Some Traditions Never Change

It began more than 165 years ago. A tradition of offering the finest jewelry money can buy, backed by honesty, integrity, and a passion for building relationships.

Hands Jewelers has been in our family for generations. Find out how our story began and how it has evolved through the years.

Hands History


The Story Begins

Oliver Startsman and his brother found what will later become Hands Jewelers at Hands current location on Washington Street.


Women’s Rights Convention Endorsement

D.H. and O. Startsman’s business is endorsed as the “nicest, cheapest, and best” by the Women’s Rights Convention being held in Iowa City on December 16.


Hands Arrives in US

John Hands arrives in the U.S. at Ellis Island. He is the fifth generation of his family to work in the jewelry business.


Hands Supports Jewelers Ethics

John Hands is part of an ethics committee of the United States jewelers’ guild meeting in Chicago, according to the New York Times, on January 22, 1887.


A ‘Babe’ is Born

Harold “Babe” Hands, first child of the John Hands’ family born in the U.S., is born on July 4. Babe is the sixth generation to work in the jewelry business.


Welcome to Iowa

John Hands arrives in Iowa City.


First John Hands Jewelry Location

First-known John Hands Jewelry store location at 22 S Clinton Street where the Airliner is today.


John Hands Jewelry Relocates

John Hands moves to a location on Iowa Avenue, two stores away from where Iowa Book & Supply is today and where the post office was once located.


Another New Location

John Hands moves his jewelry store to 9 S Dubuque Street, where Masala Indian Cuisine is currently located.


Hands & Thornberry

John Hands acquires a partner, becoming Hands & Thornberry. The partnership is short-lived, and the store moves to 108 E College Street, next to the Federal Building (Wells Fargo Bank) and (former) Raygun store.


Babe Begins Jewelry Career

Harold “Babe” Hands joins his father at the store.


A Merger and a New Home

A Merger and a New Home

Hands moves to 128 E College Street, across from where Martini’s Bar is today, and then merges with and quickly acquires O. Startsman at 109 E Washington Street, Hands’ current location, all in the same year.


A Name Change

John Hands Jewelers becomes John Hands and Son Jewelers.


John Hands Passes

John Hands dies; his son, Harold “Babe” Hands, takes over store. John Hands and Son Jewelers will become Hands Jewelry Store and by 1939, it will be called either Hands Jewelry Store or simply Hands.


Display Cases Purchased

Harold “Babe” Hands buys the Honduran mahogany cases seen in the store today for $3,000 in Omaha.


William Nusser, Sr. Born

William G. Nusser, Sr.  is born on October 25 in Iowa City. He is the seventh generation of the family to work in the jewelry business.


Overcoming the Great Depression

Babe Hands promises the staff he will not let them go hungry during the economic decline that would become the Great Depression.


New Storefront Design

Babe Hands remodels the storefront with a progressive design.


Growing Hands Family

William Nusser, Sr. joins Hands Jewelry Store. William Nusser, Sr. marries Margaret Lynch, and Babe Hands marries Mary Rupener Nusser.


William Nusser, Jr. is Born

William (Bill) G. Nusser, Jr. is born August 19 in Iowa City. He will be the eighth generation of the family to work in the jewelry business.