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George Coates Shreve and Samuel S. Shreve travelled from New York to San Francisco at the beginning of the 1850’s. They, like many thousands of Americans, made the long journey west in the hope of making their fortune in the wake of the gold discoveries of 1848.
George was a talented goldsmith having trained alongside his older half-brother Benjamin who had a jewellery shop Shreve’s (later Shreve, Crump & Low) in Boston. In 1852 they opened their store on the corner of Montgomery and Clay with a fine selection of goods including silverware, jewellery and timepieces, trading as Geo. C. Shreve and Co. As the firm’s success and reputation grew steadily over the years, they were able to increase their stock and by the 1880s had established themselves as one of the most prominent silversmiths in America. They specialised in beautifully decorative Arts & Crafts designs often featuring cut out detailing and always of the finest quality and craftsmanship. The excellence of their merchandise coupled with their focus on the very highest standards of customer care meant the business prospered and they were soon able to move to new premises on Market Street.
George died in 1893 by which time he had become a very wealthy man. His son George Rodman Shreve inherited the business, now Shreve & Co., and together with his father’s business partner Mr George Bonny, took on another partner Mr Albert Lewis. Twelve years later when the San Andreas Fault ruptured causing a devastating earthquake to hit San Francisco, the Shreve and Co. store was one of the few to remain standing. Just one month prior to the disaster, the business had relocated to Post and Grant moving into a brand new earthquake-proof building. Despite this incredibly fortuitous move, the destruction caused to the rest of the city as well as the damage sustained by the interior of their building, meant that the firm had to relocate to Oakland for two years. It was during this period that the company first started producing illustrated catalogues and their advertisements detailed their willingness to make arrangements for “transacting business with out-of-town customers”, thereby increasing their client base exponentially.
When the restoration work was finished they returned home to Post and Grant and a photograph taken the following year in 1909 reveals a highly luxurious, open, light filled and very beautiful interior. Advertisements of the period show their stock included cut glass, leather goods, pewter ware, china, precious stones, watches and imported ‘European Novelties’. The business, like so many others, was forced to close its doors during World War I as silversmiths and craftsmen were needed to make aeroplane parts. They reopened in 1918 and business flourished during the 20th century. Their pieces were bought by the great and good of American society and they were regarded as the country’s most prestigious jewellery and silverware firm outside of New York.
Over the years the company has been bought and sold, opened and closed a branch in Portland and in 2015 moved location further down Post Street after losing the lease on their Post and Grant building.