Jacob Arabo is famous as a “diamond king” and the most extravagant jeweler here and now. The story of a boy from Tashkent, who was able to personify the “American dream” of millions and to become famous all over the world, is heard by many people.
When he was at the age of 14, Jacob’s family moved to New York. At the age of 16 he decided to get a job at a jewelry factory next to their house to help parents with finances. Working on the supply chain at the factory, young Arabo began using leftover scrap metals to create his own designs. He fell in love with creating and designing jewelry. He was motivated by the desire to bring his visions to life in tangible form. He was lucky: eventually, his boss drew attention to the work of a teenager, and by the time he was seventeen his original designs were the factory’s best sellers.
City LIfe’s journalist Marina Slobodyanik met with Jacob Arabo and interviewed him.
M.S.: Many celebrities are having and wearing your jewelry. Did you have a special celebrity that you have always dreamed to work with and create a special piece for that person?
Jacob: When I first started the business, I never could have dreamed of all of the celebrities who would want to work with us. I have already worked with many iconic celebrities that I am a huge fan of, whether it is Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, or David and Victoria Beckham. I am grateful for these opportunities and couldn’t imagine asking for more!
M.S.: There are a lot of singers who have mentioned you like Jacob The Jeweler in their songs. When have you heard it for the first time did you like it? Were you surprised to figure out that this mentioning is actually about you?
Jacob: Many of my clients in the early 90s called me Jacob the Jeweler as nickname. We were friends and it’s the way they would affectionately refer to me. When I first heard it in a song, I knew they were referring to me but yes, I was both surprised and I was excited. The exposure in songs and amongst my celebrity clients helped me elevate visibility for my brand, which resulted in the development of many new business relationships and longstanding friendships over the years.
M.S.: Do you have a particular list of expectations towards the celebrity that you are willing to work with?
Jacob: The first factors I consider before collaborating with a celebrity are if we complement one another artistically and if an alignment would resonate with our respective audiences. If there is a collaboration opportunity that I feel is mutually beneficial, the next thing to consider is if this project is feasible from both sides. When entering any sort of business relationship, there needs to be an agreement on expectations and accountability. There also needs to be mutual respect for both teams that are working towards the desired result. All of these elements need to be in place for the collaboration to be effective and worthwhile.
M.S.: In one of interviews, you were mentioning that you lays think of the woman when you are creating the jewelry piece. Do you believe that jewelry is always the key to the most stylish looks?
Jacob: Jewelry can be worn to complement an outfit, or an outfit can be worn to complement a piece of jewelry. I strive to create pieces that do the latter, and are the focus of a look.
M.S.: In the modern jewelry craftsmanship, do you think it’s necessary to be in trend with fashion or it’s more important to follow the classy approach and cherish the traditions?
Jacob: I don’t believe in following trends, I believe in creating them. I always strive to push boundaries and introduce new, never-before-seen designs. I still cherish traditions and jewelry craftsmanship. I just put an innovative twist of traditional craftsmanship to offer an elegant look, with a bit of an edge.
Jacob: With the emergence of the internet, the jewelry business has become more globalized. Designs that would typically appeal to the US market make their way to regions such as Asia and South America much faster than before, creating a more homogenous demand. Also with social media on the rise in the recent years, the jewelry that influencers and celebrities wear and post is more sought-after, paving the way for more collaborations and co-branded products.
M.S.: What is unique about your jewelry pieces? What differentiate them from other brands?
Jacob: I actively work to create unique designs that aren’t available within other brands. I am always trying to create pieces that are entirely new and unexpected and I enlist a hand-selected team of expert artisans to bring my visions to life. Our clients come to Jacob & Co. because they want access to rare stones, innovative designs, and show-stopping pieces – so that’s what we strive to offer.
M.S.: Which materials are your favorite to work with? What’s so special about them?
Jacob: I love working with diamonds and extraordinary gemstones. I have some of the rarest stones in the world in my collection and it takes a particular skill-set to work with stones of such quality and caliber. Integrating these types of stones into my design work aligns with my mission to create bold pieces and to continuously push the boundaries of design.
M.S.: There is a great belief that most of the stones have magical meaning and that can even influence life of the person who wears or just has this stone. Do you believe in that? Do you have your own lucky stone or talisman?
Jacob: I believe that all stones have unique energies. When you are around an exceptionally rare diamond or gem, it can feel as though the stone is radiating magic. I have recently been wearing a hematite bracelet. When worn in jewelry, hematite is believed to cast a reflective aura around the wearer, protecting them from negative energies, enhancing mental clarity, bolstering self-confidence and purifying the mind, body and soul.
M.S.; Why have you decided to make a watch? Was it hard for you to combine the classic mechanism with the bright and modern design?
Jacob: I have always wanted to create watches. Ever since my watchmaking apprenticeship, I dreamed of my name on a timepiece. When I first decided to make watches, I decided to make them completely different to anything that existed on the market. I actually made my first watch as a gift for my wife, Angela. It was a bright, colorful, conversation piece – not a watch that just told you what the time was. She loved it. We made 100 of those original designs, and they all sold by the first two weeks. Since then, I’ve continued making watches that were different and unexpected. It wasn’t difficult to combine the mechanisms, the risk of creating something new without an existing market was the hardest part – but it was worth it.
M.S.: If you had a chance to make a collection that is inspired by the great artists all the centuries – which you would you choose, and why?
Jacob: I would love to make a collection inspired by Salvador Dali – I am already inspired by his artistry as a whole. His surrealist work unlocks creative potential, and encourages people to question what they know to be true. This aligns with my vision to break boundaries and pursue limitless creativity in my own designs.
M.S.: When you are under pressure or have a crisis at work – how do you cope with that?
Jacob: I always try to keep a clear and relaxed mind. As someone who loves taking risks in the creative process, I’ve grown accustomed to things not always going as planned. Luckily, I have an amazing team who I can turn to that always helps me sort out the best solutions and the clearest path to success. When I’m under a lot of pressure, I also remind myself how blessed I am and how well things work out over time. That helps me feel more at ease.
M.S.: The jewelry and watch business – isn`t just about the money for you, we suppose, could you open the secret how to transfer the hobby that you are passionate about – into the business model?
Jacob: Follow your passions and be brave. When I started working at the jewelry factory as a high school kid, I never thought I would grow a business out of it. I saw potential in the opportunity and in myself. If you believe in yourself, and are brave enough to do what you love to do, doors will open for you.
Interviewed by Marina Slobodyanik