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Founded in 1912 by Nathan, Harry and Oscar Heyman, jewelry designing powerhouse Oscar Heyman celebrated its centennial anniversary last year, marking a century of jewelry making and designs set with the finest of colored stones and diamonds at the heart of every jewelry creation.
As the family story goes Nathan, Harry and Oscar left the Ukraine in 1906. Nathan was drafted into the Russian army and the brothers became part of an exodus of artisans headed for America. Nathan and Oscar worked for Fabergé. With its history dating back to the mid-1800s crafting bejeweled eggs and jewelry for czars and royalty of the day, the Heyman brothers must have found working for Fabergé demanding at the very least. The company had painfully stringent quality control and craftsmanship standards for their jewelers, traits the Heyman brothers took with them to America.
In addition to designing exquisite treasures for nobilities of the day, and the demands that go with pleasing aristocratic tastes in jewelry and fine things, the Heyman brothers were proficient in working with platinum – then an emerging new precious metal. Upon arriving in the US, the Heyman brothers’ American counterparts had little experience in working with platinum. Given their history with Fabergé, innate artisanship, and a corner on working with the precious of all precious metals, the Heyman brothers quickly worked their way up the ranks of premiere design houses including Tiffany & Co., Cartier and Marcus & Co.
Looking back on the history of Oscar Heyman, the company serves as a chronicle of the birth of fine jewelry making in America and the rich resources discovered to create these luxurious items. Centered on Maiden Lane in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Lower Manhattan’s jewelry district became the hub of soon-to-be famous jewelry houses with the Heyman Brothers part of this cauldron of creativity.
Fueling the heat for this melting pot of creative immigrants turned American artisans was discoveries of new gemstones and precious metals mined domestically in the US. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, sapphires were discovered and commercially mined in Montana. (Today sapphires are still being mined in Yogo, Montana.)
At about the same timeframe in US history tourmalines were discovered and also commercially mined in California – specifically in San Diego County in 1898. (Again, tourmaline mines are still active there today.) Moreover, let us not forget the discovery of gemstones such as amethyst, peridot, and turquoise in the Southwestern states, pearls in the Mississippi River, and, of course, the Alaskan Gold Rush.
As the first generation of Heyman brothers got the family business started in 1912, they established practices that still distinguish the company’s commitment to excellence today. What has defined Oscar Heyman for three generations are unrivaled skills in designing and creating jewelry, superlative customer service, and a passion for colored stones and fine diamonds.
One of the Heyman Brothers first in-house designs that set them apart from other emerging power luxury jewelry designers of the day was the Entourage Ring. Pioneered in the 1920s, the ring’s design was as simple as it was elegant. Each Entourage Ring is set with a colored stone of superb quality, and surrounded by oval diamonds. Ninety years later, these rings are fashioned exactly the same way.
Other defining designs for the Heyman brothers included their penchant for flower pendants. Artfully and exactingly crafted, these pendants capture the essence of flowers with only one exception – the scent. The Heyman brothers also liked their diamonds. They became well known for creating large diamond necklaces, working with large fine single diamonds and creating necklaces of total carat weights that were the stuff of red carpet legends. In 1969, Oscar Heyman created the Burton-Taylor necklace for Cartier and later presented it to Elizabeth Taylor.
Equally important, the first generation of Heyman brothers established quality and quality control standards that still characterize the company today. From their own workshop in New York, they alloy metals, cut gemstones, and have their own tool and die shop. Every piece of Oscar Heyman jewelry is meticulously crafted before it is signed and numbered as an Oscar Heyman piece of jewelry.
Today four Heyman family members make up the third generation of the family business. The jewelry has a traditional quality to it. But as Oscar Heyman said his jewelry creations have, “A rich history with a modern point of view.”