Harold E. Tivol, whose beaming countenance represented Tivol jewelry to decades of Kansas City area shoppers, died early Wednesday at his home. He was 92.
Tivol was a Kansas City native who attended Southwest High School and the University of Illinois, according to an online notice posted by the Louis Memorial Chapel.
He spent most of his professional career as president of the jewelry company founded in 1910 by his father, Charles Tivol.
A release from the company, Tivol, said he joined his father’s jewelry store in downtown Kansas City after serving in World War II.
“I was fascinated with it. I loved to go down to the shop and look at the stones, watching him making a piece,” Harold Tivol said during the company’s 90th anniversary celebrations in 2000. “It’s such a happy business.”
In 1951, under Harold Tivol’s leadership, Tivol would open what would become its flagship store on the Country Club Plaza. The Plaza store was soon outselling the downtown shop, which later merged with the Plaza location. The Plaza store has undergone two expansions. A second store operates in Hawthorne Plaza in Overland Park.
Tivol and Ruth Krigel married in 1977 and together built the Tivol reputation in the jewelry world. They also brought in products by national designers, including David Yurman, Steven Lagos and Roberto Coin, when many family-owned jewelry stores tended to sell their own brands.
“Harold Tivol set the standard of success both professionally and personally,” designer Penny Preville said in the company’s release. “He paved the way for designer fine jewelry by being one of the first to welcome collections like mine into his stores.
“He also had a way of making each and every person feel special; his smile could light up a room. I feel honored to have known him, worked with him and to have called him my friend. He will be missed. He was the rarest of gems.”
Tivol’s own contributions to the company and the industry earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award from Modern Jeweler magazine in December 1988.
“He was a progressive, risk-taking businessman who built an international reputation for Tivol. Combining old fashioned values of quality and integrity with ambitious merchandising and marketing programs, he came up with a winning strategy,” it said.
In 2002, the American Gem Society honored him with its Triple Zero Award.
Area residents know Tivol from his often humorous commercials that featured him from the 1980s into recent years. In 2010, a 100th year anniversary commercial showed him wearing an assortment of wigs portraying the company’s march through time.
Another ad showed an eclipse with copy scrolling from the bottom of the frame to the top, much like the “Star Wars” movies. As the “planet” rises, the viewer realizes it isn’t a planet at all but the bald head of a grinning Harold Tivol.
Tivol dismissed the ads at first.
“I said, ‘I’m not sticking my face into the paper like a used car dealer.’ But it’s helped with the intimidation factor,” he told The Star in 2000. “People love the ads because I make fun of myself, and they’re not afraid to walk into the store. And the ads have been picked up by jewelers all over the country.”
He also showed some of his humor in a lengthy 2010 interview. He talked about the early days in his father’s shop, how he was helpless despite his father’s effort to teach him the jewelry-making trade and about Ruth Tivol’s influence on how the company did business.
Tivol stepped back from the company’s senior post in the mid-2000s, passing control to his daughter Cathy Tivol, but he remained involved as an adviser and chairman emeritus. Tivol is now in its fourth generation of family involvement. Cathy Tivol’s son, Hunter Tivol McGrath, joined as a sales associate in 2011 and is now vice president.
Harold Tivol also served as president of the Country Club Plaza Association for more than a decade and was president of Oakwood Country Club. Harold and Ruth Tivol were presented the Alfred Benjamin Friend of the Family Award from Jewish Family Services in 2002.
The two Tivol stores will close Thursday at 1 p.m. and reopen at regular store hours Friday. Funeral services are set for 3 p.m. Thursday at the Louis Memorial Chapel, 6830 Troost Ave. in Kansas City.