Nob Hill Gazette in partnership with Shreve & Co
The Bay Area is known for its cutting edge culture, but it owes its legacy of class and style to its longstanding designers.
Shreve & Co is the oldest retail jeweler in the state of California, and is regarded as a destination for an international clientele of connoisseurs, collectors of fine jewelry and luxury timepieces. The jeweler caters to high society in the Bay, servicing clients at its San Francisco location on Post St and the storefront at the Stanford Shopping Center.
The company is also no stranger to visiting dignitaries — not just guests, but gems. The company has housed several special exhibitions, including the Crown of the Andes, the 726 carat Yonkers Diamond, an incomparable collection of jewels once owned by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great; the 104 carat Chrysanthemum Diamond, and the treasures of the Atocha, a Spanish galleon that sank off the coast of Florida in 1622.
Every giant of the industry starts somewhere. The year 1848 changed California forever. Like many entrepreneurs of the time, jewelers George Shreve and his nephew Samuel Shreve saw the immense potential of the land, and headed west to San Francisco. The two of them founded the new Shreve Jewelry Company at the corner of Clay and Montgomery St, and their industry expertise quickly set them apart from other jewelers: their inventory of fancy European luxury timepieces and jewelry and their attentive customer service earned them high acclaim from the elite in the rapidly growing city.
From humble beginnings, the company grew in stature. Pieces designed by Shreve were collected by presidents, business tycoons, and prominent families around the nation, including a 10-inch tall solid gold Teddy Bear commissioned as a gift by the citizens of San Francisco for Teddy Roosevelt. These same pieces are collector’s items to this day, some of which are on view in museums and others which are kept in private collections.
George Shreve and his nephew both knew that the discerning eye of a jeweler must have a global perspective. This philosophy ensured that in 1887, Shreve & Co. became the second jeweler in the United States to represent the luxury Swiss timepieces of Patek Philippe.
As artisans, Shreve & Co have an innate attention to detail — which extends to their business savvy. In April of 1906, the Great Earthquake struck San Francisco, and Shreve & Co made headlines when the dust settled and the Shreve Building was one of the only structures still standing. The inventory was found intact and unscathed in the company’s fireproof vault when the safe finally cooled enough to be recovered three weeks later.
Post-earthquake, Shreve introduced its first line of flatware, its first series of illustrated catalogs, and even joined the war effort — six floors of the Shreve building, previously used for silver and jewelry, were given over to the production of items for the U.S. Armed Services until the Armistice of 1919.
Further through the 20th century, Shreve & Co’s craftsmanship continued to shine. Special commissions of the era were abundant, including a life-sized rooster crafted of solid 18-karat yellow gold; a 10-inch, 14-karat gold replica of the Statue of Liberty for the wife of a foreign president; gifts for delegates to the newly founded United Nations in 1945; and the gift presented to Queen Elizabeth II by the State of California upon her coronation in 1953.
Today, Shreve & Co remains the premier jeweler in the Bay Area.