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Diamond run: After more than 80 years in business, Pittsburgh’s Schiffman’s Jewelers closing Saturday

At 3 p.m. Saturday, only the sparkling memories will remain.

by Schiffman Jewelers, a staple of the Clark Building in downtown Pittsburgh for more than eight decades, is closing.

“According to King Solomon’s words in the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is ‘a time to be born and a time to die,’” said Schiffman owner Abraham Judah Samet of North Oakland. Samet, who turns 84 next month, spoke to the tribe on Thursday via a phone call. “It’s time to close the store.

Samet said he had not been in the store for two years. The business doesn’t make any money.

He started noticing a change in sales after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Customers are buying fewer engagement rings and wedding rings because more couples are living together and not getting married, he said. .

An increase in online shopping as well as the pandemic with more people working from home has also affected physical stores, he said.

“Just look the streets of downtown,” said Ron Rosiak, of Pittsburgh’s South Side, a 40-year employee. “They are empty. People don’t come here to work. All the department stores, Saks Fifth Avenue, Kaufmann’s, Macy’s, Gimbels, Horne’s… they are no longer. All the wheels in the city center slowed down. It is just not a good situation.

Brookline’s Samet, Rosiak and John Mercer, also employed for 40 years, looked back on the good days. At one time, in the Clark Building, there were 70 stores as well as repair shops and engraving businesses. It was known as the place to buy fine jewelry. There are currently 14.

Samet contributed to the growth of the business by selling engagement rings and wedding rings. At one time there were nine vendors. During the holidays, they worked 12 hours a day because the store was continuously packed.

Samet said he remembered most of his customers and greeted them by name when they returned. He has sold jewelry to executives at US Steel, Westinghouse and PPG, professional athletes, and many residents of the city of Pittsburgh and beyond.

Everything is for sale. Some freight customers will pay as little as 0.17 cents on the dollar.

Anything that remains will be liquidated.

The hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.


Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

A photo of Irving Schiffman, founder of Schiffman’s Jewelers, rests on a jewelry box in the downtown Pittsburgh store on Thursday, January 6, 2022. The store will close on Saturday after approximately 80 years in business.

Irving Schiffman, who started the business in the 1940s, died in 1990. At first, he traveled all week to make sales and buy more merchandise.

He asked Samet, his son-in-law, to move his college classes to Duquesne University in the afternoon. That way he could be at the store in the morning because there had been a recent theft and he needed a man in the store with the employees. Samet said Schiffman treated him like a son.

“I learned of the existence of diamonds, rubies and sapphires,” Samet said. “A young man came in looking for a 1 carat diamond. I explained the intricacies of three diamonds to him and sold him one in 15 minutes. It cost $ 1,500. It would be worth at least $ 6,500 today.

It’s sad that things are moving so fast in the south, Rosiak said. He said it looked like an endless spiral.

“It’s a different world now than it was years ago,” Rosiak said. “What made this store different is always our high quality jewelry. In for money.”

Schiffman is an “old school” guy, said Mercer.

“He taught us that the quality of the merchandise is the most important thing,” said Mercer. “And the uniqueness of the jewelry was the second most important thing.”

The jewelry aspect is part of it, but it’s the relationship with customers that you remember, Mercer said. He remembered a customer who owned a restaurant and brought him stuffed banana peppers – his favorite.

“She knew they were my favorites,” he said. “She thought it might get her a better price. … It made.”

Mercer said watching a couple pick an engagement ring and seeing them in love is gorgeous.

“You see the connection immediately,” Mercer said. “We are there for their weddings and their birthdays and anniversaries and the births of their children. These are wonderful moments to experience. They often become our friends.

Schiffman made friends everywhere he went. At 5ft 6in he was not tall, but he did stand out in business.

He was a con artist from a young age, Samet said. Schiffman would make sandwiches around the neighborhood during football games and sell them, then sell watches.

One of his watchmaking clients asked him if he sold diamonds. He said: “I don’t, but I can,” Samet said.

Schiffman traveled to New York to experience the best of diamonds.

Rosiak told the story of a client to whom he sold one of these quality diamond rings 30 years ago. She walked in and he cleaned the ring and told her it was good for at least 30 years.

“She told me: It looked as good as the day she got it,” Rosiak said. “Fine jewelry lasts and is often passed down from generation to generation. Rings, necklaces and bracelets are more than shiny and sparkling jewelry. They represent love and commitment.

“We have been honored to share so many special occasions with our customers.”

Just as jewelry is more than glittering gold and pretty gems, jewelry salespeople are more than employees, Samet said.

Rosiak and Mercer are two of the best, Samet said.

He wishes he could continue the business for them – so they don’t have to go out at 3pm on Saturday for the last time.

“We don’t know how we’ll feel when we close the door one last time until that happens,” Mercer said. “But I’m sure it will be sad. It has been touching to say goodbye to all of our clients because we have been working here for so many years.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is the editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .




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