Many firms in Manhattan’s Diamond District have been passed down from parent to child and some date back four generations. But mom-and-pop jewelry operations have dwindled as major brands like Cartier, De Beers and Van Cleef & Arpels dominate the market with worldwide advertising and marketing campaigns.
The William Goldberg Diamond Corp. aims to fuse the business methods of both. Goldberg, who died in 2003, founded his namesake firm in 1973 after being a partner in diamond-cutting company Goldberg & Weiss, which he helped start in 1952.
With a penchant for diamonds and gemstones, Goldberg began selling small stones such as tapered baguettes. Eventually he became a go-to person for important colored and colorless diamonds and acquired extraordinary stones. They included the 136-carat Queen of Holland diamond, the 30-carat Blue Lili diamond, the 89-carat Guinea Star and the D flawless Premier Rose diamond, which Goldberg acquired, cut and polished in 1978.
Goldberg left the business to his family. His son, Saul, took over as president; his daughter, Eve, and son-in-law, Barry Berg, are both executive vice presidents, and his widow, Lili, is treasurer. In 2006, the City of New York named West 48th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues “William Goldberg Way.”
“My father went door-to-door selling baguettes,” said Eve Goldberg. “We were diamond manufacturers. It was basically selling loose goods in a mounting. We’ve come a long way.”
To shore up its diamond supply, William Goldberg formed a joint venture with Leo Schachter Diamonds, a Diamond Trading Co. Sightholder, in 2004. The contract has been renewed for another three years. This spring, the firm is opening a new facility in Gabarone, Botswana, to cut stones from 5 carats and above and employ as many as 20 workers. William Goldberg projects the factory will put out 1,200 carats of diamonds a month.
William Goldberg wholesales diamonds for major brands and also sells privately in its West 48th Street headquarters. But the focus will turn from loose stones and wholesale selling to finished jewelry pieces, many of which are made on the premises. The firm wants to brand its name, similar to Harry Winston and Graff. The brand is now broken down into 80 percent jewelry and 20 percent loose stones. Five years ago only 40 percent of the sales came from jewelry and 60 percent from loose stones. The company is targeting $150 million in sales this year.
“We’re a jewelry house, we’re no longer a diamond house,” Berg said.
Within three years, the company intends to only supply jewelry and loose stones above 10 carats.
“This movement has been in the works for 20 years,” Saul Goldberg said. “People would approach us at the Basel show and say ‘We can’t put loose diamonds around our necks.’ Our history in stones translates into fantastic jewelry.”
William Goldberg’s clients come from around the world and are predominantly international. Russia, China, the Middle East, India and Europe are its most important markets in order of importance.
To help build the brand name, the company has employed a number of strategies. A luxurious upstairs selling salon is being established on East 48th Street, where clients may come on an appointment basis. There are also plans to open a traditional storefront in the Ginza district in Tokyo and other markets.
In 2006, the company tapped Lauren Bergman as its creative director. Bergman previously worked for the now defunct Vivid Collection. Styles range from elaborate mixed-cut diamond chandelier earrings to intricate bracelets with prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The company also has done one-off partnerships with designers. In 2005, William Goldberg tapped Narciso Rodriguez to design a bracelet featuring Goldberg’s proprietary Ashoka diamond cut. Last year, it collaborated with L’Wren Scott on a pair of rough diamond cuffs that Nicole Kidman wore to the Academy Awards.
“My father always said that no matter what we make, quality is the most important thing,” Eve Goldberg said.
Saul Goldberg recalled another motto his father lived by and that he has adopted: “As long as you can afford them, buy as many diamonds as you can.”