In 1876 W.G. Corwin set up his jewelers shop in Orient out on the North Fork. When the Long Island Rail Road reached Southampton in 1878, W.G. decided to relocate and stake his claim on Main Street in Southampton. The result being 134 years of continuous jeweler service by the same family.
Present owner Master Jeweler Timothy Corwin tells a compelling story of a customer who came in with a ring set by W.G. Corwin his great-grandfather in the 1890s and needed to be reset. Timothy admired his great-grandfather's work as he reset the diamond in the ring.
“In fact it was a piece from the 1700s,” said Timothy. “It was a special moment for me.”
That is just how special is, being in fact, the oldest continuous family-owned jeweler in New York State. W.G. Corwin’s original shop was three doors down. In 1900 there was a fire and the store was repaired but after a more massive fire in 1920s the present building, 61 Main Street, was acquired and has been the home of the business and now five generations of Corwins.
In 1928, George and Thomas G. Corwin, sons of W.G., took over with Thomas being an optometrist. After World War II, Thomas G. Corwin Jr. came home to Southampton to take over the family business. However, when Thomas Jr. was recalled to fight yet again in Korea it was Timothy’s mother, Elizabeth Corwin, who ran things until Thomas Jr. came back to Southampton again, this time for good, in 1954.
Thomas Corwin ran the enterprise until 1981 when Timothy who had just finished becoming a Master Jeweler in Texas returned home to take the reins of Corwins Jewelers and operate it into its third century of existence.
Another great story Timothy tells is of a ring found in 2004 in some bushes in the village. The ring was brought to Timothy at Corwins to see if he could find the owner. The ring was from the class of 1934. Tim found initials and the ring was successfully tracked to its owner.
Finally there was the woman who lost her 2-carat diamond, which somehow became dislodged from its setting. Timothy recalls doing a great job to duplicate the ring. The woman was pleased. However, two years later she walks in with the lost diamond in her hand. She explained to Tim, that when she was getting into her car the day before she saw something shining. It was the lost diamond imbedded in the trim of the car. Tim designed something special for the woman and the diamond.
Jane Boyd, a trusted aide at Corwins Jewelers, was recalling some of the many well known faces who have stopped in. She recalled the flamboyant Truman Capote stopping in back in her first year on the job back in the 1980s. Others who have stopped and shopped consist of a who’s who list with names such as Johnny Carson, Perry Como, Chris Reeves, Peter Jennings, Sly Stalone, Tina Louise (Ginger on "Gilligan’s Island"), Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ms. Boyd expressed sadness over losing valued customer Roy Scheider who passed away.
Tim Corwin stressed that Corwins Jewelers can do, “anything … custom repairs.” He recommends that all diamond jewelry should be checked twice a year. At Corwins the diamonds are checked and cleaned at no charge. Corwins also does watch repair, stone settings, diamond settings, antique restoration, pearl and bead stringing, appraisals as well as estate appraisals. The fluctuation in the price of precious metals has kept the Corwins on their toes. However, their traditional top-level service is a factor not seen in the price. Tim said that the price of Rhodium used in the plating when setting a diamond now sells for $9,000 an ounce. He claims many jewelers are now using platinum because even though it’s costly, it’s still less expensive than rhodium.
Timothy graduated Southampton High School in 1971. Further studies had him earning a degree in biology from Binghamton, NY and then on to jewelers school in Texas. He has been blissfully married to Toni Lea Corwin and have three wonderful children. A son, Travis, who at first was a chef down in Charleston, South Carolina, but now works at the store. Then there is a married daughter Tamara Tillman and two grandchildren, Cory Thomas Tillman and Ammalea. Also there is their youngest daughter, Karianne Corwin.
When entering Corwins Jewelers, besides the wonderful jewelry and watches, two other things stand out. The beautiful stained glass behind the counter by Alexis Mayer done back in 1998 and the wonderful pet dog, a border collie named Kipper, who if you are lucky will play Frisbee with you. The website is corwinsjewelers.com. The phone number is 631-283-1980. They are open 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. Monday thru Saturday.