“Palm Beach is really the only place you can get away with wearing a 50-carat natural diamond in the middle of the day,” says Maurice Moradof of Yafa Signed Jewels. Founded 39 years ago by Moradof and his mother, Yafa, the company is now located on Palm Beach’s famous Worth Avenue. For close to four decades, the mother and son team worked from an office in New York City. But with the onset of the pandemic, things had to change. Previously, they would attend around 15 jewelry shows a year, which catered primarily to the wholesale industry. But when COVID-19 hit, all the shows were canceled, so the duo decided to make a move into retail.
As they had been involved with the Palm Beach community for over 20 years, it was a logical place to set up shop. And the move has proved a resounding success, Moradof tells me. “Palm Beach is like nowhere else: I see 20, 30, 40, and 50 carats on people going out for lunch, shopping, you know, just casual. Natural diamonds are really amazing things. They’re never too big. Even if a stone is huge, you can grow into it!” He adds, “Throughout history, bigger high-quality diamonds have been an outstanding investment.”
Trends come and go, he tells me. “At one time, everyone sought out French Victorian pieces, but now clients want more wearable jewelry from the 1960s and 1970s, primarily in yellow gold.” (These are his own favorite decades for jewelry design.) Pieces by Van Cleef & Arpels — by far the most important house —provide the best return. Yafa Signed Jewelsalso holds one of the largest collections of David Webb under one roof, and the firm is Webb’s authorized retailer in Palm Beach.
Today, Moradof specializes in the period from the 1960s to the 1990s. Prices rise as high as $7 million, but the sweet spot is between $200,000 to $600,000, he says. Signed pieces from Bulgari, Cartier, Harry Winston, and Van Cleef & Arpels are his preferred brands because, “Those houses only use the finest quality stones, and they have the finest workmanship. And they are also signed pieces, which have the biggest resale value.”
He shows me a magnificent Bulgari set from the 1960s — a brooch and a pair of earrings, with natural diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires —which was once exhibited in St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum. “It is probably one of Bulgari’s most famous pieces and worth around $1 million, but how it left Russia still remains a mystery.” He then proudly brings out a 20-carat, D color, D flawless diamond that belonged to Barbara Sinatra. “We have documentation that it was her ring. Nice that we recently acquired it!”
Yafa Signed Jewels David Webb 52.55 Carat Emerald-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring
Yafa Signed Jewels Van Cleef & Arpels Diamond Ludo Ring
Yafa Signed Jewels Cartier Kashmir Sapphire, Diamond Ring
Yafa Signed Jewels Yellow Diamond Ring
Yafa Signed Jewels Cartier Fancy Yellow Diamond Panther Bracelet
When I ask about colored stones, Moradof says that fancy-colored natural diamonds are invariably in demand. “Yellows are always strong, but nowadays pinks and blues are also very hot commodities.”
Given the success of Yafa’s first foray into the retail sphere, it is unsurprising to learn that Worth Avenue will be just the beginning: Expansion plans are now in the works, both in the US and abroad.