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Underserved Communities Benefit from San Francisco Jeweler’s Efforts

Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry puts its neighbors first, from food resources to environmental initiatives.

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Underserved Communities Benefit from San Francisco Jeweler’s Efforts

EACH YEAR, OUR December Real Deal tells a story that brings to mind the amazing privilege afforded us by our industry to make a difference in our communities and that reminds us why we do what we do. This year, we are honored to tell the story of Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry, a shining beacon among the many local businesses that have helped to build and maintain San Francisco’s remarkable culture.

For generations, San Francisco has been home to a thriving collection of local businesses and community-focused nonprofits. The relationships between them offer a clear reflection of the city’s history, traditions and personality. This is the story of one special San Francisco business and the spirit of service that continues to leave an indelible mark on their clients, their city and our industry.

Co-owner Suzanne Martinez is a renowned jewelry historian, senior gemologist and appraiser, while co-owner Mark Zimmelman is a third-generation jeweler.

Co-owner Suzanne Martinez is a renowned jewelry historian, senior gemologist and appraiser, while co-owner Mark Zimmelman is a third-generation jeweler.

HISTORY

Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry was established in 1969 by Mrs. Jarmilla Lang, a native of Czechoslovakia, who brought her continental taste and extensive knowledge of all things antique and vintage to San Francisco, along with the finest selection of European antiques, objets d’art and jewelry the city had seen. Over her 20 years at the helm, Mrs. Lang saw the focus of her business shift almost entirely to fine jewelry. Owned for the past three decades by Mark Zimmelman, a third-generation jeweler, and Suzanne Martinez, a renowned jewelry historian, senior gemologist and appraiser, the company and its landmark store are still based in the heart of San Francisco’s historic Union Square shopping district. In addition to Mark and Suzanne, Lang employs 26 of the industry’s top professionals. Their iconic front window and dazzling showcases still offer an unparalleled selection of fine European and American antique, vintage and estate jewelry, but their clients now span the globe. As Maria Doulton wrote in The Jewellery Editor in November 2020, Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry is “one of the world’s most impressive and dazzling displays of fine antique and vintage jewelry under one roof.”

It only takes a brief look at LangAntiques.com — the award-winning website and e-commerce platform the company launched more than two decades ago — to see why Lang is known among San Francisco shoppers and aficionados across the globe for its vast selection of antique and vintage jewels and remarkable engagement rings, many of which date back to the Edwardian and Art Deco periods. It takes closer examination of the website, however, to learn the story of why, for many in San Francisco’s disadvantaged communities, Lang is also a symbol of hope.

The Lang Antiques team having fun with another local business owner.

The Lang Antiques team having fun with another local business owner.

SERVICE

As an integral part of their thriving community, Lang believes in doing what communities do — giving back — not as a way to draw attention, but as a way to make a real difference while involving both customers and employees. For more than 20 years, Lang has made significant donations to non-profits that serve in-need populations, with a focus on supporting local food resources, environmental initiatives and community development.

In mid-2020, when the pandemic made the need greater and resources more scarce, Suzanne, Mark and their team made an additional commitment to donate $15 per sale — regardless of size — to the efforts most in need of help.

Now in its third year, this effort has generated over $150,000 for a variety of organizations including San Francisco-Marin and Contra Costa-Solano Food Banks, National First Responders’ Fund, Wildfire Relief fund, St. Vincent DePaul Society, St. Anthony’s Foundation, Ritter House and Glide Memorial Church. In the past year, over $25,000 has been donated to Baby2Baby, a non-profit organization that provides children living in poverty with diapers, clothing and the basic necessities that every child deserves. In addition, Lang supports causes important to the company’s own employees, business partners and customers.

According to the Lang Antique website, “As a business with close ties to the LGBTQ+ community — our employees, families, friends and clients — we are proud to publicly stand as allies. In addition, we also feel it’s important to ‘put our money where our mouth is,’ so Lang donates a portion of our proceeds every June Pride Month towards advocacy groups like The Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign. The former is dedicated to the prevention of suicide of LGBTQ+ youth, while the latter strives to ensure that all LGBTQ+ people are treated as full and equal citizens across our country and around the world.”

Most recently, after the invasion of Ukraine, a Ukrainian business partner recommended that Lang direct a portion of their donation effort to Polish Humanitarian Action, whose team works to meet the urgent needs of Ukrainian refugees, providing food, clothing, hygiene items and other necessities.

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To many in the jewelry industry, Mark, Suzanne and their team are treasured as an invaluable resource of priceless information and education. In addition to offering seminars and lectures at industry conferences and events and serving as an instrumental part of the local GIA Alumni Association, Suzanne established Antique Jewelry University in 2004 (antiquejewelryuniversity.org) in an effort to catalog all things related to jewelry history and to share the treasure trove of information that the Lang team has amassed over decades. According to Suzanne, “AJU started as a 1,000-entry glossary that I wrote for our first website. Shortly thereafter, it was developed into its own site, with a more ‘encyclopedic’ jewelry history goal. We invest about $100,000 per year in the site, working with a team that includes a dedicated writer and content designer.”

Appraisers, teaching facilities, jewelers, archivists, historians and lovers of jewelry from all over the world have easy and free access to this valuable resource, while Suzanne and the Lang team see it as a way to give back to another community they call their own.

Underserved Communities Benefit from San Francisco Jeweler’s Efforts

LEGACY

On May 20, 2019, City Supervisor Aaron Peskin nominated Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry for inclusion in the San Francisco Legacy Business Registry, which recognizes longstanding, community-serving businesses that are valuable cultural assets of the city and that have contributed to San Francisco’s history and identity. On July 22, 2019, Supervisor Peskin’s nomination was approved by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, making Lang only the fifth jewelry company to be honored with Legacy Business status — an honor that is richly deserved.

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Kate Peterson is president and CEO of Performance Concepts, a management consultancy for jewelers. Email her at [email protected].

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