America’s 10 Oldest Jewelers: Black, Starr & Frost

Black, Starr & Frost

Since 1810

341 Bayside Drive
Newport Beach, Calif.

When Marilyn Monroe crooned “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, she gave shout-outs to Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston—and Black, Starr & Frost-Gorham. Black, Starr & Frost (Gorham was dropped in 1962) may not boast the name recognition of those other brands, but it’s the one with the most history. Founded in 1810 by Isaac Marquand as a little shop at 164 Broadway in New York City (then home to a mere 96,000 people), the jeweler soon rose to national prominence even as it underwent a series of name and ownership changes. (Among its owners: Kay Jewelers, pre-purchase by Sterling.) In 1991, Black, Starr & Frost had 33 locations, including a flagship in New York City’s Plaza Hotel; 15 years later, it had shrunk to just one, in Costa Mesa, Calif. That year, 11th-generation jeweler Alfredo J. Molina purchased the company with hopes of restoring the name to its former glory. He moved the store to nearby Newport Beach, and opened a second BSF store in Phoenix in October. 

“My dream for this brand is to get it back to its roots.”

Alfredo J. Molina

Let innovation guide you.
Among the innovations Molina says originated with Black, Starr & Frost: The retailer created the first class rings, for the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1837; housed the first safety deposit boxes, to safeguard valuables during the Civil War; and in 1833 installed the first plate-glass window, making the jeweler, arguably, the father of window-shopping.

Think of ways to engage customers.
“We recognize that investment-grade stones can serve as international currency, so we offer educational programs about purchasing fine diamonds and colored gemstones as investments,” Molina says.

Let the past inspire your future.
Black, Starr & Frost recently debuted the Renaissance collection, featuring the retailer’s most iconic pieces. This past year, it also released an eight-years-in-the-making coffee-table book chronicling its history: 1810: Celebrating Two Centuries of American Luxury, cowritten by JCK’s Jennifer Heebner.

A BSF signature 1810 stainless steel Swiss Automatic Chronograph, one of only 25 made; $5,800

Differentiate or die.
In addition to the Renaissance collection, Black, Starr & Frost is introducing a bridal collection and a line of high-end timepieces.

Don’t let anyone keep you from dreaming big.
Monroe favorites Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and Harry Winston are billion-dollar brands. So why not Black, Starr & Frost? Says Molina: “My dream for this iconic brand is to get back to its roots by expanding to 15 previously served locations and most importantly, New York City.”

Top: The store’s NYC location on Fifth Avenue and 48th Street in 1914; inset: current owner Alfredo J. Molina

Next: Merkley Kendrick Jewelers

More of America’s 10 Oldest Retailers:

Bixler’s Jewelers

Shreve, Crump & Low

Merkley Kendrick Jewelers


Randolph Jewelers

Shreve & Co.

Kuhn’s Jewelers

Saboe Jewelry

Nelson Coleman Jewelers

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