Who had the most impact on the jewelry industry in the 1900s? Here are the answers, all 64 of them, listed under six categories. Some of the people selected are obvious— they’re virtual legends of the industry. Many others, however, may surprise you.
The jewelry industry in this century owes its success to the countless unsung suppliers and retailers who served and shaped the evolving demands of the consumer. But the industry would not be where it is today without the special contributions of those who deviated from the script, seeing a new need—for a new instrument, a new association, a new style of jewelry—before anyone else. These innovators were inspired not only by profit but also by a passion for their craft and a desire to further the interests of the trade. As the curtain comes down on 100 years of tremendous progress, it’s time for the leading players to take a bow.*
Retailing People of the Century**
Godfrey Eacret, president of Shreve, Treat and Eacret, San Francisco, in the 1920s and ’30s, was a leader in local, state, and national jewelry organizations and an outspoken proponent of gem education and accuracy in gem sales. He was president of the Retail Jewelers Research Group, whose support was vital in establishing the Gemological Institute of America and the early gemological movement. Eacret was the first chairman of GIA as well as a major adviser; a contributor of money, gems, and equipment; and an advocate of its training. Robert M. Shipley Sr. called him “the soul of the gemological movement [who] more than any other in the jewelry trade was responsible for the successful establishment” of GIA.
Helene Fortunoff, president of Fortunoff, one of the country’s largest family-run independent jewelers, and Beryl Raff, chief executive officer of Zale Corp., the country’s largest jewelry chain, symbolize the growing influence of women in the jewelry industry over the last 25 years. In addition to being one of the industry’s most innovative and successful entrepreneurs, Fortunoff is among its most-honored women and an active supporter and officer of such groups as GIA, the Women’s Jewelry Association, and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. Raff led the return of Zale to its former role as industry leader. Applying lessons learned as a long-time Macy’s jewelry executive, she refocused merchandising and marketing, tightened operations, expanded the chain, and boosted per-store sales to more than $1 million. In 1998, she became president and chief operating officer. Recently, she became CEO. She is one of the few top-ranking women in jewelry retail.
Virginia V. Hinton, known in the 1940s and ’50s as “America’s First Lady of Gemology,” was the first woman jeweler to become a Certified Gemologist. She had one of America’s first and best-equipped private gem laboratories, a comprehensive gemological library with rare volumes on gems and jewelry, and a unique collection of American gems. She also invented her own diamond color gauge. Hinton was one of the first women to become a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain.
Walter Hoving and William Chaney transformed venerable luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. into the popular standard for successful jewelry design and marketing in the latter half of the 20th century. Hoving, a leading merchant of his day, bought Tiffany in 1954 and broadened its influence beyond luxury circles by offering well-designed quality jewelry items at every price level. He also influenced popular jewelry design by hiring some of the leading designers of the second half of the century—including Van Day Treux, Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso, and Jean Schlumberger—and promoting their work under Tiffany’s banner. Chaney, who led the team that bought Tiffany in 1984, instituted shrewd retailing, marketing, and business strategies. He extended Tiffany’s influence by opening branch stores in affluent suburban malls across the country as well as stores around the globe. He took the company public in 1987.
Armand Jessop, president of J. Jessop and Sons of San Diego and an industry leader in the 1920s and ’30s, was a leading proponent of professional education for jewelers. He convinced former jeweler Robert M. Shipley Sr. to give evening gemology lectures for jewelers that led to founding the Gemological Institute of America, the American Gem Society, and the national movement for professional gemological training of jewelers.
Ben Lipshy led Zale Corp. in the late 1950s into the first shopping centers, which Zale’s chains then dominated for decades. Its success influenced other chains and independents to follow suit, shifting the focus of jewelry retailing in the final third of the century from Main Street to malls and creating new competition for “mom & pop” jewelers.
