Driven by an impetus for innovation, an unapologetic approach to design, and a personalized style of doing business, Jacob Arabo has built a brand that is unlike any other in the luxury watch and jewelry industry. In a span of 36 years, Jacob & Co. has established itself as one of the most highly sought-after brands, changing the landscape of jewelry design and modern watchmaking.
Becoming The King Of Diamonds
As much as it is a respected luxury brand, Jacob & Co. is also an inspiring story of a 14-year-old boy who immigrated to New York with his family and would go on to embody the American dream. To assist his family financially, at 16 Arabo took a job at a jewelry workshop in the city's famous Diamond District, where he was first exposed to the world of jewelry. He found himself fascinated by the process and started to gather leftover metals to make his own pieces. While doing so, he fell in love with creating and designing jewelry. Arabo later joined a training program to enhance his knowledge in traditional jewelry techniques, as well the minutiae of precious metals and stones.
"The first piece of jewelry I made was when I saw a bunch of leftover gold tubing left as scrap. I took this and made it into a bracelet, and we sold so many of them. I was still a teenager, but I soon realized that to really support my family, I had to stop being a workman and start being a jeweler myself." - Jacob Arabo
Driven by his newfound passion for jewelry, and after learning the ropes of the business while working in the Diamond District, Arabo started Jacob & Co. in 1986, with a small jewelry workshop in New York where he designed mainly for private clients. For the first 15 years, Jacob focused solely on jewelry. With his inherently congenial and trusting nature, he came to be known as the jeweler who offered his full attention and expertise to his clients, many of whom came from the world of music. Through word of mouth, his unconventional and adventurous jewelry became widely popular in those circles, and among those who were looking to stand out with something different.
Arabo would soon count the likes of revered Hip-hop artist Biggie Smalls - otherwise known as the Notorious B.I.G. - who later became a close friend and for whom he created numerous bespoke, larger-than-life pieces. He would also count Puff Daddy, Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Pharell, Kanye West, Usher, Nas, Beyonce, Nigo, Ja Rule, Fat Joe, and 50 Cent as regular clients. Earning the reputation for creating truly unique, out-of-the-box jewels, his clientele soon transcended music and Arabo found himself designing pieces for the Hollywood elite and international stars, including David & Victoria Beckham, Elton John, Naomi Campbell, Bono, Karl Lagerfeld, and Quentin Tarantino. So captured were his customers that Arabo was fondly given the moniker "Jacob the Jeweler," and was mentioned in more than 100 songs over the last two decades. In 1999, The New York Times even called him the "Harry Winston of the hip-hop world".
"I opened a store when I was 21 years old, in 1986. I displayed these designs in the showcase, which made people think I was crazy. They would say, 'You can't make money on these things. It's nice to look at, but the bread and butter is engagement rings and wedding bands.' There were another 25 jewelers around me, basically laughing at me. And then the celebrities started coming in." - Jacob Arabo
In 2001, Arabo expanded Jacob & Co's offerings to include timepieces, launching his first watch: the Five Time Zone. High end watchmaking was always something Arabo wanted to embark on. A fascination that began as a child when his father gave him a world time watch back in the former Soviet Union, this passion was further nurtured when he worked as an apprentice at a watchmaker's workshop as a teen.
From the debut of the Five Time Zone watch, Jacob would go on to produce timepieces that are not only aesthetically and technically remarkable, but also, distinctively, designed with precisely the customer in mind. This approach - which he also adheres to in jewelry making - comes from not being a watchmaker or jeweler by trade, but is instead driven by his pure love for watches and deepened by his knowledge in precious stones and jewelry design.
"I am fortunate that I approach watchmaking as a watch lover, not a watchmaker. I don't worry about whether it can be done, I just imagine what my clients and I would be excited to own. My designs are also guided by the many conversations I've had with my clients about the piece of their dreams, and I work towards realizing that for them." - Jacob Arabo
An Obsession With Perfection
Jacob & Co's extraordinary jewelry and watches notwithstanding, it would be the special attention Arabo would provide his clients that set him apart from the rest. He became known and loved for his highly personalized and customized services - long before any of his contemporaries offered them. While a signature style or motif would typically come to define the creative direction of watch and jewelry brands for decades if not centuries to come, for Arabo, there is no single defining aesthetic for Jacob & Co. pieces. Each watch or piece of jewelry that comes out of his workshops is created with the buyer in mind, produced specifically for the individual's personal style, altering his designs if necessary to reflect his client.
"One day I could be designing a piece for a royal figure who might require a classical and vintage look, and for a corporate person the next, who needs a sophisticated but versatile piece, and on another occasion for a Hollywood celebrity who wants to stand out on the red carpet. I am not dictated by any one style, I let my clients tell me what they need." - Jacob Arabo
The Vision Ahead
Jacob has gone a long way since opening his first workshop in New York's Diamond District over 30 years ago. Today, Jacob & Co has five wholly owned and run boutiques across several cities including New York, Miami, Geneva, Dubai, and Kuala Lumpur. He now has an extensive distribution network spanning over 100 retail locations, including distinguished retailers Bucherer Tourneau, Watches of Switzerland and Saks Fifth Avenue.
In the face of all this success, however, Jacob & Co. remains, at its core, a family-run and owned business, firmly guided by the beliefs and values Jacob put in place when he first started in 1986. As Jacob & Co. inches towards marking four decades in the business, it finds itself pioneering the future of modern watchmaking through its avant-garde designs and astounding horological achievements; all while ushering novelty and enthusiasm into the world of jewelry with its luxurious, but unexpected designs, cementing its place in pop culture history.