Queen of Bling
Janice Kingoff's jewelry know-how
For over a century, Kingoff ’s Jewelers has been a Wilmington institution. From its first Front Street location in 1919 to its present home at Hanover Center, the Kingoff family has been helping nervous couples find the perfect engagement ring.
JANICE KINGOFF found herself in the jewelry business in 1958 when she married Bill, the son of founder Ben Kingoff, and she says she knew then what she was getting into.
“My father had a general merchandise store when I was a child and became a builder after that, so I certainly knew what retail was,” she says.
Janice Kingoff became an integral part of the business, self-educating herself in silver estate appraisal. It’s a role she cherishes that has given her the opportunity to handle heirlooms from some of the oldest Wilmington families.
“I love looking at the old silver pieces and unique pieces that people have. People lived very grandly in the town years ago, from what I’ve seen,” she says.
“They had magnificent pieces of silver and trays, really unique things.”
In the thirty-plus years since her son Michael took over the store, the items that couples come in for has certainly changed. Kingoff ’s Jewelers still specializes in engagement and wedding rings but no longer carries tabletop items such as china and silver, which have fallen out of fashion. The days of grand china, crystal, and silver sets are gone. And, Janice Kingoff thinks that’s a shame.
“Today, young couples don’t want to clean it, and it priced itself out of the market. Today, brides are asking for things for the yard or more practical things for their home rather than china and crystal. I hate to see that brides don’t pick out at least something,” she says. “Pretty china and silver, it really makes a special occasion more special. When you go to someone’s house, and they take out their pretty tray and set their table differently, then you feel special, and that’s where good memories come from.”
The store does still do a steady business in repairs and appraisals, and for people wondering what to do with old silver or wedding sets they’ve inherited, Janice Kingoff ’s number one tip is timeless.
“My advice is to use it,” she says. “Sterling is a wonderful metal. There’s no reason to hide it; there’s no reason to not use it all the time. And the more you use it, the less you have to polish it. And, china? You can put it in the dishwasher. I’ve been doing it for years.”
While her specialty is silver, Janice Kingoff’s other specialty is being what she calls “a volunteer.”
From the University of North Carolina Wilmington to the League of Women Voters, the much-missed Community Concert series to her synagogue B’nai Israel, precinct captain to board president, there aren’t many roles Janice Kingoff hasn’t held in Wilmington. Her devotion to Wilmington, connection to the community, and her many years here have given her a front-row view to thousands of weddings in town.
“I think it’s a wonderful wedding town, and there’s so many places becoming available for it. I live at the beach, and I see all the weddings on the beach – the bride is always in white, and the bridesmaids and groomsmen are either formal or in khakis and matching shirts. And, I have even seen formal, like real tuxedos, down on the beach,” she says. Which probably makes the dry cleaners happy.
“The wedding business and jewelry business, it’s a happy business. That’s the one thing I’ve always enjoyed; almost all the gifts are given with love and care to someone special,” she adds. “I love the business, and I love being at the store. The attitudes of the people coming in are always good.”
As for the current trends in engagement rings, Michael Kingoff says the style of the season is definitely halo, a circle of diamonds around the center diamond.
“Most women are buying platinum or white gold mountings; we sell very little in yellow gold or two tone. When I first started in the business thirty-seven years ago, all we sold was yellow gold. Now, it’s totally reversed,” he says, encouraging brides to bring in a picture of what they like, even if it’s an Instagram or Pinterest post.
“It’s a big help to jewelers,” he advises. “A lot of jewelers resented it at first because people were looking somewhere else, but they didn’t realize they were being shortsighted. You couldn’t ask for something easier than for a bride to say this is exactly what I want.”
To view more of photographer Kevin Kleitches work, go to kevintitusphoto.com.
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