What did Hollywood megastar Elizabeth Taylor, the Prince of Wales, the Guggenheim family and former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln have in common? Each had a penchant for finely crafted jewelry, and were notable clients of Black, Starr & Frost, America’s First Jeweler Since 1810, today based in Newport Beach.
History buffs can now delve into all the details behind this storied brand in “1810: Celebrating Two Centuries of American Luxury,” a new hardcover book published by Black, Starr & Frost that depicts the provocative personalities and iconic jewels that are all part of the rich history of the brad. The company originally opened as Marquand & Co. in New York City, making it the oldest continually operating jewelry firm in the United States. A jeweler to celebrities, privileged American families, captains of industry and royalty, the firm’s saga is set against the very beginning of American history, the extravagance of the Gilded Age, the turbulence of the Reconstruction Era, the vibrancy of the Jazz Age and more.
Not only were they one of the first companies to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, but they created the first choker necklace and were responsible for the invention of the safe deposit box system, plate glass windows (1833) and fireproof buildings (1860). Additionally, the iconic jewelry firm built the first apartment building in New York in 1876 and was the first commercial entity on New York’s venerable Fifth Avenue, mecca to luxury today.
To complete the new book, historians, researchers and authors were commissioned to dig deeply into the company’s more than 200-year history to revealed some fascinating anecdotes and historic milestones, among them: The pioneering jewelry company was the first retail venue to introduce plate glass windows, which allowed merchandise to be shown to the outside of the building and spawned the concept of “window-shopping,” now a favorite American pastime. Among the jeweler’s more famous customers: the Prince of Wales, who in 1860 ordered more than $12,000 in silver and jewelry.
In 1930 the company acquired the diamonds and jewels of New York tycoon “Diamond Jim Brady,” a legendary financier known for his voracious appetite and love of fine jewels. In 1931 the company acquired the 25-carat “Lucky Baldwin” Ruby – named after gold mining pioneer “Lucky” Baldwin – for $100,000. That same stone was offered for sale at$60 million in 2014. The ruby was sold by Harry Winston to Robert Clifford Black, and Winston used the proceeds to open Harry Winston Jewelers in 1932. The Archduke Joseph Diamond, the largest D-color, internally flawless, Golconda diamond in the world, was sold by the company in 2012 to a royal house for a record $21.5 million. The aggregated value of fine jewelry, timepieces, clocks and sterling silver accumulated over the years with the renowned Black, Starr & Frost brand is estimated at $10 billion. The new book retails for $85 and is available at the Newport Beach location. For more information or to order, visit www.blackstarrfrost.com.
In other news for the prestigeous brand, Adam Graham, a veteran jewelry industry executive, has been named vice president/managing director of Newport Beach-headquartered Black, Starr & Frost.
Most recently the CEO for Erica Courtney Inc., a Los Angeles-based couture jewelry designer, Graham has extensive credentials in the jewelry industry, including executive-level positions with the American Gem Trade Association, Saks Fifth Avenue, the Rapaport Group and the American Gem Society. With decades of experience in the fine jewelry industry, Graham is well equipped to help revitalize the Black, Starr & Frost brand as it introduces new collections, signature pieces and new locations nationwide.
In his most recent position with Erica Courtney Inc., Graham oversaw all business operations for the acclaimed designer jewelry brand – establishing a loose gemstone division to diversify its product base and boost revenues. His experience includes serving as the marketing manager for the American Gem Trade Association in Dallas; vice president of Rapaport Group, overseeing all U.S. operations for the Las Vegas-based diamond industry organization and director of marketing and public relations for the American Gem Society.