As the class of 2011 receives its diplomas, it will also be preparing to enter a whole new world. High school graduates are getting excited for college as college grads are stepping into the business world. Finding the perfect gift for a graduate may be difficult, but there are several local businesses you can turn to for ideas. High school grads will soon need dorm décor and perhaps a few souvenirs that remind them of New Orleans. College graduates may need to upgrade their wardrobes for new jobs or decorate their new homes with New Orleans artwork. Here are a few gift suggestions to help a graduate prepare for the next big step.

High school graduates will need a quality watch to keep track of college classes, while college grads will want a classy watch to wear to work – whatever the case, Adler’s (multiple locations, provides the right gift for any graduate. “The way we keep track of time may be changing, but watches add instant style to any wardrobe,” says Jennifer Boudloche of Adler’s. “Though your graduate may be using a cell phone to tell time, a wristwatch is a great gift for marking a momentous occasion.” The shop’s vast selection of fine watch brands (including Rolex, Cartier, Baume & Mercier, TAG Heuer and more) will suit any taste. Hand-engraving will add a nice touch to a watch, making a memorable gift for years to come.

Art makes a fine gift for anyone, but as a college graduation gift, artwork can be the beginning of a new home’s furnishing. Cole Pratt Gallery (3800 Magazine St., 891-6789) can start the decorating process with works of art on paper or with photographs, giving a new home a great feel. With artists including Aaron Collier (with enticing paintings such as “Beyond the Mere Appearance”), Kathy Hughes (with interesting works such as “Grid Construction #35”) and Robert Lansden (artist of “A Question of Time IV,” pictured), the gallery has a wide variety of artistic styles and prices to accommodate every budget, with many items costing less than $1,000. “The gift of a painting might lead to a lifetime appreciation of the arts,” says owner Erika Olinger.

Judy at the Rink (2727 Prytania St., 891-7018) specializes in New Orleans décor, which would fit well in a new dorm or apartment. Owner Kay Fausset chooses elegant objects that reflect New Orleans’ lifestyle and architectural uniqueness and marks everything at a reasonable price. The perfect gift for a high school grad is Judy at the Rink’s “Embellish Your Story” magnet board, for which you can select the base and choose words and images to personalize your gift. Several magnet choices are available, including inspirational, decorative, seasonal and more.
Pick up a personalized gift at Leontine Linens (3806 Magazine St., 899-7833), which specializes in custom-made linens. “From a made-to-measure monogrammed robe to custom accessories for makeup and travel, there’s something for everyone,” says Kirstin Keiser of Leontine Linens. Stop by to design your own specially made gift or pick up a gift certificate and let the recipient design his or her own item. Nice gifts for female high school grads could include an exquisite quilt to jazz up her new dorm room or the Hannah Case – it’s the perfect size to store makeup, while still fitting easily in a handbag.

For high school grads, stop by The Linen Registry (204 Metairie Road, Metairie, 831-8228) for dorm gifts, such as microcotton towels, down pillows with varieties in firmness, cuddly down blankets and comforters and colored Egyptian cotton sateen or percale (a closely woven fabric) sheeting for extra-large twin dormitory beds. The shop also offers custom monogramming services to personalize a graduate’s gift, or you can visit the store to discuss more gift ideas with the design consultants. Lee McKee of The Linen Registry says, “We specialize in fine linens for the bed, bath and table, but with a twist. Our focus is on sophisticated linens that can withstand the rigors of family life. That way you will have a beautiful bed that is machine-washable and looks great for years.”

The girly grads in your life will rejoice with any gift you find from Mirabella (605 C Metairie Road, Metairie, 828-3888), a hip boutique for shoes, jewelry and accessories in Old Metairie. High school grads may want to trash their beaten-up sneakers and sport some new shoes for college, while college grads might need something to jazz up their new career wardrobe. The shop has a great selection, with something to suit all price ranges and ages. Some of the most popular shoes are by Donald J Pliner, Me Too, Martinez Valero and more. Other good grad gifts from Mirabella include gorgeous watches – such as the trendy ones from Michael Kors – and lovely necklaces like those by Be-Jé Designs.

At NOLAbet Prints (, you can find the perfect personalized gift for a grad to remember New Orleans. Founder Lauren Widener created a unique alphabet using her own photographs of New Orleans architecture, wrought iron and icons that resemble letters: “I use my alphabet, which is still growing, to design your last name or any other phrase you want. You can choose to have it matted and framed or printed on high-quality stationery.” The N’awlins Name Print gives graduates a way to remember the city while it adorns the walls of a new dorm room or apartment. Other gift ideas for your feminine grad are NOLA-nitials, sterling silver initial pendants made with any letter of Widener’s alphabet. The shop offers both pre-made and custom-made stationery.

A portion of NOLAbet Prints’ proceeds goes to the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, supporting its efforts to rebuild and restore the city.

If you can’t decide what to give, but you know that your graduate loves clothing and New Orleans, then the Perlis (multiple locations, gift card will fit both college and high school graduates. College grads might need a break after their hard work this semester, and what better way to relax than in comfortable clothing by Lacoste, Vineyard Vines, Southern Tide or Perlis’ own Crawfish or Fleur de Lis collections. (High school grads will love to add these brands to their dorm room closet, too.) If you’re looking for a girl’s gift, check out the Ladies Boutique at Perlis, which has recently added a line by Brighton.

Founded in 1975, Symmetry Jewelers and Designers (8138 Hampson St., 861-9925) has long been known for its alternative and custom graduation rings. The gallery features a huge selection of Symmetry’s original designs as well as pieces from national and international jewelry artists. Grads will love a custom-made pair of earrings or a nice pair of cufflinks, such as Symmetry’s vintage style cufflinks – available in any precious metal – by its own in-house designer and craftsman Tom Mathis. Symmetry can design a fine original creation using either its own gemstones or ones that a customer brings to the shop – so you can pass a family treasure on to a graduate. Any graduate gift will reflect Symmetry’s “balance between the creative mind and the hands of a master craftsman.”