Joel Siegel, Roy Speer, and Lowell Paxton created interactive home shopping technologies that continue to revolutionize the way jewelry is sold. Florida radio station owner Paxton and his manager, Speer, in 1985 launched the national Home Shopping Network (after five years on local radio and TV), the first retail shopping channel. The first item offered was a 14k neck chain, a sign of things to come for jewelers and jewelry.
Siegel popularized collectibles, starting in the 1960s with the Franklin Mint, which he founded, as well as direct mail. As founder and first chairman of the QVC shopping network (1986), he took fine jewelry into millions of American living rooms and recruited many first-time jewelry buyers by stressing quality, product information, and service. Jewelry now accounts for a third of all at-home TV and Internet sales.
Jacques Voorhees, founder and president of Polygon, in the 1990s pioneered Internet use by jewelers and jewelry associations with an online gem trading network and thousands of free Web sites for jewelers, giving them access to the new world of e-commerce.
Morris Zale, a Russian immigrant, built a small Texas store into the nation’s first retail jewelry chain. Along the way he revolutionized jewelry retailing by aggressively using credit ($1 down, $1 a week, no finance charge) and mass advertising to sell diamonds. His business policies widened the fine jewelry market to include all classes in America. Zale was a pioneer in employee benefits such as health care and profit sharing (1940s), computerization of his business (1950s), and professional staff training (1960s).—William George Shuster
Diamond People of the Century
Frances Gerety, a copywriter for the N.W. Ayer advertising agency, wrote the famed slogan “A Diamond is Forever” in 1948 while trying to think of a tag line at 4 a.m. Fifty years later, the slogan is still in use. It’s been translated into 20 languages; was the title (in plural form) of a James Bond book, movie, and song; and was recently voted the sixth greatest slogan of the century by Advertising Age.
Lazare Kaplan was the world-renowned diamond cutter whose work with big stones captured the public imagination. He spent a year figuring out how to cleave the 726-ct. Jonker, an operation so delicate Lloyds of London refused to insure the stone. Kaplan’s company popularized the concept of “Ideal proportions” for the round brilliant, based on a thesis by Marcel Tolkowksy. He also developed the oval cut.
Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers from 1929 until his death in 1957, is widely credited with building the “diamond syndicate” whereby all diamonds flow through a single channel, keeping prices stable. He also founded the massive mining company Anglo-American Corp. Today, 33% of all the stocks on the Johannesburg stock exchange have some relation to the Oppenheimer family. Sir Ernest, knighted in 1921, was the father and grandfather of De Beers chairmen Harry and Nicky. He was also a member of the South African Parliament.
Harry Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers from 1957 to 1984, guided the diamond cartel through the postwar era. For jewelers, his greatest accomplishment was realizing that diamonds could be sold like any other product, above the protests of some on the De Beers board. He was also a leading critic of apartheid within South Africa and served as a member of the country’s Parliament. Harry is the son of cartel architect Sir Ernest and father of current chairman Nicky. He retired in 1994.
Martin Rapaport, publisher of the widely used Rapaport Diamond Report price sheet, revolutionized the industry’s pricing methods and created a new vocabulary (“below Rap,” “above Rap”). The one-time diamond cutter founded his price sheet in the late 1970s and weathered industry ostracism and even death threats to become an established institution. He is also a pioneer in computer diamond trading. Rapaport now publishes a newsletter and is a highly regarded speaker and industry commentator.
Marcel Tolkowsky was the mathematician who in 1919 published the famous master’s thesis that laid out what he considered “optimal” proportions for the round brilliant. After World War II, Gemological Institute of America founder Robert M. Shipley Sr. incorporated those proportions into GIA course material. Today, those measurements are the basis for the popular Ideal cut. Tolkowsky, who later went into business for himself, was the granduncle of noted cutter Gabi Tolkowsky and cousin of Lazare Kaplan.
