STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY HUNTER R. SEYMOUR
Young Vermont entrepreneur Hunter R. Seymour brings phenomenal craftsmanship and honest, principled business practices to Manchester at Hunters Fine Jewelry
Like the atmosphere of his newly-opened Manchester jewelry store, Hunter R. Seymour is both approachable and refined in his affect. He holds court over the attractive, well-stocked display cases at Hunters Fine Jewelry with imperturbable authority, and his confidence is evident in every aspect of his professional presence. If you walk through the front door, you will likely find Seymour poring over the details of a custom project or sharing his knowledge of fine jewelry with his clients. Passing by the cases full of dazzling bracelets, rings, earrings, necklaces, pendants, and other tasteful treasures, his eyes light up with a glint of exuberant enthusiasm. Seymour’s deep sense of connection to the business isn’t only reflected through its name. It is also evident in his conscientious stewardship, his commitment to transparency, and the lasting bonds of trust that he has formed with his clients.
At 22 years old, Seymour is quite possibly the youngest business owner in Manchester, but make no mistake—he is an established and passionate businessman with over half a decade of experience in his chosen trade. After building a markedly-successful jewelry operation in nearby Rutland through a mixture of tenacity, transparency, and calculated risk, he has expanded his Vermont-born jewelry business to a new market in Manchester. The recently-opened storefront on Wyman Lane has offered Seymour the opportunity to broaden the scope of his custom jewelry services, and it has also given him a chance to branch out into a range of higher-end products. In the midst of redecorating his store for the summer season, Seymour took some time out of his busy schedule to share his story, his craft, and his secrets to success with Stratton Magazine. By applying his sharp drive and determination to his entrepreneurial vision, he has built a business model that is every bit as brilliant as the stones in his custom pieces.
Tricks of the Trade
The jewelry collection at Hunters Fine Jewelry consists of a varied assortment of classic, modern, and vintage pieces. Although some pieces are sourced from other jewelers, many of the most distinctive and appealing pieces in the collection are custom-made by Seymour himself. “When I’m building a piece, I want something that either contrasts very well or works cohesively,” he says. “Color selection and stone selection is of critical importance.” Although Seymour is open to buying fine jewelry over the counter from his clients to add to his inventory, he often works directly with clients who are interested in selling their jewelry to see if they can repurpose it to make new custom pieces. “It’s a big part of my business,” he adds. “For example, I recently had a client come in with a ballerina ring with a halo of baguettes, a halo of rounds, and a two-carat center. She said that the piece was dated and bulky, and she wanted to have it redesigned into something new while keeping the original elements. I used all of the stones to make a gorgeous slide pendant, and it worked out beautifully.”
When making custom pieces, Seymour makes use of Computer-Aided Design techniques (CAD). “CAD is very relevant today,” he notes. “Many people end up opting for CAD against handcrafted or hand-fabricated jewelry simply due to cost.” Seymour adds that CAD design also allows clients to see renderings of pieces before they are made. “Older techniques such as wax casting work well, but it’s not the most efficient process. In the end, I’m all about feasibility. I don’t mind making pieces that are ornate, but I’m not going to make a customer pay extra for something that isn’t necessary in order to make a high-quality piece.”
Seymour is committed to both economic efficiency and craftsmanship, and he wholeheartedly believes that those two things are not mutually exclusive. “Everything has to be high quality. If I sell you something that costs less than a comparable piece from another store, it will still be a quality piece. I will not sacrifice craftsmanship to get the price down.” To that end, the overwhelming majority of pieces sold in both of Seymour’s stores are made using natural stones. “I don’t deal in lab-created stones. If someone wants a custom, lab-created diamond ring, I will build it for them, but you will not find any pieces with lab-created stones in the Manchester store.”
In order to properly learn the tricks of the trade, Seymour has formed trusting connections with seasoned industry peers. They advise him on a collaborative basis and serve as unofficial mentors on his entrepreneurial journey. He has worked with jewelers that have been in the business for over 50 years, including a prominent jeweler in New York City. “He has taught me things that I could never fathom, including certain ways to tighten stones when they are loose without completely resetting them. He is a contractor for world-renowned jewelry stores, and I’m very grateful to be able to learn from him. He has an incredible depth of knowledge, and I have been able to apply the skills I have learned through him towards my business and provide my customers with greater value and service.”
