GIA Pays Homage To Former Chair, Helene Fortunoff

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) community – comprising more than 3,300 associates around the world and hundreds of thousands of graduates – offered their condolences to the family of industry icon Helene Fortunoff, who passed away earlier this week.

“I was fortunate to serve with Helene on the GIA Board of Governors during her time as Chair of the Board,” said Dione Kenyon, Chair of the GIA Board of Governors. “Her experience, wisdom and deep devotion to our industry were crucial to guiding GIA at that time, and she made an invaluable contribution to advancing GIA’s consumer protection mission.”

GIA President and CEO Susan Jacques added, “Helene’s legacy will live on, embodied in the memories of many throughout the global gem and jewellery industry who knew and admired her visionary leadership.”

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Above: The GIA Board of Governors in an undated photo with Chair Helene Fortunoff (bottom row, centre). (Top row, standing): William Cottingham, Ralph Destino, Glenn Nord, Nancy Brewer, Roland Naftule. (Second row, seated): George Rossman, Matt Stuller, Richard T. Liddicoat. (Third row, seated): Susan Jacques, Anna Martin, Michael Kazanjian. (Front row, seated): Sheldon Kwiat, Eli Haas, Helene Fortunoff, William Boyajian and Lee Berg.

Jacques continued, “Helene’s business acumen, taste and talent made her a nationally recognised leader in the industry, well beyond the geographic footprint of the Fortunoff retail stores in and around New York City. Those same qualities and her pioneering spirit opened opportunities for generations of women, including me, to bring their diverse voices, talents, passion and leadership to the global gem and jewellery industry.”

Fortunoff joined the GIA Board of Governors in 1998 and served as Chair from 2005 until her retirement in 2008. She was also a GIA graduate, having taken classes in the 1960s in diamond evaluation and appraisal taught by GIA leaders Eunice Miles, Robert Crowningshield and Bert Krashes.

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Above: GIA Diamond Evaluation Class, NYC, August 1961. (From left, front row): Al Berger, Harry Ward, Jean Claude River, Helene Fortunoff, George Crevier, Martin Busch. (Standing): Harold Smith, William Heitz, Charles Syer, Noel Murphy, Lee Runsdorf, Eunice Miles, Robert Crowningshield, Bert Krashes.

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