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Harold Weinstein, 1927-2010

posted Jan 28, 2010, 9:27 PM by Alex Barcados   [ updated Jan 28, 2010, 9:28 PM ]

Posted by Anne Neumann - 10/01/10 at 06:01:03 am

Harold Weinstein

Harold Weinstein, fisherman, jeweller, appraiser emeritus and my wise friend with a great heart died on January 8th, 2010.

We jewellers have the privilege of spending our professional lives with precious gems.  I had the rare gift of spending much of my career with a gem of a man, Harold Weinstein.

Harold was born into a trade that has changed greatly over the years.  In Northern Ontario, his father sold pocket watches to miners out of a pack on his back.  Today, jewellery is sold over the internet. One thing that has remained constant over that time is the value of ethics and integrity.  Anyone who knew Harold by reputation, or those of us who were lucky enough to know him personally, could not doubt that integrity was as essential to Harold as breathing.

As a child, Harold started in the business by sweeping the floors of his father’s Sudbury jewellery store on the weekends and after school.  He developed an eye for detail working at the watchmaker’s bench and a love and understanding of jewellery.  This lead him, after his father’s death, to a period as a sales rep for JL Sabbath of Montreal and Siffari Jewellers of Toronto, and then on to his own store.  With his wife, Claire, by his side (in her own right the most savvy fashion jewellery buyer anywhere) Harold built the four-store guild chain called Gordon Jewellers.

He was one of the first independent American Gem Society jewellers in Canada.  At a time when store-owners were telling their salespeople to sell jewellery “just because it sparkles” Harold encouraged his people (as he called us) to take gemmological courses and even offered to pay for most of them.  Harold was an innovator.  In 1970 he was the first to decorate his stores in a single, themed colour;   he banned point of sale displays from his counters and giftware from his showcases.  He bought his diamonds and mountings separately.  A diamond customer could order by weight, quality or price point.  These things that are so common now, Harold was doing 40 years ago.

He became a Vice-President of Peoples Jewellers in 1975, but chafed at corporate restrictions.  After a heart-attack in 1976 he left retail to become a man of leisure but that was not really Harold’s style, and before Claire could object he was off to Bangkok to buy rubies and sapphires.  When he returned he opened a small coloured gemstone and appraisal business “just to keep himself busy”.  Here too he was an innovator, creating a workable diamond cut grade for appraisers that has served as a model for many other systems.

After working behind the scenes for many years on boards and committees, in 1990 he served as President of the Canadian Jewellers Association.  He was a founding member of Jewellers Vigilance Canada, and the first recipient of the Canadian Jeweller Hall of Fame Award as well as a proud member of the 24 Karat Club.

He retired for good in 1997 to spend more time up north fishing, one of his great loves.

His life was enriched by his daughters: Susan, a writer and gifted commentator on the human condition, and Ellen.  Ellen was at the root of another of Harold’s great loves, the community called Daybreak.  For many years, in the spring, Harold canvassed every jeweller, manufacturer, sales rep and stone dealer that he knew..no one was safe…to pledge support for him in the Daybreak walkathon, usually collecting the check before walking.  In his later years as a walker, if he couldn’t make the distance he simply raised the pledge per kilometer.  Over the years his efforts raised tens of thousands of dollars for the developmentally handicapped of this community and the world-wide work of L’Arche, the parent group.  For anyone wanting to remember Harold, a gift to Daybreak would make Claire happiest.

Harold touched many lives.  For me, Harold was a mentor, a friend and a surrogate father.  He was a constant source of good advice and wisdom.  He shared my joys and sorrows, he was a shoulder to cry on and to lean on for more than half my life.  I will miss him very much.

In quiet moments, Harold sometimes regretted that he did not retire a wealthy man.  If the sadnesses of those he left behind were dollars he died wealthy indeed.

Anne Neumann

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