Jules Sauer, Brazilian “Gemstone Hunter”

by | Feb 10, 2017 | Obituaries

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—Jules Sauer, a refugee from Nazi Europe who became one of the world’s leading gemstone and jewelry authorities, has died.

Sauer, who was nicknamed “Gemstone Hunter” after discovering Brazil’s first emerald mine in 1963, died Wednesday, Feb. 1 in that country. He was 95.

After finding the mine, German and English experts refused to recognize the stones as emeralds until Sauer turned to the Gemological Institute of America for a final verdict. He was vindicated and earned the new moniker, according to the website Metropoles.

“Gemstones are a one-time harvest,” he used to say.

In 1966, his high-end company Amsterdam Sauer was the first South American jeweler to win the Diamonds International Award, the most prestigious recognition in international jewelry. The Amsterdam Sauer Museum, in Rio, exhibits the largest private collection of precious gems in Latin America.

In 1939, the 18-year-old Frenchman fled the Nazis, first to Portugal and then to Brazil, where he would establish his firm. He opened his first store in 1956 beside the legendary Copacabana Palace hotel in Rio.

“I went to school until the day Hitler invaded Belgium on May 10, 1940,” Sauer told the Person’s Museum project. “I lived at my uncle’s house in Anvers, but that day my uncle was in England and I was alone. I had two bikes; I got the best and I left. Goodbye Belgium. I went to Lisbon by bicycle.”

Israel’s honorary consul, Osias Wurman, called Sauer “a pioneer in teaching gemstone faceting in Brazil.”

“He educated hundreds of young people in this noble profession, he just wanted to teach them a profession,” Wurman told JTA. “He was a humanist with touches of a philosopher.”

Sauer’s late wife, Zilda, was president emeritus of the Women’s International Zionist Organization in Brazil.