Over the decades, his son Lee joined as the “scientist,” or gemologist, of the store, followed by Scott, the main jewelry designer. Lee and Scott’s respective wives also participate in areas of the business, assisting a staff of about 15.

Though it originally began as a shop selling merchandise including silver, china, razor blades and luggage, Seng Jewelers, today, is a full-service jewelry store offering custom designs made from platinum, palladium and gold, along with the Seng Firey Diamond. With a large manufacturing facility on the premises, Seng can produce anything a client could desire in any size and shape.

“Nature makes the gemstones, we cut the diamonds to have the most fire,” Lee said of the Seng Firey Diamond, touted as a “step above ideal” in the diamond world. Around 2010, Seng acquired the trademark and cutting technique of Eightstar Diamond Company, who originally partnered with Seng to cut the exclusive Seng Firey Diamond. With the acquisition, Seng could now cut the diamond in-house and move the Eightstar Diamond Company to its local manufacturing facility. “Our diamonds have more fire than any diamond you can buy at any store anywhere in the world,” Scott said with pride.

Benn Davis, Lee Davis and Scott Davis represent three generations of the family who owns Seng Jewelers.

Benn Davis, Lee Davis and Scott Davis represent three generations of the family who owns Seng Jewelers.

“I feel like my ultimate goal is (eventually) the only diamonds that we sell are our own Fireys,” he continued. “I guess to maybe take it out of the Tiffany (and Co.) playbook. They only (sell) their own diamonds, and I think that that would be appropriate for the type of store that ours is, the type of image that we have.”

Aside from specializing in ideally proportioned diamonds, Seng also provides stunning colored gemstones such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires from around the world. The company recently purchased a 130-carat museum-quality aquamarine necklace, one of the most unique and significant pieces of its kind in existence.

Jewelry offered at Seng varies from engagement and wedding rings to bracelets, earrings, necklaces, brooches and men’s jewelry. Seng is also a prominent dealer in period and antique jewelry, and the store is Louisville’s exclusive dealer for Faberge jewelry, Nouveau 1910 jewelry, Longines Watches, Hamilton Watches, Fortis Watches, Corum Watches and Seng custom diamond watches.

Services at Seng include jewelry repair, laser welding, engraving, watch repair, watch service, Rolex service and repair, jewelry appraisals, a certified insurance appraiser, gemological services, stone identification,  pearl restringing and custom design service.

“Control it and do it your way, that’s an important thing,” Benn said of his company’s self-sufficient philosophy. “(Clients) won’t come back to you if you’ve got what everybody’s got. They don’t need you for that. That’s really a key.”

“Back then, and that’s something that we still do, people took pride in their jewelry and jewelry-making skills,” Scott said. “Now, it’s kind of like the wheels of industry that you just churn out as many little cookie-cutter rings as possible, but we don’t do those kinds of things.”

“Whether it’s $300 or $50,000, it’s made with the same quality,” Lee added.

A view of Seng Jewelers in 1953.

A view of Seng Jewelers in 1953.

It’s this level of commitment to excellence that’s never wavered since Benn first took over Seng Jewelers nearly 75 years ago. And, while Scott and Lee see opportunity for growth in the future, they intend to remain a single store located in the heart of downtown amongst plenty of foot traffic, inside the same building Seng Jewelers has occupied since 1983.

“I like the fact that we’re so much different from every other store around,” Scott said. “You can see that in just about everything we sell, plus our diamonds are second to none. Our diamonds are more beautiful than any other diamond in the world, and I take a great deal of pride in that. … We’re just a regular mom and pop store that is lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.”

Seng Jewelers, 453 Fourth St., is open  10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information on Seng Jewelers, visit sengjewelers.com, call 502.585.5109 or toll free at 888.414.SENG. You can also LIKE Seng Jewelers on Facebook and follow the store on Twitter and Pinterest. 

Courtesy Photos

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Category: Business Profile

About the Author (Author Profile)

Ashley Anderson

Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).

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