New York--This past year, we said goodbye to singer David Cassidy, former NASA astronaut Dick Gordon, singer and musician Antoine “Fats” Domino, rock legend Tom Petty, actress Mary Tyler Moore, Hugh Hefner, comedian Jerry Lewis, actors Adam West, Roger Moore and Jon Hurt, comedian and actor Don Rickles and so many more.

The jewelry industry also lost many great people this year. National Jeweler remembers them below.


20171214 Aster Dye
Jeweler Aster J. Dye died Dec. 23, 2016 at the Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Massachusetts. He was 73.

He worked for Boston-based jeweler J. & S.S. DeYoung Inc. for more than 50 years, beginning at age 14 as an after-school job and becoming a buyer and supervisor for the company’s manufacturing and repair department.

When Dye retired from DeYoung, he founded his own company, A.J. Dye Inc., in Brockton.

He was known for his vast industry expertise and loved for his warmth and wit. He had a devoted customer following.


20171214 Pearl Suna
Perle Suna, the longtime driving force behind manufacturer Suna Bros. and a beloved figure in the jewelry industry, died in January. She was 95.

She married Keith Suna, who started the company with his brother, and had three children.

She started working at Suna Bros. on what was supposed to be a temporary basis, filling in for an office manager before deciding she was best suited to fill the position and staying for the next 38 years.

She also became a certified gemologist and a registered supplier, attended many of the AGS’s annual Conclave events and was known for hosting a biannual industry party.


20171214 Jules Sauer
Jules Roger Sauer, the founder of Brazil-based jewelry design company Amsterdam Sauer, died in February. He was 95.

He founded jewelry design company Lapidação Amsterdam, or Amsterdam Lapidary, in 1941, which was later renamed Amsterdam Sauer. The company boasts its own museum in Rio de Janeiro, outlining how the gem and jewelry house helped shape the Brazilian and global gem industries.

Sauer was a legendary presence in the gemstone and jewelry industry, responsible for discovering the first Brazilian emerald mine in 1963 and for promoting a variety of Brazilian gems in the international market.


20171214 Leo Fields
Former Zale Corporation vice chairman Leo Fields died Feb. 12. He was 88 years old.

Fields was a veteran of the Korean War. He met Barbara Baras in 1953 and the two were married that year.

He was with Zale Corp. from 1942 until 1986, helping build it into the world’s largest retail jewelry chain. After it sold, Fields formed investment advisory firm Weisberg & Fields, which later merged with Gerald Ray and Associates.

He also served on the boards of Brandeis University, The Dallas Home for the Jewish Aged Foundation, the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation and the Greenhill School, among others.


20171214 Alan Kadet
Alan I. Kadet, chairman of the board of the Rogers and Hollands Jewelers jewelry chain, died April 3. He was 91.

He served in World War II, receiving a bronze medal for his service. He then met and married Juell Friedman, daughter of one of the jewelry chain’s founders.

Kadet joined the company in 1949, climbing the ranks to president and chairman. He and his wife helped grow the company in the multi-store nationwide chain it is today.


20171214 Stephen Stanley
Stephen Loyd Stanley, a member of the family that operated independent jeweler Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, died April 11 at the Arkansas Heart Hospital. He was 44.

He trained in gunsmithing at the Colorado School of Trade and worked on and off at his family’s store throughout his life, selling jewelry and working on watches.

Outside of work, Stanley loved dogs--he fostered and adopted several--NASCAR and spending time with his friends. He also loved anything with a motor, including Ford Mustangs like his beautiful blue Shelby, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.


20171214 Joseph Alexander
Joseph Alexander, director of marketing and advertising for Mark Silverstein Imagines, died suddenly on April 15 while on vacation with his family in Tokyo, Japan. He was 43 years old.

Alexander received his undergraduate degree at Syracuse University, where he met his wife, Heather. He also went on to earn a master of fine arts degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago and later moved to Los Angeles. He married Heather in 2005 and the two had a daughter in 2010.

In addition to his role as marketing director in the jewelry industry, he also spent the latter portion of his career as a digital producer for Coalition Technologies.


20171214 Lloyd Jaffe
Lloyd Jaffe, a universally respected and revered icon of the diamond industry, died in April at the age of 90.

Jaffe was a former officer and longtime member of the Diamond Manufacturers & Importers Association of America and received a lifetime achievement award from the association in 1995.

He also was one of the co-founders of the American Diamond Industry Association (ADIA), which operated from the early 1980s to the late 1990s.

The DMIA described him as a “loved and respected icon” worldwide who was a dear friend to many and worked to promote the highest levels of honesty and integrity within the industry.


20171214 Murphy Jones
Murphy Jones, secretary and treasurer of Sissy’s Log Cabin, died April 25 at the age of 81.

Jones married Marguerite “Sissy” Robinson in 1957, and shortly after, the two moved to Atlanta, where he finished his degree at Georgia Tech.

He worked for a time as an electrical engineer, which included five years living in South Africa working for Entergy. When he returned to Arkansas, he rejoined the family business, Sissy’s Log Cabin, as its secretary and treasurer.

He loved nature and the outdoors, including hunting and fishing, and spending time on his back patio watching and feeding birds and tending to his flowers. Most of all, he cherished his family and loved life and people.


20171214 Janel Russell
Jeweler and WJA member Janel J. Russell died May 5 following a short battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 62.

In 1980, Russell designed the Mother and Child pendant, which is licensed, distributed and manufactured by Kirchner Corporation, to celebrate the bond between the two.

In addition to being a jeweler and business owner, Russell was one of the founding members of the Women’s Jewelry Association’s Twin Cities chapter.

“Janel had an incredible lust for life and tireless enthusiasm for our vibrant industry to which she dedicated her heart and soul,” said Sara Commers, WJA’s central regional director.


20171214 Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer
Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer, chair of De Beers’s philanthropic arm, died May 16 from cancer. She was 50 years old.

Following a short period of legal practice in London, she married former De Beers executive Jonathan Oppenheimer. They moved to Zimbabwe briefly before relocating permanently to Johannesburg.

Oppenheimer dedicated much of her professional life to civil society organizations in Africa, including her longtime chairmanship of the DeBeers Fund for social investment throughout South Africa. 

Through her Isibindi Trust, she participated in the founding of The African Leadership University and its school of conservation in Ruwanda. She also founded with her husband the Brenthurst Foundation, a leading forum for statesmen and thinkers to gather to promote African economic development.


20171214 Roberta Zimmer
Roberta Zimmer, one half of the team that started Reeds Jewelers and helped it grow into a major jewelry chain, died May 16. She was 92.

After marrying William R. Zimmer and moving to Wilmington, North Carolina in 1946, the couple bought a small jewelry store that was for sale downtown and renamed it Reeds Jewelers. She worked side-by-side with her husband over the years, growing Reeds into a business that today still is a family-run retail chain with than 60 stores.

Zimmer also was active in nonprofit organizations like the St. John’s Museum of Art and the Cape Fear Garden Club as well as a longtime member of B’Nai Israel Synagogue.


20171214 Robert Gaines
Robert Gaines, U.S. Army veteran and founder of Gaines Jewelry in Michigan, died in late May at the age of 90.

Gaines served in the U.S. Army in both World War II and the Korean War. Through the GI bill, Gaines earned a certification in watchmaking and opened his first jewelry store in Gideon, Missouri, before moving to Flint, Michigan in 1955 to work for the Hirsch jewelry store chain.

In 1963, he and his wife opened Gaines Jewelry, for which he eventually handed over much of the day-to-day management to his son, David, and Michael Goulet, a longtime employee of the store.

Gaines enjoyed his Christian faith, a good day’s work, golf and spending time with his family.


20171214 Rick Wolf
Longtime Royal Chain sales representative Rick Wolf died unexpectedly June 6 of natural causes. He was 68 years old.

Wolf was with the Royal Chain Group for more than 11 years, serving clients throughout the state.

The Coral Springs, Florida resident loved his family and took great pride in them. He also was passionate about his work, forming many long-lasting friendships over his 30-year career in Florida.

“He was the consummate professional and a magnificent person,” Royal Chain Vice President of Sales Gary Austein said.


20171214 Tony Roskin
Tony Roskin, a leading jeweler in Marion, Indiana, died July 11 from cancer at the age of 97.

After enlisting in the Army Air Corps. and serving in WWII, Roskin returned to Marion and worked with his father at Gilbert Roskin Jewelers. He met Mildred Levy in 1947; the two married the next year and had three children.

Thanks to his business expertise, Gilbert Roskin Jewelers became an American Gem Society guild store and of the most successful jewelry stores in the region. He also owned Eisenbach Jewelers in West Lafayette, Indiana.

In 1983, he sold the jewelry stores and retired with his wife to southern California, but he kept his hand in the business by working part-time at two local jewelry stores, Elegante and B. Alsohns Jewelers.


20171214 Kenneth Jay Lane
Kenneth Jay Lane, the king of costume jewelry, died in his sleep in July at the age of 85.

After stints at Vogue and shoe designers Delman and Roger Vivier at Christian Dior, Lane founded his eponymous jewelry line in 1961, where he revolutionized the world of fashion jewelry.

With his stylish creations raising costume jewelry to new levels, his creations soon showed up on a number of celebrities, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, noted fashion editor Diana Vreeland and Diana, Princess of Wales.


20171214 Fred Leighton
Famed jeweler Fred Leighton died July 26 at the age of 85.

His journey started in the 1960s in New York’s Greenwich Village selling Mexican wedding dresses, accessories and jewelry. He soon expanded into Victorian era jewelry, leading him to find his ultimate passion.

In the early 1970s, he moved his shop to Madison Avenue, long before it was popular. He expanded in the 1990s to the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.

His love and appreciation for period jewelry as collectible meant that his stores were filled with exceptional and unique pieces that found their way to museums, private collections and, eventually, on the red carpet.


20171214 Herb Mazer
Herb Mazer, a third-generation jeweler, died Aug. 24 at his home in West Palm Beach. He was 90 years old.

He started his career working in his father’s jewelry store as a watchmaker, where he also met his wife, Doris, who came in to buy a watch band.

Herb later moved to Foley Brofsky Inc. in Delaware, which would come to be known as Foley’s. He eventually took over the business and grew it into a large, regional jewelry chain that had multiple stores at one point.


20171214 Bill Shuster
William George Shuster, who worked for decades as a journalist in the watch and jewelry industries, died Aug. 30 of complications from diabetes. He was 71 years old.

Shuster, best known by colleagues as Bill, worked as a journalist for 40 years, including 29 spent at JCK. He later worked as a contributing writer and editor for numerous magazines and websites and traveled extensively.

He also enjoyed movies, books and plays. Friend and fellow industry journalist Peggy Jo Donahue said in a Facebook tribute: “He was an absolute encyclopedia of knowledge on so many subjects, it took your breath away.”


20171214 Manhar BhansaliManhar Ratibhai Bhansali, a pioneer of the modern diamond and jewelry industry in India, passed away on Oct. 2 in Mumbai. He was 76.

Bhansali established M.R. Bhansali & Co. in 1963 for the import and export of diamonds. The company expanded rapidly, along with the Indian industry, eventually integrating the manufacture of studded jewelry for export under Goldiam International in the early 1980s.

He was actively involved in a number of industry associations in the 1980s and 1990s, especially The Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC). He was a member of the GJEPC committee for a number of years and also held positions as chairman and vice Chairman, in addition to heading other sub-committees.

In 2010, Bhansali was honored by the Indian Diamond & Coloredstone Association with the “Pioneer of the Year” award.


20171214 Sallie Morton
Near the end of the year, news came that Sallie Morton, the first female president of the American Gem Society, had died of mesothelioma at the age of 91.

Though she started as an accountant, Morton became a gemologist in 1955. In 1964, she and her husband, MacDonald G. Morton, opened Morton Jewelers.

She was named the first female president of the American Gem Society in 1977 and served in the role until 1979, and also was instrumental in developing the AGS Guilds. In 1982, she became the first woman to receive the Robert M. Shipley Award.

“(She was) a true trailblazer not just for women, but men as well who wanted to succeed in the jewelry industry,” said Cathy Calhoun of Calhoun Jewelers, the first recipient of the AGS Sallie Morton Guild Award.


20171214 Mark Boston
Former De Beers broker Mark Boston died from cancer in November. He was 71 years old.

His career in the diamond industry spanned more than four decades, starting out sorting rough diamonds at De Beers in London and polished in Antwerp with S. Grunberger and Son. He then took over diamond broker H. Goldie & Co.

His long relationship with the Indian diamond industry started when he first visited Mumbai in 1964. After that he represented many leading Indian companies over the years and worked to get a direct rough supply to India.

He also helped establish the Indian Design Competition in 1990, which was instrumental in the development and recognition of young jewelry designers in the country.


20171214 Dick Morel
Richard “Dick” Jule Morel, founder of Morel Jewelers, died Nov. 13 in Mason City after a battle with dementia. He was 83.

He married Kathryn Beaver in Aurora, Illinois, in 1954. Two years later, they moved to Mason City, Iowa to work at BOE Jewelry. In 1957, they bought the business and changed the name to Morel Jewelers, eventually growing it to a five-store operation.

Morel also co-founded the Retail Jewelers Organization, served as the vice president of what was then known as Retail Jewelers of America (today Jewelers of America), traveled the world sourcing diamonds and learning about the industry, and was in demand as a speaker at national jewelry industry conventions.


20171214 Albert SolomonAlbert Solomon, a longtime retailer known for his honesty and dedication to the jewelry industry, died in late November at the age of 86.

Solomon opened his first jewelry store in the 1950s in Huntington, N.Y. with his two best friends. In the early 1960s, the trio started another store called the Long Island Diamond Exchange.

Later, Solomon headed the jewelry departments of Times Square Stores, and then in the late 1970s, he helped his then-19-year-old son Marc find the space that would become the family jewelry store, Solomons Jewelers, where he continued to work a couple times a week until he passed away.

He was inducted into the National Jeweler Retailer Hall of Fame in 1999, alongside Stanley Pollack and Ralph Destino.


20171214 Leo BillesbachLeo Billesbach, the retired owner of a downtown Beatrice, Nebrasksa jewelry store, passed away Nov. 30 at the age of 93.

Billesbach served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946 and then married Agnes Streff in 1947. The two lived in Kansas City, where he attended the Kansas City School of Jewelry and Horology.

They eventually ended up in Grand Island, Nebraska, where Billesbach worked for Emericks Jewelry. Later they moved to Wilber, where they purchased a jewelry store and named it Billesbach Jewelry.

They moved to Beatrice in 1960, working for Meyer Jewelry before purchasing the business three years later and renaming it Leo’s Jewelry.


20171214 Morris StarrMorris Starr of pearl company Sakin & Co. died Dec. 8 at the age of 89.

A Holocaust survivor who was imprisoned at Dachau in Germany, Starr immigrated to the United States from Lithuania in 1947, after the war.

His father founded Sakin & Co., an importer and exporter of cultured pearls, in 1955 and Starr himself started in the industry in 1964, eventually becoming president of the company.

He also was one of the earliest members of the Cultured Pearl Association of America and a two-term president of the organization.


20171214 Bill BarkerBill Barker, founder of Barker & Co, died Dec. 6 after a brief illness.

After working at various companies, Barker pursued his passion for colored gemstones in 1979 and turned it into a successful career that spanned more than three decades. His business, Barker & Co., now employees three generations of family.

Barker traveled across the world to buy rough and also was well known for his master preforming skills and yield estimations, the American Gem Trade Association said. He joined AGTA in 1982 and also served on the board of directors and various committees throughout the years, as well as serving on the board of Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group and other industry organizations.

Barker will be remembered for his friendliness, integrity, extensive knowledge and bright Hawaiian shirts.

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