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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tourism For Locals: Shreve & Co. is S.F.'s Brightest Diamond

Posted By on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM

This building has been cutting some of San Francisco's diamonds for almost 150 years. - JUAN DE ANDA/SF WEEKLY
  • Juan De Anda/SF Weekly
  • This building has been cutting some of San Francisco's diamonds for almost 150 years.

If diamonds are a girl's best friend, then the rock sitting on Dame San Francisco's hand must be from Shreve & Co. -- San Francisco's iconic luxury jeweler based here since 1854.

The interior of the Shreve & Co. Store circa 1909. - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • The interior of the Shreve & Co. Store circa 1909.

Originally founded in New York as The Shreve Jewelry Company, it moved to California because of the allure of the Gold Rush and the City's influx of wealth from said discovery of abundant gold. It became an incorporated entity in San Francisco by George Rodman and Albert J. Lewis.

The original location of the jewelry shop was at the intersection of Montgomery and Clay, and by the end of the 19th century was firmly established as one of the finest jewel shops in the United States, specializing in gold and silver jewelry, timepieces, precious stones, and diamonds (of course). Many of its pieces from this era are on display in several museums and institutions in the Bay Area such as the de Young, The California Historical Society, and San Francisco Public Library.

But the physical building that houses this shiny company is just as famous as the jewels inside its brick walls. In March of 1906, Shreve and Company moved its permanent home headquarters into the building carrying its namesake located on 200 Post St., where it still resides today.

Exactly a month later, the famous April 18, 1906 earthquake and fire occurred and ravaged the vast majority of San Francisco. Surprisingly, this 11-story edifice was one of the only structures to survive The Great Earthquake of April 18, 1906. Although rendered unusable and forcing operations briefly to nearby Oakland, it was restored to full functioning capacities two years later.

It was also in these halls that, according to a plaque erected outside the building's facade, Shreve & Co. exhibited the 720 carat Yonkers Diamond, as well as the jewelry of Russian monarch Catherine the Great. Shreve and Co. also created the State of California's coronation gift to Queen Elizabeth II of England.

So it would come to no surprise that the San Francisco jewelry locale would act some Oscar gold as well consequently. Cate Blanchett, a two-time Academy Award winner, received her most recent statute this year for her performance in Woody Allen's dark comedy Blue Jasmine. Blanchett portrays Jasmine, a rich Manhattan socialite falling into poverty, mental insanity, and homelessness in San Francisco.

The vast majority of of the film is filmed in present day San Francisco and features local haunts including Ocean Beach, Chinatown, Casa Lucas Market and naturally, Shreve & Company. In the film, Shreve & Co. is the site where Jasmine begins to unravel at an exponential rate. Jasmine's dream to marry Dwight, a diplomat, fell apart on Post Street in front of the Shreve Building near Union Square, when she unexpectedly ran into her sister's ex, Augie. Augie reprimands Jasmine for staying mum when her late husband Hal, cheated him on business investments and in the process of angrily venting, Augie blows Jasmine's thinly veiled image as a surgeon's widow in front of Dwight, who consequently breaks off the engagement with Blanchett's character.

So if you ever wanted to follow the steps of an Oscar winner, then you can literally follow Blanchett by recreating the steps she took on Post Street while chasing Dwight down to "clarify" matters from him. Or if recreating dramatic scenes is not your cup of tea, you can always do the San Francisco version of the iconic scene in Audrey Hepburn's Breakfast at Tiffany's -- get a light breakfast pastry and a cup of coffee and simply eat outside the glass and metal doors while staring at some massive and gorgeous rocks.

So don't be afraid of doing a little window shopping and letting out your inner material girl since you would be supporting a local business. And to borrow from Shirley Bassey's crooning in her iconic James Bond theme song, diamonds are forever and Shreve and Co. will forever be San Francisco's diamond.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF, Juan at @JuanPDeAnda, and like us on Facebook

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About The Author

Juan De Anda

Juan De Anda

Juan De Anda is a cultural correspondent with a concentration in tourism, literature, and lifestyle and has been writing for SF Weekly since 2013. As an avid traveler, he enjoys discovering destinations abroad as well as the never-ending hidden gems of San Francisco. #DondeAndaJuanDeAnda?


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