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Wellington & Co. Fine Jewelry: Family Jewels 

As owners of Wellington & Co. Fine Jewelry (505 Royal St., 525-4855; www.wcjewelry.com), Tom and Brandy Whisnant are experts in the business of diamond engagement and wedding rings. Located in a 19th-century French Quarter building with a charming courtyard, the shop has even been the site of numerous surprise engagements. But the Whisnants pride themselves on being a store with something for everyone, and as the holiday gift-giving season approaches, that's good news for buyers with a range of needs and budgets.

"If your budget is $50, we have it. If it's $250, we have it. Or if it's $5,500, we have it," says Tom, whose family has been in antique jewelry sales in the French Quarter since the 1940s.

"We're different from other jewelry stores in town and in the Quarter because of our vast offerings," Brandy adds. 'We have everything from $15 sterling pieces to a single diamond that's more than $100,000."

A decade ago, Tom began selling to family and friends looking for high-quality pieces, such as engagement rings, from a source they trusted. Five years ago, he and Brandy opened the Royal Street store, which is open daily and sells antique, estate and contemporary jewelry to customers from all over the world. There is an emphasis on Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco periods in the collection of antique pieces, which includes a wide array of diamond filigree rings ranging from a half-carat to 5 carats or more. Less expensive items, popular as bridal party gifts and stocking stuffers, include freshwater pearl necklaces and earrings starting at $15.

Wellington also offers repairs, custom-design work, appraisals and a Web site that displays much of its inventory. Its knowledgeable, experienced staff takes continuing education through the Gemological Institute of America.

"It's very important to us that not only do we know what we are selling, but that our sales associates are trained in the best way possible," Brandy says. Plus, the store's French Quarter location and festive atmosphere, complete with refreshments, enhance the shopping experience.

"There's nothing more New Orleans than the French Quarter," Brandy says. "It's a wonderful way to spend a day " shopping, having lunch, listening to music and supporting the local merchants."

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