Harry Winston, luxury jeweler to the stars, bought and sold some of the world’s most famous diamonds. He saved a New York diamond industry savaged by the Great Depression, lending encouragement and support to those in trouble, and transformed diamonds into a symbol of social success. The House of Winston became one of the great jewelry retailing establishments in the United States. Winston was also an early supporter of GIA’s revolutionary diamond grading system.—Rob Bates
Gemstone People of the Century
Basil William Anderson was a leading gemologist for close to 60 years. In 1924, when cultured pearls were secretly being introduced into the pearl trade, the 23-year-old Anderson was called upon to create the world’s first independent gemological laboratory for the London Chamber of Commerce, later to become the Gemmological Association of Great Britain Gem Testing Laboratory. Anderson perfected the pearl identification process using endoscopes and X-rays and created the first (and still used) refractometer fluid suitable for identifying the majority of known gems.
Carroll Chatham was the first to create synthetic emerald and ruby using the flux-growth method. The process produces crystals in the same shapes and colors as natural gems by creating conditions that simulate natural growth. Chatham experimented for six years before he produced his first emerald in 1935, at age 21. (It took another three years to figure out how he had accomplished the feat.) Synthetic emerald was not immediately recognized by jewelers, nor did Chatham himself much like the term “synthetic.” The Jewelers Vigilance Committee objected to Chatham’s term “cultured emerald,” and the Federal Trade Commission prohibited its use. In 1963, Chatham won the right to use the phrase “Chatham created emerald.”
G. Robert Crowningshield, GIA’s vice president under Richard T. Liddicoat Jr. and one of the world’s leading gemologists, discovered the 5920Å line in color-treated yellow diamonds by using a simple hand-held spectroscope. Thanks to this discovery and his successive spectroscopy work, natural as well as irradiated colored diamonds could be positively identified and the value of natural fancy colored diamonds remained stable.
Edward Gübelin is a noted Swiss gemologist and author of The Internal World of Gemstones, a tool for identifying gems based on their internal characteristics. A gemologist’s gemologist, Gübelin was the first to publish extensive inclusion photographs, helping other gemologists classify gems—including those made by man—by their source of origin.
John Koivula, the McGyver of gemology, is renowned for his expertise in gemstone identification through the nature of inclusions. Using ordinary gemological tools, Koivula has developed easy techniques to help gemologists positively identify gemstones. Through his collaborative work with Gübelin in The PhotoAtlas of Gemstone Inclusions as well as hundreds of articles in industry journals, Koivula continues to help gemologists differentiate natural, enhanced, imitation, and synthetic gems based on what’s visible within the gem.
Even before the turn of the century, George Frederick Kunz was a noted gem authority. In 1879 he accompanied W.E. Hidden into the Brushy Mountains of North Carolina, where they uncovered the green spodumene later named hiddenite. That same year Kunz began working for Tiffany & Co., where he helped design the cutting of the world’s largest fancy yellow diamond, the 234-ct. “Tiffany.” He worked for Tiffany until his death in 1932. Kunz wrote numerous books on the gems of North America and made gem discoveries. Although he didn’t discover the pink spodumene found in Southern California, it is named after him—kunzite. He named the new Southern California pink beryl morganite after one of his best clients, the financier J.P. Morgan. Two of Kunz’s texts, Pearls and The History and Lore of Precious Gems, are still relevant to today’s jewelers and gemologists.
Since 1945 the United States has supplied Japanese pearl farmers with bead nuclei formed from the harvest of natural freshwater oyster shells. A key figure in this export trade was John Latendresse, who created the Tennessee Shell Co., which sent American mussel shells to Japan. After natural freshwater pearls were found during a shell harvest, Latendresse created the American Pearl Co., a subsidiary of Tennessee Shell, which sold the pearls. It wasn’t long before Latendresse realized he could culture pearls himself. In the early 1960s he brought Japanese cultured pearl technology to the United States and spent the next two decades trying to perfect the process in the lakes of Tennessee. Finally, in 1981, the first pilot pearl farm was under way. Today the American Pearl Co. is the leading producer of U.S. cultured freshwater pearls.
