Independents

In Memoriam: Those We Said Goodbye to in 2022

IndependentsDec 19, 2022

In Memoriam: Those We Said Goodbye to in 2022

From beloved designers and retailers to gem dealers with decades of experience, National Jeweler looks back on those individuals we lost this year.

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New York—This year saw the passing of a number of well-known and respected members of the jewelry industry, from longtime retailers and designers to pioneering gem dealers.

National Jeweler honors them below, beginning with a few people who passed near the end of 2021 and weren’t included in National Jeweler’s “In Memoriam” story last year.

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Diamond expert Eddy Elzas, who is credited with building the fancy color diamond trade, died in late November 2021 at 79.

Elzas got his start as a diamond cleaver, according to Rapaport, before he switched to diamond trading and, in the 1970s, started working as a broker, selling goods for South African sightholders.

After he was introduced to fancy color diamonds by a manufacturer, he started to learn about the stones and traveled to source them, paying low prices for the ones other dealers didn’t want.

He became a sought-after expert for his knowledge and was well known for his “Rainbow Collection,” comprised of 300 fancy color diamonds that his family still has, and for his “cheeky” advertisements for his company and product, Rapaport reported.

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Americo Modesto Rebelo, an expert technician at jewelry tool and equipment manager Gesswein, died in late December 2021 at 59. 

Rebelo was introduced to Gesswein while attending Bridgeport University in Connecticut. He went on to work for the company for more than 35 years, beginning at age 23 in the technical department.

He was known for being a hard worker, always arriving early to work and breaking only to eat healthy lunches brought from home. 

Chairman Dwight Gesswein said, “Americo was unique, not only passionate about helping customers and our salesforce but a genuine, down-to-earth gentleman who gave so much to each of us and our company as well.”

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Christina Lang Assael, the head of Assael, died Dec. 21 at her home in Millbrook, New York following a serious illness. She was 75.

She first heard the name Salvador Assael, who would come to be known as the “pearl king,” while working at Sotheby’s. She later met and fell in love with him, and the two married and traveled the world together to acquire the finest pearls.

Christina took over the company when Salvador died in 2011, building and steering it in new directions, like innovative pearl jewelry designs and adding new categories to its offerings.

She was a staunch environmentalist who put responsible sourcing at the core of the company’s ethos.

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Mark Hearn, managing director of Patek Philippe U.K., died in late 2021 after battling multiple system atrophy for several years.

Hearn had three decades of experience in the watch industry, including roles at Zenith and then at Patek Philippe U.K., which he joined in 2000.

He is credited with growing the latter from sales of £7.5 million per year to more than £176 million per year, according to WatchPro.

Hearn was given the WatchPro Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 for his many years in watch industry leadership. He retired from Patek in 2019.

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Third-generation jeweler Dominick Pampillonia died at his home in Bethesda, Maryland, on Dec. 30 at 92.

Along with brother Harry and father Dominick Joseph, he founded and operated Washington, D.C.-area independent Pampillonia Jewelers, which still operates today and is headed by Pampillonia’s eldest son, Dino.

Pampillonia had a true passion for design and rare gems, and his clients will remember him for his exquisite taste and style.

Outside of the jewelry industry, Pampillonia loved jazz music and sports, particularly his hometown Washington Redskins (now known as the Washington Commanders) and Washington Nationals.

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Longtime industry road rep Dennis “Denny” Lee Ballard died Jan. 4 after a long battle with cancer.

Ballard’s true passion was the jewelry industry, his family said, spending nearly five decades on the road selling, helping clients with inventory control, and training sales staff.

He helped with the design of many jewelry stores across the country and loved sharing his wealth of knowledge about the industry. He was always seen in a sharp suit and statement tie, known to many as one of the best-dressed men around.

Ballard also loved enjoying a good meal with family and friends, listening to jazz with a glass of wine, and watching his beloved football team, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

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Johnny Kneller, a man who “lived and breathed diamonds all his life,” succumbed to cancer on Jan. 20. He was 75.

Kneller grew up in Antwerp and was the son of a diamond trader who specialized in large stones. He eventually followed in his father’s footsteps to become an expert on big diamonds, polishing countless important rough stones.

