Then and Now: Jewelers Row
Located in the heart of Chicago’s Loop on Wabash between Washington and Monroe, Jeweler's Row has become a distinctive, significant, and unique part of Chicago’s famous downtown shopping district.
Jeweler's Row became significant for its association with Chicago's rise as a jewelry hub in the early Twentieth Century. Officially opening in 1872, these traditionally small-scale, entrepreneurial businesses occupied both ground-floor storefronts and upper-floor offices in the district's buildings as seen on both sides of the street in this 1907 photo. In 1912, the Mallers Building at 5 South Wabash began to house jewelry manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers putting Jeweler's Row on the map. By World War II, the most important Chicago firms, like Sherman Tucker and M. Y. Finkelman, had located there. Finkelman's son, Marshall, brought international fame to the Chicago jewelry trade in international gem markets and opened the Jeweler's Center in the late 1980s.
The 1900’s was a popular time for jewelers from Mexico, South America, and Southeast Asia who brought new ethnic trends to Jeweler's Row.
In its early years, jewelers held public events where hundreds of Chicagoans would try their luck at ducking for diamonds. At one event, there was a bowl full of hundreds of rhinestones, plus five carats worth of real diamonds, and guests lined up with tweezers to do their best.
During the rehab of the Jeweler's Center in the Mallers Building in 1900, it was discovered that part of the basement space had once been used as a Prohibition speakeasy. Even Al Capone made a few purchases within the walls of the historic building.
Peter J. Weber, of the architectural firm D.H. Burnham and Company, designed The Silversmith Building featured on the left side of the street. It was built in 1890 in response to the transition from Romanesque Revival architecture to the Arts and Crafts Movement.
In 1985, Alderman Gerald McLaughlin was the first to recommend Jeweler's Row as a historical district.
Today, Jeweler's Row spans two blocks with jewelers from all over the world, becoming a designated landmark district. Recognizable by the 12 iconic steel Jeweler's Row markers that line both sides of Wabash from Monroe to Washington, and with more than 215 jewelers in both ground-floor storefronts and upper-floor offices, this district continues to thrive as the jeweler’s hub of Chicago.
Jeweler's Row was declared a Chicago landmark on July 9, 2003.
The steel Jeweler's Row street markers were installed in 2008.
The Jeweler's Center at 5 South Wabash holds more than 190 jewelers representing 33 countries in fine jewelry making.
The Silversmith Building, now the Silversmith Hotel and Suites, is a boutique hotel featuring 143 guest rooms, including 63 suites, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.