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dazzling pioneer

King’s: Reigning Champ of Guyana’s Jewelry Retail Business

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ucked into a nondescript building along Georgetown’s Quamina Street is the workshop and showroom of Harrinand Persaud — an expert on the Guyanese gold industry and one of the country’s top jewelers.

Persaud, known to the world as “Ralph,” is chief financial officer and marketing director of King’s Jewellery World, a fixture in the Georgetown business community. His father Looknauth Persaud started the family business in 1970 from the bedroom of his house with one goldsmith and two apprentices. In 1994, the company opened its first outlet in Georgetown’s Cara Suites Hotel. Today, King’s boasts eight stores, including one in the departure lounge of Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The retail chain sells not only fine jewelry but also luxury watches, sunglasses, handbags, clothing, shoes, crystals, pens and accessories. Persaud, 36, has been in the business since 1994. He was originally going to study engineering in Miami, but eventually decided to remain in Guyana, study accounting, and stay with the family business. Today, he runs the thriving company along with his brothers Rohandev and Gowkaran. “Gold means a lot to people from India, so wherever they settled, you’ll find their descendants in the jewelry business,” he told us during a recent tour of the premises. Persaud and his brothers regularly go to trade shows in Miami, New York and Las Vegas; his father has also attended shows in places as far away as Hong Kong and India. When it comes to jewelry, according to Persaud, Guyana has a huge advantage over its competitors. “There is a cost advantage in that the materials are readily available here — mostly locally mined gold as well as diamonds, silver and platinum,” he explained. “Labor is cheaper here than in the rest of the Caribbean, so that enables us to produce pieces at significant savings over other retail locations.” Last year, Guyana produced 436,000 ounces of gold, mostly for export. The government expects 2013 production to be even higher. Persaud said his family used to operate in New York, Trinidad and the Bahamas, but “we were forced out of all these locations because of crime. Due to the downturn in the economy, jewelers were a big target.” Unlike Nassau — where Persaud catered mainly to cruise ship passengers from the United States and Europe — his Georgetown customers are mostly locals living in Guyana, as well as overseas Guyanese visiting their families back home. “Four of our family members are graduates of the Gemological Institute of America, so we’re all experts in gemstones and diamonds,” he said. “That gives us added assurance to customers that when they buy a piece from us, it’s authentic and has been given a full integrity check.” King’s employs more than 100 people, nearly a third of them in the jewelry workshop that occupies an entire floor of the building separate from the showroom. That workshop is managed by Niranjan Sukhram, who’s been with the company for 35 years. “We’re known for one particular item on the international market: the cricket bracelet,” he said. “We manufacture these bracelets for the West Indies cricket team. Every time they visit Guyana, they come to us to upgrade.” Cricket bands range in price from $750 up to $10,000 for one with diamonds. There’s also a particularly expensive item called Ralph’s link, which contains nearly four ounces of gold and retails for $7,090. “These bracelets are so strong, they will never break. People even pass them down to their grandchildren,” Persaud said. “We can reproduce almost anything, whether you bring a design to us or see something on the Internet.” Curiously, Guyana’s history of hyperinflation and economic instability has worked to Persaud’s advantage. “Over the years, we’ve had lots of currency devaluations, so the people found that having cash didn’t work for them. They’d rather save a couple of dollars and put their money into gold, gambling that it will increase in value.”

April • May 2013

Photos: Larry Luxner

Rohandev “George” Persaud and Harrinand “Ralph” Persaud, owners of King’s Jewelry World in Georgetown.

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