How a woodbridge and shrewsbury jeweler has stayed cutting-edge and competitive for four decades
by Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos BY Robert Nuzzie
When Lee J. Neves Sr. came to the United States in the late 1970s, he had a dream of opening his own jewelry business, a vision fueled entirely by a strong determination to succeed and a work ethic that gave him purpose.
“He came from a family of poor farmers and wanted to turn things around,” noted Lee Neves, attesting to his father’s resolve. “In Portugal, he began repairing watches and then moved on to designing and repairing jewelry. He wanted to make a better life for himself and to live the American dream, so he moved here and decided to start his own jewelry business. It was his perseverance that built this company.”
In 1977 he opened a small store in Woodbridge which he named Neves Jewelers. It was met with success, so he expanded to Perth Amboy and then Aberdeen. In 1991, when a location opened in the then-fledgling Grove at Shrewsbury, Neves Sr. knew he had found the perfect setting, as it were.
“The store was a major part of our lives,” noted Lee Neves, who started serving as president of the company several years ago when his father took more time to enjoy life. “I started working here when I was only eight, dressing in a suit and tie every weekend. During high school, I would come straight to work after classes and do homework after the shop closed.”
Neves studied business management and advertising at Seton Hall University before attending the Gemological Institute of America. His sister, Jennifer, who studied at the Rochester Institute of New York, also attended GIA to learn about the art of diamonds and stone coloring.
“It was an intense course of study,” said Neves, describing the rigorous training and education that both he and his sister underwent to follow in their father’s footsteps. “But it was a great experience that prepared me to properly run this business.”
Over the past four decades, Neves Jewelers has grown to encompass offerings from many of the finest designer names in the jewelry and watch world, including Charles Krypell, Dior, Tag Heuer, and Alor. Self-dubbed “New Jersey’s Diamond Center,” it features one of the largest selections of loose diamonds in the area, as well as bridal selections from A. Jaffe, Verragio, Ritani, Gabriel & Co., and Forevermark.
In 2015, the company sold in excess of 20 carats of one-carat and above Forever mark diamonds, earning the jeweler inaugural membership in its Carat Club, which recognizes top sales ambassadors from across the United States. Lee’s extraordinary sales earned him a seat on an exclusive voyage to the DeBeer’s Victor Mine in Ontario, Canada, where he and 17 other jewelers experienced the journey of a Forevermark diamond firsthand.
“It really was an incredible experience,” Neves said. “We flew into the mine and traveled down its one road, that is frozen for six to eight weeks each year. To see the effort that goes into recovering these diamonds was simply amazing. It took years to build this mine and to be granted access inside was an honor.”
The group experienced the sheer magnitude of the effort that it takes to bring one of nature’s treasures to life as they toured the open-pit mine site and process plant, where more than 5.6 million carats have been recovered since the mine opened in 2008.
“Yes, the jewelry business has changed since my father first opened this store 40 years ago. People have choices. They can shop online or at a variety of warehouse stores, but we are a family jeweler that puts a personal spin on each item.”
For Neves, it was the true culmination of the success that his father worked so hard to achieve.
“We are very passionate about jewelry and truly believe in our product,” Neves said. “Yes, the jewelry business has changed since my father first opened this store 40 years ago. People have choices. They can shop online or at a variety of warehouse stores, but we are still that family jeweler who puts a very personal spin on each and every item that we sell. The best part of this job is helping customers find the perfect piece for a special occasion. Our customers become our family because we are involved in so many milestones—weddings, baptisms, communions, confirmations, even first ear piercings.”
That’s why for Neves, there’s an emotional attachment to each item he sells and every customer he sells it to.
“That determination and commitment to customer service that my father had when he opened this business still exists,” Neves concluded. “We have a passion for the jewelry we create and sell, because each individual piece has a significant meaning.”
103 Main Street Woodbridge, NJ / 732.634.1086
The Grove in Shrewsbury, NJ 557 Route 35 / 732.741.7757