Scottsdale, Ariz.–based Al Molina recently published a book on the history of Black, Starr & Frost, a merchant that predates Tiffany & Co. by 27 years.
Molina, owner of Molina Fine Jewelers, purchased the lone remaining Black, Starr & Frost store in 2006, putting plans in motion to revive the forgotten retailer that was founded in New York City in 1810. Black, Starr & Frost is the oldest continually operating jeweler in the United States, and its history is outlined and celebrated in a new tome entitled 1810: Celebrating Two Centuries of American Luxury, which is available on Amazon.com. (Authors are Landon J. Napoleon, Karen Danner, and yours truly.)
Molina, an 11th-generation jeweler, visited New York City recently to promote the book, and JCK chatted with him about it, a project that was eight years in the making.
JCK: What does the American public not realize about this brand?
Al Molina: Black, Starr & Frost was—and still is—a trailblazer and an innovator in the jewelry industry we know today. Black, Starr & Frost invented the safe deposit box system, the choker necklace, and was the first timepiece maker in America.
JCK: What is one of the most interesting factoids from the book?
Molina: Black, Starr & Frost was the first to use plate-glass windows, showing magnificent jewelry to the outside world. We essentially created window-shopping.
JCK: What are your plans for Black, Starr & Frost?
Molina: My ultimate goal is to return Black, Starr & Frost to its original home in New York City. It is my great desire for that to happen in the next three to five years. My goal is to have Black, Starr & Frost represented in 12 to 15 cities within the next decade.
JCK: Besides the history of this brand, how will the revived Black, Starr & Frost stores differ from Tiffany & Co. and other luxury jewelers?
Molina: Tiffany, Cartier, and Harry Winston are most likely among the names you are describing, and those three luxury brands are billion-dollar companies today. As Marilyn Monroe sang in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, “Tiffany! Cartier! Black Starr Frost Gorham! Talk to me Harry Winston. Tell me all about it!” I expect that Black, Starr & Frost will soon assume its place among these billion-dollar brands. Our practice is to exceed expectations in every way—from the moment a client walks into our salon through the years following their investment in Black, Starr & Frost treasures.
We recently met with a dozen top editors of world-renowned publications and they were blown away by the history of our brand and plans for the return of Black, Starr & Frost to the firm’s prior prominence. We are now working on a number of projects that will begin to tell the fascinating story of Black, Starr & Frost.