Family businesses, especially those that have stood the test of time, are rare today. Princeton has provided a congenial setting for a number of such firms over the years, but not many remain today. An exception is Hamilton Jewelers, located at 92 Nassau Street.
And not only has it marked 24 years in the Princeton location, it has a centennial celebration this year — 100 years since its 1912 beginnings in Trenton.
Irving Siegel purchased the business in 1925 for $15,000, and Hamilton Chairman Martin Siegel takes time to reflect on what it has meant to the family. “I started to help my dad in the business when I was 12 years old. I never thought of doing anything else. I came into the business formally in 1955, and now my son Hank is President and CEO. It has meant more than I ever expected to have the family business continue. It’s the dream of a father, passed on to a son and grandson.”
The business thrived over the years, and today, there are five stores; one each in Lawrenceville, Red Bank, two in Palm Beach, Florida, and the Princeton location.
Hamilton is known for its extensive selection of fine jewelry, estate and antique jewelry, watches, and giftware. Its own “Hamilton Collection” has become a signature part of the store’s inventory, and it is known for excellent quality at reasonable prices. Many of the pieces can be customized for additional personalizing.
Finding the latest and finest examples of quality jewelry often requires traveling to far away place, notes Vice President Donna Bouchard. “We bring in things from all over the world. We had a collection from India, and Hank was just in China. He finds the most amazing items.”
Having an eye out for inventive designs and the latest techniques is important in a fast-changing world. “We have tried to adapt our business model to best suit the needs of our clients, and we will continually embrace new technology and ideas to always improve our service and offerings,” points out Hank Siegel.
“The big change has been in the technology,” adds Ms. Bouchard. “A lot of people now shop on-line. We started our website 15 years ago, and it’s a thriving part of the business.”
“We try to be on the cutting edge of what is going on,” notes Martin Siegel. “We offer new and innovative ideas to our customers.”
Range of Styles
In addition to its signature Hamilton Collection, the store has always offered the creations of the finest jewelry designers, some exclusive to Hamilton.
Timepieces from internationally renowned watchmakers are a highlight at the store and available in a wide range of styles, all featuring the finest craftsmanship combined with modern technology. Hamilton’s in-house workshop features several certified Swiss watchmakers and master jewelers to provide high quality service for jewelry and watches.
Antique and estate jewelry and watches are another important feature at Hamilton. This distinctive selection is of special interest to those who appreciate pieces which carry the added dimension of untold stories of times past.
Giftware includes china, crystal, sterling silver, home accessories, and more. In addition, a Business Gift and Insignia Division is available for corporate gifting, and a VIP e-mail program delivers timely event announcements and exclusive product offerings.
With Father’s Day and graduations ahead, watches are always a welcome gift and can be engraved, notes Ms. Bouchard. “For girls, a first strand of pearls, gold hoop earrings, or diamond stud earrings are all good gifts.”
Even with all the fashion changes over the years, certain items can be counted on — diamonds, gold, and pearls, she adds. That string of pearls remains the jewelry of choice for many women. Pearls continue to endure and fascinate.
“This is a happy business. People are often celebrating special times in their lives,” points out Ms. Bouchard. “And they love jewelry! There is so much history to it. It was once used as currency in trading, and for some people, it serves as an amulet to bring good fortune or prevent bad times. It’s something you wear. It says a lot about your personal style and what you want to express.”
“Jewelry has been worn over the centuries as an adornment and as a symbol of love and caring,” adds Martin Siegel. “It is also a lasting gift that can be passed on as an heirloom from one generation to another.”
Hamilton offers items at a wide price range, to suit just about any pocketbook. Pearl bracelets start at $25, and the Hamilton Collection offers pieces, including silver, under $50. Then, there are those exceptional items in the hundreds of thousands of dollars!
The Siegels have always emphasized the importance of service, adds Ms. Bouchard. “We are set apart by our service and our attention to detail. Every one of our associates thinks about the relationship, not the immediate transaction. It’s the development of a long-term relationship that is important.”
As Mr. Siegel notes, “When my father took over this company in 1925, he started a custom of personally greeting each visitor. This warm gesture established the spirit of friendliness you find today at every Hamilton store.”
Ms. Bouchard has also been impressed with the Siegels’ employee involvement. “The business is very personal to the Siegel family. They pay attention to every detail. There are 125 employees, and Hank knows each one and has a personal relationship with every employee.”
Giving back to their communities has also been important to the Siegels, and Hamilton has supported numerous charities and organizations over the years. Currently, they have initiated “100 Days of Giving” in commemoration of their 100th anniversary. The program encourages all Hamilton associates to volunteer their time to an organization of their choice in their community. They volunteer one work day of service to the charity, and receive a full day’s compensation from Hamilton.
Hamilton is hoping to yield 100 full days of commitment to a wide range of organizations.
“For 100 years, we have enjoyed the support and loyalty of our communities,” says Hank Siegel. “We are proud to offer a way for our company and associates to give back. It was important for us to construct a program that could be relevant for each associate, while supporting the overall needs of our neighborhoods.”
Hamilton is also planning a series of other events to commemorate their anniversary.
The store is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday until 8, and Saturday 12 to 5. (609) 683-4200. Website: www.hamiltonjewelers.com.