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‘Caviar’ Maker Lagos Celebrates 45 Years

August 28, 2022  |  Anthony DeMarco
Steven Lagos

It’s almost 45 years since a 20-year-old Steven Lagos started a small jewelry-repair business in Philadelphia’s Jewelers’ Row district.

Today, the Lagos jewelry brand is represented in more than 350 retail doors, including some of the most prestigious department stores in the US, such as Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. The company specializes in silver jewelry adorned with natural diamonds, colored gems and other materials. In recent years, the founder has also introduced 18-karat gold jewelry. His pieces are fashion-forward but have a timeless quality that is expected in fine jewelry.

He first sold his jewels under his full name in the early 1980s and became among a handful of jewelers at the time — including David Yurman and John Hardy — who began building branded businesses. Prior to this, designer jewelry brands were nonexistent. Retailers displayed jewels in no particular order, with no designer stamp.

“There was Tiffany, Bulgari and the historic French brands. There was really no designer branded business,” Lagos said in an interview. “We happened to be in the right place at the time when brands became more important, and we were very fortunate to ride that wave for 45 years.”

Things changed dramatically for Lagos in 1984 when he introduced Caviar to his product line, with a beaded texture that reminded him of the decadent delicacy. The name stuck, and so did the design, whose manufacturing process made it difficult to copy. The element has since become the foundation of every piece of jewelry the company produces.

The Smart Caviar bracelet for the Apple Watch in gold and sterling silver and diamonds (Lagos)

“It’s the trademark of the brand. Everything we do involves Caviar,” he explained. “It’s a small beading pattern, a distinct pattern because of the way we style it. Beading is nothing new. It’s the way they’re arranged. The pattern we create is distinctive. And it’s a creative marketing name. If you placed our collection alongside others without names and tell the person that one is named Caviar, I think that person would be able to pick it out. Without Caviar I think Lagos wouldn’t be as distinct.”

Another important change for the company came when Lagos recognized he needed help managing the business. In 2007, he hired Chris Cullen, a veteran marketer, and by 2015 named him CEO of the company, while Lagos took the roles of chairman and creative director.

This freed him to create designs and oversee the manufacturing operation in Thailand. Meanwhile, Cullen concentrated on upgrading the software and personnel to focus on sell-through on the retail level. The result has been the largest growth spurt in the company’s history. In 2021, the brand had one of its best years, selling 250,000 pieces. Lagos expects to exceed that number in 2022.

In 2018, the company launched a jewelry bracelet for the Apple Watch called Smart Caviar. Four years later, this product is available in 20 styles and has sold more than 35,000 units. In addition, it has been a significant driver in client acquisition, as 78% of Smart Caviar sales represent new customers.

“Apple’s marketing and brand power took something that was well known and made it iconic,” Lagos said. “What I recognized early on is people couldn’t take it off because of all its functions, which are important. Women wear the watch in the evening and didn’t want to take it off. I wanted to turn it into a piece of jewelry that can be worn day and night. They made a perfect sports and casual watch, and I made it into a fine-jewelry piece.”

Continuing to produce new products and improving the label’s relationship with its retail clients are the priorities for the coming years, according to Lagos.

“We are introducing higher price points, more gold, and gold and diamond jewelry,” he said. “We have Caviar basics at an accessible price point. We’re building out our portfolio. We have these discussions about getting better at what we’re doing. Focus is the key. We’re not making fragrances or sunglasses. We stick with what we know and what we’re good at it. People seem to like it. We’ve advanced into a different league in that we are supplying a lot of people with plenty of business and we’re important to them. We take that seriously. We want to be a good supplier and a good partner.”

Main image: Steven Lagos (Lagos)


Steven Lagos ‘Caviar’ Maker Lagos Celebrates 45 Years

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