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In this series of diamond portraits, we usually focus on people who had an unusual career in the diamond industry, who changed it, or contributed to it in some distinguished way. They either helped create it, as did Ernest Oppenheimer and Barney Barnato, established ways of improving it, as did Richard Liddicoat, or expanded it into new areas, as did Hans Stern and Howard Tracy Hall. Maximillian I and Mary of Burgundy were the one exception, as they are the earliest documented couple to gift a diamond engagement ring.

Another duo that went down in history due to a single diamond jewelry item were the two Parisian jewelers, Charles Boehmer and Paul Bassenge. The two created a diamond necklace that contributed to the downfall of Mary Antoinette, the French monarchy and the popular uprising that became the French Revolution. This is the story of love, greed, power, deception, forgery, and politics, as well as a tale of blind desire for position and riches that led to ruin and destruction on a massive scale.

An Opportune Time

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It is an unusual diamond market these days. Polished diamond exports from India were down about 1.5% in April compared to March, but up 14% year-over-year. The rise was not a result of improving prices, as the average value of goods declined 2.4%. The reason for the rise in exports was the high volume of shipments out of the leading manufacturing center, increasing 17% to 2.77 million carats. At the same time, rough trade through India declined by all measures – imports and exports, value and volume. Even by average value per carat.

Like many giants of the diamond industry, Lazare Kaplan was born to a financially-struggling Jewish family. One of 13 children, Kaplan was born on July 17, 1883 in Zabludova, Russia to Simon and Rachel Kaplan. His father was very religious and spent his nights studying Jewish texts. However as a third generation descendant of a jewelry-making family, during the day he was a watchmaker and jeweler, giving his son his first taste of jewelry.

Polished diamond prices increased across the board in April, indicating that the polished market is strengthening. The rise follows weak prices in March and marks a return to the trend of rising polished diamond prices that started in December 2017.

“I was born into the business and didn’t really have a choice,” is how Herb Bridge described his start in the jewelry business in an interview that appeared in the Puget Sound Business Journal. “I literally started when I could see over the counter, sweeping out and doing other chores they gave me. And I just grew into it.”

What started as a single store location first opened by his maternal grandfather, became one of the world’s largest jewelry chains under the guidance of Herb Bridge and his brother Bob, and later part of the Berkshire Hathaway empire.


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