He formed a partnership with Laurence Graff in the late 1990s, with Kneller bringing the high-end jeweler in as a partner at Safdico, the diamond manufacturing firm Kneller and Brian Gutkin started in the ‘80s.

“A special intellectual, reserved, kind and considerate man, he lived and breathed diamonds all his life. For me, he was the greatest diamond dealer I have ever known,” Graff said.

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Roberto Martinez, founder of his eponymous jewelry company, died Jan. 20 at 83.

He co-founded Latin Gold of Los Angeles in 1968. Eight years later he branched out on his own, creating Roberto Martinez Inc.

The company sold Italian chains and 14-karat gold and sterling silver jewelry by the gram to be able to offer its customers savings based on current market price. His obituary said he was a “pioneer” of the practice, the first to do so in the United States.

After he retired in 1997, his children took over the business and moved it from Los Angeles to San Clemente, California. The second generation still runs Roberto Martinez Inc. today.

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Rhode Island fine jewelry retailer Robert B. “Bob Baxter” Messerlian died Jan. 24. He was 90.

Messerlian and his wife, Gloria, started Baxter’s Fine Jewelry in 1960 on their kitchen table, with him having experience working as a salesperson for a jewelry manufacturer.

In 1969 he bought the building where the jewelry store currently is located, and they bought as much equipment as they could afford to start a jewelry manufacturing factory. They evolved into retail in 1987 when their son Paul joined the business and grew it into one of Rhode Island’s largest jewelry stores.

Outside of jewelry, Messerlian’s other interests included boating, golfing, music, spending time with his family, and Bible studies.

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Stanley C. Pollack, a well-respected jeweler who headed some of the industry’s most prestigious organizations, died Jan. 25 at 82.

After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, he started working alongside his father at the store he had opened, G.M. Pollack & Sons, eventually leading its expansion from one store in Maine to more than a dozen.

In addition to selling jewelry, he designed it, and headed some of the most visible organizations in the jewelry industry, including Jewelers of America and the Diamond Council of America. He also founded the Maine Jewelers Association.

National Jeweler inducted him into the Retailer Hall of Fame in 1999.

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Harvey Wheeler O’Conor, former chairman of the Jewelers Board of Trade, died Jan. 25 at 81.

He was elected to the JBT board of directors in 1999, serving the organization for 10 years.

After starting his career in sales and financial positions for General Foods and Procter & Gamble and then moving into electronics, O’Conor purchased Findings Inc. in 1978. He ran it until it was acquired by the General Findings division of LeachGarner, a wholly owned subsidiary of Richline Group Inc. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc., in 2012.

In addition to his role at JBT, O’Conor also served as president of the 24 Karat Club of the City of New York and was active in other industry organizations.

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Jewelry designer and artist Alfred Durante died Feb. 4 at 84.

While he was a student at the Art and Design School in New York, his teachers selected him to interview at Cartier, interviewing with Claude Cartier himself.

His apprenticeship at the jewelry house honed his rendering and designing skills, serving as the foundation for his long career in jewelry.

Durante worked at Cartier for 28 years, ultimately serving as vice president of design and production and designing for European royalty and Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe.

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Dorothée Gizenga, co-founder and former executive director of the Diamond Development Initiative, died Feb. 18 due to complications from diabetes. She was 60.

Her father was a prominent politician in the Democratic Republic of Congo independence movement, and Gizenga grew up around many prominent African liberation leaders of the time.

After working in government and foreign affairs and later becoming a leader in the campaign to put an end to conflict diamonds, she was named the first director of DDI in 2008, where she became a tireless advocate on behalf of the world’s artisanal diamond miners.

“Dorothée Gizenga was as fearless as she was tireless in her pursuit of development and social justice. She will be greatly missed,” non-governmental organization Resolve said in a press release.

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Jeweler Antonio Celi died Feb. 20 at 83.

He began training as a silversmith at an early age and moved to Toronto in 1970, where he and his brothers opened a store and jewelry manufacturing company.

When his family relocated to Buffalo, New York, he set up a workshop and retail store and became known as a “jeweler’s jeweler,” according to the local news.

