Gem dealer, world traveler, activist, Dana Schorr passed away on 5 August 2015 at age 63, following a heart attack.
6 August 2015 – Dana Schorr was a close friend of mine. Despite the great distance between Santa Barbara and Bangkok, we stayed in contact and often spoke to each other more than once a week.
Dana at heart was a rebel. Prior to getting into gems, he was involved in radical politics, with the Students for a Democratic Society, from what I understand. It was this that led him to get involved with printing, so that messages could be more widely spread.
While Dana did not have a religious bone in his body, he explained to me once that his Jewish upbringing taught him to question everything. He told me that in Judaism, there is traditionally no dogma, and that all ideas should be questioned and argued, something which he practiced “religiously.”
Dana was a seeker, a seeker of truth. His questioning of others often created discomfort, because it forced them to reexamine ideas that they had previously accepted blindly.
He got involved in the gem business in the 1980’s, which is when I first met him (in Bangkok). But it was only after I returned to live in the US that I came to know Dana well. He was heavily involved in the tanzanite trade and made numerous trips to Tanzania. I believe that was how he first became interested in the situation of artisanal miners in developing nations.
In 2004, I invited him to join me on a trip to Burma’s ruby and jade mines and Cambodia’s mines. The following year we visited Madagascar. 2006 saw us in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, 2011 we went to Tibet and in 2013, Dana and I toured East Africa (Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia). All of these trips involved visiting colored stone mines, most of them artisanal.
In the last couple years, Dana became interested in the various measures being proposed for corporate social responsibility in the colored stone realm. He spent a lot of time looking at the various initiatives and drafted some withering critiques, based on his own experience working with colored stones. I can say with some certainty that he was not the most popular guy in the room. But as Mark Twain once said: "The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.”
I attended a panel discussion in London in November 2014 at the Gem-A where Dana was one of the speakers (along with Greg Valerio and Vivien Johnston). Despite the fact that he couldn’t spell dog if you spotted him a D and a G, he gave an eloquent presentation that laid out many of the problems with the proposals being put forward by groups like the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) and Precious Stones Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Working Group (PS-MSWG). Perhaps the best presentation I’ve seen on the subject (Greg and Vanessa’s presentations were great, too).
Dana was one of my closest friends. I often disagreed with him, but always knew where his heart was. I’m devastated at the news. The world will be a less pleasant place without his smile, without his laughter, without his intellectual challenges, without his heart.
- Graff, M. (2015) Dana Schorr, gemstone dealer, dies at 63. National Jeweler, 6 August.
- Hughes, R.W., Pardieu, V. & Schorr, D. (2005) Sorcerers and Sapphires: A visit to Madagascar.
- Hughes, R.W., Pardieu, V., Soubira, G. & Schorr, D. (2006) Moon over the Pamirs: Chasing ruby and spinel in Tajikistan.
- Hughes, R.W., Hughes, E.B., Manorotkul, W. & Schorr, D. (2011) In Search of the Lost Andesine Mines • Part II • Faith.
- Schorr, D (2012) Andesine & labradorite from Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Mexico & Oregon: A panel discussion.
- Schorr, Dana (2014) Eight questions for the PSMSWG.