For over 100 years, Henry Kohn & Sons was a high-quality jewelry institution in the city of Hartford, Connecticut.
The Founding Father
Henry Kohn was born in Bohemia, Austria, in 1839. He arrived on the shores of America in 1865. Henry settled in Hartford, Connecticut, and started his small jewelry business. Three years later, he moved his firm to Rockville, but returned to Hartford seven years later, in 1875, where he settled in for good.
Kohn's eponymous company was a retail and wholesale diamond and precious gemstone establishment that enjoyed much success.
An 1886 article from the Hartford Courant called Henry Kohn "an enterprising diamond merchant" who had "built up a thoroughly respectable and profitable business." The report further stated that Kohn "is everywhere recognized as a gentleman of superior business attainments and thoroughly affable ways and manners."
A New Generation of Kohns
In 1892, Henry Kohn brought sons Albert and Oscar into his jewelry business as partners, and the firm's name changed to Henry Kohn & Sons. Two more sons, Edmund and George, joined the jewelry business a few years later when they came of age.
In 1898, Kohn & Sons started up a wholesale diamond business at 13 Maiden Lane in New York City. Maiden Lane was the original Diamond District, conveniently located near Wall Street and the City's financial center. During the early 20th Century, the Diamond District migrated to Midtown Manhattan, where the rents were lower. Today, the world-famous Diamond District is located on West 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
The Maiden Lane business did very well, and in 1904, a factory was built in Newark, NJ, then a significant hub for jewelry manufacturers. The plant was highly successful, with sons Oscar and Edmund in charge of the factory and the wholesale department. Sons Albert and George remained in Hartford, running the business operations there.
Henry remained active in the business until his death in 1917. The company remained in business until the middle of the 20th Century when it was acquired by another Hartford jeweler, G. Fox, and company.
Kohn's Product Offerings
Henry Kohn & Sons was a mainstream jeweler, keeping up to date with current trends to meet the demands of its clientele. Fashions featuring styles from the Belle Époque and Edwardian periods were well represented. And, naturally, Art Deco pieces were plentiful during the 1920s and 1930s.
Over the years, as one would expect, Kohn maintained a steady offering of diamond engagement rings and wedding bands. A 1914 advertisement spoke of "Solitaire Diamond Rings of exceptional color and brilliancy and mounted in exquisite settings of platinum of exclusive designs. Our stock of single stone diamond rings is especially attractive this season." The rings, as advertised, were priced from $15 to $1,350.
Another advertisement spoke of "Wedding Jewels for the Bride" and listed "Sautoir Watches, Bracelet Watches, Cluster Rings, Pendants, Brooches, Bar Pins and Bracelets," that were "set entirely with diamonds or with diamonds in combination with sapphires, emeralds, rubies, pearls, etc."
Like many jewelers of the time, Kohn also advertised for sale household items such as silverware, canes, umbrellas, opera glasses, leather goods, carving sets, stationery, cut glass, china, furniture, brass goods, and fans, as well as clocks.
Appropriate gifts for men included cigarette or card cases, matchboxes, knives, cigar cutters, and pencils. For the woman in your life, a mesh bag, vanity box, photo frame, or lorgnette would be deemed a desirable gift.
And, of course, the traditional gift for the young man who reached his 21st birthday was a gold watch. Before the end of the Great War, this would have been a pocket watch, since wristwatches for men were not an acceptable accessory until then. The buyer would have a choice of two styles: open face or hunter case. The hunter case had a spring-hinged lid that closed over the dial to protect it from scratches and dust.
Recently Seen at Auction
Many of the silver-plated items sold by Henry Kohn & Sons over the years have become unique attractions at auction houses across the country, but few jewelry items have turned up. These include a lovely necklace, featuring a pair of opals – one oval, the other teardrop – that suspended from a 14 karat yellow gold chain. A trio of three round diamonds dangled between the two opals for a stunning look; A pendant, displaying a miniature portrait of Madame Sans-Gêne in a ruffled bonnet and fichu, was painted on porcelain, signed "Hartman" and stamped with the mark of Henry Kohn & Sons.