Zale Corp., the largest fine jewelry retailer in the United States, has named two women to top executive posts.

Beryl Raff, 47, is the new president and chief operating officer of the corporation, effective July 15. She will continue to oversee the daily operation of the corporation’s three divisions – Zales Jewelers, Gordon’s Jewelers, and Bailey Banks & Biddle.

The promotion makes Raff the highest-ranking female executive of a major retail operation in the U.S. jewelry industry. Chairman Robert Di Nicola had held the post of president since former president Larry Pollock left in 1996.

Sue Gove, 39, was named executive vice president and chief financial officer. She continues to over- see the treasury, tax, control, investor relations, and planning areas of the company.

Raff joined Zale in 1994 as president of Zales Jewelers and was promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1997. Prior to joining Zale, she spent most of her career at Macy’s department stores. There, she held the post of senior vice president of merchandising.

Gove, on the other hand, has spent her career at Zale. She joined in 1980 in the general accounting department. She subsequently held a number of financial jobs at the company’s divisional and corporate levels.


Los Angeles-based Gem Quality Institute/European Gem Labs (GQI) has named ruby and sapphire authority Richard W. Hughes as the new head of its colored stone department.

Hughes is the author of Corundum (Butterworth’s Gem Books, 1990) and Ruby & Sapphire (RWH Publishing, 1997). He is a fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain and a graduate of Bangkok’s Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences.

GQI has also appointed Craig Slavens as manager of its diamond-grading division. Slavens served as a quality-control specialist at the Gemological Institute of America’s Gem Trade Laboratory and helped establish the American Gem Society’s lab in Las Vegas. He succeeds Tom Tashey, who is managing GQI’s recently opened facility in Chicago.


Lana Paley has assumed the presidency of Paley Jewelers Inc. following the death of her husband, Irv Paley. The Los Angeles company is a manufacturer of fine jewelry.

Lana Paley learned the industry at the feet of her father, Sarkis Sanoian, who emigrated to the United States from Russia in 1949 and worked in the jewelry trade in downtown Los Angeles. She met Irv Paley 14 years ago and assisted him in building up Paley Jewelers, now a multimillion-dollar company. Irv Paley died on Oct. 11, 1997.


Richard Ungaro, the chief executive officer of Friedman’s, one of the largest and fastest-growing fine jewelry chains in the United States, has been named its new president. He replaces Linda McFarland Jenkins, who resigned June 17. She also held the position of chief operations officer (COO).

Company sources said that Jenkins, who had joined Friedman’s only last January, wanted to do something “more entrepreneurial” and was unwilling to move to Savannah, Ga., where Friedman’s is headquartered.

As COO, Jenkins oversaw the company’s merchandising and advertising activities. Advertising duties will now be handled by the company’s marketing department. However, Friedman’s is looking for a replacement to handle Jenkins’s merchandising responsibilities, according to Ungaro.

Friedman’s operates 454 stores in 22 states.


The International Colored Gemstone Association has announced the appointment of Elizabeth Meurer as Gembureau director. Meurer, who holds an Accredited Gemologist diploma from the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences in Bangkok, has been involved in many international projects, most recently in Thailand, where she lived for nine years.

Meurer will be based in New York. Her work will entail promoting the colored gemstone industry worldwide, answering questions, and providing educational information to international consumers.


Robert Limon, an American Gem Society Certified Gemologist and recipient of the Robert M. Shipley Award, AGS’s top honor, died May 12 at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 85 years old. Limon, the principal author of AGS’s Diamond Grading Standards Manual, received the Shipley Award in 1972 for outstanding service to the society, the science of gemology, and the public.

Limon gained his experience working for his father, Jacob. Jacob Limon opened his own “trade shop” in 1920, designing and manufacturing fine jewelry in platinum and gold for retail jewelers in the Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., areas.

After 20 years of training and experience in his father’s shop, Robert Limon opened his own trade shop and gemological laboratory, Robert Limon Inc., in 1950.

While operating a traditional jewelry store and appraisal lab, he spent years devising a unique method of grading the “make” (proportions and finish) of diamonds, which eventually became the “Cut” grade of AGS’s “four Cs” grading system. Always a strong supporter of AGS standards, he served on the society’s board of directors from 1959 to 1966 and again from 1975 to 1981. He also was a member of numerous AGS committees.

In 1975, at the request of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., Limon removed the famous Hope Diamond from its necklace setting, repaired the original, made and installed concealed locking hinges in two of its four prongs, and then reset it to facilitate the future risk-free removal of the gem for weighing and scientific study. It was at this time that he and then-Smithsonian curator Paul Desautels discovered that the Hope had “grown”; the diamond weighed in at 45.5 cts. instead of its previously recorded weight of 44.5 cts. Jacob Limon reportedly made the original platinum mounting for the Hope.

Cliff Limon Jr., Robert Limon’s grandson, is continuing the family tradition at the jewelry store, which he joined in 1977.