The story behind the owner of Teresa’s Jewelers

teresa’s jewelers
Teresa Saldivar raised in Santa Ana, is the co-founder of the National Hispanic Business Women’s Association – NHBWA. Photo by Loretta Cannett-Bailes

People stroll down Calle Cuatro ducking in and out of bridal and quinceanera shops. Stores like El Vaquero sell boots and clothing for clubbing. There’s also Venta de Vestidos de Quince Años and Shelly’s Bridal, with decorative dresses in the windows for an average price of $2,500 for each one. Finally, you arrive at Teresa’s Jewelry Store on the corner of Broadway and 4th Street. 

The display window has a variety of beautiful necklaces, bracelets and earrings with plenty of bling that promises to warm any lady’s heart.

Owner Teresa Saldivar is a two-time graduate of Santa Ana College. She studied nursing and gemology—which is now a defunct program. Teresa had a dream of opening her own jewelry store one day but didn’t always think she could.

As a high school student, she worked in housekeeping at the University of California Irvine Health Center.  She was constantly being asked to translate for Spanish-speaking patients. Her goal was to become a nurse. 

After Teresa studied nursing at Santa Ana College, she transferred to California State University Long Beach. She also did clinical rounds at the Veterans Hospital.

During the Vietnam War, Teresa dropped out of college after “Seeing so many young men severely injured with amputated arms and legs was too depressing.”

After dropping out of college and needing a job, her friend’s brother offered her one at a jewelry store he was opening in East Los Angeles. 

With her fluency in Spanish and ambitious attitude, she brought the store an increase in sales after she arrived. The store’s newly found success caused the owner to open another storefront in Santa Ana, asking Teresa to transfer. 

Teresa initially refused but took the offer two years later.

 “I felt ashamed about having gone to school, and I was so embarrassed because I didn’t have my degree,” she said since she grew up in Santa Ana.

As she ran the storefront, she began planning to open a store of her own. 

She learned the business and returned to Santa Ana College and studied gemology. Later Teresa attended the Gemological Institute of America and got certified in diamond appraisal.

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She was finally ready to open her own store. 

In 1985, she opened Teresa’s Jewelry on Fourth Street and Broadway. Teresa asked her sister Pati to join her. Pati would handle the accounting, and Teresa would manage the business. 

As a newfound businesswoman, she prioritized quality jewelry and personalized attention to the customer.

On a recent Saturday, customer Guadalupe Fernandez Lopez commented that she was shopping with her daughter. Lupe had never bought herself a piece of jewelry. Nancy, the sales clerk, helped her look at the bracelets. 

Lopez told Nancy that she had a wide wrist and wasn’t thinking of buying anything and left the store. The next day, Nancy called and said she had two versions of the large bracelets that Lupe saw yesterday.

After learning that Teresa’s offers a lay-away plan, she bought the bracelet. “The service here is excellent and they reach out to the customer,” Lupe said.

Another customer, a young man, with a smile on his face, was shopping for an engagement ring and said, “The rings are beautiful, Teresa offers quality and excellent service. She is well-recognized in the community for the quality of her jewelry.”

This type of personalized service offering a layaway plan, and in-house financing makes her jewelry affordable and accessible. The store is not just an economic success, but well respected by its customers. 

Later down the road, Teresa went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies from California State University Fullerton. “Having my own business has given me the freedom to be of service to the community,” she said. 

As a thank you to Santa Ana, Teresa has given and has active scholarships. She gives 200 gift donations of costume jewelry to women in assisted living annually. 

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