Barnett Esh, a talented bench jeweler, and Rachael Kaspar, a dynamic saleswoman, met in 1916 and became partners – in business and, eventually, in life. Kaspar & Esh’s very first pieces were made by Barnett in the kitchen of his small apartment. As the business developed, Barnett worked alongside a few additional jewelers, polishers and setters in a factory in lower Manhattan. Rachael – still the lone salesperson – traveled across the country with her line of samples tucked under her sleeper car pillow for safety.
In the late 1920s, the Great Depression changed everything, and the market for gold and diamond jewelry disappeared almost overnight. Timepieces, however, were selling, so Kaspar & Esh switched gears and began manufacturing watchcases for Longines Wittnauer.
This line of business grew and by the mid-1930s, Barnett – along with two partners – bought the exclusive U.S. rights to Longines Wittnauer. As before, the watch movements were shipped to New York from Switzerland, but the design, manufacture, assembly and distribution of the watches was all done in-house by Kaspar & Esh.
Through the early 1940s, Kaspar & Esh continued producing watchcases and began manufacturing fine jewelry once again. Needing more space, the company moved uptown to a 7,000-square-foot factory in the Diamond District, where they would remain for the next 50 years.