In 1927, Irving Siegel, a former errand boy for a jewelry store, bought Hamilton Jewelers, founded in 1912, for $15,750 in notes payable to the store’s former owners.
The original Hamilton Jewelers store in Trenton, N.J., in 1912.
One hundred years later, that modest shop on Broad Street in Trenton, N.J., has blossomed into one of the largest independent jewelry stores in the U.S.—with five retail locations, in Princeton, N.J., Red Bank, N.J., Lawrenceville, N.J., Palm Beach, Fla., and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Hamilton’s Princeton, N.J., store (photos courtesy of Hamilton Jewelers)
The Siegel family is celebrating Hamilton’s centennial anniversary, along with three generations of family ownership, with a series of in-store events and promotions—and the publication of a coffee table book chronicling the company’s journey through the Great Depression, several wars and boom times, as well.
Irving’s son, Martin Siegel, now chairman of Hamilton, joined the business in 1955. And Martin’s son, Hank Siegel, is the current chief executive officer and president of the company.
Donna Bouchard, vice president of Hamilton, credits much of the company’s success and longevity to impeccable customer service. “Everything is very much focused on the client experience,” she tells JCK. “And I think that’s become a challenge for the company over the years because of the advent of the Internet, and how to maintain branding for people shopping online. But I think we’ve done a really good job in keeping the message consistent. [Customers] can expect the same experience online or in any of our stores; their needs come first. That’s a result of Hank and his family and the culture they’ve created for their company.”
Hamilton specializes in fine jewelry and timepieces from marquee brands including Roberto Coin, David Yurman, Patek Philippe, and Cartier, along with emblematic and insignia jewelry and general repairs. Stores also feature home decor items such as china, crystal, and antique silver.
But Hamilton is perhaps best known for its custom jewelry, spearheaded by master jeweler Gustav Grundmann, who sketches clients’ fantasy designs right at the counter, then forges each distinctive piece by hand. “He’s been with us 15 or 16 years, and he’s incredibly popular,” Bouchard says.
Hamilton kicked off its spate of centennial promotions in January with the introduction of a commemorative pendant released each month, priced at $100. “It’s been a big hit, particularly in e-commerce,” says Bouchard. “It’s important, especially this year, that we be accessible.”
Receptions with Patek Philippe (Irving was one of the first U.S. jewelers to carry the brand’s timepieces) in New Jersey and Cartier in Palm Beach are also in the works. “There are 12 events planned throughout the year, and most of them have a philanthropic [angle],” says Bouchard. “The Siegel family does a lot to support healthcare and children’s issues.” For example, the company has encouraged each of its 110 employees to take a paid day off from work this year to volunteer for the charity of their choice, then report back with their experiences to include in the employee newsletter. So far this year, the company has paid for around 70 volunteer days.
The forthcoming commemorative book on the company “is really about the brand and the values that started the company 100 years ago,” says Bouchard, “and how those have been sustained through repressions and depressions and wars. I’ve found probably 100 boxes of archives stored away—newspaper ads and articles from the past 100 years, and we’re getting to read all these great old stories. There are things about client service and charitable support in the community. I think it’s pretty remarkable that they’ve been able to sustain all that.”