Bert Krashes (1923–2014)

Bert Krashes
At GIA’s cramped laboratory in New York City, Robert Crowningshield had just spotted the spectroscopic line for differentiating between natural-colour and irradiated diamonds. It was January 1956. Elated, he shouted for colleague Bert Krashes to come look over his shoulder. But Krashes was out to lunch, literally. It was probably the last time Krashes ever missed such a breakthrough during his decades-long tenure with GIA.

The post–World War II market for jewellery was just beginning to pick up, and consumer interest in diamonds had surged. Trained as a draftsman, Krashes was a store manager at Finlay’s Fine Jewelry in New York City when he enrolled at GIA on the GI Bill in 1948.

Studying under Crowningshield and Richard Liddicoat, the Bronx native earned his GG diploma in 1949. Thanks to his inquiring mind and gentle, engaging manner, Krashes was tapped to join GIA as an instructor later that same year. When Eunice Miles came aboard in 1953, the entire New York staff numbered three.

A fixture on 47th Street, Krashes nevertheless willingly hit the road in the 1950s to promote GIA’s new diamond grading system. Travelling with Crowningshield, he brought the grading gospel to mom-and-pop jewellery stores from coast to coast, setting up travelling classrooms across the United States.

“We created a whole new world for jewellers who up to that time had relied only on a loupe,” Krashes said. “Can you imagine their delight when we showed them what they could do with a microscope and other diamond-grading equipment?”

Krashes’s days on the road were over by 1970, about the time his frontline service to GIA began to garner formal recognition. That same year, he was voted honorary vice president of the Gemmological Association of Canada; in 1983, he and Crowningshield were co-recipients of the American Gem Society’s Robert M. Shipley Award.

Krashes served as vice president and director of the New York lab from 1977 through 1988. At his retirement party, GIA president Bill Boyajian praised the administrator as a “stalwart in New York” and “an outstanding educator, gemmologist, and association executive”. Krashes remained on the GIA Board of Governors until 1998, then acted as an advisor until passing away in January 2014.

In recognising Bert Krashes with its Shipley Award, the American Gem Society praised his artistry and discipline. To those attributes, his friends at GIA added a third — chivalry. He was a gentleman of the old school, and he applauded that quality in others. When William Goldberg, part owner of the superb Premier Rose diamond, picked up a GIA diamond report for the gem, Krashes asked if his secretary could see the diamond. He was impressed when Goldberg unhesitatingly placed the 137.02 ct D-colour stone in the palm of her hand.

“That’s the type of jeweller I remember from my early days. They were gentlemen who had a sincere appreciation of gems in addition to sophistication and integrity,” Krashes said in a 1988 interview. He might just as well have been describing himself.