Local Spotlight

Immigrants Renew Diamond Legacy

McKay Diamonds continues, thanks to skilled Brazilian artisans. The Andrade family keep a Salt Lake tradition alive.


The McKay legacy began in 1949, when Robert McKay and his wife Frances started their adventure in the diamond business. McKay Diamonds opened its doors at 157 South Main Street more than 60 years ago. In May 2010, Robert McKay decided it was time to retire. Joe & Sandra Andrade jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the McKay legacy, bringing their family along for the ride, and loving every minute of it. 

In the 1970s, far away in Brazil, Joe Andrade took a job as a watchmaker’s apprentice at the tender age of nine, to help provide for his family. Andrade, along with his fifteen siblings, lived a simple life in a modest home where the entire family pitched in to help out. 

After a short time, he soon began an apprenticeship with the watchmaker’s friend, developing skills in jewelry carving and setting, and opening his first jewelry store in Brazil at the age of 17. 

The Andrade family work together at McKay Diamonds. Left to right: Allan, Sandra, Kim, and Joe Andrade. Photos by Dung Hoang.

It was that entrepreneurial spirit that led Joe and his wife, Sandra, to move to the United States more than 20 years ago, where he worked for other jewelry stores before taking on an opportunity with McKay Diamonds.

Andrade’s oldest brother had served a mission in the United States and suggested that he move his family from Brazil. He and his wife decided to obtain a work visa and come to America on a trial basis for two years after which they would reevaluate. 

When the two-year time frame rolled around, the family applied for US citizenship and officially made America their home. 

Andrade became close friends with Bob and Frances McKay, and the two families grew closer throughout the years. In 2010, Bob wanted to retire to spend more time with his sweetheart, and that’s when Joe jumped in. He had worked with McKay for many years and knew most of the people that purchased from McKay Diamonds. 

Andrade built from what the McKay family started in Salt Lake City, and as the new owner, he would not change what McKay had created — a place where your jeweler is your friend and your experience there will be one to remember. 

“I want it to be personal, something with feeling and meaning,” said Andrade. A place where the family doesn’t simply mean his own children, but includes those relationships built over generations.

Andrade’s daughter Kim explained that her favorite part of the family business is creating custom designs. “Engagement rings should show the uniqueness of the relationship of the couple. Customers can choose the center stone and the ring setting, and they can even watch her Dad, Joe, create the ring from beginning to end. The couple is there for the entire process,” she says. 

Custom designs allow someone to bring in a sketch or photograph of a piece, and the jeweler creates a mold of the design until the customer is totally satisfied. 

These pieces can be created using diamonds and other gemstones that you already have, or can be provided to you from Kay’s selection, creating memories that last a lifetime. 

Hundreds of reviews tell a story of relationship and honesty, such as, “Joe and Sandra at McKay helped me make this a reality. The necklaces turned out so beautiful and the artistry of the necklaces could not have been surpassed,” said customer Cheryl Cook. 

The Andrades import carefully chosen diamonds and jewels from around the world, and each source has a different color hue. Lab-grown diamonds made in the USA are becoming more popular. They are created from a small piece of genuine diamond, inserted into a chamber with carbon and gasses growing the diamond to a larger caret size.

Kim began coming to work with her parents when she was 10 years old, mostly running around the store as kids do. However, after she earned her art degree in 2022 from the University of Utah, she took on the challenge of marketing and rebranding to create a more modern vibe, boost sales, increase back-of-house projects, promote social media visibility, and apprentice with her father. 

It is hard to imagine historic Main Street without McKay Diamonds, yet due to some changes with the building, the family received a gentle nudge to move to their new location on Regent Street where they built their display cases, painted, and created a beautiful new store while keeping old traditions alive. Kim loves to hear all the romantic stories of engagements — even the ones where the couple lost the ring. It is a family affair where generation after generation comes to purchase their rings, and become family in the process.


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