Jewel of Asia in Laguna Beach Brings the World to the Coast

The quiet, elderly fellow tending the store at Jewel of Asia in Laguna Beach noticed my presence when I wandered in recently and wrangled me into a conversation. He balked at the idea of having his store written about for an article—a Trendzilla first! But I was able to pull this info out of him: His name is Kazeem, and he opened Jewel of Asia in this spot more than 20 years ago. Kazeem moved to the United States in 1981 from Afghanistan, eventually settled in Laguna Beach and still runs a similar store in his home country. He goes back and forth every once in a while and travels to different countries to collect more of his decorative inventory.

And a great inventory he has. While the shop carries candles and salt lamps made domestically, there are also hand-sewn tapestries, wraps and blankets from India; ornate jewelry boxes, worldly rings, necklace chains, pendants and other jewelry; downsized religious statues made of marble; and numerous types of stone and historical objets d’art such as prized, antique pistols made with quality silver. You can find his candles, salt lamps, crystals, sterling-silver jewelry and Laughing Buddha statues anywhere, but the same is not true of the rare Byzantine, Tibetan and Egyptian jewelry, as well as 18-karat gold-plated jewelry (the U.S. standard is 14 karats). Beside the cash register sits a selection of generic sunglasses, in case you wanted to walk down to the beach after.

Overall, Jewel of Asia is like a less sanitized World Market, with a wider scope of authentic imports. And as a deeper sign of Kazeem’s Old World personality, there’s no website or social-media presence, which means a personal visit is in order. Even if your tastes in accessories range from modest to embellished, the well-traveled Kazeem is your best guide to learning about global fare, with the kind of friendly demeanor you can’t find on the internet.

Jewel of Asia, 260 Forest Ave., Ste. 4, Laguna Beach, (949) 376-5332.

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