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South African Diamantaire Louis Lipchin Dies

Feb 18, 2021 11:00 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... South Africa’s diamond industry lost one of its stalwarts last week with the passing of Louis Lipchin at the age of 90. Lipchin was passionate about the local trade and a vocal advocate on behalf of young entrepreneurs, particularly those from disadvantaged communities.

Born in Johannesburg, he was a first-generation diamantaire, beginning as an apprentice after leaving school. His career spanned nearly 70 years as his familiar presence in the halls of Johannesburg’s now-defunct Jewel City continued until his retirement just over four years ago.

Lipchin’s work included incarnations as a jewelry manufacturer, polished dealer, and rough trader. 

Most striking to those who knew him was his willingness to help others in the trade. “He had an open-door policy and was always ready to share his knowledge about the industry,” recalled his son Ross Lipchin, who operates as a dealer in Johannesburg.

That extended to fighting to improve conditions in the industry, noted Lionel Noach, president of the Diamond Dealers Club of South Africa. Lipchin served on the club’s board in the ’70s and ’80s. He was also the chairman of his native country’s Diamond Merchants Association for a period, according to Noach.

“Louis went out of his way to help, especially young diamantaires from disadvantaged communities,” Noach added. “And he stood up for what he felt was right.”

Lipchin fought for greater transparency in the trade, a position that often left him at odds with large sightholders, who wielded the most influence in South Africa’s diamond trade at the time. In later years, he was a vocal critic of the country’s seemingly misdirected beneficiation policy. To his frustration, the legislation reduced the supply of gem-quality goods available for the beneficiation sector — a policy that was contrary to its intention, he explained to Rapaport Magazine in a 2008 interview.

Lipchin's willingness to help extended to members of the international trade when they visited South Africa. He was always welcoming and generous with his time and knowledge to this journalist and other employees of the Rapaport Group.

“Louis Lipchin was a friend. Not just to me but to everyone who came to South Africa, seeking to do diamond business. He felt it was his personal responsibility to help the diamond community. To open up opportunities for others. And he was personable, warm and caring. Someone you could talk to about anything. A good man with honest advice,” said Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group.

Lipchin is survived by his wife, Rhoda; his sons, Steven, Ross, Judd and Craig; and eight grandchildren.

Image: Louis Lipchin. (Lipchin family)

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Tags: Avi Krawitz, beneficiation, Diamond Dealers Club, diamonds, Louis Lipchin, South Africa
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