“If a jeweler had a difficult piece that needed to be made, he was the one to go to,” his wife told The Buffalo News. “If they had a special stone that no one else could make a jewel of, he could do it.”

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Longtime retailer James “Barry” Donaldson died Feb. 21 of heart failure. He was 80.

He opened North Shore Gold & Diamond in Glen Cove, New York, 42 years ago, and became well known in the area, not only for his jewelry business but also because he became something of a therapist for locals, with people stopping in just to talk to him, a local news story about his death said.

He was an avid fan of harness racing, a type of horse racing in which the horse pulls a light two-wheeled vehicle called a sulky, and even owned some of his own horses and traveled throughout the United States and Canada for races.

He also loved his family and looked forward to big family gatherings.

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Longtime luxury retail executive Michael Moser was killed in a shooting at a California outlet mall on March 24. He was 66.

According to local news reports, Moser had just returned from a work trip and was on his way home when he stopped for a coffee and to charge his electric vehicle when the shooting happened.

Moser was vice president, U.S. retail, at Harry Winston for nearly a decade, and also held roles at Chanel, Montblanc, Vertu, Escada, Ralph Lauren, and Tiffany & Co.

“He was an ideal human being. He would light up a room,” his husband, Michael Rudder, told The Desert Sun. “He was very kind and very purposeful in his life.”

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Longtime gemstone expert David Patterson died April 8 at the age of 89.

With a degree in mechanical engineering and a passion for gemstones, Patterson designed and built his own faceting machine and taught himself lapidary.

He also learned and developed the process to grow alexandrite and started a gemstone manufacturing and wholesale company called Geminex Corp. in 1975 in California.

“He shared his knowledge and love of gemstones with all. He loved his alexandrite with a passion,” the International Colored Gemstone Association said in an email remembrance.

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Arasb Shoughi, owner of the Global Pawn Shop in Queens, died April 17, three weeks after a robber entered his store and beat him.

On March 28, the suspect entered the store and tried to sell watches to Shoughi before forcing him to the back and beating him with a metal rod. The suspect stole some jewelry before fleeing.

Shoughi’s family launched a GoFundMe after his death to raise money for expenses since he was the main provider, remembering him by saying he was “full of life; he radiated positivity, joy, and love. He went above and beyond to make those he loved know he was there for them—never expecting anything in return.”

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Sanjay Kanaiyalal Shah, a partner in Indian diamond company KBS Group, died April 29 at 60.

Shah joined the World Diamond Council’s board in November 2021 as the representative of India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).

He was a longtime member of GJEPC’s Kimberley Process core team and convenor of the organization’s Diamond Panel Committee.

“Sanjay epitomized the sense of community and commitment that we are so proud of in our industry, giving of his time selflessly to international bodies like the World Diamond Council and closer to home in India,” said WDC President Edward Asscher.

“Our thoughts go out to his wife Sangita, his children and their families, his colleagues, and his company. He will sorely missed but his memory will serve as a beacon for all of us.”

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Andre Assaf, who started The Tsavorite Factory with his late wife nearly 50 years ago, died at 79.

While living in Kenya, Assaf was introduced to the local gemstone market, and he eventually began buying and cutting stones.

Assaf’s name eventually became synonymous with fine tsavorite and other rare gemstones.

His love for gemstones ran deep, his family said, and he was happiest when he was working at his cutting factory in Bangkok.

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Watch industry veteran Steven Kaiser died suddenly May 20. He was 68.

Kaiser’s career spanned decades, and his commitment to the industry was seemingly inexhaustible, working for a while before launching his own company, Kaiser Time Inc., which did consulting, business development, executive recruiting, and mergers and acquisitions.

He gave his time to numerous organizations and also received the Women’s Jewelry Association’s Ben Kaiser Award and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee’s Stanley Schechter Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to being a knowledgeable professional as well as friend and mentor to many in the industry, Kaiser was a devoted husband and father.

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Martin Blank, the former president of diamond supplier Joseph Blank, died May 25 at 91.

Blank worked in the jewelry industry for five decades, starting with his father and eventually working with his children, Marjorie and Douglas.

