By Michelle Graff
This photo, snapped by Dick Hughes’s daughter E. Billie Hughes, shows Dana Schorr descending into a mining pit at the Winza ruby mines in Tanzania in 2013. Schorr, who died this week at the age of 63, visited colored gemstone mines all overSanta Barbara, Calif.--Dana Schorr, known in the colored gemstone world for his outspoken and rebellious nature but, most of all, for his big heart, died Wednesday of complications following a heart attack. He was 63. 

Born June 1952 in New York but raised in Santa Barbara, Schorr’s outspoken nature shone through early, as he was politically active in the late 1960s and ‘70s, and also started a nonprofit and the first collective in Santa Barbara. 

After working in the printing business for a bit, he entered the colored gemstone trade in the 1980s after he made some money selling a few stones for a friend and decided he could make a living as a gem dealer.

Over the course of his career, Schorr was heavily involved in the tanzanite trade, making numerous trips to and from Tanzania. 

Alongside longtime friend Richard “Dick” Hughes, he visited colored gemstone mines, most of them artisanal, in Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Madagascar, Tajikistan, Tibet and in seven countries in East Africa. 

Along the way, Schorr became interested in the plight of artisanal miners in developing nations. In recent years, his interest translated into more activism. 

He was an open and outspoken critic of a number of the corporate social responsibility measures being proposed in the colored gemstone realm. He accused efforts such as the Precious Stones Multi-Stakeholder Working Group (PS-MSWG) and the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) of using the concept of responsible sourcing as a marketing tool while not really doing anything for the people at the top of the colored gemstone supply chain--the artisanal miners. 

His criticisms often made him “not the most popular guy in the room,” Hughes said via email from his home in Bangkok. 

But Schorr’s friends, including American Gem Trade Association CEO Doug Hucker, said that contrarian nature aside, Schorr had a true passion for the colored gemstone business and the people involved in it from mine to market. 

“Dana was one of my closest friends. I often disagreed with him,” Hughes said, noting that their disagreements were often over little details, like Schorr’s penchant for spending an hour going from place to place to get the best value on a hotel room, “but always knew where his heart was…The world will be a less pleasant place without him.” 

Schorr is survived by his mother, Emmy; sister, Wendy; and brother-in-law Roger Lebow.

Letters of condolences may be sent to The Schorr Family, c/o P.O. Box 20184, Santa Barbara, CA 93120. 

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