Originally published November 5, 2017 by Andy Warrener
When Carats & Cents owner Adeel Karim moved to Tampa Palms in 2010 from Leesburg, FL, his client base was already growing.
The move not only put Karim closer to his clientele, it also put him closer and with easier access to both Tampa (TIA) and Orlando International airports, where he conducts a lot of his international travel. For a guy in search of the very best jewels around the world, it was an important move.
His physical store location on N. Westshore Blvd. is just minutes from TIA and serves as a showroom/design center where Karim hosts clients.
There’s no glittering marquee on the street, no gaudy signage on the building. The store is actually quite simple, subdued and discreet. Karim works on an appointment-only basis. There aren’t any posted store hours or pushy salesmen. There is plenty of inventory to look at, but Carats & Cents specializes in custom-made jewelry.
“Nearly 100 percent of our business is custom design,” Karim says. “We don’t carry (the standard) bridal lines; we want to focus on creating something unique for every one of our clients. You won’t find our designs anywhere else.”
And, that’s not hyperbole. While he does have several handsome pieces of quality jewelry on display at his store — he calls them “statement pieces” — he says that quite a few of those pieces came from the imagination of a client.“I work with designs that our clients come up with, along with my own creations,” Karim says.
If the custom piece doesn’t meet 100 percent of the customer’s satisfaction, it’s either addressed by a local artisan or it’s kept for display. “If a piece has a really cool design and it’s too much of a change to fix here, I’ll keep it for inventory,” Karim says. “If I don’t like it, I’ll melt it down and make something else.”
Minor alterations are sourced locally but Karim says his design facility is actually located in Dubai. It’s there that Karim and his partner and brother-in-law have recruited some of the top craftsmen and artisans from all over the world.
Karim learned diamond grading at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Diamond grading is outlined by the four “Cs” — Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. He travels the world seeking out elegant pieces and sometimes will track down a local artisan whose work appeals to him.
Karim often finds talented craftsmen working in sub-standard conditions for low pay. He says that his artisans are given an offer to re-locate their family to Dubai, where they earn better pay and work in much improved conditions. Over the last five years, Karim says he and his brother-in-law have recruited at least 10 artisans to their workshops in Dubai.
“Some of the talent you see when you go to these places is unbelievable,” Karim says. “Their skills have been passed down over generations. We have a concept that we want to support third-world artisans, educate them and set them and their families up to help showcase their artistic talents.”
He says the result has been the creation of some of the most unique, custom designs that can be found anywhere. Karim revealed a certain piece that contained 323 hand-set diamonds. Pieces are created from wax molds from either 18K (carat) gold or platinum, and can take up to 45 days to create, depending upon the complexity of the design.
“As a jeweler, the most joy I get is to see someone wearing the jewelry and they love it so much, they refer me to their friends,” Karim says. “I want you to have that feeling that everytime you look at the piece, it takes your breath away.”
Unique, Quality Designs
Diamond engagement rings aren’t the only items Karim showcases, either. While he doesn’t custom make them in Dubai, he carries the Lashbrook line of men’s wedding bands. Lashbrook creates unique designs borne from carbon fiber, cobalt chrome and even meteorite.
“Gone are the old days when a guy would just get a band and call it a day,” Karim says.
Custom designs include accents portraying baseball stitches, basketball leather, tire treads, even camouflage. Karim says he has several clients in the Tampa area who are prominent professional athletes.
Carats & Cents also deals in Swiss time pieces, including Rolex, Cartier and Patek Philippe. The store is not an authorized dealer of new watches, but Carats & Cents has a large inventory of used watches and everything they sell has a one-year minimum warranty and a five-year warranty on mechanical movement.
“I purchased a high-end timepiece from Carats & Cents and they are fantastic to do business with,” said client Ronny Kalash. “Adeel is not only extremely knowledgeable about both jewelry and watches, but also extremely professional. He applies his knowledge base to help find the best fit for you, works hard to find you a reasonable price, never applies unreasonable sales pressure and delivers his products quickly and in flawless quality.”
Carats & Cents has both new and used pieces and is an authorized dealer of Everest Horology products. Everest products offer a different look for your Swiss time piece, whether it’s a new band or a new diamond bezel. Everest products, “look like they came from the original from a fit and finish standpoint,” according to Karim.
With such a wide selection of luxury items, Karim could very well have a storefront brimming with customers. But, that’s not the way he likes to do business.
“When a client comes in, it’s confidential and no pressure,” he says. “I’m okay with clients not streaming in and out. Our customers expect an ambiance that is high-end and with an international flavor. They get the feeling they’re seeing pieces that would be found in an auction in Hong Kong or Thailand.”
Asian influences incorporate colored gemstones like peridot, but much of the work circles back to diamonds. Karim sources all of his diamonds according to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), which was established in 2003 by the United Nations to prevent so-called “conflict” diamonds from reaching the mainstream rough diamond market.
“It’s one of the reasons I was okay with getting into the business,” Karim says. “Part of my business has to do with giving back to communities, whether it’s in Tampa or Dubai.”
Karim’s humanitarian side extends beyond relocating artisans and seeking conflict-free diamonds. He also manages Tampa Bay Cares, a public Facebook group that helps with refugee resettlement, and other charitable causes.
Karim is active in the New Tampa community. He is on the community board of the Windsor at Tampa Palms Neighborhood Association and has been amazed at the rapid growth in the area.
“The growth in New Tampa has been remarkable,” Karim said. “It’s become an affluent area. I remember, years ago, it was cow pastures.”
As the area has expanded, so has Karim’s business.
“When people say, ‘I know a guy,’ I want to be that guy,” he says.
Carats & Cents is located at 1111 N. Westshore Blvd., Suite 105. For more info, call (813) 343-4653, visit Carats andCents.com.