Black, Starr and Frost is the longest running jewellery business in the United States of America. The firm was first founded in 1810, and originally named after its founder, Isaac Marquand. It was renamed Black, Starr and Frost in 1876 after its new owners and the name has held for over 100 years. Today the CEO Alfredo J. Molina, is proud to continue the legacy of ‘America’s first jeweller’. In an interview shortly after his acquisition of the firm in 2006, Molina described owning a piece of Black, Starr and Frost jewellery is like “owning a piece of history”.
Jewellery Maker Profile: Black, Starr & Frost
America’s First Jewellers
The luxury retailer has supplied jewellery to America’s most prestigious historic families, from the Vanderbilts, Rockafellers, Guggenheims and Carnegies. Mrs Mary Todd Lincoln was an avid shopper at the firm’s magnificent white marble store on the corner of Broadway and Prince’s Street. In 1865, Mrs Lincoln had a debt of $64,000 at Black, Starr and Frost. A century later, the socialite Bunny Mellon was a significant client.
When the large white marble store opened in 1860, it was the first fire proof building in New York City. Black, Starr and Frost were the first jewellery retailers to take up a position on 5th Avenue, leading the way for other luxury brands to establish themselves on 5th Avenue. The firm was also the first New York store to use sheets of plate glass in their windows to encourage window shoppers and better display their jewellery.
‘Lucky’ Baldwin Ruby
In 1912 the brand moved from their salon on 28th Street and 5th Avenue to 48th Street and 5th Avenue. The palatial new building was renovated for an impressive $1 million, which reflected the brand’s profitable success. Despite the stock market crash of 1929, the interwar period proved to be one of newsworthy sales for Black, Starr and Frost: in 1928 they sold the 127 carat Portuguese Diamond to Hopkins Joyce for 4373,000. In 1930 they acquired a significant collection of jewels from the financier with a passion for gems, ‘Diamond’ Jim Brady. A year later they acquired another large gemstone, the ‘Lucky’ Baldwin Ruby, weighing 25 carats.
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend
In the 1953 film adaption of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’, Black, Starr and Frost are included in the now iconic anthem ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ along with Cartier and Harry Winston.
Archduke Joseph Diamond
In 2012 the Molina Group acquired the brand, relocating the headquarters from New York City to Phoenix. In the same year Black, Starr and Frost, set three records with the sale of the Archduke Joseph Diamond at Christie’s Geneva for $21.5 million. The 76 carat diamond is the largest D-colour, internally flawless diamond in the world minded from the ancient Golconda mine.
In 2014, Molina published an in-depth record of the brand’s illustrious history in ‘1810: Celebrating Two Centuries of American Luxury’.
The Epitome of Luxury
In 1951 the firm, then called Ball, Black and Co., exhibited a lavish four piece tea set at the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition in London. The tea-set was made from solid gold and hit headlines, leaving a lasting impression on viewers as the epitome of luxury.
As an institution for American jewellery, Black, Starr and Frost have been consistently commissioned to create awards and medals for patriotic pieces. In 1863 the first Gillmore Medal was created to honour Major General Quincy A. Gillmore for his valour in commanding the Union troops. Only 400 Gillmore Medals have been created subsequently by Black, Starr and Frost. In the same year, the firm was commissioned to create the Kearny Cross, another patriotic award for valour.
In 1881 Black, Starr and Frost created the first trophy for the US Lawn Tennis Association Championship. This commission set a trend for the next two decades of Black, Starr and Frost created trophies for other sporting events, from the Astor Cup (1915) to the Davis Cup (1921).
The firm’s long running history has made them an institution within the American jewellery industry. Their patriotic streak is embodied in their shared eagle logo with the united states flag. In 1911 they were commissioned to create the ceremonial key for the opening of the New York Public Library. They were also chosen by Princeton University to create the ‘Princeton Mace’ in 1956 for the college’s annual ceremonies.
In 2015, the brand was also responsible for designing ‘The Empress’. The monumental necklace has been priced at $4.5million. It features 30 untreated Burmese sapphires (total weight of 11.9 carats), 34 oval diamonds (total weight of 10.56 carats) and 404 round diamonds (total weight of 82.61 carats) all set in platinum.
In recent years, Black, Starr and Frost have launched the Everyday Luxury collection which, as the name suggests, brings a luxurious touch to the everyday. The collection includes a broad range of diamond studs, stackable rings and statement cuffs set in warm tones of yellow, white or rose gold to bring a timeless chic for the modern woman to wear day to night, boardroom to beach.