Sir Gabriel “Gabi” Tolkowsky, one of the world’s most revered diamond cutters, has died at 84, friends and family wrote on social media on Monday. Born in Tel Aviv in 1939, Tolkowsky was from a family steeped in the diamond industry. He learned the trade from father, Jean, who had a diamond-polishing factory in Israel — an education that would set him up for a career manufacturing some of the world’s most famous diamonds.
“Every day after work, [my father] would come home from his workshop with people from all over the world who had come to learn about diamond polishing and sit in the one big living-cum-bedroom-cum-dining room we had,” Tolkowsky said in a 2008 interview with Singapore’s The Straits Times.
Jean Tolkowsky and his cousin had moved from Antwerp to Palestine — now Israel — in 1932, Gabriel Tolkowsky told Martin Rapaport in 2000. Jean became the first person to install a polishing operation in the country.
“To polish diamonds, he had to use a bicycle to turn the polishing wheel, because there was no electricity,” he said. “Many of the first diamond people in Israel were my father’s pupils. I learned my trade from him, and I am proud to have had such a rare opportunity.”
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