This Chilean native learned his trade from his father and has been sharing quality custom jewelry with the Rockford area for nearly three decades.
Luis Pavez saw a golden opportunity the moment he stepped foot in Rockford back in the 1980s.
“Rockford had jewelry stores, but no one made their own jewelry,” Pavez recalls. “Everything was sent to Chicago or New York.”
Since 1990, Pavez, 60, has been the owner and founder of Zavius Jewelers, 2636 McFarland Road, Rockford. He is a master jeweler and artist who specializes in custom-designed jewelry. The store also provides a full selection of jewelry services, including repairs, inspections and appraisals.
A native of Santiago, Chile, in South America, Pavez learned the skills needed to be a jeweler from his late father, also named Luis, who died four years ago.
“His jewelry store was back in Chile and I learned the trade through him,” says Pavez. His great uncle also was a jeweler.
Prior to opening his own business, Pavez worked at various jewelry companies across the country, perfecting his craft. He was employed by B. Sanfield for three years in the 1980s. He also briefly worked at Tiffany & Company in New York.
Pavez spent five years working for John Roberts, a casting company in Texas. That company was later purchased by Jostens, which makes class and professional sports rings.
Pavez first came to Rockford in search of a machine he needed for the jewelry-making process. That’s when he realized the city didn’t have any jewelry makers.
“I saw this as a very good opportunity to start a business,” Pavez says.
He opened Zavius Jewelers inside Stewart Square, in downtown Rockford, in a 700-square-foot space.
In 1996, he moved his growing business to a more up-to-date, 3,500-square-foot building in Loves Park. He moved again in 2001, to his current location.
Today, Pavez has about 6,000-square-feet of space filled with inventory. That’s a big leap in growth and merchandise from where he started 26 years ago.
His fingerprints are on most everything in the jewelry store, including its name. “Zavius” is a combination of Pavez’s first and last name. The symbol for Zavius Jewelers is the letter Z with a slash through it.
“The slash in the letter Z makes a P and an L,” Pavez says. “The P is for Pavez and the L is for Luis.”
What separates Zavius from other local jewelry stores is simple, Pavez says. It’s his passion for original jewelry and his determination to make sure all of his customers leave his store happy. He tries hard to accommodate the needs and wants of each individual who comes into his store.
“We can design a beautiful piece for you to reflect your ideas and style and turn it into a masterpiece,” Pavez said.
Once a customer comes into the store, he or she meets with Pavez and he sketches a draft of what the customer envisions. He does everything by hand and turns the vision into reality.
A wax replica of the finished piece is carved to the exact style and detail of the drawing. Each wax model can be altered and adjusted to a customer’s preference prior to the piece being finished in metal.
During the process, the wax is melted down and replaced with the requested metal, such as white gold, yellow gold, or platinum.
Once the wax process is complete, the new metal jewelry casting is put through several final steps such stone setting, polishing or hand engraving.
Pavez wants to be sure all the jewelry he sells is created in his store. He doesn’t want to send a request to New York or Chicago, because he has the ability to complete the process himself.
That’s the way he likes it.
Pavez likes knowing that every item in his store is unique and won’t be found in other jewelry stores.
“Everything is so cookie cutter today,” he says. “But we have all the modern equipment to do everything in-house. If you show me a picture, I can design it for you, re-design it and make the piece from beginning to end.”
Pavez wants to have a one-on-one connection with customers to make sure they have the best possible buying experience.Whether someone is buying a $100 piece of jewelry or spends thousands, Pavez wants his customers to be proud of what they buy.
“Most of the time, people buy things for someone else,” Pavez says. “Jewelry is not something people usually buy for themselves.”
The uniqueness of each piece is something customers value.
“In here, you will never find two pieces of jewelry that are identical,” he says. “We don’t send our jewelry across seas to be made.”
In the store, customers may browse unique rings, bracelets, bands, earrings and much more.
“We have some pieces of jewelry that are simple and other pieces that are more sophisticated,” Pavez says. “It all depends on the needs of the customer.”
Pavez doesn’t worry about competing with area big-box jewelers, or other smaller, locally owned jewelry stores, for that matter. He’s focused on what goes on in his own business.
“I am my own competitor,” he says. “You are your own competition.”
Pavez says it’s the quality of the product he delivers that has kept him in business all these years.
“The most important thing in this business is to make, service and sell,” Pavez says. “If you have those three things, manufacturing, service and sell, you can be more successful in what you do.”
Many customers buy from Zavius because they want to buy local to support the economy of the town.
“That is the consensus of the people who live in this town,” he says.
During his three decades in the jewelry business, Pavez has passed along knowledge to people who have worked for him. Some have gone on to become jewelers in their own stores, both locally and in other parts of the country.
“It’s one thing to own a jewelry store and it’s another thing to be a jeweler,” Pavez says. “They are two different things. I belong to a very small group of jewelers who own jewelry stores in the world.”
At the end of the day, says Pavez, he simply loves his job and is glad he followed in his father’s footsteps: “I was born into this business.”