Legendary diamond cutter Sir Gabriel Tolkowsky dies at 84

Renowned diamond cutter, Sir Gabriel "Gabi" Tolkowsky, has passed away at the age of 84, according to an announcement made by friends and family on…

Renowned diamond cutter, Sir Gabriel “Gabi” Tolkowsky, has passed away at the age of 84, according to an announcement made by friends and family on social media. Tolkowsky, born in Tel Aviv in 1939, hailed from a family deeply rooted in the diamond industry. His father, Jean, owned a diamond-polishing factory in Israel, where he shared the trade with Gabriel, paving the way for a career in crafting some of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Tolkowsky’s father, Jean, and his cousin moved from Antwerp to Palestine (now Israel) in 1932, where Jean became the first person to establish a diamond polishing operation in the country. Gabriel proudly shared, “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.”

From 1975 to 1995, Gabriel Tolkowsky worked at Diatrada, De Beers’ now-defunct manufacturing unit. He gained international recognition for his work on the Centenary Diamond, a remarkable 273.85 carat gem unveiled by De Beers in 1991 to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary. 

When it was decided that Tolkowsky would be entrusted with polishing the Centenary Diamond, he and his wife went into hiding to avoid the press, eventually finding refuge in an undisclosed room in a secluded hotel in Cape Town. Over the course of three years, he meticulously cut the diamond in a highly secure underground facility. The finished piece was later displayed at the Tower of London. Tolkowsky also worked on the Golden Jubilee Diamond, weighing 545.67 carats.

“He always believed that diamonds are not a commodity but rather a unique way of expressing emotions,” said Marc-André Zucker, a board member at Antwerp’s Antwerpsche Diamantkring. “His enthusiasm was endless… he was truly ‘romancing’ diamonds.”

Tolkowsky also came from a prominent diamond family and was the great-nephew of Marcel Tolkowsky, the inventor of the ideal-cut round brilliant diamond.

In 2002, Tolkowsky received the Knighthood Chevalier de L’Ordre du Roi Leopold II from the Belgian government for his contributions to the diamond industry.

De Beers expressed condolences, “He was a pioneer and a master craftsman who understood the wonder of diamonds like few other people… Gabi combined artistry, expertise, and passion to create some of the most beautiful and iconic polished diamonds in history. Our thoughts are with the Tolkowsky family during this time of loss.”

Tolkowsky’s passing proves to be a great loss for the jewellery industry with his skill and dedication to be remembered for generations to come.

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