Jewelry designer Pieter Andries waved a pointer like an orchestra director with a baton over display cases of dazzling jewels in his namesake showroom in Southlake.
“Our greatest reward is making people happy,” said the 67-year-old president and CEO of Pieter Andries Jewelers.
“We work for the ‘wow’ factor. The finished jewel must always have that ‘wow’ factor.”
Jewelry is a passion for Andries, who is celebrating 50 years in the fine jewelry design business. He made and sold his first pair of earrings at age 12. At 14 he went to jewelry-making school in Antwerp, Belgium – the diamond capital of the world – where he achieved the title of master goldsmith. Designing with luxury in every detail, as he was taught, he’s created high-end jewelry for kings, princes, presidents, sheikhs and emirs. For the past three decades his one-of-a-kind pieces have been wowing customers across North Texas and beyond.
“I love to work with my hands. I love to work and create. I love to work with people,” he said.
The jeweler designs and crafts each piece not only as an investment but also as a complement to the person who will be wearing it. His inspiration, he says, is always the client.
“It’s all about the wearer. It’s not about me,” he said. “It is an art to make fine jewelry and it is a greater art to guide someone toward the piece that will make them happy. The enjoyment I have is when a piece fits you and fits in your heart and in your mind.”
Andries has discovered over the past half-century that buyers are educated and want quality jewelry, pieces perfectly made that can be handed down as heirlooms. He doesn’t believe his fine jewelry competes with iconic designers such as Harry Winston, H. Stern, Tiffany or Cartier.
“Our competition is not the other jewelers,” he said. “Our competition is the luxury brands, like a beautiful car, beautiful home, new kitchen, a cruise – anything that has to do with luxury is our competition.”
But those luxury items pass with time, “so for lasting value and lasting beauty, they all come and see me,” he said.
The designer says his commitment to perfection in every detail assures that a piece has lasting value and is both beautiful and attainable.
“There’s a component in buying jewelry. Love is No. 1. It’s a gift of joy, a gift of love and yes, of course,” he added with a smile, “you have to have the ability to write the check. That’s the No. 2 rule.”
Fifty years of knowledge and experience have helped make Andries one of the leading independent retail jewelers in the United States. As a member of the American Gem Society, he is one of only 400 AGS jewelers to have earned the title of certified gemologist appraiser, the highest level of achievement in the jewelry industry.
One of his golden rules – “We trust, but we verify” – is to protect the “savvy jewelry buyer and make him a fan for life.”
“I’m very conscious about fashion, style, beauty and lasting value. We are never overpriced. Our clientele travels worldwide and they see what the value is. They see and feel that we are really the authority in the jewelry and diamond business,” Andries said. “It’s all about protecting the consumer with great value. That’s the key.”
A FAMILY TRADITION
Andries literally grew up in the jewelry business. He was born in the former Belgian Congo on a missionary post, the first of six children. His father had been commissioned by the Belgian government to mine gold and minerals there, while his mother served as a nurse with the nuns on the outpost.
The family faced many hardships. Malaria struck several times, and one of Andries’ brothers died.
In 1960, when Andries was 12, the native Congolese revolted against the Belgian colonists and missionaries, killing thousands of them. A local priest, Father Joseph Laenen, directed the military to rescue Andries and his family, saving them from certain death. They were flown to safety in Belgium, where Andries followed his grandfather, a jewelry designer for Belgian royalty, into the family business. He worked in numerous capacities – goldsmith, designer, gemologist, diamond and gem buyer, salesman and manager. Along the way he earned an accounting degree.
In 1979, Andries received first place in an international contest sponsored by DeBeers for best jewelry designer. One of his greatest honors was being commissioned to design and make special jewels to be given to visiting heads of state by the office of King Baudouin of Belgium.
But after a painful divorce in 1981, Andries decided to leave Belgium and the family business for America to pursue the dream of building his own jewelry brand.
“Here I fell in love with my wife, Marilyn. She has helped me build the business,” the jeweler said.
The couple moved from California to Grapevine in 1982 and started a wholesale company called HP Creations, manufacturing fine jewelry that was sold across the country to stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s.
Dreaming even bigger, the pair shifted from wholesale to retail, opening their first Pieter Andries Creators of Fine Jewelry store in Westlake in 1992. They built their current showroom and manufacturing facility in Southlake in 2000.
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
Most days Andries can be found in the store. He still draws by hand the first idea and concept for each piece of jewelry. Each piece is then crafted in-house on computers by a team of designers, fashioned in wax and 3-D machines, and finished and polished by another team of professionals. Each one-of-a-kind piece combines Old World artistry with modern-day technology. Nothing in the showroom is mass-produced.
“The combination of the classic Old World art with modern technology is wonderful,” Andries said. “That’s the part I’m enjoying.”
The 22-member staff adheres to strict industry standards and the showroom features a transparent pricing structure and presentation. Only one brand of luxury timepieces – Rolex – is represented in the store.
To commemorate his golden anniversary, Andries has produced a book detailing the knowledge and experience that he and his team have built over 50 years. He also will introduce a special jewelry collection featuring rare jewels this fall.
“You work for stability and continuity. That’s what we have provided here. I’m an extremely happy man. I’m enjoying the fruits of my life,” Andries said. “I am about art, beauty and most of all respect – respect for humankind and for creating beautiful things for beautiful people.”
Over the years, Andries has received numerous community awards, including Business of the Year and Citizen of the Year. He is founder, along with the Southlake Lions Club, of Southlake Charitable Foundation Inc. and co-founder with the Lions Club of North Texas Shield Foundation Inc. He says he doesn’t think about retirement.
“Retirement is not an option,” he said. “It is an obligation to transfer knowledge, wisdom and continue to educate and share with those who are willing to learn.”
PIETER ANDRIES JEWELERS
2525 E. Southlake Blvd.