He was vital to creating the melee diamond business between India and the United States.

Blank was known as a “a straightforward gentleman who tirelessly upheld the integrity of an industry that worked on just a handshake” and a mentor to many, a family obituary said.

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Detroit jeweler Daniel Hutchinson was shot to death on June 1. He was 47.

According to local reports, a suspect pulled up next to Hutchinson in front of a local pawn shop and fired more than a dozen rounds at his car, hitting him multiple times. Hutchinson was taken to the hospital, where he later died.

Hutchinson had his own jewelry store, called Hutch’s Jewelry, and was known for creating custom pendants, diamond-set watches, and diamond chains popular among local celebrities and artists.

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John Lawrence, a longtime member of an innovator in the diamond industry, died at 79.

Lawrence worked for De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company (DTC) for 29 years, recruited as part of a group of engineers to modernize diamond polishing as the company began to realize the opportunity that lay in applying modern technology to the process. To understand the business, though, he first had to train in Belgium to learn how to cut diamonds the traditional way.

He was involved in many tech projects in the 1980s and ‘90s, according to The Diamond Loupe, related to bruting machines, polishing machines, early versions of rough and polished diamond measuring machines, sawing automation, laser sawing, and more. 

Lawrence was known for being the consummate English gentleman who never got flustered and was always determined to achieve his goals. He loved art, painting, and traveling.

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Glatz Jewelers owner Tommy M. Glatz died unexpectedly June 7 at 68.

Glatz and his wife Marleen opened Glatz Jewelers in 1976, growing their business and gaining a reputation as one of the most trusted jewelry retailers in the Pittsburgh area.

Glatz also loved winemaking and talking about travel, the arts, biking, and genealogy, and was an avid gardener. He enjoyed spending evenings and weekends in the garden with his dog Ted, growing fruits and vegetables and sharing them with family and friends, and being “Poppy” to his six grandchildren.

Glatz was “brilliantly creative … witty, feisty, and kind,” his online obituary states. “He will be missed by countless friends and family from all walks of life all around the world.”

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James A. Bulger Sr., owner of Bulger’s Jewelry Store, died June 9. He was 71.

After graduating from school and serving in the U.S. Navy for four years, Bulger started working for his father at Bulger’s in Pennsylvania in 1973. Three years later, he purchased the store along with a second store in Martinsburg, and in later years also owned and operated stores in Bedford and Roaring Spring.

He was an Eagle Scout and a member of the Everett Masonic Lodge F&AM No. 524 and the Pennsylvania Jewelers Association, among others.

Bulger loved to golf, hunt, and spend time in the woods.

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George Prentiss Thompson Jr., owner of George Thompson Diamond Company, died June 10 at 70.

Though he originally planned on becoming an English teacher, he found his passion in the jewelry business.

After selling jewelry door-to-door for years, he opened his eponymous company in 1977 and grew it into an international firm, opening a jewelry manufacturing company in Bangkok in 2001.

Thompson was also passionate about giving back to his community, involving himself in various organizations over the years, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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George Holmes, longtime editor-in-chief of JCK magazine, died June 20 at 93.

After writing for some large newspapers and feeling like a “cog in the wheel,” in 1963, Holmes took a job with a smaller publication—a trade magazine covering the jewelry industry then based in Philadelphia and called Jewelers’ Circular-Keystone.

He rose to the rank of managing editor before leaving it to start a Philadelphia-focused business weekly but was lured back in 1974.

Holmes remained at JCK until his retirement in 1996, tackling the important issues facing jewelers while also making a significant contribution to service journalism by providing useful advice for working jewelers.

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Estate jewelry dealer Alan “Butch” Fried died June 22. He was 86 years old.

He got his start on the Bowery in Manhattan before moving up to 47th Street to join his father, eventually becoming well-known in the Diamond District for buying, and wearing, large, bold jewels, according to JCK.

“One jeweler told me if someone had a huge, garish piece that no one on 47th Street could sell, they would say, ‘Show it to Butch, he’ll buy it,’” his son Adam told JCK.

Fried also traveled a lot to promote his business, eventually relocating to Dallas.

