While many of Lake Tahoe's rocks are forming deep within the molten foundations of the Sierra Nevada, an extensive selection can be found under glass at Tahoe Diamond Center.
Located in the CVS center at Stateline, South Shore's newest jewelry shop opened July 2.
"We were pretty active for the first couple of days, with the Fourth of July weekend," owner Matt Pierson said. "Now we've got the celebrity golf tournament coming up next week; should see quite a few people."
For Pierson, opening Tahoe Diamond Center was the culmination of a longtime dream. He lived in South Lake Tahoe in the early 1980s and worked in a Stateline jewelry store.
"I realized that Tahoe is a great place to live, but it's tough to get ahead here," Pierson said. "I knew that I wanted to come back in my 50s and be the fine jewelry dealer in town. This is a 30-year dream for me."
For much of the last two decades, Pierson ran a wholesale jewelry corporation based in Michigan. After the departure of a salesman responsible for western states, he took over that territory, becoming reacquainted with California and Lake Tahoe in particular. It was during that period that he began scouting the ideal location for his store.
"For the last two and a half years or so, I've been patient, waiting for the right location," he said. "Being here in between the casinos, I would have never thought that would have evolved."
While optimistic about future development of the South Lake Tahoe business environment, Pierson acknowledged the challenging atmosphere facing local business owners.
"The local economy is tough," he said. "You always hope to have some local support."
Asked how he intends to carve out a niche for his store, Pierson was quick to answer.
"My deal is about price," he said. "No one can beat my prices."
The layout of his shop sets it apart from other jewelry retailers, he also noted. Tahoe Diamond Center's inventory is laid out by cost, with the most affordable items immediately to the right of the entrance and more luxurious items proceeding toward the rear of the store. He explained that most jewelry shops mix items of varied quality throughout their cases.
"I did it this way because I wanted people to be more comfortable," Pierson explained, describing a common situation in which potential buyers have selected an item, only to balk at the price and walk away.
"You come in, tell me what you're looking for, what you're thinking about spending," Pierson said. "Ok, now I've got you in the right case, on the right budget. I think this really helps people more than it hurts."
Tahoe Diamond Center will offer a wide array of repair and customization options, but Pierson isn't stopping at jewelry.
A self-described cigar aficionado, he has built a walk-in humidor in Tahoe Diamond Center, and plans to stock quality cigars at affordable prices. He also intends to stock Xikar products, a German line of top-notch cigar accessories.