Diamond industry veteran George Kaplan dies at 97

SourcingAug 06, 2015

Diamond industry veteran George Kaplan dies at 97

George Kaplan, a well-known diamond cutter and former vice chairman and treasurer of Lazare Kaplan International, died July 12 after a short illness.

George Kaplan appeared on “The David Letterman Show” in August 1980, where he showed the longtime, and now retired, talk show host how to cleave a diamond during a live taping.

New York--George Kaplan, a well-known diamond cutter and former vice chairman and treasurer of Lazare Kaplan International, died July 12 after a short illness. He was 97 years old.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1918, he was the son of Lazare Kaplan, who founded the firm Lazare Kaplan and Sons, working alongside his two boys--George and his older brother Leo, who died in 1985. 

Like his father, George Kaplan was integral to the development of the diamond cutting industry in Puerto Rico, where he lived from 1939 to 1947. Not only did he help improve the traditional diamond polishing techniques while he was there, he also developed an advanced system that could produce precisely cut diamond bearings in sufficient quantities.

Other contributions from Kaplan to the diamond industry included co-creating laser inscriptions, which are now used regularly to inscribe logos, grading report numbers, etc. on a diamond’s girdle, as well as the development of the “high-pressure, high-temperature processing” treatment, or HPHT, which improves the color of brown Type II diamonds.

Kaplan served as vice chairman and treasurer of Lazare Kaplan International Inc., and also held the positions of chairman and governor emeritus of the Gemological Institute of America. He received the prestigious Robert M. Shipley Award in 1997, given by the American Gem Society for significant contributions to gemology.

Kaplan is survived by his wife, Carol Tannenbaum Kaplan, three children and two grandchildren.

“George knew that if our industry was to grow and thrive, integrity--and the perception of integrity by the consumer--were essential foundations. And he so conducted himself in all his undertakings,” current Lazare Kaplan chairman Maurice Tempelsman said. “All of us, his colleagues at LKI and his many friends and admirers in the industry and beyond, who drew inspiration from his example, salute him and recognize that we are all the better for what he did and how he did it.”

Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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