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Lynn Ramsey, who dedicated her career to promoting jewelry, died June 30 in Naples, Florida. She was 77.

She worked in magazine publishing before embarking on what would become a long career in promoting jewelry and watches, working at the Diamond Information Center and then the Jewelry Information Center before launching her own public relations agency in 2000.

Ramsey was also an active member of the Women’s Jewelry Association, serving as a national and New York Metro Chapter board member for many years, and won a WJA Award for Excellence in marketing.

“Lynn paved the way for many women in our industry and her impact will continue to be felt for years to come,” WJA said in a statement on Ramsey’s passing.

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Longtime retailer Joseph John Matysiewicz died July 6 at 83.

After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1956-1959, Matysiewicz became a jeweler and owned C.J. Jewelers in Trumbull, Connecticut.

He was known throughout the region as “Joe the Jeweler” and took a lot of pride in his work, continuing in the trade even after the store closed.

He was known for being charismatic and social, making friends wherever he went. He liked dancing, playing golf, and loved his family, his dogs, and friends.

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Terry Castro, who went simply by Castro and was the designer behind Castro NYC, died of a heart attack July 18 at 50.

Castro sold his early brass and silver work as a street vendor in SoHo but eventually graduated to fine jewelry.

It was upon moving to Istanbul several years ago that he really elevated his work.

Castro started his relationship with sales showroom and retail store Muse in 2020, which was the year he was reaching peak creativity and beginning to gain mainstream traction. He was known for his unapologetically different designs.

“His jewelry was very much like him—complicated, very unusual, a little wild, a little crazy, and very unexpected,” said Muse founder Jennifer Shanker. “He was intense. He was funny. He took himself really seriously and his jewelry really seriously but also didn’t. He was a real character.”

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Lukas Lundin, founder of Lucara Diamond Corp., died July 26 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. He was 64.

He started his career in energy and mining in the early 1980s, working alongside his father.

He founded Lucara with partners Eira Thomas and Catherine McLeod-Seltzer in 2007 and was a driving force behind the success of The Lundin Group of Companies.

“His passion for the industries to which he devoted his life was unparalleled. Lukas saw people as the key to success and spent decades building some of the strongest management teams in our industries. He always strived to empower those working with him and continuously pushed us to aim higher. We could not have had a better father and mentor,” his sons said in a joint statement after his death.

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William “Bill” Heher, founder of Rare Earth Mining Company, died Aug. 1 at 72.

Heher had a “zest for the unexplored, rarely seen,” according to an online obituary, and it was on a trip to East Africa to trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro that he was introduced to gemstones.

He opened Rare Earth Mining Co. in 1968; the company works with more than 300 materials and is always a popular booth during the Tucson gem shows.

“Devoted to his family, the family gemstone business, to education and adventure, and to AGTA, Bill’s loss will be felt deeply,” AGTA said in its ePrism newsletter. “Our thoughts are with the Heher family.”

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Rhoda Denaburg Link, owner of Alabama retailer Levy’s Fine Jewelry, died Aug. 19. She was 86.

Link was a large part of taking what started as a small pawn shop and growing it into one of the top jewelry stores in the United States today. She was a local icon, gaining fame as the voice of “Miss Rhoda” in the “Ask Rhoda” radio commercials.

Known to her children and grandchildren as “Rho Rho,” she was known for staying humble and emphasizing the importance of hard work, education, and accountability.

“Most of all, she taught us the importance of family, and that it isn’t always blood that makes someone family,” Levy’s said.

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Jirair Sarkissian, co-founder of Giraux Fine Jewelry in San Francisco, died Aug. 21 surrounded by family.

Sarkissian learned the craft at a young age in Beirut, Lebanon, and after moving his family to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) in the early ‘70s, his talents quickly landed him a management position in the workshop of the prominent Scottish Jewelers company.

They then moved to San Francisco and opened Giraux Fine Jewelry in 1977, seeing great success over the years and creating a loyal following of customers.

He also took leadership roles in the Armenian communities of both Lebanon and the U.S. and participated in philanthropic projects all over the world.

