Legacy can mean a multitude of things to different people depending on who you ask. Legacy can vary from a life full of lessons to a collection of valued heirlooms passed down from one generation to the next. In the case of Josephs Jewelers, located in Des Moines, Iowa, their legacy has existed for 150 amazing years, passed down along family members through five generations. In 1871, “S. Joseph and Sons” was born on 4th and Walnut in the Kirkwood Hotel. Solomon Joseph (below) became known as a meticulous jeweler and timekeeper. His impeccable reputation earned him the official timekeeper for the railroads in Des Moines.
Since then, the family name and dedicated jewelry store has flourished through generations of the Joseph family. Pictured below, under the current leadership of Toby Joseph, Chairman of the Board, and his children, Trisha and Jake Joseph, along with Deb Joseph, wife to Toby’s brother, John (1961-2016), they have received numerous awards and even sold the piece of Cybis porcelain that was presented to Pope John Paul II. Although the company has remained successful and has many noteworthy accolades to account for it, they say that the true test of their success came from the priceless amount of relationships they have gained over the years with individuals all over the world.
We had the opportunity to interview the Joseph family to understand what legacy really means to them as well as the impact Josephs Jewelers has had on their life. We asked Deb Joseph, Watch Buyer, what has been most rewarding for her over the years and she states, “To have a vested interest in our long tenured sales staff, watching their families grow and knowing that Josephs is a positive influence in their lives as well as a workplace they can enjoy being at every day. Having four Joseph’s in the store each day shows the staff that we are committed to making sure each day is a success.”
Toby recounts one of his earliest memories at Josephs where he was six years old on a cold wintry night. “We came downtown to see dad at the store since we were open Monday and Thursday nights. No malls then in 1957. It was Christmas time and the snow was falling. My sister, mother and I walked up to see the Younkers window. They had real people in the windows at night acting. The streets were so crowded with people. It was the way life was then. Two years later Josephs opened in Merle Hay Mall. About 13 stores in an open air mall. It was Christmas time again, I was 8 years old; they had a train you could ride on around the mall, what great fun it was. At age 9 I would come downtown and we had a really fun guy in the shop that let me play with the torch and melt things! His name is Phil, he is 80 now, and still here!”
Both siblings, Jake and Trisha, centered their responses around family. Their most familiar and warmest memories revolved around the shop being filled with loved ones and learning the trade at a young age. Trisha remembers ‘Take your Daughter to Work Day,’ and spending time in the shop with Phil, a bench jeweler who has worked at Josephs since 1960. She also remembers Dani, the gemstone lab specialist at Josephs, being pregnant with her first child, who is going to be 22 years old this year. “I always loved our large table up-front that was set with different place settings, the amber jewelry and gemstones. Everyone was always so nice and welcoming. It was fun to go in for a visit.”
Jake recalls visiting the store for a bit at the end of the day and helping close down the shop. ”You had to stand really still before leaving, otherwise the alarm wouldn’t set for the night, which is a bit of a task for a young boy! Afterwards, we would meet our grandparents and uncle (John Joseph) and his family for dinner, or sometimes it was just us and our Dad going to the Cubs baseball game”.
While the jewelry business always ran in their blood, taking over the business was never the path these siblings saw. Jake originally wanted to be an engineer or computer programmer. He wanted to go to Iowa State University for Computer Science. Then he started working at the Valley West location in 2000. “I really enjoyed the interaction with people and found a different type of problem solving that isn’t so formulaic. I changed over to University of Iowa and got an accounting degree.” Trisha also never saw herself in the traditional desk job. She wanted to be a professional camper and outdoor enthusiast and write stories about her adventures. “I spent 3 weeks on this amazing adventure without cell service for the University of Iowa Animal Behavior class, and yes, I did get 3 credit hours for observing squirrels and ducks in 11 states! There is the reality of things and my career took me from preschool teacher, volunteer at United Action for Youth in their teen pregnancy program, to hotel management, back to waitressing/bartending and then to Des Moines. It felt like a natural fit, I knew I never wanted to sit at a desk and just wanted to spend my days with beauty. So I do spend each day with outdoor wonders through the gemstones in jewelry.”
Deb Joseph has been in the jewelry business for 34 years and has many great memories. “Being able to work side by side with my husband, John, for many years was definitely the most special. We both had a love for colored stones and passion for learning more about them. He passed away in 2016 and as it does seem different each day without him here, I am blessed with many memories from customers, who have become great friends, who often share stories about their love for Josephs and how special it is to have a Josephs gold box gift wrapped and under the tree each year.”
With their victorious 150th anniversary coming up, we asked them what carrying on the legacy personally meant to them. Jake Joseph, President of Josephs Jewelers explained, “It isn’t an easy task, but it is a fun one. I try not to be boastful of the 150 year old legacy, but to me, the secret sauce is long term vision. Every generation has started out a business with the vision of passing the baton some day and the goal is make it better than when you got it, and that is a tall order given what my dad (Toby) and uncle (John) did to grow the business under their time. I really enjoy the industry and to be able to be a part of such a rare family business feels very surreal some days.” Trisha Joseph, Vice President, said that it was the connections within the community that truly meant the most to her as well as the continuous opportunities to give back.
As always, Omi Privé is extremely excited to continuously grow and share in the success that Joseph Jewelers will have over the next 150 years. We wanted to know what it meant to work with partners such as Omi Privé, and Jake responded; “We have a very long relationship with Omi Privé. I value the level of trust we have with them knowing their product is excellent quality, they will take care of us, and they are always willing to help us even if there is no financial incentive for them in a transaction. I love that Niveet was thinking of our big 150 year and proposed an amazing sapphire that weighs 18.71 carats (the year Josephs Jewelers was established, 1871!), it really shows that they take an interest in helping us grow our marketing efforts and take our business even further than where it has been in the past.”
Deb adds, “When you have a special personal connection with a company like Omi Privé, it means everything. Each time you sell a piece of Omi Privé jewelry you know you are giving your customer the best product you can offer them. Because it was made with the highest standards you can be assured it can be worn with pride. Our friendship is of utmost importance.”
As a special way to celebrate this exceptional anniversary, we decided to re-cut one of the most beautiful blue sapphires we have ever seen (above) to weigh precisely 18.71 carats – the exact year Josephs Jewelers started their journey! The oval shape sapphire is a deeply saturated blue that was hand-set with double claw prongs. The center is complemented by two tapered baguette diamonds flanking each side of the simple yet dramatic platinum ring.