In Memoriam: Remembering Those We Lost in 2023

IndependentsDec 27, 2023

In Memoriam: Remembering Those We Lost in 2023

From notable designers and retailers to beloved salespeople and press, National Jeweler looks back on those we said goodbye to this year.

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From notable designers and retailers to beloved salespeople and industry press, National Jeweler looks back on those we said goodbye to this year.
New York—The jewelry world mourned the loss of several beloved and respected members from all facets of the industry in 2023, from designers and retailers to salespeople and industry press.

National Jeweler honors their memories below, including those who passed near the end of 2022 and weren’t included in National Jeweler’s “In Memoriam” story last year.


David Hollingsworth Ellis died Dec. 28, 2022, following an illness at age 85. He was remembered as a sharply dressed, quintessential southern gentleman with a talent for sales, dedicating six decades to the watch and jewelry industries.


Daniel Scott Marks, former co-owner of Houston’s I W Marks Jewelers, died Jan. 8 following a respiratory illness at age 52. He was remembered as a devoted family man and his two sons’ biggest fans.


William Mark Michaels, the former CEO and owner of the Michaels Jewelers chain, died Jan. 2 at age 71. After selling the business in 2019, he established The Michaels Group, teaming up with his daughters, Lindsay and Brittany.


Longtime industry salesman Robert “Bob” Spragins died Jan. 22 at his home in Plano, Texas, at age 82. Spragins worked in sales for Stuckey Diamonds and Everwed Jewelry, among others, and had his own business for a decade, Lone Star Diamond Inc.


Israel “Izzy” Itkowitz, a well-known figure in the industry who cut his first diamond when he was a teenager, died Feb. 18 at age 68. Itkowitz grew up in a diamond family and was part of the three-member team of cutters who invented the princess cut in 1979.


Jerry Ehrenwald, former president, CEO and partial owner of the International Gemological Institute’s North American division, died March 6 at age 77. Ehrenwald grew up in the diamond business, working summers cutting diamonds alongside his father beginning at age 11. He worked at IGI for nearly 40 years.


Roland Naftule, co-founder of NAFCO Gems, died from cancer on April 1 at age 85. Born in Geneva, Switzerland, he established NAFCO after moving to the U.S. with his father. Remembered for his integrity and leadership, Naftule was among the founding members of both AGTA and ICA.


William "Bill" Underwood
William "Bill" Underwood

William “Bill” Underwood, founder of Underwoods Jewelers, died April 2 from cancer at age 90. The former American Gem Society president is remembered as an industry icon and a beloved mentor.


Cyril Israileff, founder of ASBA USA, died from cancer at age 65, his family announced in April. Born in Switzerland, the pearl dealer and jewelry designer established his U.S. business in the early ‘80s and is remember for his generosity and love of rock music.


Kate Peterson
Kate Peterson

Longtime sales trainer Kate Peterson died April 11 as the result of a fire at her Maryland home. Peterson was 64 and is remembered for her love of learning, generosity, and dedication to her family and to her many dogs.

Fourth-generation jeweler Will Minster, whose family owned Delaware independent Minster’s Jewelers, died, WDEL reported April 14. The Minsters owned and operated multiple jewelry stores for generations, and Will remained a fierce advocate for local, family-owned businesses even after his family closed their stores.


Rick Borchert, a mentor and recruiter with more than four decades’ experience in the industry, died April 18 at age 73. He is remembered for his love of the industry, his upbeat personality and the daily motivational posts he’d share on LinkedIn. 


Effy Hematian
Effy Hematian

Effy Hematian, the founder and driving creative force behind Effy Jewelry, died April 30 at age 79. Hematian emigrated from Iran in the late 1970s and started his company from scratch. He is remembered for his love of jewelry design, his kindness and his generosity.


Antonino “Tony” Marciano, senior vice president of sales for Quality Gold, died unexpectedly April 30. He was 61. Known as “Tony M,” friends and colleagues remember Marciano for his larger-than-life personality whose approach to customer relationships was the “gold standard.”


Zvi Yehuda, an inventor of various diamond-related instruments and processes, died May 6 at age 86. His career spanned 70 years and during that time, he never stopped learning. His son, Dror Yehuda, said Zvi constantly was reading or doing research on the internet. 


Harry Levy, a respected industry leader, died May 15 at age 83. Levy was involved with a number of prominent industry organizations including the London Diamond Bourse, Gem-A, and CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation. He was known for his leadership on issues surrounding diamond nomenclature, always advocating for clear and transparent communication to consumers.


James Lee Peach Sr., founder of the American Shell Company and the United States Pearl Company, died May 26 at age 78. Peach was known for his pearl expertise and dedication to the trade, making him a global authority on the gemstone.


