Sonny Singhvi’s academic struggles at Ohio State University opened a new chapter that’s led to one of the Dayton area’s leading customer design jewelry retailers.

“I wasn’t a book-smart kid,” says Singhvi who owns Elizabeth Diamond Co. with wife, Sonu.

His family had distant relatives in India who were emerald cutters and dealers and he spent a summer learning from them how to grade and value loose emeralds. 

“I was looking to do something I enjoyed, and I enjoyed the business side of selling and buying and this was a good entry point for me. I was very fortunate to have people who allowed me to get started,” he says.

Returning to OSU, Singhvi brought back a few emeralds.

“I would sell a few samples after classes to a couple jewelers in the Columbus area. I got really good support from one store in Dublin, Leo Alfred Jewelers. They were my first client. They encouraged me to go back and buy more emeralds. So I took a quarter off from college and bought some more and that’s how it started,” he says.

Eventually Singhvi, who was born in Middletown, traveled to Thailand to buy rubies and sapphires and Antwerp, Belgium, to buy diamonds. Singhvi says while he had the confidence to be a diamond and gemstone wholesaler, he also had a lot of support.

His parents gave him a small loan to get started and “along the way I had great suppliers and great customers who taught me a lot, too,” he says.

Eventually the complexities of the international diamond business intervened, making life as middleman more difficult, and Singhvi decided to expand into retail in 2001, opening his first store on Wilmington Pike.

It was a big transition to go from the wholesale side to retail, he admits.

“The wholesale mentality is far different than the retail mentality. It took us several years to figure out that you’re working with a consumer, and consumer needs are different than a wholesaler’s needs. Customer service is one of the most important things in our business.”

Singhvi still does some wholesale business and he thinks it gives Elizabeth Diamond an edge.

“We still buy diamonds with the eyes of a wholesaler in terms of pricing. We used to buy in bulk and sell to wholesale clients and whatever left was put in the retail store. Now demand is so high and we’re selling so many diamonds out of our retail stores, we’re really buying more with the consumer in mind,” he says.

He thinks Elizabeth Diamond has one of the larger inventories in southwest Ohio.

“We have to have multiples of everything and many different qualities so if someone comes in looking for a 2-carat diamond they could see 25 options side by side to find the perfect stone for them.”

Today Elizabeth Diamond has grown to two locations, with a staff of 25, at 7245 Far Hills Ave., Centerville, and 1928 W. Main St., Troy, providing custom and bridal jewelry including Hearts on Fire and Forevermark Diamonds.