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It’s hard to imagine after walking into Royal Jewelers on any given day that this store initially got its start by selling washing machines. Washing machines, cameras, and luggage to be precise, a far cry from the glitz and sparkle that can currently be found in each of the store’s display cases.

It was from these humble beginnings, however, that owner Steven Leed first ventured into the jewelry business. Leed’s father opened a small secondfloor office space in Lawrence in 1948 and after graduating from college, Leed then took over the business in 1975. His vision was to turn it into a jewelry store powerhouse, a business that sells the idea of luxury from the world’s top designers. That vision also included moving the store to a new location.

Today, customers at Royal Jewelers on Main Street in Andover are treated to not only plenty of options, but also some of the finest jewelry in the world. Endless polished counters offer up designs created right at Royal’s downstairs workshop, including tasteful, classic engagement rings, innovative contemporary pieces, and even the store’s own signature perfume, Royal No. 5, created for Leed’s sister, Paula (who is equal partner in the store), on her birthday one year as a party favor to guests.

Wearing a David Yurman silk and silver bracelet and an elegant double-faced Swiss watch, Leed talks about the shift in the industry, one he says he predicted long ago, comparing it to the direction of the fashion industry.

“Well-known designers like Isaac Mizrahi are creating clothing designs for lower rent stores like Target,” he says. “The same thing has happened in our business.” Designer jewelry has become very popular and by looking around Royal, it’s not hard to see why.

Customers can browse through collections from top contemporary jewelry designers David Yurman and Hearts on Fire, as well as watches from exclusive

Swiss designers like Vacheron Constantin, and many others. In fact, at the personal request of Leed, Yurman designed and opened his first in-store boutique at Royal which, set in its own area off from the rest of the store, gives Yurman fanatics a place call home.

Not to be outdone, Royal’s Hearts on Fire Cafe puts the diamond enthusiast at ease, where customers can relax with a cup of coffee or the Royal Jewelers-labeled bottled water. These diamonds come with the claim to be the most perfect cut in the world and Michael Lebowitz, vice president of sales and merchandising, says they’ve won the claim in a court of law. Based on what facts? The scientific assessment of light performance, or, brilliance-the return of white light, pinpoint colors, and mosaic flashes to emit every color of the rainbow.

But flashy displays and marketing tag lines only go so far. Staying in business over the long haul means building a trust and a connection with customers. That’s part of the reason that collectors gather at Royal on Saturday mornings to browse $20,000 wristwatches and why engaged couples regularly come in together to choose the eternal symbol of their commitment. The store sometimes gets so involved in making people feel special that they once flew an employee with a gift-wrapped birthday present-a diamond ring, of course-to Nantucket where a docking yacht and its owner were eagerly awaiting the delivery.

“It’s not unusual for us to do something like that,” says Leed. “Paula and I truly love this business-the people, the gems, the jewelry, the Swiss watches,” says Leed. “We feel very fortunate to have grown up in Royal Jewelers and are honored to continue our family’s legacy.”

Despite the country’s general economic malaise in 2008, Leed’s holiday sales were even with the year before. “Amazing in this economy,” he says.

On a wintry Tuesday afternoon, the store is never empty as customers shop for new purchases or bring in items to be repaired. A well-dressed young man peruses the exclusive Ulysse Nardin case. “This one is a bridge between both sport and dress,”

Leed says, pulling out a pricey, but beautiful, watch. Leed says the secret to the store’s success on the North Shore for the past 60 years combines its selection of the world’s most beautiful designs with a customer-centered warmth. “It’s not about intimidation,” he says. “It’s more a sense of belonging.” Seconds later, the store owner excuses himself to greet a couple from Beverly Farms who have dropped by to have something repaired and to say hello.

Long-time customers of Royal benefit from having a hometown jeweler who knows their taste, especially at gift-buying time. “We already know what’s in their jewel boxes,” one employee says with a sly smile. An oath of confidentiality is as strict here as in any lawyer’s or accountant’s office, but ask around the store and you’ll hear more than a few engagement stories with everything from ring-bearing Santas to rigged Yankee Swaps. Royal employees have even found themselves acting as proposal consultants to more than one nervous would-be groom.

“The engagement ring is the symbol of the greatest love you can feel for someone,” says Lebowitz, “We sell happiness. We are in a celebratory business.”

Lebowitz says this while handing over a ring with a center stone that is what some call a “canary yellow” diamond, priced the same as a typical North Shore two bedroom condominium. He then pulls out of the case one of eight limited edition, 18 karat gold Jaquet Droz watches.

Lebowitz accompanies Leed to the watch houses in Switzerland at least once a year, where they relay the desires of their watch buying market. To give an idea of this exclusive world, Lebowitz says Rolex makes about a million watches a year, while Jaquet Droz rolls out only about 1,800.

Though this all can seem like a bit of indulgence or folly in a time of economic uncertainty, Lebowitz says people still feel a need to commemorate life’s important moments. “We still need to make ourselves happy. We still work hard and need to celebrate.”

The Portfolio

Founded: 1948

Number of Employees: 28

Services: Jewelry design, repair and restoration, diamond

setting and remounting, appraisals, watch service and restoration,

watch battery and strap replacement

Jewelery and Watch Lines: David Yurman, Hearts on Fire,

Beaudry, Pianegonda, Cartier, Tag Heuer, Vacheron Constantin,

Panerai, IWC, Jaquet Droz, Ulysse Nardin

Contact: 58 Main St., Andover, 978-475-3330,