Not all jewelers are created equal. There are those that give the industry a bad name by misleading consumers on the quality of craftsmanship, or caliber of service. When it comes time to shop for something as valuable and expensive as jewelry, many people spend much of their time looking for someone who won’t take advantage of them, which can take longer than it takes to decide on the jewelry itself. But for over 40 years, James “Barry” Donaldson, the founder of North Shore Diamond & Gold, kept many of his customers from starting that tiresome journey. The family-owned store has given the community something more precious than diamonds and gold could ever buy — trust.
“Jewelry can be the biggest purchase in someone’s life,” said James Donaldson, Barry Donaldson’s only son. “My dad always tried to budget as much as he could for people.”
For those who don’t frequently shop for jewelry, it’s easy to miss the tiny store located on 15 Glen St. Before he died in February of 2022, the 80-year-old Donaldson made sure his loyal customers, like Brian Young, felt like family.
“He was such a class act, people don’t usually trust jewelers anymore,” Young said. “But with him, it was the total opposite. He struck me as a unique individual. He was the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back.”
Glen Cove Councilwoman Barbara Peebles had her anniversary ring fixed at the store and with Donaldson’s help, transformed her mother’s earring into a ring. She fondly remembers Donaldson as a legend in the community.
“He was a trusted guy,” Peebles said. “When you came in here, you had to make sure you had 45 minutes because if you left in five minutes you missed out on a nice chat with Barry.”
The beloved member of the North Shore community didn’t start his career as a jeweler until his 30s. Donaldson, a Toronto, Canada native, initially started working in the field of harness-horse racing before he moved to New York in the 1970s. He brought his love of horses with him, and frequented Roosevelt Raceway. When he settled in Old Westbury, he began purchasing horses for then County Executive Francis Purcell for the county’s Mounty Police units.
When he attended the raceway’s Saturday flea markets, he befriended a fellow county co-worker who had a side business in antique sales. Together, they scouted flea markets and antique shows, purchasing and selling antiques, jewelry and silver before Donaldson established his first Glen Cove store.
While establishing his business, Donaldson married Maranna Giamanco, and his family grew with the birth of James Donaldson in 1884.
Donaldson became known as “The Silver Man,” as his expertise and knowledge of fine silver was legendary on the North Shore.
His sudden death in 2022 came as a shock to his son who he will always remember his father’s love of weightlifting, running and swimming. Donaldson died from endocarditis, a heart infection,
One year later, the 39-year-old Donaldson took over his father’s store, a decision he wasn’t initially sure would be right for him. Although Donaldson grew up in his dad’s store and helped repair jewelry, he went on to earn a dual master’s degree in mental health counseling and rehabilitation for individuals with disabilities from Hofstra University in 2012. After that, he tapped into his entrepreneurial spirit and gravitated to other business endeavors.
After owning CrossFit Monarchy in Plainview, Donaldson established Donaldson Realty Group in 2015. The entrepreneur’s flexible real estate business gave him room to have other side endeavors as well.
When his father died last year, Donaldson knew he had a tough decision to make —to keep his father’s beloved store or sell it.
To help make the decision easier, his wife, Natalie, asked the community for their feedback on the Glen Cove Neighbors Facebook page. The responses were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the “gem of the North Shore.”
Donaldson inherited a loyal customer base from his father, many who had had children and grandchildren of their own.
“They’ve really motivated me to stay in Glen Cove because it’s a special place,” Donaldson said. “It was the best decision I’ve made, and I don’t regret anything. I’m sure my dad is happy.”