Few have the ability to move and impact an entire industry. Most of us function in our own little worlds making incremental changes. We may be a big fish in a small pond or a little fish in a big pond. We work. We innovate to some degree. We hope the world will be a better place for our having been here.
In 1999, George Holmes, JCK‘s editorial consultant and former editor-in-chief, proposed that we honor the “Person of the Century.” The person selected was to be someone who had had a singularly dramatic effect on the jewelry industry. Throughout the year members of the industry cast votes, and selected Robert Shipley as “Person of the Century.”
The nominee receiving the next highest number of votes was Richard T. Liddicoat, who received nearly as many votes as Shipley. And while both men had had an enormous impact on the jewelry industry, Liddicoat’s contribution had literally and figuratively moved the industry with the worldwide adoption of his diamond grading system, which remains in use to this day.
Liddicoat was a gentle, unassuming man, devoid of pretense. But he was passionate and intense about pursuing GIA’s mission and role in the world of jewelry by continuing Shipley’s work. How fortunate we are to have had two individuals like Liddicoat and Shipley.
Liddicoat was short in stature, but tall in accomplishment. He had a ready smile and a warm personal way about him. When you spoke with him it was not the perfunctory greeting a young person might usually get when meeting an industry celebrity: You were the center of his attention. He truly listened and made you feel that what you had to say was important. Walking away after first meeting him, you’d say to yourself, “What a genuinely nice man.” He was nothing like what you might expect of an industry legend.
The American Gem Society recognized Liddicoat with its Lifetime Achievement Award during its Circle of Distinction dinner in July 1991. Modest as ever, Mr. Liddicoat accepted the award with his usual humility, and I think in his heart of hearts wondered why the AGS had made such a fuss on his account. Afterward, I watched him dance with belle after belle, thoroughly enjoying himself. In retrospect, it was both fitting and timely for him to receive both the public recognition and personal enjoyment from the event.
Liddicoat died in July. He had lived a full life: He was a husband, father, mentor, innovator, scientist, role model, educator, writer, and ethicist. He was not only a man of vision who’d had a positive impact on thousands but also the kind of a person we would all like to call “friend.”
In recognition of his contributions to the jewelry industry and to the thousands of individuals he touched over his 60 years of service, JCK is pleased and honored to recognize Richard T. Liddicoat as our Person of the Year.