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Draper Journal

J.P. Lee Jewelry is ‘a hub of good feelings’

Sep 21, 2020 04:52PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

Jeweler Jon Lee is in a feel-good business and is one of those rare people who actually loves what he does for a living. He said his business is, “almost always associated with romance, good feelings, expressions of love and gratitude. It’s people wanting to give something to someone they love and appreciate. To see that every day is what keeps me coming back, that coupled with the nuance of jewelry itself and God’s creation in gemstones and metals that we get to utilize our skills to craft into something beautiful.”

Lee and his wife, Susan, can often be found working side-by-side in their store located at the T-intersection of Fort Street and Pioneer Road. They get to witness people doing joyous and exciting things in their lives. Lee said that seeing and appreciating people by mingling with them is the best part of the business.

“We’re not only selling people jewelry, we have a community that comes in and out and stops by to say hi and visit. It’s a little bit of a hub of good feelings, goodwill and friendship that’s evolved over 30 years. It’s much more than a business to us, it’s a big part of our life,” Lee said.

The Lees have been in the jewelry business for 30 years, the last 20 of those in Draper. Lee grew up about a block and a half from the store building he now owns. In his youth, it was the Draper Pharmacy, dentist and doctor’s office building all in one. “It was a full-service building with a breezeway so you could go from the doctor’s office right into the pharmacy and get your prescription,” he said.  

Lee graduated from Alta High School and spent time at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. “I went to work in a jewelry store for what I thought would be three months in college and I ended up liking it, so I worked at different stores after that,” he said. He decided to make it his career, so he went to the Gemological Institute of America in San Diego. Lee is both a graduate gemologist, meaning that he has education in jewelry and appraisal, as well as a goldsmith, or one who manufactures and repairs jewelry.

He’s not just skilled with jewelry, but with names and faces as well. Lee said his clientele base is at least 30,000 people, 90% of whom he and Susan know by name. 

Lee sells and designs both traditional and contemporary styles. He estimates he’s made 10,000 pieces of jewelry. 

“We start with an idea that moves into a sketch that then moves into a hand-carved wax model or a computer-aided design (CAD) wax model. We cast the wax model in gold or platinum and then set the stones and finish the piece. It’s all in-house, we do it right there using old school methods and the latest technologies to do it. We do a lot with laser that we use to do intricate setting and repair work. Wax carving by hand is literally thousands of years old. We can be very artsy doing it by hand as opposed to technically precise doing it with CAD. It depends on the project what approach I take, probably half CAD and half hand-carved,” he said. 

One recent creation stands out. “Last year, we found a 2-carat ruby at a gem show that was one of the most beautiful we’d ever seen. We made this vintage looking ring to put the ruby in. It was in the case for one day and it sold. It was just exquisite. The pieces we’ve made seem to sell extremely quickly, probably because of the beauty as well as my enthusiasm over that piece,” he said. 

Jon and Susan have been married for what he calls “31 years of pure bliss.” They have four children and have recently welcomed a granddaughter named Evanie. All those years of marriage and their apparent happiness likely translate into the main focus of their work. “The biggest part of our business is wedding rings. We make on average two to three wedding rings every day,” Lee said. “When these young kids come in, I don’t sell them the most expensive thing. I sell them what works best for them so that it’s a positive experience and not a stressful one. But we do try to make the guys heroes with the rings that we make.”

He said he sees about 25% of what he calls “lone rangers” coming in to choose an engagement ring and the majority or 75% are couples who come to choose a ring together. “That’s a fun part of the business as well, to see the interaction of couples deciding together or a mysterious thing that the guy does all by himself,” he said. 

Lee has some advice for the would-be grooms out there. “With wedding rings, it works out best when they choose it together. She’s usually much happier that way, and if she’s happier, that translates into his happiness,” he said.