Richard T. Liddicoat Jr., the second president of GIA, developed the diamond quality grading system now used throughout the world. By introducing this grading system into the GIA diamond course, Liddicoat saved GIA from closing its doors, keeping it a viable gemological education center. Liddicoat served as GIA president until 1983. By then, GIA had created more than a dozen home-study courses, concurrently teaching 12,000 students worldwide. GIA’s Santa Monica, Calif., campus provided classes for 250 resident students and housed a gem instrument manufacturing center, a research laboratory, and a gem trade laboratory. Its New York campus contained classrooms and a gem lab. Through Liddicoat’s direction, GIA attained international fame, creating a world-class gemological training facility.
The name Kokichi Mikimoto is virtually synonymous with the cultured pearl. Although he was not the scientist behind the process, the legendary “Pearl King” helped develop the best method to culture pearls and became the cultured pearl’s leading marketing agent. It took Mikimoto many years of failure during the 1880s and ’90s before he finally achieved success. By day he and his wife sold noodles; in the evening he would inspect his seeded oysters. By the turn of the century, Mikimoto found that using shell beads produced well-shaped and marketable “cultured” pearls. The cultured pearl soon became one of Japan’s most profitable exports.
Kurt Nassau is a pioneer in laser technology with decades of laboratory experience in crystal growth and solid-state chemistry. Through his firsthand knowledge of gems and gemstone synthesis, Nassau has been the leader in understanding gemstone processes. He wrote the definitive reference texts on synthetics and treatments, Gems Made By Man and Gemstone Enhancement.
Robert M. Shipley Sr., one of the first graduates of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, founded the Gemological Institute of America in 1931 and the American Gem Society in 1934. Shipley originated gemological courses for jewelers in the United States. As a young man, Shipley traveled throughout the country delivering his home-study courses, while back home his wife Beatrice graded student papers and ran the business. Shipley was the author of Famous Diamonds of the World and the editor of the Dictionary of Gems & Gemology and the Jeweler’s Pocket Reference Book. It was through Shipley’s courses that gemology became an important tool for U.S. retail jewelers.
Robert M. Shipley Jr., son of the GIA founder, developed several modern gemological instruments. Particularly notable was his invention of the darkfield illuminator, a light well for binocular microscopes that lit inclusions to stand out in sharp relief from a black background. Shipley Jr. also was instrumental in creating the first diamond color grading light box, the DiamoLite, which provided jewelers with consistent lighting in which to color grade diamonds.
French physicist Auguste Victor Louis Verneuil was the first to grow and commercially produce synthetic gemstones. Creating gemstones was a technological marvel at the turn of the century. Verneuil patented his flame-fusion process in 1902, creating the first commercially viable gemstone, synthetic ruby. Earlier Verneuil had created synthetic spinel, but it wasn’t grown commercially until 1922.
The son of a pawnbroker, Robert Webster directed himself into a more academic calling by studying gemology with the newly established Gemmological Association of Great Britain in 1933. Webster’s instructor B.W. Anderson persuaded him to write for the first (and only) gemological newsmagazine of the time, The Gemmologist. Webster soon found himself teaching at the Gemmological Association, and he spent the rest of his life compiling gemological information into three books, The Gemmologist’s Pocket Compendium; Practical Gemmology; and Gems, Their Sources, Descriptions, and Identification.—Gary Roskin
Watch People of the Century
Arde Bulova was the first chairman of Bulova Watch Co. Under his lead, Bulova in the 1920s became one of the first companies to mass-produce watches. During that same period, Bulova pioneered the 10-second network radio time signal. In 1941 the company created the first-ever TV ad. Bulova also promoted the concept of retailer payment “terms.” In addition, Bulova founded the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking to train World War II disabled veterans.
Louis Cartier, the renowned Parisian jeweler, set oft-copied standards for luxury watches and popularized their use by wealthy clientele with Santos in 1904, one of the first watches on leather straps; Tank in 1917, named for the U.S. Tank Corps; Pasha in 1932; and Vendôme in 1933.
