JCK’s 150th: Rare Jewels Dealer Lee Siegelson on JCK’s Historical Significance

JCK magazine is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year! To commemorate that milestone, we’re talking to 150 veteran jewelry professionals in 2019 for a feature series meant to distill the voices of some of the industry’s most enduring and successful professionals.

We can’t print every interview in its entirety in the magazine—so we’ve been posting full interviews here on JCKonline.com every Thursday.

This week we hear from Lee Siegelson, the third-generation gem and jewelry dealer who heads the Siegelson gallery of rare collectible jewels in New York City.

JCK: How long have you been in the industry, and what’s changed during you’ve been time in it?

Lee Siegelson: Siegelson was founded in 1920, and I joined the company in 1992. One of the things that has made Siegelson last so long is that each owner has reinvented the focus. My grandfather opened a watch-repair shop in Brooklyn; my father turned that in to the largest storefront on 47th Street; and, in turn, I focused the company on buying and selling the top examples of 20th-century jewelry design.

So, for me, the day-to-day business has changed significantly from a storefront to an upstairs gallery—and one of the most notable changes in the business from 1992 to today is the use and role of computers, email, cell phones, online technology, and social media. Today it’s possible to run a global business from your cell phone. 

What’s been your experience with JCK magazine? 

Siegelson and JCK have both reinvented themselves over the last century. We have long relied on back issues of The Jeweler’s Circular in our research of important historical jewels. In particular, we have a rare Black Starr & Frost gem-set Tree of Knowledge clock that we know was exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair because of a picture of the display in the June 1939 Jeweler’s Circular (see photo below). An archive of The Jewelers’ Circular, donated by Janet Zapata and digitized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is available here.

JCK Tree of Life
A photo from a 1939 issue of Jewelers’ Circular Keystone showing the Black Starr & Frost Tree of Knowledge clock (on the far left) Siegelson acquired. The clock as it looks today is pictured at top (photo courtesy of Siegelson).

What has JCK magazine meant to you? 

It is significant the the Metropolitan Museum chose to invest resources in digitizing and maintaining this essential record of jewelry history, and it is remarkable that the magazine survives today in JCK. We frequently support the magazine with loans for photo shoots or editorial and blog content. I am always happy to work with this professional organization with a long and storied history.

What was your first impression of JCK magazine, and how has it changed over the years?

I don’t remember my first impression of the magazine, it has always been such an important staple of the jewelry industry, to be honest. But I think recently the coverage of high-end jewels has increased, and therefore retailers are realizing there is an important area for jewelry at the level of fine art that they can present to their top clients—and that Siegelson makes available to them.

Catch up on all of JCK‘s 150th interviews:

Tamara and Amir Goldfiner, cofounders of Rahaminov Diamonds
Dallas Prince, founder of Dallas Prince Designs
Esther Fortunoff, president of Fortunoff Fine Jewelry
Terry Burman, former Signet chairman
Brandee Dallow, president and founder of Fine Girl Luxury Brand Building & Communications
Tom Chatham, CEO of Chatham Created Gems & Diamonds
Tom Heyman
, partner, Oscar Heyman & Brothers
Duvall O’Steen, jewelry publicist, Luxury Brand Group
Pat Henneberry, founder and president of the Jewelry Coach
Marty Hurwitz, CEO of MVI Marketing
Hank B. Siegel, president of Hamilton Jewelers
Erica Courtney, jewelry designer
Robert Weldon, director of GIA’s Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center
Stuart Robertson, vice president of Gemworld
Bill Furman, longtime JCK magazine ad sales manager
Kathryn Kimmel, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of GIA
Katie Kinsella Murphy, owner of Kinney + Kinsella
Frank Dallahan, publisher, The Retailer Jeweler
Jen Cullen Williams, managing director of Luxury Brand Group
Sally Morrison, chief marketing officer of Lightbox
Susan M. Jacques, president and CEO of GIA
Marie Helene Morrow, president of Reinhold Jewelers
Jenny Luker, U.S. president of Platinum Guild International
Beth Gerstein, co-CEO of Brilliant Earth
Russell Shor, GIA senior industry analyst
Walter McTeigue, cofounder of McTeigue & McClelland
Caryl Capeci, president of Hearts On Fire
Eddie LeVian, CEO of Le Vian
Peggy Jo Donahue, freelance writer and former JCK editor-in-chief
Rebecca Moskal, jewelry marketing veteran

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JCK Magazine Editor