Starting next week I’ll show you Ketchikan, which was the substitute for Sitka on Voyage 2 due to expected weather. As for today, it’s Fun Photo Friday. And, as with last week, this week displays nine favorites from our back-to-back voyages to Skagway during the off-season.
Tag Archives: Skagway
Fun Photo Friday — Off-Season Skagway Favorites 2
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Cruising Alaska Off-Season — Skagway and Our Favorite Jeweler
Today I’m going to do something that I seldom do beyond the occasional restaurant review or, in the case of our hideous experience with a certain innkeeper in Talkeetna and a related and equally hideous response from TripAdvisor (Be forewarned: don’t trust anything you read on that corrupt site), the very rare lodging review. Today, further down the page, I’m going to review a jewelry store. Not just any jewelry store, but rather a tourist destination jewelry store (I know; alarm bells are going off right now, but you’re going to be surprised by this place)
That restaurant pictured above had some really neat, quirky decorations outside. Alas, it was closed for the off-season, so it was unavailable during both Voyage 1 and Voyage 2. I can imagine it would be a good alternative to a shipboard lunch, as it’s only about 1,600 feet/485 meters from where we disembarked from Ovation of the Seas. Tune in to this week’s Fun Photo Friday for a closeup of one such decoration that you can just barely make out in the photo above, the two fishnet stockinged legs poking askew from a coiled rope.
Which brings me to tourist destination shopping. It’s a touchy subject, especially in scam-rich cruise tourist environments such as the Caribbean and popular ports in Mexico. Yes, you can make a good deal on jewelry… if you know what you’re doing. Yes, there are good vendors in these areas; Milano is one I’ve found I can trust, and they run outlets all over the Caribbean and throughout much of the Alaska cruise market (including even Skagway). But I shy away from the greatly overpriced mega outlets run by, say, Diamonds International/Tanzanite International. I’ve yet to see a good price at any these outlets, despite them touting that they’ve cut out the middle man to save you money. They may have cut out the middle man, but in so doing it appears to me that they more than doubled whatever that guy was making and tacked it onto their already substantial profit margins.
Now, you’ve heard me say before in my gun review series that it pays you great dividends to form a friendly, long-term relationship with your favorite locally owned and operated firearms dealer if you are a collector. This piece of advice is equally important if you like to purchase bling for your spouse, which I adore doing on occasion. For over a couple of decades, that local go-to guy was for us Mr. Gregory Kligman, owner of Sheldon Jewelry, which had been operating since 1912. Greg’s father purchased Sheldon in 1962. Alas, and much to our disappointment, Greg decided to close shop in 2015. Thus, our source for great deals on great stones from our great friend Greg came to a crashing end.
Oddly enough, on one of our many cruises to Alaska, it was about this time that we met Sachin “Shawn” Kishnani at his store in Skagway. He and his lovely wife Sonia were both present when we first stepped into his new (established the year before in 2014) Aurora Jewelers. Yes, this is the same place I gushed about back in my 2016 article The Norwegian Sun Docks in Skagway, and since that time my respect for Shawn and his business has only grown. Exponentially. And now he has two outlets in Skagway, it appears that he’s growing exponentially as well.
What makes me so passionate about a purveyor of jewelry at a tourist cruise destination? Let me recount an actual experience we had there. It was at his original location, some time after we’d already formed a friendship with Shawn, and he showed to us a seven-carat diamond bracelet. I could tell by the sparkle in Ursula’s eye that the sparkle on the bracelet had put a sparkle in her heart. And despite her protests, I convinced her that we were not leaving Aurora’s without it. Shawn also noted her reticence, and he came up with a price that was simply too good to refuse. And that price was much less than what I knew such a stunner would bring at any other jewelry store, even a locally owned one in El Paso. The only drawback was that the bracelet was a bit tight. So tight that the clasp detached and it fell off Ursula’s wrist as we boarded our cruise ship. After that she didn’t quite trust wearing it.
After returning to El Paso we explained to Shawn the problem. We discussed with him several solutions, but the one Ursula most wanted done was additional matching diamond-and-gold links added. Now, as Shawn pointed out, that is quite a tall order, as such an endeavor would require matching up the stones in size, color, shape, cut, and clarity. Not an easy task that, even if it could be done, would take time to accomplish. We agreed, and told him that if it could not be done, then we would gladly discuss other options. We sent the bracelet back to Shawn, who in turn shipped it off to his contacts in New York City.
