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Jacob Arabo (born Yakov Arabov) emigrated with his family when he was 14 from the former Soviet Union republic of Uzbekistan to the United States. As a youngster he had an interest in his family's jewelry and time pieces. At age 16, he discontinued his formal education before completing high school and enrolled in a six-month jewelry-making course, which he graduated four months later. By the time he was 17 years old he was designing his own pieces in his own jewelry factory near New York City's diamond district.
Initially selling his pieces from a kiosk in the Kaplan Jewelry Exchange (in the heart of New York City's jewelry district), by the age of 21, Arabo had officially started his own company, called Diamond Quasar, and began designing his own Jacob & Co. branded jewelry.
Although he started out offering moderately priced, traditional jewelry, Arabo's design sense soon caught the eyes of celebrities, singers, and artists in the hip-hop and rap music world. In the early 1990s his clientele and business grew, and Arabo became known as "Jacob the Jeweler," the moniker first appearing in rap songs by Jay-Z, Nas and other rappers.
In 2005 he relocated to a "mine-inspired" storefront on East 57th Street. The townhouse space is adorned with Arabo's signature five-time-zone watches.
In June 2006, Arabo was arrested on charges of money laundering and conspiracy in connection with the Detroit-based Black Mafia Family, as well as for not declaring large cash purchases to the IRS. In October 2007, after admitting to lying to investigators, Arabo and his attorney, Ben Brafman, entered a plea in which the more serious charges of money-laundering were dropped. In June 2008, Arabo was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, fined $50,000, and ordered to forfeit $2 million to the U.S. government. Arabo was released from jail in April 2010.