Michael Beaudry at his shop in the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills.

Michael Beaudry at his shop in the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

On top of a cabinet behind Michael Beaudry’s desk is a string of large white pearls that he’s turning into a customized bracelet. He expects to sell it for $400,000.

Nearby, a work-in-progress necklace, with about 100 black diamonds, drapes a display bust. The price tag? $440,000.

It’s just another day at the office for Beaudry, who has designed multimillion-dollar rings, necklaces, watches, bracelets and more for some of the biggest names in the world, including Barbra Streisand and Warren Buffett.

As chief executive of Centerstone Diamonds Inc. and five affiliated companies, Beaudry, who started as a diamond cutter at 18, has built a small jewelry empire out of a nondescript office building in downtown Los Angeles. It’s one of the only jewelry businesses that manufactures almost entirely in Los Angeles. In addition to making collector pieces, Beaudry has lines that retail in department stores, and he opened his own shop at a Beverly Hills hotel two years ago.

That was about the time his empire almost came crashing down.

Beaudry’s sales dropped off a cliff after the financial crisis, forcing him to lay off some of his workers and turn others into contractors. At the same time, a factoring company demanded control of his inventory.

To address the falling sales, he introduced lower-cost jewelry – all the way down to $400, in some cases. To avoid losing his jewelry to the factoring company, he filed a strategic Chapter 11 for two of his companies.

Today, sales are building, the companies are preparing to emerge from the reorganization and the storm appears to have calmed.

“We were having challenges,” the 44-year-old Beaudry acknowledged. “Now we’re seeing demand pick back up.”

While high-end jewelry companies have struggled during the recession, analysts said Beaudry’s efforts to adapt to the changing marketplace showed impressive survival skills.

Now, the company is poised to cash in on the rebound. Based on projections from the first half of the year, U.S. jewelry companies are on track for record sales of $63 billion this year – up more than 2 percent from 2007, the previous record high – surprising even longtime industry watchers.

“I had no idea that jewelry sales would come back so quickly,” said analyst Ken Gassman. “I am surprised.”

Cutting roots

Beaudry’s interest in jewelry was piqued as a 7-year-old when he spent time in his uncle’s diamond-cutting studio. Fascinated by the process, Beaudry enrolled in the American School of Diamond Cutting in Whittier when he turned 18.

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