How Jacob the Jeweler’s Diamonds Helped Define Pop Culture
The “King of Bling” has dressed every A-lister from J.Lo to Jay-Z and empowered rap artists with mega diamonds.By Jill Newman |
With his larger-than-life diamond jewelry, Jacob & Co. owner Jacob Arabo—better known as Jacob the Jeweler—is inextricably tied to hip-hop culture; after all, the kinds of statement pieces he creates are as often as mighty as the music itself.
Arabo is not just the artists’ favored jeweler, but he’s also become a widely known figure in hip-hop music in his own right; his influence on pop culture is so huge that his name is mentioned alongside luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Dom Perignon—names that have defined success—in more than 50 songs by superstars like 50 Cent and Big Sean. “I went to Jacob an hour after I got my advance, I just wanted to shine…” raps Kayne West in his mega hit song “Touch the Sky.” For many hip-hop artists, a shopping spree at Jacob & Co. is synonymous with making it big.
Last year Arabo made a cameo appearance in Drake’s music video “When to Say When & Chicago Freestyle,” plus is also featured in the 2004 3D video game Def Jam: Fight For NY, where hip-hop action figures compete to earn cash to buy Jacob’s legendary diamond jewelry.
Diamonds That Define Success
“Diamonds are this big sign of success,” says Arabo in an interview at his 57th Street boutique, which is lined with photos of him with celebrities and artists from around the world. “When you wear them, you feel good and when people look at you, they love it, they compliment you; that’s show business.”
Early in his career, Arabo understood the power of diamonds and bold jewelry to establish an entertainer’s image. His own success grew with the evolution of 90s hip-hop culture: He became known as the go-to source for large diamonds, power pieces and sparkling watches that will get you noticed. But it wasn’t just about flash; Arabo also had an inside track on rare colored diamonds and gemstones, and he supplied billionaires from the Middle East and New York to Russia with these prized and hard-to-find jewels. His selection of rare diamonds and gems rivals any of the established European jewelry houses and he’s always available to meet directly with clients.
After nearly 40 years in business, it’s still all about personal relationships. People come to see Jacob.
The jeweler’s triumph proved you don’t have to be an insider to make it big in the largely insular diamond industry.
Arabo immigrated to America with his family from Uzbekistan at age 14 in 1979. After completing a jewelry-making course, he began his career in a workshop making $125 a week; early on he showed a talent for designing anything-but-classic jewels. By the early 90s, he had established his own kiosk in New York’s Diamond District and his innovative pieces caught the attention of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G., who gave him the moniker Jacob the Jeweler, and introduced him to his friends.
The jeweler had an instant synergy with entertainers and quickly started collaborating with them on custom designs; nothing was too big or outrageous for Arabo to produce. In the 90s, he was the first to boldly put big diamond jewels on men, a trend that is mainstream today.
“Diamonds are this big sign of success.”
With his growing list of high-profile clients, Arabo moved from the diamond district into a posh 4,000 square foot townhouse on New York’s East 57th Street off Madison Avenue where his clients could discreetly come for private meetings, and where he and his wife Angela could host them in style—complete with Champagne and caviar flowing.
Jacob & Co. is also considered a top player in the design and production of power timepieces notable not just for big diamonds and jewels, but for their complex and innovative mechanics. He has a watchmaking facility in Geneva where he’s creating groundbreaking styles like the Astronomia Tourbillon, equipped with a patented triple-axis gravitational tourbillon, and the Five Time Zone watch, as well as custom watches for Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and others. He’s also forged partnerships with Bugatti Supreme and Khabib to produce unique timepieces. Last year, Drake purchased his Casino watch, a model that replicates a roulette table.
It’s Jacob’s fearless designs that captured the attention of performers like Madonna, who wore his gold mesh and diamond glove on stage, and also sported a diamond tongue ring at the Billboard Woman of the Year event. He’s always willing to push the boundaries of what’s possible in jewelry—and those eye-catching pieces are exactly what artists want. Other fans include Rihanna, who wore an elegant diamond open-work collar to the Met Gala, and Dua Lipa who graced the cover of Elle magazine last year in stylish diamond ear cuffs.
“I want to create things that haven’t been done before,” he explains. “It’s about making the impossible a reality.”
“I want to create things that haven’t been done before.”
The jewelry industry is largely about trust, and over the years Arabo built lasting and trustworthy relationships with his clients who came to him for the big occasions: Nick Cannon purchased a diamond engagement ring of over 12 carats for Mariah Carey, David Beckham selected a rare pink diamond ring for Victoria’s birthday (which Jacob personally delivered) and he dressed Christy Turlington in jewels for her wedding day to Edward Burns.
With fans like Drake and Pharrell wearing his jewels and watches, the entrepreneur is even more inspired to keep tackling new challenges. So what’s next for Jacob the Jeweler? “I love what I do, and I want to keep creating new jewelry and watches. I want to make what’s never been done before.”