AGS Honors Speisman; Hosts Oppenheimer

May 1, 2002

AGS Honors Speisman; Hosts Oppenheimer

The American Gem Society Conclave, held April 24-27 in Vancouver, BC, Canada, presented its Robert M. Shipley award for distinguished service posthumously to Robert Speisman, the Lazare Kaplan vice president of sales killed in the Pentagon plane crash during the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S.

Speisman, a long-time supporter of AGS, was a Registered Supplier with the organization and chairman of its Board of Trustees. He had been in the running for the Shipley award before Sept. 11, said William Underwood, chairman of the Shipley committee, who announced the award. Accepting the award was Speisman's father-in-law Maurice Templesman, also of Lazare Kaplan. "This means a lot to us," said Templesman. "We are reminded of how precious life is, and how fleeting also."

The Conclave attendees also heard a speech by Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers, during a dinner hosted by the Diamond Promotion Service. Oppenheimer reviewed the momentous changes at De Beers over the past few years, including its conversion to a private concern, its shift in emphasis from a supply-driven to a demand-driven company and its partnership with LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton to sell diamonds under the De Beers label.

Oppenheimer stressed De Beers would remain primarily a rough diamond company and its efforts to market polished diamonds and diamond jewelry under the De Beers name were meant to add to the total advertising market for diamonds. He stressed the company also would continue to spend around $180 million in generic advertising in the Diamond Trading Co.'s Diamonds Are Forever campaign.

Oppenheimer said De Beers would continue to develop methods to detect non-natural diamonds to bolster consumer confidence, as well as support all efforts to rid the world of conflict diamonds. He pledged De Beers would continue to be a good corporate citizen in the African countries where it mines, and support black empowerment and charitable causes. Finally, he spoke about De Beers' growing commitment to mining in Canada's Northwest Territories, where it has discovered over 200 kimberlite pipes (kimberlite pipes often contain diamonds).

The AGS Conclave drew slightly more attendees than last year, with a greater number of first-time attendees, said Robert Bridel, executive director of AGS. It held 58 educational sessions in 10 tracks, in a program designed by educational consultant Charlotte Preston of Charlotte Preston Catalysts, White Bear Lake, MN.

William L. Farmer Jr., Farmer's Jewelry, Lexington, KY, was elected the new president of AGS, succeeding Ellen W. Lacy, Lacy & Co., El Paso, TX.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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