Photograph by Emily Dryden
It’s hard to make a living off being a “hidden gem,” but that designation has been good to the Sandalon women. Sue Sandalon Jewelry Design is going on sixteen years in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it strip mall off Roswell Road in Sandy Springs. One floor down, Sue’s daughter Rachel owns accessories boutique Dora Rae, which just turned four. Thanks to word of mouth and compelling merchandise, both shops command a loyal following. Sue designs and sells her own high-end baubles, but her specialty is updating other people’s heirlooms—redesigning wedding rings, breaking down tennis bracelets and building them back up into chic rings and necklaces. Twenty-eight-year-old Rachel makes it her mission to stock the hottest and next-hottest designers, from Rebecca Minkoff handbags to little-known, eclectic jewelry lines Bora and Dannijo.
Sue and her husband, Udi, a diamond dealer from Israel, bought the bilevel, seventies-era building—which inconveniently faces away from the road—in 1995 when Sue decided to start her business. The shopping center, called Sandalon East, has been a second home to Rachel, who started pitching in at her mom’s shop at thirteen and opened a “teen corner” at sixteen. The humble exterior only enhances the effect of display cases lined with twinkling diamonds and gleaming South Sea pearls—just as the all-black outfits mom and daughter don every day set off the bling that coils halfway up their wrists or hangs in piles around their necks.
Though they dress alike and carry overlapping goods (Dora Rae sells a lower-end Sue Sandalon collection), Rachel has worked hard to set her store apart. Using a great-aunt’s antique sofa as inspiration, she turned the inside into a glamorous boudoir that drips with eye-catching jewelry, butter-soft leather bags, even a line of customizable cowboy boots by Black Jack. Her mother’s shop is comparatively stark, a place to hammer out serious—and sometimes emotional—deals. For one customer who’d lost his wife, Sue melted the couple’s wedding bands together and designed a new one. She also repurposes the tainted tokens of divorcées. “We’ll take [the clients] to the back and actually torch their gold with them. It’s very freeing,” says Sue. With that kind of service, you don’t need a heavily trafficked storefront. But Sue and Rachel don’t mind if you tell your friends.
Sue Sandalon Jewelry Design
5299 Roswell Road, Suite 202
5299 Roswell Road, Suite 108
This article originally appeared in our June 2010 issue.