Industry Leader and Jeweler Herbert Littman Dies at 91

IndependentsFeb 25, 2021

Industry Leader and Jeweler Herbert Littman Dies at 91

He and his brother grew the largest privately-owned jewelry retail chain in the U.S. before Fred Meyer purchased it in 1998.

Herbert Littman, former co-chairman of Elangy Corporation, died Feb. 21. He helped grow Littman and Barclay Jewelers into the largest privately-owned jewelry retail chain in the U.S. before Fred Meyer Jewelers acquired it in 1998.

Boca Raton, Fla.—Herbert Littman, former co-chairman of Elangy Corporation, died Feb. 21 at the age of 91.

Littman graduated from Rutgers University and then served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

The lifelong jeweler and his brother Leonard built Littman and Barclay Jewelers into what would become the largest privately-owned jewelry retail chain in the U.S. with 130 stores.

The company used two store names; Barclay was used for mall stores and generally had higher-end merchandise, his nephew, Michael Littman, confirmed to National Jeweler.

In 1996, New Jersey Monthly Magazine named Littman Jewelers “Family Business of the Year.”

Fred Meyer Jewelers bought the chain from Elangy Corp. in 1998.

Understanding that a business’s greatest strength lay in its people, Littman focused on developing and executive innovative training programs for staff, his obituary said.

This included his signature “Breakfast with Herb” sessions, which focused on selling skills and customer interactions—he’d bring a stack of $2 bills to give to salespeople who answered questions correctly.

His selling philosophy involved always greeting customers with a big smile, which he was always sure to do, and his obituary said the Littman staff adored him.

After the chain sold to Fred Meyer, two members of the next generation—Michael and his cousin, Gary Littman—opened Gary Michaels Fine Jewelry in Manalapan, New Jersey in 2002, where Littman continued his passion for training for a handful of years before retiring to Florida, Michael said.

He was a founder of the Diamond Council of America and served as vice president of Jewelers of America.

In addition to the business and his family, Littman also loved art and giving to charity.

He helped establish the first scholarship to Rutgers and was a major donor to the university’s Zimmerli Art Museum, to which he donated major collections.

He also was chairman of Israel Bonds in central New Jersey and was active in the United Way as well as many other charities.

Littman is survived by his wife, Linda; his son Robert and wife, Roz, of Boca Raton, Florida; his son Gary Littman and wife, Kelly; and five grandchildren.

Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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