Circa 1941, The United States having just been drawn into war by the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii , found itself needing to restore part of it’s naval fleet. Philadelphian Philip P. Debs, son of a Russian immigrant, was employed as a welder in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard working on building America’s last battleship, The New Jersey. A natural born people-person and entrepreneur at heart, having had many odd jobs including selling fruit from a horse-drawn cart in the streets of South Philadelphia, dreamed of a better life for himself and his family.
The year was 1956 and this country was enjoying the post-war manufacturing and economic boom. After a 10 year apprenticeship with long-time Philadelphia jeweler Louis Perloff, Philip decided to open a jewelry business of his own and founded Philip P. Debs, Jeweler. His business had humble beginnings and consisted of a single showcase and a small safe in the back corner of the first floor in what was then called the Sylvania Diamond Exchange, which housed approximately 20 individual jewelry-related businesses here in our current 4-story brick building. Four years later he was joined by his much younger brother Eli and as they grew the business, they expanded to four showcases and a street-facing front display window. Based on the simple premise of a strong work ethic deeply rooted in honest values, integrity and always striving to find the best quality for their customer’s dollar, the Debs brothers quickly established themselves with many a discriminating buyer. In 1972, Philip purchased the building and he and Eli had their new store built on the entire first floor, renaming the business to Debs Wholesale Jewelers. They worked very hard to build their business, developing their friendly, welcoming style and straight no-nonsense approach. They established business relationships with top vendors in the industry to bring their customers the best quality, value and large selection of diamonds, fine jewelry and excellent jewelry repair services. Debs Jewelers had become a tough competitor among the other established Philadelphia jewelers.
Having grown up in and around the family business, and while still of school age, Eli’s son Jeffrey spent many a Saturday and holiday helping out in the store and found great interest in watching and learning about every aspect of the jewelry business. He started as a runner, making pickups and deliveries of special orders and repairs to the local trade shops. Countless hours were spent sitting beside the many goldsmiths and diamond setters, model-makers, watch-makers, hand engravers and polishers watching and learning every detailed step these craftsmen and women took to work their magic and art in creating a piece of fine jewelry that had been designed by our company. Jeffrey then began to assist customers in the store and developed his own style, cultivating quite a following and customer base of his own. In 1987, having finished college, Jeffrey went on to obtain his Graduate Gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America. In the fall of that year, he joined the business and the name changed to Debs Jewelers & Gemologists. In 1993, after nearly 50 years in the industry, Philip Debs retired and Eli and Jeffrey purchased the business.
Between the fall of 2011 and completed in the spring of 2012, Eli and Jeffrey had the store completely remodeled, bringing to it a unique design combining things old, things new, a bit of tradition and some artsy/funkiness thrown in too. From our original, refinished tin ceiling dating back to the turn of the last century, to the brick walls and reclaimed/remanufactured wood flooring, modern lighting and displays, along with the change to our new name, Jeffrey Debs Jeweler Gemologist, we’ve created a warm and welcoming space to serve you, our customer, into the next generation for all of your jewelry needs.
The “Debs Difference” is taking the time to help our customer select the right piece of jewelry for that special person or occasion and to offer clarity and comfort in understanding your purchase so as not to feel like you’re buying a “Blind” item. We search far and wide within the wholesale marketplace to bring you, our customer the very best value at a most competitive price.
Within our pressure and hassle-free original location on South Eighth Street Jeweler’s Row, we welcome you to a fun, contemporary cool and uplifting shopping experience,..the “Debs Difference” and learn for yourself why “Debs (is) for Diamonds!”