At Ultra Gems in downtown Owensboro, father and son team Joe and John Iracane meet with clients to create and design pieces of jewelry that will be part of their client’s most special occasions.
The owners believe that Ultra Gems was previously overlooked as a local jeweler because of their business plan to not advertise, but with the help of social media, they have seen an increase in clients over the past several years.
“So many of our clients tell us they get a great product for the price,” John said, adding that limited advertising is one way to maintain low costs for customers. “We work by appointment so we can be as personal as can be. We get as much joy out of a $1,000 sale as a $50,000 one.”
Ultra Gems has garnered their fair share of famous customers through the years.
NBA basketball player Rajon Rondo asked them to create an emerald and diamond dog tag while he was playing for the Boston Celtics. The Iracanes used their contract employees in New York City to purchase jewels through the diamond exchange, allowing them to create exactly what Rondo wanted.
By befriending agents, athletes and musicians, the Iracances have created unique pieces for basketball star Allen Iverson, football legend Joe Namath and country music singer Toby Keith.
But Ultra Gems had humble beginnings.
Joe first started in the jewelry business over 45 years ago, selling jewelry out of a briefcase from his home.
With lifelong friends who work in New York City’s diamond district, Joe soon began representing them in sales internationally.
“This was during the ‘70s and ‘80s,” John said of his dad’s traveling to South Africa, Venezuela and China, among other locations.
Born and raised in Owensboro, John never planned for jewelry to be his career, but he said that working with his father has been rewarding.
“We both learned the business through experience,” John said. “But let’s be honest, I got to start on third base.”
Alexis Hood, who has worked with the Iracanes for over 15 years at Ultra Gems, said that they all work together to make sure clients have experiences that make them lifelong customers.
“None of us have titles,” John said. “We all work together.”
When speaking of their clients, often some of his family’s best friends, John becomes emotional about the special relationships that existed before the sale and the feelings after.
“I enjoy people coming in — people from Owensboro, friends from my college days,” John said. “I love that they have faith and trust to buy from us. It makes my job fun.”
Some of their clients are third-generation customers, and that is not lost on the Iracanes.
“The fact that we play a part in some of the most special days of their lives, that’s pretty special,” John said.