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Adams Jewelry has a past rooted in tragedy and survival

  • Northampton attorney Jesse Adams is shown in front of Haymarket Cafe and the now-closed Adams Jewelry and Sculpture March 7, 2018 in downtown Northampton. Adams' father has owned the buildings at 183, 185 and 187 Main Street since the early 1980s. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton attorney Jesse Adams' late grandfather Emery Abrahamowicz, a holocaust survivor born in Hungary in 1908, is shown in an old photograph, at left, among several other photos of Adams' family members. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Old family photographs belonging to Northampton attorney Jesse Adams include one of Irene, Adams' paternal grandmother, at right. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton attorney Jesse Adams is shown in Haymarket Cafe, 185 Main Street, March 7, 2018 in downtown Northampton. Adams' father has owned the building, as well as those at 183 and 187 Main Street, since the early 1980s. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Sterling silver, rose gold and green gold earrings made recently by Andy Adams and a jewelry bunny featuring sapphire and ruby, passed down to Andy Adams from his father Emery Abrahamowicz, a holocaust survivor born in Hungary in 1908, are shown March 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Northampton attorney Jesse Adams is shown in front of Haymarket Cafe and the now-closed Adams Jewelry store on Main Street in downtown Northampton. Adams’ father, Andy Adams, has owned the buildings at 183-187 Main St. since the early 1980s. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A cuff bracelet made in 1973, sterling silver, rose gold and green gold earrings, made by Andy Adams. A bunny featuring sapphire and ruby, passed down to Adams from his father Emery Abrahamowicz, a Holocaust survivor born in Hungary in 1908. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Old family photographs belonging to Northampton attorney Jesse Adams include one of Irene, his paternal grandmother, at right. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A cuff bracelet made in 1973 by Andy Adams, at left, sterling silver, rose gold and green gold earrings made recently by Andy Adams and a jewelry bunny featuring sapphire and ruby, passed down to Andy Adams from his father Emery Abrahamowicz, a holocaust survivor born in Hungary in 1908, are shown March 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Old Adams family photographs include one of Katherine, otherwise known as Donica, who was the daughter of Emery Abrahamowicz. Katherine died in the Holocaust. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



@BeraDunau
Monday, March 12, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — Adams Jewelry, a Main Street institution in Northampton for nearly 40 years, closed its doors for good on Feb. 24.

“It just seemed like the right time,” said owner Andrew “Andy” Adams, who relocated from New York City to the Pioneer Valley in 1979, where he would raise his five children.

None of that would have been possible, however, without the efforts of Emery Abrahamowicz, Adams’ father, who survived the Holocaust during World War II with a pair of diamonds hidden in his teeth.

Jesse Adams, Andrew Adams’ third child, said that he only heard the story of the diamonds when he was 18. Adams, 40, is an attorney and former city councilor who lived in an apartment above the store for more than 15 years. After he learned that the store was closing, he decided that the community should learn the story of his grandfather, which he shared with the Gazette.

“I just thought it was an important story for people to know,” he said.

Emery Abrahamowicz was born to a Jewish family in Hungary in 1908, in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the age of 12 he became apprenticed to a watchmaker. The existence was a hard one, but Abrahamowicz would adopt the trade himself. He also got married and had a daughter, Katherine, who was nicknamed Donica.

Abrahamowicz’s wife, daughter and mother were taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp in May 1944, following the Nazi invasion of Hungary. Prior to this, Hungary’s authoritarian government, while a member of the Axis powers, had resisted demands to deport Jews with Hungarian citizenship.

During the Holocaust, Abrahamowicz got a dentist he knew to hide two diamonds in his teeth. Adams said that his grandfather was unsure whether the dentist had cheated him, and simply kept the diamonds for himself. After Abrahamowicz survived the war he immigrated to the United States, after remaining in his home village for two years. In the United States he discovered that the dentist had indeed been true to his word: The diamonds were there.

“That’s all he had,” said Adams.

His wife, mother and daughter Katherine were not there, however. All three had died in the Holocaust. Aside from a brother and a cousin, all of Abrahamowicz’s other family members perished.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, of the approximately 825,000 Jews living in Hungary in 1941, about 63,000 died or were killed prior to the German occupation. During the German occupation of Hungary, more than 500,000 Jews died from maltreatment or were murdered, according to the museum.

Andrew Adams said that he doesn’t know how his father had the diamonds hidden in his teeth, or how he got them out. He said that was because when his father told him about what had happened to him during the Holocaust, he never asked any questions.

“I just listened,” said Adams, not wanting to upset his father by asking questions.

