James Breski, Colored Stone Jewelry Wholesaler, Dies at 75

IndependentsDec 18, 2020

James Breski, Colored Stone Jewelry Wholesaler, Dies at 75

Known for his knowledge, expertise, wit and humor, the industry veteran died from complications related to COVID-19.

James Breski, a longtime wholesaler of colored gemstone jewelry, died Dec. 9 after contracting the coronavirus. He’s pictured here with his daughter, Ashley, who has worked at the company full-time for the last 15 years.
Chicago—James Breski, a longtime colored gemstone and jewelry wholesaler, died Dec. 9 from complications related to COVID-19. 

He was 75. 

Breski, a certified gemologist, was known for his knowledge and expertise in colored stones. 

According to Breski’s daughter, Ashley, who started working at her father’s eponymous company full-time 15 years ago, her paternal grandfather, Joseph, had a butcher shop/grocery store in Chicago where he also sold jewelry and watches. 

And that’s exactly where James Breski got his start—he would run errands for his father to the Jewelers Building in Chicago. 

Breski also met his wife, Mary, in the industry. 

He worked for manufacturer Juergens & Andersen before branching out on his own in 1975, launching his gemstone jewelry brand featuring designs that combine classic forms with a modern touch. 

He was highly respected in the industry, and in an online obituary, his family called him an “honest and ethical businessman who forgot to retire.”

Breski was also a proud Chicagoan, Navy veteran and “lifelong frustrated” Chicago Bears fan who also had passion for Shakespeare and all literature, language, theater, music, and art. 

His love of the stage was sparked by an uncle who worked as a stage manager on Broadway in New York. 

World travel was also a passion and came with the job. Breski had a particular fondness for Bangkok, where he’d go for trade shows, to visit mines, enjoy the city and use as a launching pad to travel to other destinations.

He was also a recreational pilot, so when he was home, he always gave himself time to take to the skies. 

Breski was wise, witty, and sarcastic, his family said, spreading love, knowledge, and jokes wherever he went. 

A creative through and through with an unending imagination, Breski’s family and friends will fondly remember the character he created with friends during grade school, “Colonel Boodizbee.” 

James Breski was a proud grandfather to three and saw his grandchildren almost every day until the coronavirus pandemic hit, his daughter Ashley said.
James Breski was a proud grandfather to three and saw his grandchildren almost every day until the coronavirus pandemic hit, his daughter Ashley said.

Breski is survived by his wife Mary; daughter Ashley (Hugh McLaughlin) and grandchildren Anna, Eloise, and Isla; and sister, Kate Breski (Don Richardson). 

He was preceded in death by his parents, Jean and Joseph Breski, and uncle, Ed Strum. 

Breski was still very active in the business up until his death. Ashley and Mary will continue to run James Breski & Co.
There will not be a memorial service for Breski at this time due to the ongoing pandemic. His family said they would notify loved ones regarding future plans.

In lieu of flowers, donations be made in Breski’s name to the Broadway Cares COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund.
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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