Gabriel “Gabi” Tolkowsky died May 28 at age 84. Born into a family with a long history in the diamond industry, Tolkowsky learned the trade from his father and went on to work for De Beers for 20 years, cutting important stones such as the 273.85-carat “Centenary Diamond” and the 545.67-carat “Golden Jubilee Diamond.”


Vladimir Malakhov, editor-in-chief of industry news site Rough & Polished, died June 17 at 76. Malakhov managed a staff of two dozen reporters across three continents and is remembered for his kind and easy-going nature.


Jewelry designer Peter Brams died July 1 at age 77. A native of New Hampshire, Brams got his start as a jewelry importer in 1973 before moving into design. He is remembered for being humble and shy, as well as for being a loyal brother, uncle and friend.


Charlotte, North Carolina jeweler Ernest Perry died July 22 at age 78. Perry and his wife, Priscilla Perry, opened their first jewelry store in 1978. He was known for being active in his community and loved spending time with his family at the beach. 


Bong Ki Kim
Bong Ki Kim

Bong Ki Kim, founder of Kim International, died July 28 at age 94. Born in North Korea, Kim survived three years in a prison camp before fleeing to South Korea and eventually immigrating to the United States. He started his jewelry business in Dallas in 1975.


Dominick Sorresso, an industry veteran with more than 45 years’ experience, died Aug. 11 at age 72. Sorresso held a variety of jobs in the industry, including 23 years as vice president of merchandising for Rogers Enterprises. He is remembered for being creative, generous, and funny.

Former De Beers and Anglo American Chairman Julian Ogilvie Thompson died Aug. 11 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was 89. Known as JOT to his friends, Thompson started as Harry Oppenheimer’s personal assistant in 1957 and worked his way up from there.


Richard Lee Weiss, who ran Weiss Jewelers in Greeley, Colorado, died Aug. 28 at age 82. Weiss attended college in California before returning to his native Colorado in the early 1980s to run the store his family had owned for more than 100 years. He was an active member of the Greeley community and an avid Denver Broncos fan.

Michael Kazanjian, chairman of Kazanjian in Beverly Hills, California, died of a heart attack Sept. 6 at age 86. Kazanjian attended the University of Southern California and served in the U.S. Navy before joining the family diamond and gemstone business. He is remembered for his integrity, and being an excellent business partner and a generous man.


Sally Nelson, a pioneer in the world of women-owned businesses, died Sept. 16 at age 86. Nelson spent 14 years as a schoolteacher before cashing in her retirement account and securing at loan—at an interest rate of 21 percent—to open Exclusively Diamonds in Mankato, Minnesota, in 1980.


Hedda Schupak
Hedda Schupak

Hedda Schupak, former editor-in-chief of JCK magazine and the Centurion newsletter, died Oct. 3 of complications from lung cancer. She was 62. Schupak started her career on the production side at JCK but quickly discovered her true passion—covering fashion, jewelry trends. and designers. She is remembered for her loyalty, her honesty, and her love of cats. 


Loyd Charles Stanley, the longtime owner of Stanley Jewelers Gemologist in North Little Rock, Arkansas, died Oct. 4 at age 84. The North Little Rock native is remembered for having lived by the mantra, “never criticize, condemn, or complain.” 


Isaac Siton, the manager of Grandview Klein’s factory in Namibia, was among the victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel. Siton worked for Grandview Klein for nearly 20 years and served as a father figure to many of the company’s employees in Namibia. Grandview Klein President Moshe Klein described him as “the fabric of the factory.”


Jörg Bucherer, the third-generation leader of watch retailer Bucherer, died in early November at age 87. Carl F. Bucherer started the family company in 1888, and Jörg took over the business from his father in 1977, guiding it through the “quartz crisis” and building an empire along the way. His death came less than three months after news broke that he was selling Bucherer to Rolex.


Henry Dunay
Henry Dunay

Celebrated jewelry designer Henry Dunay, a Jersey City native who started as a jeweler’s apprentice on Canal Street when he was just 14, died Nov. 10 at age 88. Dunay started his eponymous jewelry company in 1956 at age 21. Initially, he was making jewelry for other companies, like Harry Winston, but it wasn’t long before his original designs started getting attention and winning awards.


Peter Damian Arguello, owner of Peter Damian Fine Jewelry & Antiques, died Nov. 29 in an apparent armed robbery at his Wheat Ridge, Colorado, jewelry store. He was 64. A native of Denver and fourth-generation Coloradan, Arguello opened his store in 2007 and was a beloved member of the Wheat Ridge business community. 

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