Dr. George Daniels, an English watchmaker and inventor, created a revolutionary coaxial escapement (unveiled by Omega in 1999), the biggest advance in escapements in 250 years. His invention cut friction, enhanced precision, and reduced service requirements to once every 10 to 15 years.
Nicholas Hayek and Ernst Thomke led the revival of the Swiss watch industry after devastating competition from Japanese watchmakers in the ’70s. Hayek, a flamboyant Swiss industrialist, in the early 1980s engineered the merger of ASUAG and SSIH—then Switzerland’s largest watchmakers but on the verge of bankruptcy—into SMH. Hayek brought in new technology and robotic assembly lines, reduced the work force, and used high-profile marketing to make SMH one of the world’s great watchmakers. As head of ASUAG’s ETA Group in the early ’80s, Thomke introduced the revolutionary Swatch. The colorful plastic watch had a quartz movement integrated in a molded case. It was produced on automated assembly lines, sold for $35 retail, and was aggressively marketed. Thanks to Swatch, watches became popular fashion accessories, expanding the watch market.
Joakim Lehmkuhl, a Norwegian war refugee who bought the venerable Waterbury Watch Co. and renamed it Timex in 1969, transformed the postwar watch business with unjeweled pin-lever movements. That lowered watch prices, enabling consumers to buy several and to rely less on jewelers for repair. Jewelers’ reluctance to carry the watches led Lehmkuhl to create new distribution channels such as drug stores and grocery stores.
Michio Nakajima, president of Citizen Watch Co., led the Japanese firm to become the world’s largest supplier of watch movements. Today, one of every four watches contains a Citizen movement. The company is also the world’s largest producer of completed watches, turning out about 50 million annually.
Dr. Masatoshi Toyama, a development director for Seiko Watch-K. Hattori Co. (now Seiko Hattori) of Japan, created the quartz crystal electronic watch that forever changed how watches were made, sold, and promoted. Urging him on were Shoji Hattori, president of Seiko, and his son Ichiro Hattori. Seiko put the first quartz watch on sale in 1969 in Japan and in 1970 in the United States. Its quartz oscillator, powered by a tiny battery, made electronic watches highly accurate. Its easily made synthetic quartz crystal allowed for cost-efficient mass production. That ended mechanical watches’ dominance and made Asian firms leaders in the global watch industry. By the 1990s, five out of six watches made were quartz.—William George Shuster
Design People of the Century
Mort Abelson almost singlehandedly changed the merchandising philosophy of many of the finest U.S. jewelry stores. Abelson, show director for Jewelers of America, brought designer jewelry out of the craft-show tents and into the mainstream. In 1977 Abelson launched the New Designer Gallery in an upstairs ballroom of the New York Sheraton Hotel. Among his earliest protégés were David Yurman, Penny Preville, Charles Krypell, Barry Kieselstein-Cord, Steven Lagos, and Whitney Boin. Eventually, savvy retailers learned that designer jewelry, rather than detract from their image, actually enhanced it. Today, no major jewelry show is complete without a designer section.
Henry Dunay, “the father of the American school of jewelry design,” was one of the first U.S. designers to break away from traditional styling and introduce a line of jewelry that was both contemporary and timeless. Jewelry historian Joyce Jonas cites what she considers an innate sense of rhythm that’s reflected in his designs. Now celebrating his 50th year in the industry, Dunay has won more than 40 international design awards. He has produced one-of-a-kind gemstone “city” brooches, jeweled eggs, and abstract female form brooches. Dunay is also the first contemporary American jewelry designer to follow the great jewelry houses and launch a signature perfume, called Sabi, after his signature matte surface design.
Oscar and Nathan Heyman in 1912 founded Oscar Heyman Brothers, the New York firm that proved that Americans could make jewelry as well as the finest Parisian houses. Oscar Heyman Brothers pieces have earned the distinction of being as classic and high-quality as any jewelry could be. “I think of Oscar Heyman as an American Buccellati,” says jewelry historian Diana Singer, referring to the renowned Italian jeweler. “Like Buccellati, there is a timelessness to OHB. In both cases, you can’t tell if a piece was made yesterday or 40 years ago.” The youngest of the original Heyman brothers, George, 93, is the current president of the firm.