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John “Jack” Robert Henne, longtime head of Henne Jewelers, died Sept. 5. He was 92.

After serving in the Korean War, Henne returned to Pittsburgh to work alongside his father in the family jewelry business, eventually making Henne Jewelers a pillar of Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods.

He was also heavily involved in the Pennsylvania Jewelers Association and in his time, was instrumental in making it one of the strongest jeweler associations in the country.

Henne Jewelers said its patriarch was known for his “quick wit, quiet philanthropy, and impactful humility.” His integrity and generosity “continue to be hallmarks of the Henne family legacy.”

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Australian opal expert and wholesaler Andrew Cody died Sept. 12 from a rare form of blood cancer. He was 71.

Cody started collecting fossils, minerals, and gemstones, and cutting opals, at an early age. He launched wholesale opal and gem cutting business, Cody Opal, at age 20, eventually expanding it to export opals around the world.

He was known for his immense knowledge of opals, which he always was willing to share with others.

Industry achievements included being involved in the declaration of the opal as Australia’s national gemstone, the production of an award-winning opal stamp series with the Australia Post, designing the official National Gemstone emblem, and developing the official opal nomenclature.

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Longtime colored stone wholesaler Kaiser “Caesar” Abi Habib died peacefully at home on Aug. 24. He was 75.

A cousin who lived in Brazil and was a wholesaler and gem cutter introduced him to the gemstone business in the 1970s. In 1978, Habib decided to start his own business, opening Kaiser Gems.

AGTA called Habib a man ahead of his time, embracing a mine-to-market strategy and transparency from the start of his business; Habib met a growing need he saw for calibrated gemstones in the U.S. market by opening a cutting factory in Bangkok, making his company one of the first American businesses to do so.

AGTA said Kaiser Gems was a family business that embodied education, compassion, and empowerment.

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Andrey Pilipchak, CEO and owner of diamond trading platform Pricescope, died Sept. 26 of a heart attack. He was 53.

Pilipchak took over the site in 2007, and though he had very little experience in diamonds at the time, he was quickly embraced because of his work on the site, JCK said in its obituary, both for the revamps he gave the site and his regular data updates.

“He was so very sweet, kind, loving and generous,” his wife, Linh, said in an announcement on Pricescope about his death, also noting they would continue to run the site.

Many others provided their own tributes to Pilipchak on the post, remembering his warmth, kindness, and the positivity with which he approached a discussion, creating a community around him on Pricescope.

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Robert “Bob” Lindahl, a well-known traveling salesman in the jewelry industry, died Sept. 27. He was 84.

Lindahl’s career spanned more than 40 years.

He crisscrossed the country selling for a number of brands including Kansas City, Missouri-based diamond company C.A. Kiger; Newark, New Jersey-based Erwin Reu Co.; Chicago manufacturing firm Ira M. Ogush Ltd.; Wally Anderson in Oregon; and New York City-based wholesaler A.F. Greenwood Co. Inc., as well as Skalet and William Kuhn.

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Longtime Idaho retailer Lee Read died Oct. 22 at 96.

Read learned watch repair after being discharged from the military and got his start in the industry at Schubach Jewelry in Boise, Idaho. He eventually opened his own store, Lee Read Jewelers, moving it a few times before ending up at its current location in Meridian.

He loved his job very much, his family said, and enjoyed seeing all his customers and friends while playing the organ at Christmas.

He also enjoyed boating, waterskiing, basketball, football, snowmobiling, and boating.

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Legendary mineral dealer Ron Romanella died Oct. 24 in Bangkok.

After taking courses in mineralogy and geology at Columbia School of Mines and being tutored in the business by two well-known mineral dealers, Romanella opened his own office in 1954 to deal in commercial and industrial minerals to customers who used minerals for industry, like sphalerite and calcite for the optical industry or quartz for the electrical industry.

Commercial Mineral Company eventually moved into gemstone sales, faceting stones from rough. Its mineral specimens became even more high quality, with the business eventually selling rare minerals to the Smithsonian and Harvard Museum, among others.

Romanella will be remembered as a worldly character who loved life and adventure.

