Two years ago, Chantal and Patrick Famin moved to Florida from their native France—and it didn’t take long for them to see an opportunity to add something unique to Gainesville’s retail landscape.
“Accessories have been a passion for me,” Chantal said. “When we were in France our best friend was in the jewelry business. Helping him out taught me to really appreciate certain things like ceramic jewelry.”
Ultimately the Famins decided to open their own store and bring a touch of European quality and style to area shoppers. After much planning, they launched XO Bijoux earlier this year in the Tioga Town Center.
Today XO Bijoux is Gainesville’s exclusive carrier of Guy Laroche and Ultimate Ceramic jewelry, Morellato wallets and watches, Sequoia Paris bags, L’Ensoleillade and Little Marcel. Yet these luxurious European brands are not always accompanied by luxury price tags; treasures can be purchased for as little as $8 or as much as $1,000.
“We have beautiful European accessories at all kinds of prices,” she said. “We have French and Italian and things that are not commonly known and seen here [in Gainesville] – something different. But this is not a high-end store; we have something for every price and for every taste.”
Nowhere is the uniqueness of XO Bijoux more apparent than in the ceramic rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces found on display. The collection has a black and white color scheme, with surfaces varying between sleek smoothness to eye-catching faceted cuts. While some pieces are ceramic alone, others combine stainless steel, gold or diamonds.
The result is a simple elegance that works well for every occasion. The ceramic rings, for example, can be worn alone or combined with other bands for a variety of looks. “That’s what is really fun, because you can take one of the bands with a little diamond, add two of the same color in front and back and you will have a larger ring, and you can totally change the look,” Chantal said. “You can accessorize your rings in many ways.”
Ceramic jewelry also combines low maintenance with high durability. It can be worn while swimming or showering and is nearly impossible to break under normal circumstances, and there is no polishing or other maintenance required.
But perhaps the most interesting quality of ceramic jewelry is its ease of wear for customers who might otherwise have to give up on traditional metal jewelry – those suffering from illness or skin allergies or irritation.
“I have one client who is sick and cannot wear jewelry anymore. So I told her about the ceramic and she tried it and said, ‘I’m in heaven, I can finally wear rings!’” Chantal said. “Another customer came in and said she couldn’t wear rings anymore because she had problems with the heat [and her skin].”
XO Bijoux is filled with other European treasures as well. The Famins’ selection of bags, makeup cases and similar items ranges from Parisian chic to French countryside. The Sequoia Paris luxury brand features sleek lines and Sequoia’s trademark circle logo in its wallets and hand bags. The French countryside-inspired L’Ensoleillade, a newer line at the store, evokes a more homespun feel with softer materials, quilted patterns and drawstrings on a variety of products.
There are also plenty of choices for men at XO Bijoux, such as Morellato watches, wallets and billfolds imported from Italy. The Morellato brand features contemporary yet classic designs that go with any style of dress, and the versatility of the wallets allow them to easily be carried in front or back pockets.
XO Bijoux’s items are made and ordered in limited quantities, adding another layer of luxury and exclusivity to their offerings. “I think it’s interesting for people to see something different,” Patrick said. “It’s a small collection. You’re not going to find many people with the same wallet as you.”
The Famins plan on bringing more items into stock as time goes by. They also sell custom knives made by Patrick, the craftsmanship of which is a true collector’s bounty. He forges the blades at 1,000 degrees, bending and twisting them to make a variety of designs. The handles are made with such materials as mother-of-pearl, mammoth tooth and 24-karat gold screws.
With such attention to selection and detail and a knack for affordable pricing, XO Bijoux can help you find that unique holiday gift – or a little something for yourself.