SOME OF WASHINGTON'S most respected jewelry stores are still family-owned and -operated. These shops survive by reputation, so you'll generally find honest, knowledgeable staff, a broad selection, and strong customer service, from custom design to repair.
B&C Jewelers, 3652 King St., Alexandria; 703-379-6010. This large, 51-year-old store is the kind of old-fashioned place where you can still find things like lockets, charm bracelets, and silver baby spoons.
Boone & Sons, 1025 Connecticut Ave., NW, 202-785-4653; 5550 the Hills Plaza, Chevy Chase, 301-657-2144; Tysons Galleria, 703-734-3997; booneandsons.com. In business more than 40 years, Boone & Sons is recommended for watches but also carries other fine jewelry. Some appraisers say there can be a bit of hype in store ads, but you can get a good price–especially if you're willing to ask.
Continental Jewelers, 1010 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-833-3366; continentaljewelersdc.com. For 34 years, James and June Gianforte have offered expert, old-fashioned service–they stand behind what they sell, and they do repairs. Check out the small shop's watches and estate pieces.
Limon's, 7909 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda; 301-657-8585; limons.com. This store, founded in 1920, specializes in traditional, custom designs–it's said to be superb with platinum. The owner's great-grandfather and grandfather worked on the Hope Diamond.
Lynn Jewelers, 1030 17th St., NW; 202-833-2500; lynnjewelers.com. Scott Engle now owns the shop his great-uncle founded in 1946, while brother Mitchell is the manager and mother Arlene tends the books. Known for its selection of watches, Lynn also sells diamond rings and other fine jewelry. They do repairs on-site.
Mangan Jewelers, 6649 Old Dominion Dr., McLean; 703-821-3344; manganjewelers.com. Mangan carries a bit of everything, from children's jewelry to colored gemstones. "You talk about finely cut diamonds," says one local expert, "Mangan probably carries the finest-cut diamonds in the area. It's on a par with Tiffany, maybe better."
Nupen Jewelers, 11238 James Swart Cir., Fairfax; 703-352-3552; nupenjewelers.com. In business since 1966, Nupen's specializes in colored gemstones–sapphires, amethysts, emeralds, and more. It does nice custom design and repair.
R. Bruce Carson Jewelers, 8 Public Sq., Hagerstown; 301-739-0830; carsonjewelers.com. This store, founded in 1902, carries top brands such as Rolex, Mikimoto pearls, and Hearts of Fire diamonds. Tom Newcomer is hardly a newcomer–he's a second-generation jeweler.
Shah & Shah Appraisers, 1001 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-223-6001; shah-shah.com. It's not easy to find–on the sixth floor of an office building–but in this shop, run by third-generation jeweler Michael Shah and his wife, Faith Pettit-Shah, you get attentive service and a great education. The selection is small but select and includes lustrous pearls, Skagen watches, and Pettit-Shah's delicate creations using such stones as peridot and tanzanite. Even in the office suite's fluorescent light, this stuff shines.
W.R. Chance Jewelers, 110 Main St., Annapolis; 410-263-2404; wrchance.com. This 55-year-old, fourth-generation jeweler–three generations work at the store–is where Annapolis shops for designers such as Hearts of Fire, Tacori, and Breuning. Sales associates have been certified by the American Gem Society.