Although the location is the same, Madison Jewelers LLC in Fairfield has reopened under new ownership -- sort of.

While the longtime owner, Tom Losonci, was losing his battle with cancer, Ernie Piscitelli, former store manager of 10 years, was granted the right of first refusal to buy the store.

"He wanted the name to carry on, and I was certainly the best candidate for carrying it on," Piscitelli said. "There is too much pessimism; I had this optimism at a down time."

The certified gemologist and diamond grader said his love for jewels began on a North Carolina beach when he was a kid.

"We would go to Nags Head in North Carolina, where rocks are tumbled and tumbled by the ocean," he said. "My brother and I would pretend that they were diamonds and sapphires. We'd call it `gem island.' "

Piscitelli also manages a jewelry website called Gemislandjewelers.com, which sells pieces for 15 percent to 50 percent less than showroom prices.

The gemologist traveled around the world during Madison Jewelers' six-month hiatus to trade shows in Hong Kong; Bangkok, Thailand; Las Vegas; and New York in search of new inventory before reopening Aug. 28.

Piscitelli said the Fairfield jewelry store has one of the largest bridal selections in the state and offers a wide selection of affordable pieces.

"In this community, there are a lot of professional women, and they need a wardrobe, and a wardrobe is not complete without jewelry," he said. "We offer elegant sterling silver designers, multi-colored gemstones and one-of-a-kind pieces at prices women can buy for themselves."

Still, diamonds shine brightest at Madison Jewelers.

"We're known for diamonds -- it's what we've always done," Piscitelli said. "There is nothing as brilliant or as durable as a diamond. They're fascinating."

White gold, rose gold and "little artworks of jewelry" are on the rise now, said Piscitelli, who decided to reopen the store in a recession, believing that small businesses are a key to reviving the economy.

"I traded money for jewels. The dollar is not that stable. The diamond is far more stable than the dollar right now," he said. "I am absolutely certain that people who love jewelry are always going to love jewelry."

Paul Timpanelli, president and chief executive officer of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, welcomed Piscitelli's decision.

"It's been a family-owned business for years, and it's good to see it continue," he said.