“This is the first step in the next 100 years of our brand,” says Greg Kwiat, a fourth-generation member of the 100-year-old diamond company that bears his last name. Kwiat is talking about the impending opening of the first Kwiat store, on New York City’s Madison Avenue, set to coincide with a yearlong celebration of the company’s centennial. Well, it’s actually not the first store. Back in 1907, when Greg’s great-grandfather Sam Kwiat founded the company, he opened a store on Canal Street that specialized in selling vintage diamonds.

In fact, the history and evolution of the Kwiat brand mirrors the progress of the fine-jewelry business in the U.S. in many ways. Sam Kwiat’s son David eventually took over, building the family business into a manufacturer and vendor of high-quality diamonds for New York City’s jewelry market�and in doing so, helping to found the 47th Street diamond district in the 1950s. David also began making diamond jewelry for retailers, and in 1955 he put out a jewelry catalog, one of the first, to reach smaller markets around the country. “Private label really was our business,” explains Greg. “We cut something like 50 pear-shaped diamonds for Harry Winston.”

About six years ago, the Kwiat family, including David’s two sons Lowell and Sheldon, decided it was time to transform Kwiat into a brand. They hired veteran fine-jewelry designer Janice DeBell away from Tiffany & Co. in 2004 and introduced collections that ranged in price from $1,000 to several million dollars. Today DeBell creates up to five collections a year in addition to a line of bridal pieces and important one-of-a-kind items. The jewelry often turns up on the red carpet on celebrities like Natalie Portman, Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson. To celebrate the centennial, DeBell delved into the company’s archives and created the Decades Collection, which consists of 10 pieces, each representing a decade since the company was founded. There’s a 21.86-carat diamond and platinum Art Nouveau tiara that has a special place in Greg Kwiat’s heart: his wife wore it on their wedding day last winter.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1659346_1659345_1658229,00.html#ixzz10aWhrlF6

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