Paul Fisher, a natural pearl and estate jewelry dealer who achieved legendary status within the industry, died on Dec. 4 of complications from pneumonia. He was 92.
Fisher worked in the industry for 74 years and deeply loved the gem and jewelry business, his daughter Marianne Fisher tells JCK. Though he had become physically frail in recent years, he still came into the office nearly every day up until he was hospitalized last week.
Fisher came from a long line of gem and jewelry professionals. The family firm, which became Paul Fisher Inc. in the 1950s, was founded in the 1850s in Vienna by Julius Fisher, who specialized in natural pearls that were used as buttons in the fashion industry.
In 1921, Julius’ grandsons, Ferdinand and Robert (Paul’s father), opened the company Bruder Fisher in Vienna. The advent of cultured pearls in the 1920s had a mitigating effect on the price of natural pearls (which at one time could be more valuable than diamonds), and Robert Fisher began dealing in estate jewelry as well. He brought the family business to London in 1938 and established a New York office in 1941.
Paul debuted Paul Fisher Inc. in New York City in 1956 and established the London branch of the business in 1980. He was born in Austria and spent much of his career in London, though he traveled extensively in Europe and the United States for decades, cultivating brand representation in Paris and Hong Kong, among other major cities.
In New York, Paul Fisher Inc. was one of the scores of gem and jewelry dealers who had an office at 608 5th Ave. The firm was based in the Manhattan building for roughly 50 years before its owners evicted the entire floor of gem and jewelry businesses, and Paul Fisher Inc. relocated to 10 Rockefeller Center.
Marianne Fisher, a principal at Paul Fisher Inc. and the youngest of Paul’s six children, says the reason the company was so successful was Paul’s affinity for traveling. “He traveled constantly, between Switzerland and London and New York and Chicago and everywhere else,” she says.
Fisher was a skier in his younger years, and in the final decades of his life he was an avid reader—of history books, especially.
But he may perhaps be most remembered for his mentorship of young professionals. Paul mentored 40 apprentices throughout his career, many of whom have gone on to illustrious careers, in intensive six-month stints.
“He would train them and teach them every aspect of the business, and he did it from his heart,” Marianne says. Several of his past apprentices threw their mentor a party of appreciation in Basel, Switzerland, in the 1990s, and those same people have been flooding the Fisher family’s in-boxes with notes of sympathy and fond remembrance since Fisher’s passing Wednesday. “There’s a big group of people out there who know him for his mentorship. He was always a very generous person and helped so many people unselfishly.”
She adds that her father had a rule of thumb: “If you’re selling, round [the figures] down, and if you’re buying, round up—don’t be petty or cheap.” She notes, “He was never all about the money, he was more about keeping people happy, And he loved the business. He really thrived on it.”
(All images courtesy of the Fisher family)
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