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June 25, 2008 5:25 PM

Business, Fashion, Retail

Bling Behind Bars

/*photo styles */ .photo-left { width:200px; float:left; margin:4px; } .photo-right { width:200px; float:right; margin:4px; } .caption { font-size:10px;padding:2px; color:#999999; } In my job, I spend a fair amount of time trying on the most expensive diamond jewelry in the...

In my job, I spend a fair amount of time trying on the most expensive diamond jewelry in the world at the most decadently intimidating stores in New York, but every trip to Jacob & Co. was always a bit more exciting than the others. You never knew who or what you'd see in there -- from Barbara Walters to a scaled-to-life chess set made of white, cognac and black diamonds in the works for a Saudi Prince.

Jacob Arabov
photo by Thomas Iannaccone

I've known Jacob Arabov since 2005 and there have been many interviews at his East 57th street store and headquarters -- it's the only place you can find a 15-carat fancy yellow diamond alongside a watch with the image of a Playboy bunny on the dial. They don't have those at Graff or Harry Winston.

Swipe a card and the glass for the jewelry case drops down à la James Bond. Swipe somewhere else and a hidden pocket door opens to a leather-laden back area with a fully stocked bar. The VIP area is welcome to celebrities of all sorts, but a constant presence has been Jacob's wife, Angela, always involved in the business, and one of their three preteen sons wearing one of dad's larger-than-life five-time-zone watches with diamonds.

That's the thing about Jacob. Sure, you'd see pictures of him with all the bold-faced names -- Paris Hilton, P. Diddy, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Posh and Becks, etc. -- but for so many clients, the family element was so endearing.

I wonder how the shop will fare without Arabov's presence for the 30 months while he is incarcerated for money laundering. After all, who else but Jacob would have the nerve to make a pavé diamond pendant the size of a CD, like the one he did for Pharrell Williams.

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