Hundreds honor Liddicoat at memorial service

More than 500 people from North America and around the globe attended the Aug. 24 memorial service celebrating the life of Richard T. Liddicoat, Jr., the late chairman of the Gemological Institute of America who is considered the “Father of Modern Gemology.” He died on July 23 at the age of 84, after six decades of leadership at GIA and in the international gemology profession.

The late afternoon event was held at the GIA World Headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif.

Plans originally called for the service to be held in the atrium in the main building, by the entrance to GIA’s Richard Liddicoat Library of Gemological Information. However, so many people said in advance that they would attend that the event was moved outside to a large tent by the main building.

The atrium, though, was filled with photographs, documents, and other memorabilia of Liddicoat’s life and career as well as flowers.

The two-hour memorial began with a video biography of Liddicoat. It told of his singular and significant contributions to gemology and to the jewelry industry—including creation of the international diamond grading system—and his leadership in developing GIA into the premier educational, research, and laboratory institute for the gem and jewelry industries.

The video also touched on Liddicoat’s character, intellect, and personal qualities that made him admired and loved by those who knew him and those who knew of him.

During the service, veteran GIA staff members, officials, long-time colleagues, and friends recounted their appreciation, association, and warm memories of the man many called “Mr. L.” They talked about his importance to them, to GIA, and to the domestic and global gemology and jewelry industries.

GIA President William E. Boyajian, who knew and worked with Liddicoat at GIA since the mid-1970s, read from some of the many letters of condolence, which have come to GIA since Mr. Liddicoat’s death, and gave the eulogy. Richard Liddicoat was, he said, “a giant in the gem and jewelry industry and a true hero of gemology. He translated gemology from a trade into a respected science, and his many achievements are such that they will likely never be equaled.”

During the latter part of the service, audience members—which included GIA students, past and present staff members and officials, members of GIA’s board of governors, representatives of industry organizations, colleagues, friends, and family—were also given the opportunity to say a few words about Mr. Liddicoat.

Emae Bradbury, a close companion in Mr. Liddicoat’s later years, called him, “a gentle, kind man who talked in a very positive way about every person he came in contact with.”

Al Woodill, former long-time executive director of the American Gem Society (AGS), created by his uncle and GIA founder, Robert M. Shipley, Sr., said “I looked upon him as a brother, and I was amazed at how much this ‘brother’ knew.”

Robin Walker, a retired executive from De Beers, said, “We all need a hero, and I’m here to salute a very great hero, Richard T. Liddicoat.”

“He was a people person. He had a great mind, and he was a loyal friend,” said Gene Laroff, former president of the 24 Karat Club of Southern California, and a close friend of Liddicoat.

Overall, in the speeches and recollections, there was an emphasis not only on Liddicoat’s continuing legacy to gemological education and research, but how much he remains a very real part of those who knew him, of GIA, and of the industry.

The program concluded with a Navy salute (Liddicoat was a Naval officer in World War II), the presentation of the flag and the playing of taps.

Afterward, some of those attending called it a “fitting” and “joyful” tribute, which even the day’s sunny, pleasant weather seemed to embrace.

GIA has announced that those wanting to make a gesture of remembrance may do so through the Richard T. Liddicoat Memorial Fund at GIA. The mailing address is Gemological Institute of America, Robert Mouawad Campus, 5345 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, Cal. 92008. (760) 603-4000.

Additional information about Richard T. Liddicoat’s life and accomplishments are available at the GIA web site (www.gia.edu).