JCK-ology: A History of JCK

For every milestone in the history of the American jewelry business, JCK was there. as the industry’s book of record, we can assure you: if it didn’t make it into our pages, it probably didn’t happen.

Readers call JCK “the industry bible,” so the magazine takes its mission pretty seriously: giving retail jewelers the information they need to succeed, from marketing and merchandising tips to staffing and sales strategies, not to ention page after page of beautiful, brand-new products. Colorful baubles from Brazil, up-to-the-minute Swiss timepieces, cutting-edge diamond designs—jewelry and watches are our religion. Little wonder, then, that the faithful have been worshipping at JCK‘s altar for more than 140 years.

Cecil Rhodes presided over South Africa’s Kimberley Mine. (photo: De Beers Group)


G.B. Miller introduces American Horological Journal. A year later, Daniel H. Hopkinson creates The Jewelers’ Circular. In 1873, the two publications merge—because what goes together better than watches and jewelry?


The Keystone magazine is founded. The following year, Cecil Rhodes forms De Beers Consolidated Mines, laying the (under)ground work for the modern diamond trade.


Cartier’s iconic Trinity ring, a graceful blend of white, yellow, and rose gold

Pierre Cartier opens a subsidiary in New York City at 712 Fifth Avenue, introducing Americans to one of the icons of 20th-century design and planting the seeds for the French house’s Art Deco–era dominance.



The first Zales Jewelers store opened in Wichita Falls, Texas, on March 29, 1924.

Morris and William Zale establish the first Zales Jewelers in Wichita Falls, Texas. Today, there are more than 750 Zales stores in the United States—and 100 in Texas alone.



Robert M. Shipley, a.k.a. the “father of modern gemology” (photo: © GIA)

Robert and Beatrice Shipley begin the Gemological Institute of America, eventually establishing the 4Cs of diamond grading (cut, color, clarity, and carat weight), befuddling engagement-ring–buying men for decades to come.



A classic diamond and sapphire Art Deco pin (photo: Tiny Jewel Box)

The Jewelers’ Circular and The Keystone merge to create Jewelers’ Circular-Keystone.



The Retro period placed semiprecious gemstones, such as the aquamarine in this bracelet, on yellow gold pedestals. (photo: 1stdibs.com)

Wartime restrictions on platinum give rise to the Retro period, characterized by chunky yellow gold jewelry and cabochon-cut gems. Without access to Asian markets and their bounties of rubies and sapphires, designers look to South America, especially Brazil, for semiprecious stones—citrine, anyone?—to create big looks for less.



The Rolex Submariner is the granddaddy of all dive watches.

Rolex introduces the first diving watch, the Submariner (water-resistant to 100 meters!), and, two years later, the GMT Master, which keeps time in two zones, cementing the brand’s reputation as the ultimate sports wristwatch.



Tanzanite’s beguiling blue-violet hue caught the attention of Tiffany & Co.’s master gemologists. (photo: © Tiffany & Co.)

A mystical blue-violet gem is discovered in the foothills of Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro. The next year, Tiffany & Co. begins to market the 1,000-times-rarer-than-diamonds stone, which it christens Tanzanite.



JAR ear pendants with imperial topaz, diamond surround, and ruby clusters, set in silver and 18k rose gold (photo: Christies Images Ltd.)

Joel Arthur Rosenthal, a New York–born, Paris-based designer known only as JAR, sets up shop on the Place Vendôme. His elusiveness, exclusivity, and astoundingly intricate jewels (“we have pushed pavé work to the absolute limit,” he once said)—of which he crafts only 70–80 per year—combine to make him the most sought-after high jeweler of the late 20th century.



Up, up, and away: The price of gold took a hike in 1980 before plummeting, only to rise again in the 21st century. (photo: iStockphoto)

The price of gold hits an all-time high of $850 per ounce. (Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $2,400 in today’s dollars.)



JCK‘s then-publisher Charlie Bond reveled in the overwhelming success of the first JCK show, called Jewelry ’92.

The first JCK Las Vegas show—or Jewelry ’92, as it was known—kicks off with some 1,300 exhibitors and 6,000 buyers at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.



Distribution changes, emerging treatments…it’s all about diamonds in the new millennium. (photo: De Beers Group)

It’s a veritable ice storm: De Beers abandons its century-old cartel strategy; shortly thereafter, the World Diamond Congress commits to the Kimberley Process to fight conflict diamonds.



The JCK show debuts at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

The JCK Las Vegas show moves to the southern end of the strip to Mandalay Bay. The attendance: 2,550 companies and 20,000+ buyers representing 23 countries.

For more on JCK’s history, check out:

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