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Roland Naftule died on April 1, 2023, in San Diego, California, at age 85 after a long struggle with cancer. He was surrounded by loved ones and is survived by wife Fabienne, daughters Myriam and Stephanie, son Ashley, stepdaughters Alison and Margaux, and beloved grandchildren Rachel, Ethan, Dylan, and Daisy.
Naftule was born into a family of gemstone dealers in Switzerland in 1937. His family was renowned for cutting and polishing gemstones for high-end watch makers. In 1952, 19-year-old Roland joined the family’s newly minted U.S. business, NAFCO Gems, in New York City.
Business expanded into rough production, relocated to Arizona, and eventually his daughters joined him in running the firm.
His public service was extensive:
- Founding Organizer of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA)
- AGTA President of the Board of Directors from 1983 through 1985
- Chairman of AGTA’s Industry Rules Committee for 12 years
- Board Member for the Board of Governors of the AGTA Gemological Testing Center
- Founding Organizer of the International Colored Stone Association (ICA)
- ICA Founding President from 1985 through 1989
- Founding Organizer and first Chairman of the Gemstone Industry & Laboratory Conference (GILC)
- Member of the Board of Governors of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
- S. World Jewellery Confederation, or CIBJO, Vice President, Sector A President, Member of the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, and President’s Council
- CIBJO President and Vice President of the Colored Stone Commission
To read more about Roland, log onto AGTA.org/media.
“I have long admired Roland as one of the founders of AGTA, who devoted his time and talent to our group to make it the premier colored gemstone organization in the world.” John Ford, AGTA CEO
“Roland was a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work type of guy and an icon in the industry. All his peers say he executed every effort with grace and a smile. I’ll never forget how he sought me out during the Tucson GemFair in 2022 to congratulate me on being elected Board President. He will be greatly missed.” Kimberly Collins, Owner of Kimberly Collins Colored Gems and AGTA Board President
“The term ‘an industry giant’ is often overused, but in Roland’s case it is an understatement. Roland was the most exceptional example that I know of the quintessential jewelry industry public servant, dedicating hundreds of hours, year in and year out, purely for the benefit of the products that fascinated him and the colleagues he loved.” Gaetano Cavalieri, CIBJO President
“I have known Roland my whole life, and it’s quite sobering to see his passing. Both my father and Roland were born in 1937, and both of our families were generational in the gem industry. In the early days, when he was in Tanzania, he would come to Kenya to visit us, and he always graciously showed interest in my sister and me. Roland was a familiar face and mainstay in my life. Just like his friendship, Roland’s work with industry associations and his influence on the colored gemstone world has left an everlasting impact that cannot be forgotten.” Bruce Bridges, Owner, Bridges Tsavorite
“My late husband Campbell Bridges and I met Roland in Tanzania in the late 1960s when the Naftule family became involved in mining ventures there. Roland was a friend who never sat still. He was always involved in expanding and moving our jewelry and gem industry forward. I was very honored in 2019 when Roland Naftule introduced me to the ICA Congress held in Bangkok, Thailand, to give me the ICA Lifetime Achievement Award. This was exactly 10 years after the late Campbell Bridges had been given his Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 in Guangzhou, China. We send our heartfelt condolences to the Naftule family on their loss.” Judith Bridges, Owner, Bridges Tsavorite
“I was fortunate to call Roland a close friend. We worked together for 43 years across six continents and even took a couple of vacations together. When I became AGTA president, I created the Industry Rules Committee and appointed Roland Chairman, with our group writing the AGTA Gemstone Information Manual that was adopted by CIBJO. He helped bring integrity to the industry and brought colored gemstones to the forefront—they were no longer an afterthought. He was AGTA’s second president, had so much enthusiasm for the industry, and spent thousands of hours trying to make it better. He was a natural coordinator who pushed people to go and find the truth; he brought people together and always looked for ways of finding resolutions.” Ray Zajicek, Owner, Equatorian Imports
“I met Roland in the 1980s while I was working with Robert ‘Bob’ Crowningshield in the New York GIA laboratory. Roland was working on promoting treatment disclosure for the AGTA Gemstone Information Manual. He would ask Bob and our team to comment on the disclosure language, but there was something different about Roland. His unwavering commitment to make sure disclosure occurred was highly unusual at that time. This trait never deviated with Roland. I also had the privilege to work with Roland as a GIA Governor. He was a strong advocate for the promotion of colored gemstones and education.” Tom Moses, Executive Vice President and Chief Research and Laboratory Officer, GIA
Cyril Israileff, Founder of ASBA USA, died recently after a long battle with cancer. He was 65.
