By Mark Warner
The world's oldest and most respected jewelry houses have been providing fine jewelry to the notable, prestigious, and well-heeled for centuries. Many of them have a long and unbroken tradition of craftsmanship that has been passed down family lines throughout the ages. Not only do they have the weight of tradition behind them, but also the prestige of having provided jewelry to some of the finest personages in history. Royalty, nobility, and the otherwise rich and famous have patronized these houses in the past, and they continue to be top destinations for those seeking fine jewelry today. Read on to discover some of the most historic and prestigious names in jewelry.
1369 - Torrini
The Torrini trademark was first registered in Florence, Italy in the year 1369, making this the oldest jewelry manufacturer that is still in business today. The business has been passed down from father to son, generation after generation for almost 7 centuries. Torrini even still uses the same logo that was originally used by the family in the 1300's (the Signum of Jacopus).
1613 - Mellerio dits Meller
In the year 1613 the Mellerio family was given the honor of making jewelry for the French royal family. As legend has it, this privilege was given after a chimney sweeper in the Mellerio family was sweeping chimneys and overheard of a plot to assassinate King Louis XIII.
1656 - Au Bijou
This family business has been passed down for 11 generations; beginning with the goldsmith Martin Huber in the year 1656 and continuing through Patrik-Philipp Huber who currently runs the company. The modern shop sells luxury jewelry items such as high-end watches, and they also manufacture their own jewelry to order for customers. The shop is located in Basel, Switzerland.
1685 - Toye & Co
This is one of the few jewelers in the world that has a Warrant from the Queen of England. This means that they are an official supplier who has been granted the right to advertise this by the Queen. This is a bit different than in America where you can send the President a gift and claim to be the "supplier of XYZ to the President". According to their website, Toye & Co "manufactures jewellery and identity products for governments, corporates, fraternal and friendly societies, and clubs and associations."
1735 - Garrard
Garrard is another historic jeweler that is known for making jewelry and silverware for the Royal Family of England. They began making jewels for royalty in 1735 and they continue this tradition today in London. Garrard also makes trophies for events like America's Cup and the English Premier League. They claim to be the "Oldest Jeweler in the World, since 1735", but as you can see above there are several other companies that have been in business longer.
1785 - Bixler's - Oldest In America!
It had been only a few years since the US Constitution was signed and the American Revolutionary War had ended when this company was founded. After the fighting stopped, Christian Bixler III went into business for himself, opening what would become America's first jewelry store. Located in Allentown, PA, this establishment has been passed down through 6 generations and is still owned and operated by the Bixler family today.
1796 - Shreve, Crump & Low
In 1796 a watchmaker and silversmith named John McFarlane opened a workshop across the street from Paul Revere in Boston. He began a centuries long tradition of acting as one of Boston's finest jewelry stores. The company may be best-known for providing the Davis Cup - the prize trophy for one of tennis' most premier tournaments. Despite being burned to the ground in the Great Boston Fire of 1872, Shreve, Crump & Low has continued to do business in the City of Boston for more than 230 years.
Fun Facts for the Road:
Who is the world's oldest watchmaker?
Answer: The Gallet family.
The Gallet family has traceable roots as clockmakers that go back to 1466. While the men can all be identified as clockmakers in their lineage, it wasn't until 1826 that the company name Gallet & Cie was registered as a trademark. The oldest established watch company that is still in operation is Blancpain (1735), although it has not operated continuously since its founding.
What is the oldest jewelry that our society has today?
Answer: Prehistoric bracelets from Siberia.
These stone bracelets were found in Siberia and are estimated to be approx 40,000 years old.
What is the world's oldest company of any type?
Answer: A construction company.
Kongō Gumi Co, a Japanese construction company that has been in continuous operation since the year 578.
About the Author: Mark Warner works at Gulfstream Jewels, a Miami-based vintage and estate jewelry dealer that buys, sells, consigns, and appraises fine jewelry. The company is owned and operated by Mitchell J. Swerdlow who has more than 35 years of experience in the industry. You may visit the official website heregulfstreamjewels.com.
About This Blog:
The Found in the Jewelry Box Blog is my attempt to teach others about the wonderful world of gems and jewelry, past and present. Please enjoy!