Five months. Five long months. That’s how long Shawn’s New York people took to match everything up, fabricate the links, and add them to the bracelet. But match they did, and perfectly. And when they were done, the bracelet went back to Shawn, who in turn shipped it back to us. Those additional new links were beautifully crafted, with each link containing four diamonds just like the original links. Now get ready for the shocker….
We called Shawn and asked him how much we owed for the beautiful work he had done. Yep. That’s right. Shawn sent back to us the bracelet without first getting paid. But what he said next absolutely floored both of us. “Nothing. No charge.” I’m thinking, like, What The Heck?!?!?! I asked again, just to make sure. “Free,” Shawn reiterated. Now, granted, we consider Shawn a friend, and I’m sure he feels likewise, but I certainly wasn’t expecting that.
As you might suspect, we brought Shawn a small gift this trip. But I was initially confused, as we stumbled first upon Shawn’s second location, which was at least a block farther and on the opposite side of the street from what I recalled from past visits. Here we were met by a very charming lady from the Caribbean. We asked if Shawn was about, and she told us to hang tight as he would soon be coming back from the “other” store. That’s when we first learned that Shawn had expanded his footprint in Skagway. Meanwhile, we started looking around.
Now, one of the things you might like to know about the jewelry here is that it’s sourced from some very high-end names. For instance, Shawn carries Roberto Coin. But Shawn also designs some of his own creations, which he then has manufactured back in New York. That aforementioned bracelet for instance. How is Shawn at jewelry design? Let’s take a look, starting with this beautiful piece with a 17-carat tanzanite stone of magnificent color depth and clarity:
I won’t disclose the price. Give him a call if you’re interested, and tell him you read about it here. Perhaps he’ll cut you a deal… if he hasn’t already shipped it out. It was the very end of the season, and jewelers in the lower 48 and the Caribbean were after him to relinquish some of his stock. Yep. That supply chain problem affects jewelry as well, and those supply chain woes are international in scope.
But tanzanite isn’t Shawn’s only creative medium. Far from it. When Shawn finally showed up at his newer location, he was excited to show us another piece. Here’s him preparing to show it off to us (and, yes, that center stone is positively massive):
The ring below has a total of 7.49 carats in diamonds set in 14-carat white gold. I’ll describe the featured center stone in a moment, but first let’s look at the smaller diamonds adorning the ring itself. There are 1.46 carats worth of baguettes running along the center. Those baguettes are framed by another 1.50 carats of round-cut diamonds along both edges. No; the stones do not run the complete circumference of the ring, but who cares?
Now for that centerpiece stone: In the raised setting stands a GIA certified 4.53 round cut diamond with a clarity of VVS2. Impressive, eh?
So now you know my go-to source for Ursula-Bling now that Greg Kligman retired and shuttered Sheldon Jewelry. Yeah, we miss Greg, but we’ve certainly made a new friend in the business here in Skagway.
One final word: I wrote this review because I truly am that enamored with the service and quality Shawn brings to the jewelry market. I was not compensated for this review in any way, and that includes discounting of any purchases. It was only after we prepared to leave that I told Shawn I would be doing a follow up review of his store, as my initial review back in 2016 was miserly in its length and praise, and because Shawn has proven himself since with that aforementioned bracelet.
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Cruising Alaska Off-Season — Enjoying Picturesque Skagway
Most of the Skagway photography I showed you last week was taken on Voyage 1 (Monday, 27 September 2021), and it was cloudy that day. All of today’s images were taken eight days later (5 October 2021) during a much sunnier visit. And rather than giving a lot of longwinded commentary, most of the sights you see today will be self-explanatory. With one major exception. That is a brief word on the Red Onion Saloon, which I promised last Wednesday to tell you about.
The Red Onion Saloon is one of the older, less respectable establishments in Skagway. It dates back to 1897, and at that time it operated as a brothel. But did I say less respectable? Let me correct that. The Red Onion had a reputation of being the finest bordello in town, so on that count it did reach a level of “respectability” in the eyes of the clientele. Today the Red Onion is not just a saloon; it is also a museum dedicated to those had working young lasses who plied their trade during the Klondike Gold Rush.
Now I’m going to present the first of two photo gallery/slide shows for today’s article. As always, just select an image within the gallery to enlarge it and bring up the slide show. This first gallery highlights just some really neat Skagway building details:
This next gallery offers up views of Skagway backdropped by snow-topped mountains, as well as a couple of images taken by the cruise dock:
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