Tribune Photo/Joey Hedges

By Leilani Haywood
Tribune Reporter

Paul Dodds, owner of Dodds Jewelry, can almost predict if a marriage is going to be successful based on a customer’s attitude when buying a ring for their fiancée. “My favorite part of my job is helping the guy figure out how to ask the girl to marry him,” he laughs. “I always ask them, ‘did you ask her father?’ If they haven’t, I tell them go back and ask her dad because you always want his approval. I think when you’re asking a woman to marry you, this isn’t the time to look for a bargain.”

A guy who buys a cheap ring when he is driving a Mercedes is not a good sign of the beginning of a successful marriage. “If he is willing to spend more on his car than your ring then you need to wonder where you stand in his priorities,” he said. Dodds knows firsthand the inestimable value of marriage with his wife, Valerie, who he considers his partner and anchor. “I couldn’t do any of this without her.”

For several decades, Dodds has created custom designs for one-of-a-kind jewelry and counseled guys on how to propose to that special girl. Dodds started in the jewelry business when he was a senior at Raytown High School. “I was in the cooperative education program and got a job at Meyer Jewelry,” he said. “It’s well established and has been in business for over 100 years. I always loved working with my hands and building models around the house.”

Dodds ran errands for Meyer Jewelry and was fascinated with the process of ring sizing and setting diamonds. “These old guys took a liking to me and started showing me how to do things,” he said. “This was in 1982 when gold went up to $860 per ounce. I was going to places and buying diamonds for next to nothing and setting them for engagement rings.”

Dodds’ sister, Becky, was a nursing student at Research Hospital. She told her friends who were nurses and doctors about his business and it took off. “My first base of clients were nurses and doctors,” he said. “Since they live on referrals, they told their friends and have managed to follow me through all of my stores.”

Dodds Jewelry’s first location was at 1006 Grand in downtown Kansas City when he was 24-years-old. “My business was based on word of mouth and you had to make an appointment,” he said. “There was no walk in traffic and it was all referral. My business then was focused on custom design jewelry.” From 1006 Grand, Suite 1328, Dodds moved to 2435 Grand in the former IBM building near Crown Center. His wife, worked at Crown Center and when her job ended, he needed to move his business.

Dodds Jewelry moved to Lee’s Summit at 915 Wood Chapel Rd. until the building was sold. He moved to New Longview on View High and Fascination Drive into a two-story location. “I was the only jeweler in the area but there wasn’t any foot traffic into the area.” He moved the store to Grandview, until moving back to where he started in Lee’s Summit in a different store location at 809 NE Woods Chapel Rd.

“My primary business is engagement rings but I’ve done specialized designs such as a bus driver who wanted me to make a pendant that was a functional school bus with wheels that turned and doors that opened,” he said. “I used yellow gold, white gold and black enamel. It cost $3,000 at the time and was the most unusual design I’ve been asked to make.”

Dodds also has been asked to turn cremated remains into a diamond which he says is a scam. “I’ve also had people ask me to fill their grill (clip-on veneers for teeth) with diamonds.” Although engagement rings are the bread and butter for Dodds Jewelry, his first love is custom design. “I can design the piece with computer aided design (CAD) where the customer can see how the piece will look in a three-dimensional setting,” he said. After the customer approves the design, he prepares the wax model for the customer to try on.

Translating a customer’s desire into a design and helping a guy to get that girl to say ‘yes’ to a marriage proposal is a critical part of his business. Customers have walked into the store with no idea of what they wanted and Dodds knows the right questions to ask to help the customer narrow their options. The process is painstaking but the customer’s “omigosh this is amazing” is the payoff for the hard work.

Dodds Jewelry also buys coins, gold, silver and estate jewelry. His wife, Valerie, specializes in Trollbead pieces. Dodds Jewelry is located at 809 NE Woods Chapel Road. For more information about Dodds Jewelry, visit his website at or call (816) 554-0420.