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Dreicer & Co.

Dreicer & Co. (1904 – 1923) was recognized as one of the world’s finest jewelers from the late nineteenth century until the 1920s. Founders Jacob Dreicer and his wife, Gittel emigrated from Russia to New York in 1866 bringing with them an extensive knowledge of precious gemstones. Jacob established his jewelry business at No. 1128 Broadway.

The Dreicers brought an appreciation for brightly-colored gems that included emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. At the time, most mid-19th century American women were mainly interested in pearls. Decades later The New York Times would say of that era, “Colored stones were valued by many… as little more than colored glass.”

Historians suggest that the firm originated as J. Dreicer & Son and represented the Parisian firm A. Eknayan that had displayed an extensive array of diamond jewelry during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904. The emphasis on diamonds at the exposition characterized the Dreicer firm’s production and resulted in its growing reputation from about 1910 through the early 1920s.

Although Dreicer & Company’s designs evoked eighteenth-century court styles, their execution relied on (for the time) state-of-the-art technology and an advanced use of platinum. The firm maintained a sumptuous shop at 560 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

In this elegant New York City showroom, modeled after a French salon, tea was served each afternoon to patrons that included industrialists, bankers the actress Sarah Bernhardt, the notable dowager Mrs. Astor, First Lady Ida McKinley, and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.

While the Dreicer firm competed with established high-end jewelers that included Black, Ball & Co. and Tiffany & Co., it was not long before the name Dreicer & Co. became synonymous with exquisite jewelry. In 1885 Dreicer made his son, Michael, a partner and changed the firm’s name to J. Dreicer & Son.

That same year the father and son made a daring move. While many other jewelry retailers did business on Broadway, the Dreicers purchased the Wall mansion at No. 292 5th Avenue in the heart of the fashionable residential section of New York. It was converted into one of the finest business buildings on the avenue.

In 1906 J. Dreicer & Son moved north again as exclusive businesses moved up 5th Avenue. The architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore was commissioned to design a building that, in terms of refinement and taste, would meld into the neighborhood. Completed later that year, the structure succeeded in doing just that. The architects produced a reserved and elegant French Renaissance structure that had Porte Or marble columns and, copying Versailles, was decorated with gilt capitals, and, above them, four stories of Indiana limestone, all in the model of Louis XV.

The firm was famous for its intricate garland-style platinum mountings, for its ability to assemble singular strands of pearls, and as procurers of large and rare gemstones. In addition to operating their jewelry business, the Dreicer family also invested in real estate and developed properties along Fifth Avenue. Michael Dreicer was a member of the Fifth Avenue Association and a vocal proponent of city beautiful efforts. The company’s flagship store still stands at 560 Fifth Avenue.

From its 5th Avenue location Dreicer & Co. continued to nudge popular taste toward colored stones. The firm catered to the elite and maintained a branch at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. Dreicer & Co. is credited as the first company to introduce New York to many of the latest diamond cuts from Paris. The shop was liquidated in 1923 following the death of Michael Dreicer. As early as 1921. Cartier had bought Dreicer’s stock of jewels for $2.5 million.

Some of the firm’s most notable pieces include a Platinum and Diamond Bow Brooch made around 1910. The stylized openwork bow was set with 2 larger old European-cut diamonds weighing approximately 4.75 carats, small old European-cut and single-cut diamonds weighing approximately 9.00 carats, and rose-cut diamonds weighing approximately 4.25 carats, and signed Dreicer & Co.

Another outstanding piece is a Cabochon Emerald Art Deco Dinner Ring. This 1920s ring centers on a bright and glowing translucent green cabochon emerald, weighing 1.50 carats. The gorgeous emerald is accompanied north and south by two bright-white European-cut diamonds, weighing over two carats. It displays exceptional handcrafting and signed inside the ring shank “Mtd. by D&Co.”

There is also a Platinum and Diamond Brooch, made around 1910, that features an open-work scroll and flower motif centering a suspended old European-cut diamond surrounded with full- and single-cut diamonds and a Dreicer & Co. Art Deco Carved Colored Stone and Diamond Watch. The latter piece was designed as a ladies wristwatch, adorned with carved colored stones, surrounded by rose-cut diamonds, with a total diamond weight of approximately 7.00 carats and signed Dreicer & Co. on the face.

Having the cream of New York society as its patrons could be a liability as well as a boon. Millionaires sometimes forgot to pay their bills. In January 1921 Dreicer & Co. took the estate of Harry S. Harkness to court over an outstanding bill of $44,307. The year 1921 was a dark year for the jewelry firm for reasons far more devastating than unpaid bills. On July 26 Michael Dreicer died at his country estate in Deepdale, Long Island. The 53-year old had not only been a major force in the jewelry business, but had also been prominent in real estate.

Upon his death The Jewelers’ Circular noted that he “was a potent factor in the development of the fine buildings in the new shopping district of New York that] set an example for commercially attractive buildings…”

Nineteen days after his son died, Jacob Dreiser was also dead. The New York Times reported on August 15, 1921 that “Relatives said he had been unable to bear the shock of losing his son, Michael, the head of the firm.”

The business went on for a few years, but without Jacob and Michael, the spirit of J. Dreicer & Son was gone.  It was their combined expertise that had formed the essence of the firm.On November 8, 1926 the Times wrote that Dreicer & Co, one of the most respected and exclusive of Manhattan jewelry stores would close. The Times went on to say that “The building of Dreicer & Co., regarded as one of the most beautiful on Fifth Avenue, has been sold to the Northern Pacific Railway Company.”

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