Wilson Diamonds: the unconventional story of a Provo staple

BYU students Richard Wilson and Keith Wilson sell their first diamond. Founded in 1974, Wilson Diamonds is a popular Provo destination for shopping engagement rings. (Photo courtesy of Wilson Diamonds)

From selling diamonds in their small apartment in Provo to the most successful diamond jeweler in Utah County, Wilson Diamonds has a unique history.

BYU students Richard and Keith Wilson

“We were two of the most unlikely people to ever work in the diamond business,” said Richard Wilson.

Richard and Keith Wilson came from a large family of 10 children living on a government salary in Ridgecrest, California. Richard Wilson said they didn’t grow up with much and called his family “do-it-yourself” people.

Richard Wilson served a mission in Belgium for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and upon his return attended BYU with his brother Keith Wilson.

Both brothers were in rigorous undergraduate programs and knew they didn’t have time for 20-hour-a-week jobs. However, like any student, Richard Wilson said they needed the money and for them their solution was to find something they could sell.

“I just mentioned to Keith that I met a guy on my assignment who sells diamonds and Keith said, ‘Oh, all kinds of people need diamonds here at BYU. Let’s send him some money and see what happens,” shared Richard Wilson.

Richard Wilson thought no more of it after discussing it with his brother. They sent $300 to Belgium and the man sent back some small diamonds.

Richard and Keith Wilson began the process of appraising these diamonds at various local jewelers and learned how to grade them.

It was around this time that they learned there was plenty of room in Provo for someone to come and offer the students a better price on their diamonds.

Run the store from their house

In 1974, the brothers began selling their diamonds from the front room of their home in Provo.

“The first diamond we bought, one of them we bought for $200, we sold it for $220 and we were like, ‘Wow, we just made $10 from the hour” when the prevailing wage at the time was $1.85,” said Richard Wilson.

Richard Wilson cuts a diamond in New York during the early years of Wilson Diamonds. Founded in 1974, Wilson Diamonds is a popular Provo destination for shopping engagement rings. (Photo courtesy of Wilson Diamonds)

Their diamond business quickly began to grow when people began to realize that the Wilsons were charging half of what other stores were doing. “Even though we weren’t buying very well, we were scoring so little that it was still a lot less money for the students,” said Richard Wilson.

Although the brothers’ booming business was popular among students, it was not as popular among other jewelry stores. According to the Wilsons, these jewelry stores began to increase the price of their rings.

“We realized right away that we had to get rings,” said Richard Wilson.

The biggest ring manufacturer at the time was Feature Ring, and the Wilson brothers were able to get an appointment with a California representative. “It was actually in the middle of my honeymoon for which my wife will have eternal leverage,” Richard Wilson said.

During the date, the brothers found out they had to pick out $25,000 worth of rings for Feature Ring to open an account with them, but they only had $3,500 in the bank at the time.

The brothers then went to the bank for a $25,000 line of credit, but quickly realized they needed some sort of collateral. They contacted everyone they knew and asked for as much money as they could give for a week.

“People gave us money for tuition, they gave us money for groceries, they gave us money for rent, and we collected the $25,000,” said Richard Wilson. They were able to get the line of credit, get the rings, give people their money back, and now had to sell the rings within six weeks in order to get the $25,000 back, which they did.

Richard Wilson explains in detail what happened during the essential Feature Ring appointment. Founded in 1974, Wilson Diamonds is a popular Provo destination for shopping engagement rings. (Made in Canva by Anna Hair)

Wilson Diamonds continues to grow

Having the rings in store put Wilson Diamonds on the map. In 1980 they opened their first office in South Provo on 900 East.

Wilson Diamonds’ first office in Provo, Utah is located where Little Caesars now resides on 900 East. Founded in 1974, Wilson Diamonds is a popular Provo destination for shopping engagement rings. (Courtesy of Wilson Diamonds)

The business continued to grow and by the time Richard Wilson graduated and received his master’s degree, they had 10 employees. “I decided at that point that I wasn’t going to start over, I was going to be a jeweler,” said Richard Wilson.

Keith Wilson said he decided to quit a full-time job at Wilson Diamonds to pursue his dream of being a teacher of religion.

In 1983 Wilson Diamonds moved to University Place Mall where they continued to do business.

Richard Wilson said that decision was a big mistake. “The only people moving to the mall are those who can’t generate their own business,” he said. “They rely on the mall to bring them business,” said Richard Wilson.

Little did they know that Wilson Diamonds generated all of its own business, Richard Wilson said.

Wilson Diamond’s office in the University Mall remained there for 20 years. Founded in 1974, Wilson Diamonds is a popular Provo destination for shopping engagement rings. (Courtesy of Wilson Diamonds)

Things really started to take off in 2002 when they spun out of the mall and moved to their current location at the corner of University Parkway and 2230 N. in Provo.

Richard Wilson said that when Wilson Diamonds started there were 31 retail jewelry stores in the city and now there are only five retail jewelry stores.

The current Wilson Diamonds store has been in this location since 2002. Founded in 1974, Wilson Diamonds is a popular Provo destination for shopping engagement rings. (Anna Hair)

“We didn’t have any training in jewelry and that was more of a help than anything because we weren’t doing things like other jewelers were doing. We showed people how to tell quality and invited them to compare,” said Richard Wilson.

Wilson Diamonds customer McKenzie Anderson said, “For those of us who didn’t know much about diamonds, they really teach you a lot about what your diamond is.”

Once the ring is purchased, they frequently update the customer on the various stages of development of the ring.

“I’m a risk taker and I can kind of shoot more from the hip. I would have been a good player. Richard is more organized and more safety conscious, more analytical and thinks a lot,” said Keith Wilson.

According to the Wilson brothers, the balance of these two opposing personalities contributed to what Wilson Diamonds is today.

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