In our issue of bests, how about this? Who else but William Boyajian, artisan/owner of Port Royal Jewelers, has donated 49 one-of-a-kind pieces over the past five years to Collier charity auctions? Who else flew to Tucson, Arizona, just to get the right diamond for his piece for the Conservancy? Or made a day-of-the-event round-trip to Miami to fine-tune his donation for Opera Naples? This third-generation jeweler certainly deserves accolades for this gem-tlemanly behavior, and we learned in a recent conversation that he has a rather surprising take on this craft of his.
“The industry,” William says, “is not gemology, not goldsmithing, not the sketching of pieces for customers, not engineering the fit, not the profit from business. It’s all about love. It enriches my imagination and helps me design my collections. I’m donating my time and my heart to the community, and I’ve gotten to understand what love feels and looks like to different people. It enables me to reach others with a purpose.” Example? He talks with some emotion about a piece it took him nearly three years to make—a ring using green diamonds for a frog and white diamonds for a butterfly. What pleasure he felt, he says, when a son bought it for his mother to thank her for helping him become the person he is.
William came to Naples from Los Angeles in 1971, intending to be a sculptor. But the family jewelry business needed his creative input, especially to service six Neiman Marcus stores at the time. The rest is a story of success at his craft and commitment to the place where he lives, particularly to those in need. He has been running the business since 1991 and treasures so many of the locals who share his passion for helping others. “Eva Sugden Gomez is at the top of that list,” William says. He tells of a time at a gala for the Guadalupe Center when she wanted him at her table. “She went ahead and bid double what I expected she would for my piece—that’s who she is. Turns out she was using my paddle,” he says with a laugh. But they did get the billing right in the end.
As for memorable moments at the store, William recalls a sweet little lady who came in with a massive box of jewelry. “My mom just passed away and she never told me how much any of this is worth,” she declared. William sifted through the goods, finding just ordinary things as he burrowed well into the box. But then, oh my. At the bottom, he discovered the most amazing and dazzling stuff. This woman who thought she might walk out with a modest return left with a check for $100,000.
On another occasion, William was laboring with a high-class problem. His dad had died and left him with 2,000 carats of opals (necklaces, pendants, rings), worth millions of dollars. They were stored in a vault and “I wondered how I was ever going to sell them all.” A potential buyer was located, a woman from Sarasota. “Under time pressure,” William says, “Steven (Leonard, his business associate who tragically died in a fire earlier this year) helped me put together a beautiful display in an hour and a half and she bought them all. I asked her what she would do with them and she replied, ‘I’ll wear them all for my husband.’” True love.
The loss of Steven was heartbreaking. “He was my charity ambassador, keeping me up to date on those in need, and was beloved by the community,” William says. Earlier this year, Steven was pressing him to donate a piece for the Naples Cat Alliance auction. There really wasn’t the usual time to get something ready, but Steven, William says, “begged me to do something for the kittens. I managed to do so and am so glad I did. It was the last thing he asked of me.” It was all, as ever, about the heart.
In our April issue, we published a quote in our Port Royal neighborhood story from Joe Sample about his father, John Glen Sample. During the editing process, we accidentally deleted attribution to a book about the Port Royal Club by Prudy Taylor Board.