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Well-known San Francisco jeweler Sidney Frederick Mobell died Nov. 4 at 96.

Mobell was born and raised in Denver, where he and his sibling had to be put in an orphanage for several years. After graduating high school, he served in the Navy and was a World War II veteran.

He was an icon in San Francisco, becoming the go-to jewelry designer and creator of fine art jewelry pieces that went into collections at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., as well as jewels for famous athletes, celebrities, and major companies. He even had a jewel appear in the 1984 movie “Romancing the Stone.”

He was known for his infectious smile, positive outlook on life, humor, kindness, and compassion.

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Bertram “Bert” Kalisher, a well-known and beloved veteran of the watch and jewelry industry, died Nov. 20. He was 97. 

Kalisher studied art and industrial design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for a year before leaving to enlist in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He trained as a bombardier, but the war ended before he was deployed.

Following the war, he started his own business—watch band manufacturer Hadley Kalbe—and later expanded to manufacturing jewelry. He eventually sold his business and got into publishing, serving as an editor, publisher, and author.

Kalisher’s daughter Nancy Siskind described him as a “brilliant entrepreneur” who did what he did not for money, but because of his passion for watches and jewelry, saying: “The industry was his love. He was passionate about helping people, about connecting people.”

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Charles W. Smith Jr., owner of Morrison Smith Fine & Custom Jewelers in North Carolina, died Nov. 24 at 82.

To help out his family, Smith went to work at his cousin’s jewelry store in Asheville, North Carolina, at age 14, inspiring a lifelong love of jewelry.

At age 25, he moved to Charlotte and became a master craftsman. In 1983, he purchased Morrison Smith Jewelers, running the business successfully until his retirement in 2010, though he was still active in the business even after that.

Smith served his church and his community. Away from the bench, he loved collecting fine wine, spending time with his tasting groups, gardening, travel, gourmet cooking, and spending time with family. He will be remembered for his kindness, infectious laugh, big smile, warmth, and the way he always saw the best in everyone.

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Renata “Rena” Mann, a Holocaust survivor and matriarch of Jeffrey Mann Fine Jewelers, died Nov. 25 following a brief illness. She was 95.

Born on April 4, 1927, in Berlin, Germany, Mann spent four years of her young life in concentration camps. On the final day of the war, Russian soldiers liberated her camp.

She moved to Poland before eventually leaving for London and then making her way to New York City via the RMS Queen Elizabeth. She met her husband there and they relocated to Ohio, where they had two children and eventually opened Jeffrey Mann Fine Jewelers.

Mann loved people, animals, and traveling, particularly her annual trips to Las Vegas, where she was perfectly content sitting in front of a slot machine with a bag of quarters.

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Daniel Brush, the well-known and highly regarded jeweler whose work has been in museums around the world, died Nov. 26. He was 75.

Brush was an artist of many forms, from large-scale paintings on canvas to “gold-domed containers encrusted with gold granules so minuscule they had to be fused with microscopic precision,” the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) said in a remembrance of him. 

He continued his painting and taught art at Georgetown University but became well known for the jewelry he created, with his work featured at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

David McFadden, former chief curator at MAD, said, “Daniel is a visionary, a sort of 21st century Benvenuto Cellini. His studies and passions, combined with a perfect transparency of skill, transform mute materials into radiant works imbued with a timeless voice.”

Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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Piece of the Week: Guzema’s ‘Freedom’ for Ukraine Pendant

Ukrainian jewelry designer Valeriya Guzema’s charitable “Freedom” collection is inspired by hope for the country’s future.

Elton John’s leopard print Rolex Daytona watch
AuctionsFeb 22, 2024
Elton John’s Leopard-Print Rolex Roars at Auction

Two Cartier watches also topped their estimates at Christie’s “The Collection of Sir Elton John: Goodbye Peachtree Road” evening sale.

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WaxJet: Revolution in Jewelry Manufacturing

The WaxJet 400, recognized as the world's fastest wax printer, is bringing in a new era of precision and efficiency to industry.

Buccellati header
TrendsFeb 22, 2024
Buccellati to Open ‘Prince of Goldsmiths’ Exhibition

Set to be held in Venice, it’s a look through the maison’s history.

