An Expert on Every Facet
International Diamond Center
From mining diamonds in South America to hand-selecting thousands of loose stones for his nine showrooms, International Diamond Center owner Keith Leclerc has done it all.
At the adventurous age of 21, Keith Leclerc left Massachusetts for the sunshine and sandy beaches of Clearwater, Florida. He soon met and married his wife, Peggy, and continued to feed his entrepreneurial spirit with various sales jobs. After a few years with BMW and Audi, Keith shifted his focus to diamonds and gold. Despite being an outsider in the jewelry industry, Keith persevered and became one of the most respected diamond buyers in the country.
The rise to the top was far from easy for Keith. But what he lacked in experience, he more than made up for with passion and persistence. “Knowing absolutely nothing about jewelry, I invested $600 into eight gold chains,” he says. “Peggy and I didn’t have much, but we looked at it as an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.” He sold those first eight pieces in a day, then used the profit to purchase more gold chains. Keith was determined to learn as much as possible so he could provide for his family. But he never could have guessed he was laying the foundation for a family legacy.
Two years and thousands of gold transactions later, Keith expanded his inventory to include diamonds. However, his first foray into gemstones netted a loss of $400. “I am a firm believer that you learn more from your failures than your successes,” Keith sagely says. “I didn’t let it discourage me. Instead, I became more intrigued.” He continued to sell gold chains and reinvest back into the business, simultaneously setting his sights on mastering the diamond industry.
Once again, Keith’s tenacity paid off. He became a major supplier to jewelry stores along the eastern seaboard, where he would log up to 140,000 miles driving each year. Shifting his focus outside of the U.S. for the first time, Keith traveled to São Paulo, Brazil, in 1987. The diamonds he returned with sold immediately, and he was hooked. His wholesale business gained speed and success, enough for Keith to travel to Brazil six times a year.
Keith’s interest in South America evolved from purchasing ready-to sell diamonds to acquiring rough stones, all along paying cash up front to secure his buying position. Once again, his enthusiasm for the entire industry paid off because Keith owned cutting facilities in Franca, Brazil, and Tel Aviv, Israel. This allowed him to provide polished diamonds directly to some of the biggest names in the business, including Charles Wolf, Harry Winston and Fabrikant. In addition, Keith became a partner in North American Jewelry Manufacturing, a manufacturer of fine jewelry for major wholesalers who supplied to companies such as Zales, Bailey Banks & Biddle, HSN and QVC.
With a priceless understanding of what happens behind-the-scenes in the diamond industry, and the business savvy to go even further, Keith opened International Diamond Center’s first retail location in Clearwater in 1990. “I never thought in a million years I’d be in the jewelry business. But I am, and I love it,” he says. His experience in all facets of the business, from the mines and wholesale to manufacturing and retail, allowed him to sustain and even grow the company through tough economic times. IDC currently has nine locations between Clearwater and Savannah, Georgia, with plans to expand.
Today, IDC is an exclusive partner to some of the most renowned brands in the world, including Forevermark, Tacori and Verragio. “Our mission is to empower consumers while making the purchase of a diamond the romantic and exciting experience it should be,” Keith says.
But Keith’s ambitions go far beyond engagement rings. “The Lord has blessed my family and our company,” he says. “And we will always live by the motto, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’” This spirit inspires Keith to give back to the community, especially groups and organizations that focus on the betterment of children.
Keith’s passion for the business is contagious, and every family member plays a significant role at IDC. “I’m now preparing the next generation to take over the company,” he says. “Although I’ll be at it until I’m gone, I’m fortunate to have other passionate family members around me daily, learning the industry and business that I love.”