M.S. Rau, which has been operating in New Orleans’ picturesque French Quarter for 109 years, is widely considered to be one of the country’s foremost antique and vintage jewelry sellers (the company also deals in antiques and fine art). Now, at the start of the holiday shopping season, the company is debuting an undeniably swanky store renovation.
The transformed shop is the result of three years of planning, before construction even began earlier this year. Designed by architectural firm Office of Jonathan Tate and Truitt Brand Design, the revamped 8,500-square-foot space spans two floors in an historic building at 630 Royal St.
Step inside, and you’re greeted with luxe brown marble walls, gray marble tiles, curved display cases made in Italy from rich brown woods, bespoke chandeliers, and a stunning glass vault positioned in the center of the space. The feeling is warm and upscale, the perfect environment for the company’s mix of big-ticket vintage and antique jewels. “We want to have great jewels and we wanted the gallery’s atmosphere to match our jewels,” says Bill Rau, the shop’s third generation owner and CEO.
As part of the celebration, the store is hosting an exhibition, Crowning Jewels, that features a selection of ultra-rare pieces, including a diamond and onyx ring owned by Elvis ($32,500) and a Scorpio symbol necklace Prince wore ($45,000). The redesigned store also features an extensive array of pieces by A+ brands, including JAR, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany & Co., as well as a selection of high-carat gemstones from notable mines.
Some of Rau’s favorite pieces in the store right now include a David Webb cuff that features a 200 ct. aquamarine ($285,000); enamel cufflinks that once belonged to Edward, Duke of Windsor, worth $88,500; and an extraordinary Kashmiri Sapphire and Golconda diamond ring, valued at $9.8 million.
“We have an advantage because we also sell art and antiques, so we’re in the secondary market all the time,” said Rau, noting how the store acquires these rare pieces. “It’s a different sourcing model, but it’s much more rewarding.”
The CEO adds that, “business has been really good recently,” and that he’s confident the upwards trend will continue through the holidays and 2022. But as a business owner in New Orleans, which has suffered several business-quashing disasters in its recent history, including Hurricane Katrina, he tries not to predict the future. “Things don’t always stay booming, and it always stops raining,” he says. “I take every day as it comes.”
Top photo: Circular cases with dramatic height bring old-school glamour to the revamped shop (all photos courtesy of M.S. Rau)