Sons Joshua and Nicolai Israileff will carry on the business, along with Dominique Israileff, who started it with him in 1982.
Born in Geneva, Cyril’s father worked as an accountant for a Pearl dealer, giving him early exposure to the category on which he built his business. He moved to the U.S. in the early 1980s and wholesaled Pearls with his wife, Dominique, out of their apartment in Los Angeles. The pair moved to San Francisco in 1982, running ASBA USA from there until 1992, when he bought a 10,000-square-foot factory in Sarasota, Fla., where headquarters remain today. Later in life, he moved to Thailand and opened another office there. He died at home in January 2023.
“He used to pay off people’s layaways during the holidays for Christmas gifts,” recollects Joshua.
Jim Saylor of Jim Saylor Jewelers on Kauai, Hawaii, remembers Cyril as a straight-shooting fun and generous businessman who could talk politics and world perspectives with a keen, well-traveled understanding of different markets. “He had good-quality strands in a variety of price ranges and was always looking to try out new things,” says Saylor…. He was a true friend for 30 years.”
To learn more about Cyril, log onto AGTA.org/media.
Longtime Sales Trainer Kate Peterson died recently from injuries sustained in a fire at her home in April. She was 64.
Kate’s career started in 1976 at JB Robinson Jewelers, a now-defunct jewelry chain store, and was followed by stints at Kay Jewelers and Littman Jewelers. In 1997, Kate founded Performance Concepts, Inc., using her 20 years of retail operations expertise to help businesses grow and train their own staffs. Kate was a fixture at major jewelry shows—including AGTA GemFairTM Tucson—teaching others how to expand their businesses.
David Baker of AGTA worked with Kate for eight years on seminar programming for GemFair and recalls the joy of working with her. “A wonderful friendship developed,” he explained in a Facebook post. “I wonder if the industry as a whole will realize what a serious loss to the trade this is.”
Kate also created and authored the award-winning “Real Deal” column for INSTORE magazine, starting in 2001, as well as serving as a Consultant to the publication on sales, management, brand development, and retail operations issues.
“Kate was already a mainstay in the magazine when I began writing for INSTORE in late 2003, and she’s been a continuous presence for the 20 years since,” recalls Trace Shelton, Editor in Chief of INSTORE. “We’ll absolutely miss her unmatched experience and expertise as well as her steadying presence.”
To read more about Kate, log onto AGTA.org/media.
Ben Kho of Kho International is a world-famous lapidary and longtime AGTA member. He also won five AGTA Cutting Edge AwardsTM in the 2022 competition, sweeping the entire category of All Other Cut Gemstones—1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Honorable Mention awards all went to Kho. In total, he has won 31 awards for his innovative cutting. Kho is pictured here with AGTA CEO John Ford at the AGTA Spectrum AwardsTM Gala held during the 2023 AGTA GemFairTM Tucson.
Anup Jogani, Owner of Los Angeles–based Jogani, a purveyor of rare and extraordinary Diamonds and colored stones, is excited to unveil the Jogani Gallery in Los Angeles.
Located in the Silver Lake region, the Jogani Gallery features distinctive artists and jewelry designers as well as an intimate space for educating clients on the world of jewelry.
The design of the Jogani Gallery is warm and inviting, with luxurious displays, old-world charm, a private viewing room, and a rooftop lounge and garden. Visit it at 1626 Silver Lake Blvd.
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