What Calvin Klein did for blue jeans and cotton underwear, Steven Lagos and David Yurman did for jewelry. Twenty years ago, few jewelry manufacturers advertised directly to the public, and jewelers were reluctant to promote any name other than their own. Today, upscale jewelry makers routinely advertise in consumer fashion and lifestyle magazines. Designers Lagos and Yurman helped propel the concept of branded jewelry to the point at which many consumers now shop for jewelry the way they shop for clothes—by designer or brand name.
William Taggert in 1907 adopted the lost-wax investment casting procedure for the dental industry. The process underwent gradual refinement until it became widely adopted for jewelry making about 40 years ago. With casting, a single design can be mass-produced and reach a much wider audience. That accessibility has fostered competition that drives retailers to search perpetually for new designs and forces manufacturers to keep the creative juices flowing. Taggert could not possibly have foreseen what his development would mean to jewelers and consumers almost 100 years later.—Hedda Schupak
Association People of the Century
Laurie Hudson, president of the Platinum Guild International USA, revived the U.S. jewelry industry’s use of platinum in the 1990s, creating a significant market out of almost nothing in less than half a decade.
Max Jennings, a Michigan jeweler, was crucial in founding and leading the first national organization for jewelers, the American National Retail Jewelers Association (ANRJA), in 1906.
John Kennedy, president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance at the end of the century, expanded JSA’s anti-crime activities. They included the industry’s anti-crime task force; an alliance to push regional and federal agencies for tougher enforcement of jewelry crimes; seminars for police and the FBI; tighter security for jewelry fairs; e-mail crime alerts; and modernization of JSA’s technology.
Harry C. Larter, a jewelry company executive and an industry activist who led the fight against fraudulent stamping of gold and silver jewelry early in the century, founded the Jewelers Vigilance Committee in 1912 to foster honest marking, fair competition, and high standards. He was its first chairman (1917 – 1933) and an early supporter of GIA.
Gustav Neimeyer, known as “the dean of the American jewelry industry,” was an active member of the industry for half a century. A self-described “hell-raiser,” he helped shape most of the industry’s major associations. Neimeyer served as chairman of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (1933-1967); president and chairman of the influential 24 Karat Club of New York (1921-1967); and chairman of finance for the Jewelry Industry Council, now the Jewelry Information Center (1946-1967). He was a member of the American Gem Society and served as president of the Jewelers Board of Trade and the Jewelers’ Security Alliance.
William S. Preston Jr., a longtime association activist and at various times president of the Retail Jewelers of America, the American Gem Society, and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, led the industrywide effort to update the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides for the Jewelry Industry.
Lynn Ramsey, president and CEO of the Jewelry Information Center, has helped put jewelry and watches on television and on the fashion runways, sparking consumer interest that has benefited the entire industry.
Bill Roberts, a former jewelry marketing executive, brought together grass-roots jewelers to form the Independent Jewelers Organization, the world’s largest buying group of jewelers and a leader in business services for small jewelers.
Arnold Schiffman Jr., ANRJA president, and Fred B. Dreifus, president of the National Association of Credit Jewelers (formed in the 1930s), merged the two groups in 1957 after years of trying to unify the industry. The resulting Retail Jewelers of America (now Jewelers of America) became the world’s largest association promoting jewelers’ interests and professionalism. Under later president Michael D. Roman, JA ran the largest U.S. jewelry trade shows, then sold them for a sizable sum, which current president Matthew Runci has used for the continuing professional education of the independent jeweler.
Alfred Woodill, nephew of GIA and AGS founder Robert M. Shipley Sr., was executive director of AGS for 40 years (1947-87). Through the administration of a dozen presidents, he developed AGS and made its annual Conclave into a major educational event for jewelers.—William George Shuster