A man with a sharp eye for detail, Richard Yaffin says that he usually can determine the value of a piece of jewelry, or a gem, by taking a careful look at it.
“I’m like my dad,” he said. “I’m naturally suspicious. My job is to find imperfections.”
Throughout his career, Yaffin has worked in the same business as his father who owned jewelry stores in Boston, Massachusetts and St. Petersburg, Florida. In 2006 Yaffin established Estate Jewelry Ltd. in Biltmore Village, which deals in pre-owned jewelry, diamonds and gold.
Yaffin learned about the jewelry trade by working in his father’s store in St. Petersburg in the 1970s, which he eventually managed when his father became older.
After running the business in Florida for many years, Yaffin decided to sell it and retire in 1999. He bought a motor home and traveled to various places in the country for a period of time. In 2003 Yaffin decided to settle in Asheville, an area that he had visited and found attractive.
Although he enjoyed living in Asheville, Yaffin said he missed being involved in a business enterprise.
“By the time 2005 came around, I was getting bored,” he said.
The next year Yaffin returned to the jewelry business. At the suggestion of a friend who knew the area well, Yaffin set up shop in Biltmore Village. He initially opened Estate Jewelry Ltd. in a section of Fireplace Antiques. His business now occupies a prominent building on Boston Way in the center of the Biltmore Village shopping area.
And Yaffin has an assistant, Stephen Frommel, who may eventually run the business when he decides to permanently retire. Just as his father served as a mentor to Yaffin, he is helping Frommel learn the jewelry resale business.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Yaffin primarily sells pre-owned jewelry, which he says is 90 percent of his trade at Estate Jewelry Ltd. His father, David Yaffin, owned a jewelry resale business in Boston in the early 1930s, the era of the Great Depression in this country. Many of the people who came to the store had lost their money in the stock market crash of 1929 and needed to sell their jewelry, Yaffin said.
In the late 1930s, the Yaffin family moved to Florida and established a similar business in St. Petersburg. In that era, St. Petersburg was becoming a thriving retirement community, he said.
To attract customers, both Yaffin and his father have relied on advertising in newspapers. Yaffin keeps a notebook filled with clips of ads for his businesses, most of which carry the message, “Wanted: your unwanted jewelry.”
Yaffin says he enjoys working in his business, which has a dynamic, constantly changing quality.
“Every day is like a treasure hunt… I never know what might come through the door,” he says.
In addition to interesting pieces of jewelry and diamonds, intriguing people sometimes come to Yaffin’s store A few years ago, a glamorous, well-dressed woman walked in, he remembers. Yaffin learned that she was the girlfriend of Billy Corgan, lead vocalist for the Smashing Pumpkins band, which was playing at the Orange Peel for a week.
By Sandra Barnes