Women of the Diamond Industry Making History
Updated: Apr 15, 2021
“Spend your time with simple things in your life that matter so your roots can grow deep. When the wind blows, your roots will keep you from blowing away.”
- Rayah Levy, FCD Invest President Due Diligence Expert | Forever Capital Fund Manager
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are honored to share information on just a sample of notable female trailblazers in the diamond industry of past and present.
Frances Gerety was a junior copywriter at N.W. Ayer & Son in 1947 when she was asked to come up with a slogan for De Beers that expressed the romance of a diamond. Late one night at the office, she wrote down “a diamond is forever,” a tagline that inextricably tied diamonds to lasting love. That famous tagline was awarded the slogan of the century by Advertising Age in 1999, and after 75 years, it remains emblazoned in everyone’s conscience when they think of love and diamonds.
Susan Jacques was appointed GIA’s president and CEO in January 2014. Before joining GIA, she served as president and CEO of Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts in Omaha, Nebraska for 20 years and reported directly to Warren Buffett. She received the Women’s Jewelry Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 and was inducted into National Jeweler’s Retailer Hall of Fame in 1997. Ms. Jacques joined the GIA Board of Governors in May 1996 and served as chair from 2008 to 2013. She received her Graduate Gemologist diploma from GIA in 1980 and is a fellow of the Gemological Society of Great Britain.
Known as the "Grande Dame of Gemology" or "Mother GIA," Eunice Miles studied geology and mineralogy and attended MIT at a time when there were few women in the field (she was the only woman in her classes). After meeting GIA's founder, Robert Shipley, she went on to study at and work for GIA where she was the first female gemologist and where she pioneered research on diamond-coating techniques and identification. Her work was used by the FBI to detect fraud, and in 1963, the U. S. Department of Mines recognized her for her research into the laser patterns of diamonds versus diamond substitutes. In 1986, GIA named Eunice as the first recipient of the “Eunice Miles Lifetime Achievement in Gemology” award and in 1988, the Manhattan Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association instituted the Eunice Miles Scholarship Fund to honor this extraordinary woman.
Alice Keller joined GIA in 1980 as managing editor of Gems & Gemology. She was promoted to Editor in 1984, to Editor and Director in 1995, and Editor in Chief in 2002, retiring in 2010. In addition to introducing a larger format and more contemporary full-color design to the journal, she recruited an editorial review board of top experts in gemology and related fields to implement a rigorous peer review process for all articles. This process-and the articles that resulted from the efforts of reviewers, editors, and authors-catapulted the journal to the leadership position it holds today.
As the Fancy Color Research Foundation’s (FCRF) CEO, Miri Chen is headquartered in Tel Aviv. Miri is a Senior Executive with extensive experience in large international companies in the high-tech industry. Prior to heading the FCRF, Miri served as Head of business operations and Chief of Staff. Miri leads the foundation, setting the vision and strategy roadmap, developing unparalleled products and services for the Fancy Color Diamond professional niche, while focusing on creating and providing the FCRF members with innovative solutions and professional services to enhance the knowledge and expertise in the Fancy Color Diamond industry.
Eira Thomas is a Canadian geologist with over twenty-five years of experience in the Canadian mining industry, including her previous roles as Vice President, Aber Resources, now Dominion Diamond Corp., CEO of Stornoway Diamond Corp., and CEO of Kaminak Gold Corporation. In 2007, Eira founded Lucara Diamond Corporation, with partners Lukas Lundin and Catherine McLeod Seltzer; since February 2018, Eira has been President and CEO of the company. In 2008 Eira was one of only four Canadians that year to be named to the “Young Global Leaders”, by the World Economic Forum, and in 2007 she was selected as one of ‘Top 100 Canada’s Most Powerful Women’. Eira is currently a director of Suncor Energy Inc. and is Suncor’s Chair of the Governance Committee.
Botswana native Naseem Lahri is the Managing Director of Lucara Botswana (Pty.) Ltd., which operates the Karowe mine. She joined the company as Chief Financial Officer in 2013 and was promoted to Managing Director five years later. Naseem broke two barriers when Lucara Diamond Corp. promoted her to managing director of its subsidiary in Botswana, then called Boteti Mining, in May 2018. She was not only the first woman to hold such a position in Botswana, but also the first female citizen of her country to do so.
When Swiss billionaire Nayla Hayek purchased the legendary jewelry brand Harry Winston in 2013, she promised to uphold Mr. Winston’s reputation as the ‘King of Diamonds.’ When the Swatch Group purchased Harry Winston, Nayla became CEO of the brand. No stranger to business — she is the daughter of the famed Nicolas G Hayek, who almost single-handedly saved the Swiss watch industry during the quartz crisis — Hayek set several goals as she planned a course to steer the brand to an all-new level of global recognition in both the watch and jewelry worlds.
Nothing stops octogenarian Alisa Moussaieff, who has been chasing down the world’s best and rarest diamonds and gems for more than half a century. As the matriarch of her family’s 800-year-old jewelry business, Alisa remains one of the industry’s most respected power players, although she prefers to keep a low profile. Over the decades, she has acquired numerous record-breaking stones but is most famous for buying the Moussaieff Red, an extraordinary 5.11-carat fancy red diamond.
In the 1970s, geologist Maureen Muggeridge was so certain that an important diamond deposit existed in Australia that she relentlessly explored the region—while she was six months pregnant. While her team pursued a different area, she surveyed the flood plains of Smoke Creek, a river that fed into the Argyle Lake, where she soon uncovered diamonds. This discovery led to the famous Argyle deposit, the world’s main source of pink diamonds (which officially closed in November 2020).
Dr. Alison Shaw is pioneering new ways to reduce the environmental impact of mining; her work is not only changing the future of mining but also has the potential to fight climate change globally. As a Senior Geochemist at Lorax Environmental Services, Dr. Shaw is working with the De Beers Group to transform kimberlite (the rock in which diamonds are formed) into carbonated rock, which essentially means she is capturing and storing carbon.
After the Great Patriotic War ended, the USSR started searching for its own diamond deposits. The Amakinskaya Geological Expedition of Union Trust 2 had already probed the Siberian Plateau and suggested that kimberlite pipes could be found by tracing the diamonds they had discovered in the tributaries of the Nizhnyaya Tunguska River. In 1950, Party 26 was brought together to develop a map of primary concentrates (washings) of the Siberian Plateau. The party leader was Natalya Sarsadskikh who completely ignored the Amakinskaya Geological Expedition's theory and worked out her own diamond deposit search parameters. She believed that pyropes (silicates in the garnet group) were the minerals often found near diamonds.
Geologist Larisa Popugayeva joined a team of Russian prospectors called Party 26 led by Natalya Sarsadskikh in 1953, and while exploring around the Daldyn River she uncovered what would become the first diamond deposit in the Soviet Union, the Zarnitsa pipe in Udachny. Though the discovery would prove to change her country’s future, she was given no credit for the discovery until decades later.
Created By: Rayah Levy, FCD Invest President | Due Diligence Expert | Forever Capital Fund Manager