Built from the Ground Up
Many entrepreneurs may claim that they built their business “from the ground-up,” but in Seymour’s case, that metaphor applies quite literally. Seymour got his start in the jewelry business at the age of 17, when he and his father built an 8 x 8 “tiny house” in their driveway in Clarendon and converted it into a makeshift jewelry workshop. Seymour bought some basic supplies and equipment, such as a tabletop bench, metal, non-precious stones, and a soldering torch. After becoming competent in basic jewelry making techniques through self-taught practice and online research, Seymour took out a meager $180 loan from his mother and began his entrepreneurial journey in earnest. “I started out with eight pieces of silver,” he recalls. “I sold them to family, friends, and friends of friends. I slowly built the inventory, and the business continued to grow organically and exponentially.”
While building his business, Seymour balanced his budding jewelry operation with his first high school jobs at Rutland Stores such as Hannaford and McNeil & Reedy. “I took all of my checks and dumped them into buying new inventory,” says Seymour. “All of the profit that I made off of the jewelry went towards buying new inventory, as well.” He also began working towards his business management degree at Castleton University while he was still in high school. Before graduating from Castleton in 2021, he opened his first showroom in Rutland in 2019. “I felt like I had hit the glass ceiling at my home shop,” he says. “I spoke with a local developer in Rutland, Joe Giancola. He gave me a chance to open up a showroom when no other developer would. I still have my showroom in a different, more prominent, and more spacious part of the same shopping plaza where I rented the original space.”
After opening the showroom in June 2019, Seymour deftly navigated the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic by selling jewelry through innovative social media live stream auctions. “I was able to grow the business through the success of the live auctions. I doubled my showroom in size and then I hired my Store Manager, Richard. He has a lot of experience in sales, and I have a solid base of knowledge in jewelry. We complement each other and work together very well.” Over the past several years, Seymour has continued to successfully expand his client base in Rutland, which gave him the necessary resources to branch out into a new market in Manchester. “We opened in November of 2022, and it’s been a great experience so far. This store is very different from the Rutland store. We have higher-end product here, and Manchester is a very different market.”
Before opening the store, Seymour did extensive research, and he saw untapped potential in Manchester’s market. “I have a good array of fine color pieces that makes my inventory stand out from the rest. I sell many diamond pieces, but I have 25 feet of showcases in Rutland that are all color pieces.” Seymour brought his colorful range of quality jewelry pieces to Manchester, as well as his comprehensive custom design services. “Everyone does custom design,” he says, “but not everyone does it like I do. I sit down with the clients, I consult with them extensively, we sketch it, and we collaborate through a transparent process. When they get the piece at the end, it is exactly what they expected, and it is a high-quality piece.”
The Future is Bright
Moving forward, Seymour is looking to double down on his promise to provide honest, unpretentious, and pressure-free service to his clients in both Manchester and Rutland. “I don’t force anyone to buy anything. I lay out the facts and let people make their own decisions.” Seymour shares that his past experiences at other jewelry stores bolstered his awareness of proper sales etiquette. “When I was younger, I went to a jewelry store and asked if they had a certain type of watch, and they replied in a condescending and dismissive way. I turned around and walked straight out of the store. My clients will never have that experience. I prioritize being honest, direct, and working with my customers at every price point. I have pieces that are in the $500 range, and I have others that are $40,000. I like to say that we can make anything you want at any budget within reason. I put my name on the line with every piece that I sell, so I never compromise on quality, principles, or integrity.”
As he continues to build up his inventory and clientele in Manchester, Seymour remains open to what the future will bring.
“A good business is flexible and adapts to challenges,” he notes. “My experiences during the pandemic showed me that it’s always possible to find new growth by pivoting and expanding through new strategies. I’m looking forward to expanding my bridal selection and building out the branch in Rutland, and potentially moving more into wholesale brokering and stone sourcing. It would allow me to provide better prices for my customers and improve my selection in both stores.”
Although Seymour finds ample fulfillment in growing his businesses, he finds the most joy in educating his customers about the finer points of jewelry. “I love teaching my clients new things. My best customer knew a lot about jewelry when we first met, but she didn’t know about natural pink diamonds, Paraíba Tourmaline, Alexandrite, or Pakistani Peridot. Being able to talk with people, expand their knowledge, and build my relationships with them brings a new dimension to the overall experience on both ends. Anyone can sell you an expensive piece of jewelry, but being able to change someone’s perspective on the craft behind it is truly priceless.”
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