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.
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.
In the Middle Ages, alchemists tried to turn lead into gold. Lead was an inexpensive metal, while gold was and remains very valuable and a traded commodity. Success meant creating wealth. Similarly, scientists made serious efforts to imitate the natural process that creates diamonds. In the late 19th century, some of these efforts garnered some success. However, the important breakthroughs came only in the mid-20th century at the labs of General Electric in New York, where the first High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) machine was invented by Tracy Hall.
When thinking of De Beers, we automatically think of the Oppenheimer family. That is the name most people know and associate with the diamond mining giant. Those that know a little more are usually familiar with Cecil Rhodes, and they are very familiar with the history of the company, they may have even heard of Barney Barnato. Yet few have ever heard of Alfred Beit, the financial wizard behind the unification of diamond claims into a single company that formed De Beers.