Dianna Rae Jewelry is celebrating its 5th year in Acadiana, and to celebrate we’re looking back to the beginning of Dianna Rae’s career. You must know her story to understand the story of this award-winning custom jewelry store. The store’s owner, Dianna Rae High, has been a diamond and gemstone specialist for nearly 35 years, cultivating a sensibility for the exceptional and exquisite. She then translates her passion for gemstones and jewelry design into tangible works of jeweled art. From the local jewelry store where this Iowa girl got her start, to attending gemology school in California, being the first to use a computer to design jewelry, and eventually moving to Louisiana and opening her dream store, Dianna Rae has a remarkable story to tell. Help us celebrate these five wonderful years in Acadiana by joining us for an Open House event Saturday, August 10 during our normal store hours. Cheers to 5 years and many, many more!
The following excerpt from the February 2017 issue of FACE Magazine’s feature story of Dianna Rae High, tells the story of how Dianna Rae Jewelry came to Acadiana. (Written by Marisa Olson. ©FACE Magazine.)
Dianna, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, began her lifelong passion and career in jewelry design while a high school student, when she took a part-time job at Philip’s Diamond Shop in nearby Marion. At the family-owned and operated business, she learned the jeweler’s craft from her boss and mentor, Philip High, whose son, Jeff, she would later marry.
“Mr. High was always tossing around funny old clichés like, Don’t Forget who the real boss is: The customer! But he meant those clichés, and lived by them. Except for the bookkeeping, which was Mrs. High’s specialty, he handled every aspect of the business, from sales to design, to taking out the garbage, which he joked was his ‘real’ job. They modeled hard work and led by example, and were at the store from open to close every day. My boss took people under his wing in a loving way. He apprenticed his sons, but taught us all what we needed to know about opening and running a jewelry store. Philip, Jr., still owns and operates the Philip’s Diamond Shop in Marion.”
After turning 19, Dianna married Jeff, and the young couple moved to California to attend gemology school. The following year, in 1985, they returned to Iowa to expand the family business by opening a store in the Quad Cities. The Philip High brand was always associated with unmatched quality and craftsmanship. Jeff and Dianna’s store, which they independently owned and operated, proved no less successful than the flagship location. Several years later, they decided to close shop and raise a family, but maintained a small-scale version of their business from home.
“As custom jewelers with our own store, we had always created designs by hand,” Dianna explained, “but Jeff was always the techie, mad scientist type, and had this idea to use computers for designing. He pioneered CAD-CAM software, which stands for computer-aided design and manufacturing software, a program that utilizes two and three-dimensional imaging and design system to create custom jewelry.” Jeff High’s technological innovation revolutionized jewelry manufacturing, bringing him international recognition from jewelry makers who purchased his software. Jeff High’s family business catapulted from a home-based cottage industry into a multi-million dollar enterprise. The success brought the family closer together, and improved their quality of life:
“While I was raising my daughters, Ronni and Rio, Jeff’s software was the perfect solution for me as a mother, and helped me to strike that elusive work-home balance. From my kitchen table, I used the program to custom design pieces for clients, with my children playing or studying within arm’s reach. It enabled me to negotiate the competing demands of work and motherhood on my own terms, so that I could prioritize the needs of my family.”
About four years ago, High’s international reputation as an industry pioneer captured the attention of a Lafayette jewelry maker who quickly became a loyal client. The company persuaded the family of four to leave Iowa and make Acadiana their home. After the first year of settling in and getting their bearings, Dianna decided to open her own jewelry business.
“Jeff was highly supportive, and by then, Rio was 19, and Ronni was attending high school at Ascension. For me, going back into business wasn’t about making sales or making a job. I had decades of experience in retail, running a traditional jewelry store. That business model no longer held appeal, nor did it reflect who I am creatively. I wanted to open my dream store, where I could offer a personalized, customer experience in a beautiful, inviting space. And I wanted to design original pieces that commemorated cherished moments in a person’s life. I envisioned my store as a jewelry playground. It had to be light, sunny, and airy – cheerful – and the girl in me wanted it to be pretty.”
On August 12, 2014, Dianna Rae Jewelry opened for business.
Dianna Rae has led her team to much success during the past five years, as Dianna Rae Jewelry has been honored with prestigious awards, both nationally and regionally. The National Jewelers of America in New York awarded Dianna Rae Jewelry two prestigious 2015 CASE Awards during the association’s annual Jewelry Design Competition. The CASE Awards recognize the creativity, artistry, style and excellence in jewelry design from top jewelers across the nation. Beating out 50 competitors, Dianna took first-place in the Jewelry under $2,000 (retail value) category and the Buyers’ Choice CASE Award. Dianna Rae Jewelry has also been awarded numerous Jewelers of Louisiana Design awards (one of which was the Best of Show Award at the 2018 Jewelers of Louisiana Convention). Dianna Rae Jewelry was named Runner-up for Luxury Retailer of the Year by JCK; and INSTORE Magazine’s distinction as one of America’s Coolest Stores in 2016.
Dianna Rae enjoys giving back to the community that has so warmly welcomed her by supporting numerous charitable causes, such as The Acadiana Symphony, Our Lady of Lourdes, Christian Youth Theatre, Acadiana Animal Aid, and the Black and White Gala for the American Cancer Society, among many others.