Theodore B. Starr (1837 – 1907) began his career in the jewellery trade in 1853 at the age of 16 when he took up a position as messenger boy for a New York city jeweller.
After nine years working he was in a position to set up on his own, his business was located on John Street (next door to his previous employer) and two years later he entered into a partnership with Herman Marcus. Marcus had arrived in New York from his native Germany in 1850 and worked Tiffany & Co. and Ball, Black & Co. before joining forces with Starr to form Starr & Marcus – jewellers and silversmiths.
The firm created artistic contemporary silverware and jewellery, partly influenced by European trends but also reflecting the mood and aesthetic of America at this time. In 1876 they exhibited at The Centennial International Exhibition, the first official World’s Fair to be held in the United States. It was situated in Philadelphia and staged to coincide with, and celebrate, the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Starr & Marcus were noted for their display which included diamond and pink pearl necklaces, a diamond aigrette, coral brooches and a selection of cameos and intaglios.
The partnership lasted thirteen years until Marcus left to return to Tiffany. At this point Starr renamed the company Theodore B. Starr and went on to enjoy even greater success. His shop and stock were regularly written about by the press with the New York Times remarking that “Starr’s establishment… has no duplicate in this country and probably not the world.”
He was joined in the business by his son who incorporated the company in 1907 before selling it in 1918. Today, Starr pieces can be found amongst select dealers and auction houses and some are held by museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art who refer to him as “among the most prominent and influential jewellery and silversmithing firms in New York City during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”