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Colorful ‘Rainbow Man’ Eddy Elzas Dies

Dec 12, 2021 4:20 AM   By Rapaport News
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RAPAPORT... Eddy Elzas, whom many credit with bringing color to the diamond trade, passed away in late November at age 79.

Elzas was born in the south of France but grew up in Antwerp after his family moved there following World War II. He entered the diamond trade after leaving school, working as a cleaver. However, he soon transitioned to trading, and in the early 1970s started working as a diamond broker selling goods for some of the larger South African sightholders.

Recognizing his ability to sell, a well-known diamond manufacturer called Elzas into his office in Johannesburg to show him an old cigar box overflowing with stones that couldn’t be sold as “they had no value whatsoever,” recounted his son, Dave Elzas. For Eddy, though, these undesired colored diamonds sparked a lifelong romance with fancy colors that came to define his career.

Elzas started to travel and learn about fancy colors, paying bargain prices for stones that other diamantaires simply didn’t want.

He would roam the exchanges of New York, Ramat Gan and Antwerp asking for diamonds that dealers would dust off from the back of their vaults, emerging as an early collector and advocate for fancy-color stones. In the early ’80s, he received a certificate from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) stating that of the 8,000 fancy-color diamonds it had graded, 6,000 had been submitted by Elzas, according to Dave Elzas. His expertise was sought by princes, sultans, maharajas and Hollywood stars, the son added.

Elzas became well-known for his Rainbow Collection — a montage of 300 fancy-color diamonds that is now held by the family. The stones have been exhibited more than 50 times at various locations around the world.

He also used his sometimes-brash personality to market the product and his company, Rainbow Gems. Elzas became recognized for a cheeky advertisement in which he shows the middle finger, adorned with a yellow diamond ring, with a blank expression on his face and the caption, “Who said a diamond should be white.”

“My father was a larger-than-life character,” Dave reminisced, adding to the sentiment that others in the trade shared.

“When I came into the business, the Rainbow Man was a true superhero,” recalled Lea Retter, managing director of Rapaport Belgium. “He sparkled more than his diamonds and had a passion for the trade that we don’t see today.”

Elzas is survived by his son, Dave, daughter, Pamela, and four granddaughters.

Image: The late Eddy Elzas with the Rainbow Collection. (The Elzas family)
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Tags: colored diamonds, diamonds, Eddy Elzas, fancy colors, Rainbow Gems, Rapaport News
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