813-carat “Constellation” diamond in rough form
SourcingFeb 22, 2024
Lucara, HB Group Partnership Revived

It is another 10-year sales agreement in which all the larger rough recovered from the Karowe mine will go to HB Group for manufacturing.

Sebastian Clarke and Katherine van Dell of Heritage Auctions
AuctionsFeb 22, 2024
Heritage Auctions Adds 2 New Hires to West Palm Beach Office

Sebastian Clarke and Katherine van Dell, frequent appraisers on “Antiques Roadshow,” will join the new office.

National Jeweler columnist Sherry Smith
ColumnistsFeb 21, 2024
On Data: January Was a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Jewelers

Sherry Smith dishes on the month’s highs and lows and the two categories consumers were loving ahead of Valentine’s Day.

Stock image of diamonds
GradingFeb 21, 2024
GIA’s Same-Day Service Now Available Everywhere

The new service, introduced to stem fraud related to lab-grown diamonds, will be offered at no cost for the time being.

Jam + Rico Claire’s jewelry
CollectionsFeb 21, 2024
Jam + Rico Debuts Second Claire’s Collection

Founder Lisette Scott was inspired by the intricacy, colors, and symbolism of African art and architecture.

Rapaport logo
SourcingFeb 21, 2024
Rapaport to Hold Another Natural Pearl Auction

Viewings start this week in New York and bidding will close on March 8.

National Jeweler columnist Peter Smith
ColumnistsFeb 20, 2024
Squirrel Spotting: Life After Rolex

Peter Smith shares advice from independent jewelers who used losing this cornerstone brand as a catalyst for reinvention.

Neile Adams McQueen and Steve McQueen
AuctionsFeb 20, 2024
Jewels from Neile Adams McQueen Shine at Bonhams

All 13 lots belonging to the actress and first wife of Steve McQueen sold at the recent “California Jewels” sale.

Stuller bench jeweler
Events & AwardsFeb 20, 2024
Stuller to Host Bench Jeweler Workshop in March

Registration is also open for its “Battle of the Benches” challenge.

Jade Ruzzo gold and diamond Tennessee Torque necklace
CollectionsFeb 16, 2024
Piece of the Week: Jade Ruzzo’s Tribute to Tennessee

The movement of the 18-karat gold and diamond “Tennessee Torque” necklace is subtle.

Jared Goff and Claudia Cividino
MajorsFeb 15, 2024
Detroit Lions’ QB Jared Goff Going to Jared

Goff, whose fans hold up “He Went to Jared” signs at games, has signed a partnership with the retailer.

De Beers Venetia diamond mine
SourcingFeb 15, 2024
De Beers’ Production Down 8% in 2023

The company recovered 31.9 million carats of diamonds in 2023, compared with 34.6 million in 2022.

Gina D’Onofrio Heritage Auctions
AuctionsFeb 15, 2024
Heritage Auctions Names New Co-Director of Fine Jewelry

Industry veteran Gina D’Onofrio has rejoined the auction house.

Indian Diamond and Colorstone Association (IDCA) awards
Events & AwardsFeb 15, 2024
IDCA Hands Out Awards in Tucson

The association also celebrated its 40th anniversary.

A selection of engagement rings
TrendsFeb 14, 2024
5 Engagement Ring Trends for 2024

From three-stone rings to fancy shapes, experts weigh in on what consumers could be looking for this year.

Boucheron Power of Couture
CollectionsFeb 14, 2024
Boucheron’s New High Jewelry Collection Pays Homage to Ceremony, History

“Power of Couture” recalls Frédéric Boucheron’s love of fabric using diamonds and rock crystal.

Rough diamonds from Gahcho Kue diamond mine
SourcingFeb 14, 2024
De Beers’ Rough Diamond Sales Improve Slightly

The diamond miner and marketer said “solid” holiday sales in the U.S. helped stabilize the industry.

Jonker I Diamonds
SourcingFeb 14, 2024
‘100 Carats’ Exhibition Opens at LA Museum

A new display at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County features dozens of gemstones each weighing 100 carats or more.

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