Astro Gallery of Gems: A Brief History
Astro Gallery of Gems has been family owned and operated since its founding in 1963. Its founder, Julio Tanjeloff, was a successful businessman in Buenos Aires, Argentina, amassing a huge fortune in construction and mining before his properties were expropriated by the Peron regime during the 1950’s. By 1961, Julio had emigrated to New York City with his family to start to rebuild the empire he left behind in Argentina. Having become infatuated by minerals, he truly believed a market could exist for high-end collectible specimens with which affluent customers could adorn their homes and offices. In this vision, he opened the spectacular Astro Gallery of Gems and Minerals in 1963. The operation quickly grew into a stunningly lavish 16,000 square foot establishment that drew mineral collectors, gem collectors, celebrities, politicians, interior decorators, architects, and designers. In 1970, he began publishing Mineral Digest to promote minerals and his business. Though Mineral Digest ran for only eight widely spaced issues, it still ranks as the most extravagant mineral periodical of all time.
Around 1967, gem grade blue zoisiste was discovered in Tanzania, and Julio was the first person to bring the crystal into the United States. Calling his new find Tanjeloffite, Julio proudly displayed his eponymous rock for sale throughout his stores. In a famous dispute with retailer Tiffany & Company, rather than use the name Tanjeloffite for the stone, Tiffany & Company marketed the rock under the moniker Tanzanite. The latter name stuck. It wasn’t until 2008, when the mineralogical record was amended to include the lesser known name, Tanjeloffite, as an official name of the stone, that Tanjeloff was properly honored.
Despite the dispute with Tiffany’s, business continued to grow; growing from just one store to an empire of over twenty Astro Gallery retail outlets in various department stores across the country. Julio also expanded his business streams, acquiring George Jensen boutiques, Cartier Wholesale Division, Mark Cross Ltd Wholesale, Klein’s department Store and Blum’s Department Store. During this period, the total business was generating more than $35 million in annual sales as well as employing of 400 workers. Overextension and financial problems forced Julio to eventually pare down to his core business: gems and minerals. Through the years Astro Gallery has catered to clients like Salvador Dali, John Lennon, and Shirley MacLaine and always remained a vanguard of the industry which Julio helped to create.
In 1988, Julio unexpectedly passed away of a sudden heart attack. His grandson, Dennis, who had worked closely in the family business since a very young age, had joined full time the year before to help run the company with his father. In 1992, having completed their thirty three year lease, Astro Gallery of Gems moved to spacious new headquarters at 185 Madison Avenue where they still bill themselves as the “World’s Largest Gallery of Gems and Minerals.”
Dennis succeeded his father as president of the company in 1996 and has been running all aspects of the operation since then. He began to diversify revenue streams and continued to be a visionary just as his grandfather was before him. Even before e-commerce was commonplace, Dennis brought Astro into the digital age by building an internet business for Astro as early as 1998, which continues to be strong to this day.
Astro Gallery Today
Astro Gallery has been and remains one of the foremost and respected collectible gem and mineral voices in the world. Astro Gallery has transformed itself beyond just a retail gallery. Dennis Tanjeloff has made his mark at Astro Gallery by putting more of the business’ focus on courting serious collectors looking for unique, top-quality, specimens. Over recent years, Astro Gallery has been instrumental in advising and curating multi-million dollar collections for the most accomplished collectors and natural history museums worldwide. In addition, Astro Gallery has pursued land acquisition and mining rights around the world where it feels quality collectible minerals can be unearthed.
In 2009, in a partnership with Toys R Us, Astro Kids was opened at the world-wide Toys R Us Flagship store in Times Square, providing natural
science products like tumble stones, shark teeth, and fossils to a continuing deluge of excited children. After overwhelming success, a second Astro Kids location was opened at world famous FAO Schwartz during Christmas 2010. Astro Kids, operating as a separate corporation from Astro Gallery, is continuing its momentum and planning an ambitious role-out to open stores in high traffic retail spaces across the country.
About Dennis Tanjeloff
Dennis has been involved in the family business since the age of four, when his grandfather began to bring the young Dennis with him around the world finding, buying, and selling minerals, gems, fossils, and related objects of art for the company. Their travels also took them to inspect the numerous exhibitions and retail stores operated by Astro Minerals around the country, where Dennis and his grandfather would check in on staff and operations. His passion for minerals was already ossified by his teenage years, when he began to take a more formal role at Astro, working summers and weekends in the gallery, learning all aspects of the business and demonstrating a keen ability to absorb the more than forty years of mineralogical business experience his grandfather had accumulated.
By 2004, Dennis had re-invented Astro Gallery from a retail gallery to a worldwide mineralogical powerhouse – advising and curating top collections and museums, running a vibrant online business, participating in mining, and expansion plans into related businesses.
When global economy collapsed in 2008 and many high net worth collectors began to tighten their purse, Dennis began to pursue lower price points and new markets – conceiving and executing his Astro Kids vision, through a partnership with Toys R Us.
Surpassed only by Dennis’ wife and four children, Astro Gallery has been and continues to be Dennis’ life passion. In recent years, Dennis has participated in several other ventures as both an active and silent partner. Among them, AV Source NY, is a leading home theatre installation outfit which provides high end custom audio visual build out for hotels, offices, and private residences. In addition, Dennis is a silent partner in the trendy meatpacking district restaurant, MPD. Dennis is also the Vice-President of his condominium board at the exclusive 40 Sutton Place.