A business begins

In the United States, Abrahamowicz took one of the diamonds he’d hidden during the genocide and used it to start a watch and jewelry business, where he primarily sold jewelry on consignment. He changed his last name to Adams, married Irene, a Czechoslovakian Jewish woman who had fled Europe prior to the war, and had two children with her, Andrew and Linda.

Jesse Adams said that he only has a few memories of his grandfather, noting how he had given Jesse and his siblings candy, which he referred to as “medicine.”

Andrew Adams first learned about Northampton when he was visiting his wife’s sister and his wife’s sister’s future husband in the Pioneer Valley in 1975. Adams’ future-brother-in-law had to make a delivery to a shop on Pleasant Street, and Adams came along.

“It seemed like an interesting town,” he said, crediting that chance visit with his decision to start a business there.


In the late 1970s, Adams relocated his family to the Pioneer Valley from Queens, New York, opening Adams Jewelry in Thorne’s Marketplace in 1979. One year later, he moved to a space off Main Street. Andrew Adams then bought the building in 1985.

After moving from New York City as a baby, Jesse Adams first lived in Greenfield and then Deerfield. However, he said that he was always drawn to Northampton.

“I thought it was the greatest place in the world,” said Adams, noting how he would visit Pulaski Park every chance he could to skateboard and play hacky sack.

Adams said that he was such a presence in Northampton that a number of people thought he graduated from Northampton High School. Adams is a graduate of Frontier Regional High School.

Adams’ love of downtown continued long after his teen years. When he was living above the store and practicing law, Adams said he would go weeks without using his car.

“Most sustainable man in Northampton,” said Adams, who now lives with his wife in Leeds.

A one-man show, mostly

Andrew Adams said that the store only had two employees in its history, and that he has not had an employee since 1991, with Adams noting that he likes to work on his own.

“I’ve always liked it,” he said.

One of those two employees was Liz Spencer, who worked for Adams Jewelry for six years. Spencer was both an employee and an apprentice to Adams.

“I learned a lot,” she said. “He was very patient.”

Spencer said that Adams was very good to her, and noted that one year when he could not give her a Christmas bonus he told her to pick out any item in the store for herself. Spencer selected a Chanel diamond band that Adams made, and which Spencer still wears to this day.

Spencer did not end up continuing on in the jewelry business. She got her master’s degree in mental health counseling and now works as a crisis clinician in Springfield.

“Andy was great at it (making jewelry), I was not,” said Spencer.

Nevertheless, she did say that pieces that she made had sold at Adams Jewelry.

She also remembers seeing Adams’ children around the shop and playing with them, including Jesse.

“He was a blast,” she said.

Spencer lives in Montague now, and hadn’t learned that the store had closed until she was contacted about being interviewed.

“Good for him,” said Spencer, of Adams stepping away from the business.

At the same time, Spencer said that she was sad to see another independent business close in Northampton. She said that small independent businesses selling one-of-a-kind items is what used to make Northampton Northampton, and that these businesses created an excitement in town in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Andy was part of that,” Spencer said.

Still, Spencer said that no one was to blame for what she said is the decline in such businesses in the city since then, crediting it to the “life and death cycle of a town.”

A sad day

Jesse Adams said that the store closing was very sad for him. He also said that he had at one time considered taking the business over, but his father had discouraged him from doing so.

“I think it will survive,” said Adams, on Northampton post-Adams Jewelry.

Adams noted how the community had embraced the business, and how he felt lucky to have gotten to live downtown and to have served the community.

“It’s just an incredible gift,” he said.

The building will also stay in the family. Andrew Adams said that he had originally planned on working until he was no longer able to. However, noting that he still had his health, he decided to step away from the business sooner.

“It’s a great place,” said Adams, speaking of Northampton.

A resident of Longmeadow, Adams said that he plans on visiting Northampton every week going forward to enjoy such activities as going to the library, visiting the botanical gardens, eating at restaurants and taking walks. He will also pursue his love of sculpture, and plans on setting up his jewelry bench again to make pieces to sell online.

As for the story of the diamonds, both Andrew and Jesse Adams expressed appreciation for what Abrahamowicz had done, and how his actions had allowed him to create a life in America.

“It means a lot,” said Andrew Adams. “I couldn’t be happier that he chose America”

“Those diamonds are how the family got started,” said Jesse Adams.

Adams said that while neither he nor his siblings practice, all five of them maintain a Jewish identity.

“Judaism means an awful lot to us,” said Adams.

 Editor’s Note: This story was changed on March 12, 2018, to correct grammatical errors.