Norman Landsberg (pictured), a 47th Street institution who sold jewelry out of his 15-foot booth for 72 years, died Feb. 13 of COVID-19. He was 94.
Landsberg, who also owned Landsberg Jewelers in Rye Brook, N.Y., garnered such a strong reputation and devoted clientele that he became one of the few 47th Street jewelers—never mind booth jewelers—to sell high-end designers like Penny Preville and Christopher Designs.
“That was unheard of on 47th Street,” says son Jonathan. “It still is.”
Jonathan remembers that when his father offered bagels on Saturday mornings, there would be lines outside the exchange.
Born in the Bronx in 1926, Norman Landsberg spoke seven languages, and served as a translator for the U.S. Army during World War II. He intended to go to law school, until a friend came to him looking to make a ring. Norman consulted his uncle, a diamond polisher. The one sale led to others.
“Other people started asking, ‘Can you repair this?’ ” says Jonathan. “He figured, ‘I could make money this way.’ ”
When he first opened his booth on 47th Street in 1948, the Diamond District was not the mecca it would become. And while standing out amid the sea of exchanges is never easy, Norman soon won a following with his outgoing nature and committed work ethic.
“He worked hard every day of his life, six days a week, seven during the holidays,” says Jonathan. “He would stand all day, well into his 90s.”
In 2016, the Diamond District Partnership honored Landsberg with its Diamond Legacy Award.
Avi Fertig, the partnership’s executive director, called Landsberg one of the district’s founding fathers.
“Optimistic and inspiring, Norman was beloved by colleagues and competitors,” Fertig wrote in the Diamond District Partnership’s publication. “He did big business by focusing on small details.”
Norman only stopped working during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even then, he would still FaceTime with clients, calling in regularly to find out how business was going.
“He loved the business, and always remembered where he came from,” says Jonathan.
He was also a mentor for many in the business.
“He touched so many people,” says Jonathan. “I’ve heard from so many people, who have reached out, told me how he educated them, and taught them to be a better person.
“My father was the most genuine, the most friendly, the most giving person I have ever come in contact with. He would give the shirt off his back to help somebody. He always believed if you do the right thing, it comes back to you.”
He even earned a brief mention from Access Hollywood in 2016. When executive producer Rob Silverstein wondered aloud how much Mariah Carey’s engagement ring was worth, he added, “I’m going to call my friend Landsberg Jewelers in New York and I will find out.”
Norman was predeceased by Carol, his wife of 62 years. He is survived by sons Jonathan and Jeffrey, who both work in the business, and a third son, Barry; seven grandchildren; and a sister.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Landsberg’s memory to St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center.
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