Founded in 1903 by Lazare Kaplan in Antwrep, Belgium, Lazare Kaplan International is the largest manufacturer of diamonds in the United States. The Kaplan family has a long history in the jewelry industry. His great-grandfather was once a jeweler and watchmaker and his love of the business passed on to future generations. He apprenticed under diamond cutter Abraham Tolkowski, Kaplans great grandfather, at the age of 13.
He became most well-known for cutting imperfect stones and became very successful in Belgium until the war which wiped him out. He started over again in the United States until the war came and he moved to Puerto Fico after losing many of his diamond cutters to the war. The plant was very successful until the market crash on October 29, 1929. Wiped out once again, he borrowed $300 dollars from his son to start over.
By the 1970’s, Lazare Kaplan & Sons became one of the largest diamond manufacturers in the United States. Their sales were $12 million in 1971 when they took the company public to raise capital for their expansion.
In 1981, investors withdrew from the market when the value of quality stones he held plummeted by up to 70%.
In the 1970’s, Maurice and Leon Templeton out of New York entered the jewelry market. They sought to expand their business after the downturn in the market and chose to purchase Lazare Kaplan International. They began a comprehensive campaign to educate consumers about the value of high quality diamonds. They produced the first branded diamonds which were lazered with a serial number and Lazare logo on the girdle.
In the 1980’s, Lazare Kaplan entered into an agreement of wheat for diamonds deal with the Belgian Congo. Because of his ties with the Kennedy era through the Clinton era, his “connections and experience in dealing with the political sphere facilitated Lazare Kaplan’s growing international business alliances”. Many agreements and transactions later, Lazare Kaplan International returned to profitability in 1987 with $52 million dollars in sales. