By Brecken Branstrator
brecken.branstrator@nationaljeweler.com
New York—This year saw the passing of quite a few beloved members of the jewelry industry, from well-known retailers to pioneering designers to respected gem dealers, among many others.

National Jeweler remembers them below.

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20191216 Blake NordstromBlake Nordstrom, one of three brothers who ran the business his great-grandfather started in 1901, died Jan. 2 in Seattle. He was 58.

Nordstrom was diagnosed with lymphoma in early December.

He started his career in the family business in 1976, working in the stockroom of the store in downtown Seattle. From there, he worked his way up through the ranks, becoming co-president in May 2015 and running the business alongside his two brothers.

“Everyone who worked with Blake knew of his passion and deep commitment to employees, customers and the communities we serve,” board Chairman Brad Smith said.

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20191216 Pippo PerezJewelry designer Pippo Perez died Jan. 19. He was 72.

Perez was born into a jewelry-making family and operated several businesses around the world.

He started out producing classic jewelry under the company name Giuseppe Perez but in 2006 launched Pippo Perez, “fun jewelry full of color, [depicting] animals, fish and peppers,” a brand spokesperson said.

The brand said on Instagram after his death: “We want to remember him with the same affection and the contagious smile with which he has always welcomed us into his precious family.

“The company thanks all who knew him and appreciated his charisma and his character, as a designer and first of all as a man, carrying on his work with his style and his unmistakable signature.”

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20191216 Jean FarmerLongtime retailer Jean Harbett Farmer, who helmed Farmer’s Jewelry on her own after the death of her husband in 1989, died Jan. 27. She was 92.

William “Bill” Farmer Sr., opened Farmer’s Jewelry in Lexington in 1950. The two married in 1957 and ran Farmer’s Jewelry together for more than 30 years, until Bill’s death in 1989.

Jean then became the matriarch of the business, running it alongside her two children, Bill Farmer Jr. and Kristi Farmer Lykins, both of whom helped around the store from a young age.

“Small family businesses need that vital continuity,” Bill Jr. said. “I could not have served both the AGS or JA boards without Mom as the backstop, having chaired both and having taken Mom with me for as long as she would go. Many industry leaders still have a bit of Jean Farmer rubbed off on them.”

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Jeff Unger, co-owner of B&N Jewelry and co-founder of the Prime Jewelry Group, died Feb. 7 due to renal carcinoma cancer-related complications. He was 57.

Unger served as treasurer for the Southern Jewelry Travelers Association (SJTA), which produces the biannual Atlanta Jewelry Show.

“Always open to taking chances, Jeff was our ‘idea guy’ and will be sorely missed. Jeff’s smile, quick wit and upbeat spirit endured through the good days and bad, and inspired everyone around him with his positivity,” SJTA Executive Director Libby Brown said in a statement to National Jeweler.

“Jeff was the life of every party, never met a stranger, and was truly the light even in the darkest of situations. Laughter, love and hope were present in everything Jeff did, and his decades of devoted service to both SJTA and the industry at large will never be forgotten.”

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Pioneering British gemologist E. Alan Jobbins, who dedicated his career to groundbreaking research and teaching, died Feb. 9.

Jobbins served as curator of minerals and gemstones at the Geological Museum in London for three decades, conducted several research projects, wrote numerous papers and took on several assignments throughout his career for the United Nations and the British government.

He was even a member of the team that conducted the first comprehensive gemological examination of the English Crown Jewels in the late 1980s.

“I’ve worked with many wonderful gemologists, but there are few who had Alan’s grasp of all facets of the field—mining, identification of materials old and new, types of treatments and their detection, as well as his amazing role in the area of education,” gem and jewelry expert Antoinette Matlins said.

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Billie Sutter died Feb. 13 at her home in New York.

Sutter was a longtime and active board member of WJA, the association said, and was “tireless” in her devotion to the association.

“Her hard work and generosity of spirit in sharing her connections, time and talents was unsurpassed.”

Industry peers also recalled her passion, work ethic, inspiring nature, infections energy and love for community.

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Carl Messler, who was a jewelry sales rep in New York City for more than five decades, died on Feb. 20, JCK reported. He was 81.

Messler started in the industry as a salesperson at his father-in-law’s jewelry business, G.C. & G., traveling all over the East Coast and Midwest before starting his own business, Carl Messler Ltd.

That closed in 2017, after which time he finished his career working at Izi Creations with his daughter and son-in-law.

“He was the ultimate sales rep,” daughter Andrea Kahmi told JCK. “He had a huge personality. He could talk to a tree and get them to talk back. He was just so personable, he could sell anything to anyone.”

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20191216 Philippe CharriolPhilippe Charriol, the French-born founder of Swiss luxury goods brand Charriol, was killed in a race car accident Feb. 26 at a track in the south of France.

Born in 1942 and raised in Marseille, Charriol spent time at Cartier before opening his eponymous business in 1983 as a multi-product brand.

In both his personal and professional life, Charriol “operated at full speed every day,” the company said.

“Philippe Charriol, with his incredible lust for life and audacious spirit, embodied ‘l’art de vivre la difference,’ a fitting signature for an exuberant founder. His many accomplishments and the success of his brand are a testament to the destiny that can be achieved by following one’s heart.”

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Patrick Murphy, owner of three-store chain Murphy Jewelers in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, was killed Feb. 28 in New Orleans. He was 62 years old.

Murphy Jewelers dates back to 1913 when Frank Murphy, a clockmaker and optometrist, opened a store in Pottsville.

Patrick Murphy and his wife Kim Murphy grew the business, opening a second store in Hamburg, Pennsylvania in October 2004. A third location opened in spring 2010 in Center Valley.

Cathy Calhoun, owner of Calhoun Jewelers in Royersford, Pennsylvania, crossed paths with Murphy over the years and remembered him as a “well-respected man with a big personality.”

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20191216 Richard GoldsteinRichard J. “Dick” Goldstein died March 8 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was 84 years old.

Goldstein was in the diamond industry for many years, working for Lazare Kaplan.

He had an appreciation for guns, old Western movies, “Judge Judy” and the TV show “Cops,” and enjoyed big band music, especially Glenn Miller, and the time he got to spend with his girls and their families.

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20191216 Dick GreenwoodRichard “Dick” Greenwood, president of gemstone and jewelry wholesaler A.F. Greenwood, died April 13. He was 70 years old.

Greenwood was a founding member of the New York Jewelers Group 25 years ago, a past president of the organization, and a past president of the American Gem Trade Association and the 24 Karat Club.

“When you met him, you instantly felt like he was your friend,” AGTA CEO Doug Hucker said.

Longtime business partner and friend Doug Parker said Greenwood was “the best friend a person could ask for, and I’m sure anyone in the trade would say the same.”

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20191216 Monique AllenMonique Allen, wife of gemstone trader and Crown Color President Lewis Allen, died during the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka. She was 54 years old.

She was on vacation with her husband and their three sons.

The trip was the first time she was able to see a project in which Lewis was involved—building a children’s hospital in a mining area in Ratnapura with three friends also in the gemstone business.

“She was so happy and kept telling me how proud she was that my three friends and I were helping make this world a little bit of a better place,” Lewis told National Jeweler.

He is also quoted as telling the BBC shortly after her death: “She was the best wife, the best mother, the best daughter. She was very kind, very selfless. She always thought of herself last.”

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Edwin A. Grebitus Jr. died at his home in Sacramento, California on May 3 at the age of 93.

He married Elizabeth “Beth” Breuner in 1950 and the two made the city their home, with Grebitus joining his father in the family business, Grebitus Jewelers.

He eventually opened a second location and became the company’s president.

Grebitus was a strong believer in supporting his community and was involved in many civic and philanthropic organizations.

He also liked sailing on the waters of Lake Tahoe, the Sacramento Delta or San Francisco Bay, and was enthusiastic about skiing, hiking, camping and attending his children’s sporting events.

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20191216 Donna SturmDonna Sturm, Verdura’s manager for design and product development, died on May 4 at age 67.

The cause of death, according to the company, was a traumatic brain injury incurred after Sturm was hit by a bicycle while crossing 57th Street in New York.

Sturm spent two decades at Verdura, bringing collections and product assortment to life.
Before Verdura, Sturm worked as a bench jeweler for Tiffany & Co.

“Donna was a rare talent and deeply loved, both in the jewelry industry at large and within our close-knit Verdura family. She had a wonderful eye and a tremendous skill for finding unusual materials and bringing them to life,” said Nico Landrigan, president of Verdura and Belperron.

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20191216 Leo SchachterLeo Schachter, a longtime leader in the diamond industry, died May 9 at his home in Lawrence, New York. He was 95.

Schachter was a second-generation diamantaire, starting the company that would eventually bear his name in 1952 in New York’s Diamond District.

He grew the business from a small, New York-based operation into one of the biggest diamond companies in the world, notching numerous partnerships and opening offices in Israel, India, Hong Kong, Botswana and Japan along the way.

Leo Schachter Diamonds said its founder’s combination of dignity, modesty and generosity “serves as an inspiration for his family and friends and as a guiding light for the company that he founded and built.”

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Colored diamond pioneer Sam Abram died in early May at the age of 78, according to Rapaport.

Often referred to as “King of the Blues,” Abram was a prominent buyer at the big auction houses.

Born in Afghanistan, Abram immigrated to the United States with his family in 1954 and eventually learned the gem trade from his father, who sourced from India.

Abram started working with diamonds by the 1970s and became an integral buyer in New York’s Diamond District as well as a De Beers sightholder until he gave up his sight around 1984, Rapaport said.

“He was a born businessman who had a keen sense of reading different situations, both on a personal level and in terms of business conditions,” Ephraim Zion, Abram’s brother-in-law and former business partner, told the news site. “He was a person that people went to for advice.”

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20191216 Mark CohenMark Cohen, designer and co-founder of fine jewelry brand J.J. Marco, died May 27. He was 63.

Cohen and wife Julianne Jaffe started J.J. Marco in 1990 and eventually opened their own J.J. Marco boutique in New York City’s posh Upper East Side neighborhood in 2005.

“He was a wonderful photographer and sculptor as well as a jewelry designer,” Jaffe said of her husband, “but the first thing everyone noticed about him was what an incredibly thoughtful, kind, generous person he was.”

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20191216 Frank BrombergFrank H. Bromberg Jr., a fifth-generation jeweler, died June 4 in Cashiers, North Carolina. He was 87.

After serving in the military, he joined the family jewelry business, Bromberg & Co., as the fifth generation of family management, eventually becoming president and chairman of the board.

He also held a number of leadership positions throughout his life, including past president of Jewelers of America and the American Gem Society.

The Brombergs said their patriarch was “an exceptional person because he had a servant’s heart,” always putting others before himself.

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20191216 Glenn NordGlenn Nord, the third president of the Gemological Institute of America, died June 9. He was 90 years old.

Nord is credited with pioneering the GIA’s corporate training programs, with GIA’s fourth president and friend Bill Boyajian Boyajian saying he “probably did more to broaden the appeal of GIA education than anyone else.”

After working for a while at diamond dealer Joseph Goldfinger, he returned to GIA as president in 1983.

Boyajian said: “Tall and good-looking, he commanded attention and was viewed as tough businessman. But he was also sensitive and thoughtful in how he dealt with people and could become quite emotional when confronted with the tough decisions he often had to make.”

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20191216 Anil DholakiaAnil B. Dholakia, longtime wholesale gem merchant and a founding member of the American Gem Trade Association, died June 10 at 85.

He started his business as Adris Oriental Gem & Art Corp. in the early 1960s and began doing trade shows all over the country.

Dholakia also was one of 12 gem dealers dubbed the “Dirty Dozen” who helped establish a new satellite gem show in Tucson, Arizona in February 1974, the Gem & Lapidary Wholesalers show, or G&LW, as well as one of the founding members of the AGTA when it formed in Tucson in 1981.

AGTA CEO Doug Hucker said: “Anil was a gentle person and a gentleman and was always willing to help new people come into the organization. He will be greatly missed.”

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Donald McCutchen, who co-owned McCutchen Jewelers in Rockville, Maryland, died suddenly on June 17 after a brief illness. He was 70.

A native of Oklahoma, McCutchen started his career four decades ago, working in the jewelry department of E.J. Korvette.

McCutchen later refined his skills at Theodore Nye Jewelers, a high-end guild store in the Washington, D.C. area, before opening his own jewelry store alongside his wife, Eleanore McCutchen (Ellie), in 1988.

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20191216 Nancy LinkinJewelry designer and metalsmith Nancy Linkin died June 28 from complications from cancer.

She attended school for fine arts and learned innovative techniques for anticlastic forming, which later became the catalyst for her body of work.

After moving to Maine and working alongside other artisans, she was inspired to open her own business, Nancy Linkin Fine Jewelry & Sculpture.

She was known not only for her flowing, artistic forms but also her kindness, caring and passion.

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20191216 Enid CoreyEnid Corey, who grew up in the retail business, died July 3 following a brief illness. She was 93.

Corey spent her early years working side-by-side with her father at Sleeper’s general store.

After meeting and marrying Robert Corey in 1951, the two moved with their children to Maine to open their own store. They built a successful business in Robert’s Jewelry, with their children working alongside them.

In 1978, she embarked on her own business venture, opening a card and gift store called Hi, Ma’s.

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20191216 Philias DutilleRetail jeweler Philias H. Dutille Sr. died July 5. He was 91 years old.

Dutille attended a technical school in Pennsylvania to become a certified watchmaker and then was employed at J.S. Wolfe Jewelers.

In 1959, he founded P.H. Dutille Jewelers, which he owned and operated until he passed the business onto his son in 1993, and was a well-respected member of both business and faith communities.

“He listened,” Louise Dutille Bebeau, who works with her brother in Dutille’s Jewelry Design Studio, told local news. “He was present. He had a sense of humor that came out after he got to know you. He’d give you a little something, a little treasure.

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20191216 Katherine JamesJewelry designer Katharine James died July 6. She was 60.

James was inspired to turn her merchandising eye to fine jewelry after seeing the debut issue of Martha Stewart Weddings and its bridal jewelry content.

She went on to work for Tiffany & Co. at its Beverly Hills store before joining Michael B. jewelry as the company launched its first bridal collection. Eventually, she came out with her own bridal line.

“She has been part of my life for quite a while,” said Aida Bogosian, wife of the late Michael Bogosian. “We’ve been friends [even] after my husband’s passing, so she meant lot to me. She was amazingly creative, very focused and very strong in her opinions about the fashion and the visuals of jewelry and style.”

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20191216 Dorothy WesdorpDorothy “Dot” Wesdorp, co-founder of Jewel-Craft Inc., died July 15 in The Villages, Florida. She was 91.

“Our family lost one of the sweetest women you could have met,” the Wesdorp family wrote in an online obituary.

Wesdorp and her husband, Robert, took over Jewel-Craft, a jewelry design, manufacturing and repair company, in 1950.

By 1977, the business and its 11 employees had relocated to its own facility in Crescent Springs, Kentucky, where Jewel-Craft rose to prominence in the jewelry industry.

“This company was grown not by luck or by someone being in the right place at the right time, but because of the hard work and dedication of Bob and Dot,” employee Mike Martin said.

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20191216 Robyn HawkJewelry blogger and social media curator Robyn Hawk died unexpectedly July 16 after suffering a stroke. She was 63.

She had vast experience in the jewelry industry, from social community manager for Lustig Jewelers to social media content curator, but was perhaps even better known for her writing, which she shared on social media under the business name “A Fly on the Wall.”

She also contributed to websites The Daily Jewel and Historic Gems & Jewelry, among others.

“Robyn was such a big, big, big presence; it is hard to grasp that she is not here,” her sister, Dawn Hawk, and mother, Maureen Hawk Turk, wrote on Facebook. “Robyn was big in passions, talents, generosity, compassion and her outrage about injustice.”

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20191216 Michael GoldhagenMichael S. Goldhagen, a longtime jewelry salesman known for his outstanding personality and sense of humor, died Aug. 5 at the age of 72.

Goldhagen’s career in the jewelry industry spanned more than 35 years, and he represented several of the finest jewelry manufacturers, including Asch Grossbardt, Kabana and Golden West Manufacturing Jewelers.

Devoted to his family and an animal lover, Goldhagen was happiest when surrounded by his family and his dogs.

“Michael will always be remembered for his outstanding personality and fabulous sense of humor,” his friend Sylvan Epstein said. “He will be greatly missed by everyone who had the pleasure of working with him.”

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20191216 Albert MiltonAlbert Milton, managing director of Debswana, the 50/50 joint venture between the Republic of Botswana and De Beers Group, died Aug. 16.

He joined Debswana in 1992, holding various positions throughout his career across the company’s mining operations and in leadership positions.

He was appointed general manager of Jwaneng mine in 2013 and held posts as project manager at Venetia Mine in South Africa and general manager at Morupule Coal Mine in Botswana from 2008 to 2013.

Milton was named managing director of Debswana and to the De Beers Group executive committee in December 2018.

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20191216 David MorrowDavid Morrow, longtime businessman and husband of Reinhold Jewelers owner Marie Helene Morrow, died Aug. 18 at the age of 88 after battling cancer.

Morrow worked for many years in the supermarket business. After his retirement, he started working with his wife in her jewelry store, becoming a mainstay at jewelry trade shows and helping her grow the business.

“One of David’s last words were that he would always be around to see us,” Marie Helene Morrow said in an email to National Jeweler. “Throughout this life, David supported and protected us. He continues to do be there for us through good times and bad.

“There will never be a husband, father, grandfather or great-grandfather as grand as he was. We will continue to cherish and remember him as we tell future generations of our family about him, so that his wisdom and love will continue to bless us for generations to come.”

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20191216 Guido BelluzziGuido Belluzzi, a longtime goldsmith at Alex Sepkus, died Aug. 20 at the age of 60 after battling liver and pancreatic cancers.

The talented metalsmith was vital in helping define Sepkus’ well-known and recognizable design style.

He also became a mentor for many students, guiding FIT and Pratt students who worked in the shop over the years.

Jeff Feero, managing partner of the New York City-based jewelry company, told JCK he called Belluzzi “Mr. 8:59” in reference to his unfailing promptness for work and noted he “really pulled the team together.”

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Tulsa-based jeweler Bruce G. Weber died Sept. 15. He was 90.

Locals knew Weber best for his shop inside the Miss Jackson’s department store, and later, his own store, Bruce G. Weber Precious Jewels, which he opened when he was 71.

He was involved in the industry for more than 60 years, establishing himself as the go-to jeweler for pieces that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the state.

He also worked for years for Selco, placing high-end jewelry lines in stores nationwide.

Weber was inducted into the National Jeweler Retailer Hall of Fame in 2012.

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20191216 Banice BazarBanice Carl Bazar, who started his career in the jewelry industry in 1953, died Sept. 20. He was 90.

After fighting in the Korean War as a U.S. Army lieutenant and earning a Bronze Star Medal, he started a business as a representative for jewelry manufacturers.

Then in the 1970s, in the middle of a downturn for the pearl business, he bought Imperial and Deltah, combining them to form one big company and growing it over the years.

“Treat your customers like family, treat your employees like family, and you’ll come out like I did, and I’m very proud of that fact,” Bazar said in an interview on the history of Imperial Pearl posted online.

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Judy Olsen, founder of Plumb Gold jewelry store in Racine, Wisconsin, died in early October at her home in Florida. She was 67.

According to local news, she started what became Plumb Gold as an artists’ studio cooperative, which moved to its current location in 1976 in order to have a retail presence.

Her business grew with her specialty in custom jewelry design.

“She was really good at listening to people and providing something special at a significant time in their life, and that’s what she loved to do,” her daughter Alyssa Yorgan told The Journal Times.

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Marvin Zale, former board member and vice chairman of Zales, died Oct. 10 in Boca Raton, Florida at the age of 89.

The eldest son of company namesake and founder Morris B. Zale, Marvin joined the family business in 1953 after serving in the Army. For many years, he ran Zales’ New York City office and oversaw international business and sourcing.

He retired in 1986, when the family sold the business to Peoples Jewellers in 1986. After that time, he dedicated himself to philanthropy and was always putting others first.

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20191216 Richard ScrogginsLongtime Wisconsin jeweler Richard J. Scroggins died Oct. 11 after a six-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 68 years old.

Scroggins started his career in the industry at Rummele Jewelers in 1975, where he was mentored by the store’s owner and studied to become a Registered Jeweler and Certified Gemologist.

Then he became the manager of Garrison Jewelers before buying it in 1990 and changing the name to Scroggins Jewelers.

He was an outdoor enthusiast, devoted to his family, friends, customers and community, and was a member of Cleveland (Wisconsin) Fish and Game and the American Gem Society, and served as a member of the Sheboygan Business Improvement District.

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Mitchell Portnoy, longtime president of the New York Mineralogical Club, died Oct. 15 after battling cancer. He was 63 years old.

Portnoy was a club member for 25 years, its bulletin editor for 20 and its president for about 15, during which time he built a thriving organization.

“Everything about him, from his special hand-crafted gifts of appreciation for our speakers, mineral locality games, all the way to his sing-along songs played before our club lectures, made him special to us,” the club said in an email. “His generosity made him special to many, many others.”

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20191216 Judy JaramilloJudy Jaramillo, longtime employee at supplier Rio Grande and vice president of the AGS New Mexico Guild, died Oct. 18 in a car accident. She was 56.

She joined Rio Grande in 2001, holding multiple roles during her tenure and most recently working as a customer account representative. She was a natural people-person, Rio Grande said, and was successful because she built real relationships wherever she went through her compassion and support.

Rio Grande called her loss “significant,” noting she touched many with her “constant and genuine caring and kindness.”

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Arnold “Arnie” Bockstruck died Oct. 28 at the age of 91.

After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, where he also met his future wife, Bockstruck followed in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, joining Bockstruck Jewelers in St. Paul, Minnesota and helping it grow with two more locations.

He served in a number of positions in the industry, including on the GIA board and as past president and a former trustee of AGS, which honored him with its Shipley Award in 1990.

Bockstruck was also very involved in activities in the city, serving as president of the St. Paul Athletic Club, prime minister of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, president of the St. Paul Rotary Club and much more.

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20191216 Olin PeetsH. Olin Peets, 97, died Oct. 31 at the Highland Home and Rehabilitation Center, with his family by his side.

A U.S. Army veteran, Peets took classes at the Pittsburgh Watchmaking School before using the learned skills to open his own jewelry store, Peets Jewelers in Massena, New York, which now is run by the third generation of the Peets family.

He was dedicated to the community—he was a member of the Massena Volunteer Fire Department and the Massena Exempt Fireman, member and president of the Downtown Merchants Association, and, after the drowning deaths of his son and nephew, helped form the Massena Rescue Squad.

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20191216 Andrew KroungoldAndrew S. Kroungold, the longtime Stuller employee better known as “Andy the Tool Guy,” died Nov. 27. He was 66 years old.

Kroungold joined the Stuller team in 1999 and held a variety of jobs at the company, mostly recently working as tools business director.

In a statement issued immediately following Kroungold’s passing, Stuller said: “Andy’s infectious personality and joyous outlook on life put a smile on everyone’s face that he encountered.

“He was beloved by our Stuller family and equally beloved by our customers.”

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20191216 Paul FisherLegendary jeweler Paul Fisher, who dealt in estate jewelry as well as pearls and gemstones, died Dec. 4 due to complications from pneumonia. He was 92.

Fisher, a fifth-generation jeweler who worked in the industry for 74 years, established Paul Fisher Inc. in 1956.

He was successful because he shared his knowledge and maintained his integrity, daughter Marianne Fisher said, and was loved because he was always fair and kind, she said.

“My dad was a very generous person. He didn’t care about being rich; he cared about being kind, about being a good human being, that was very important to him.”


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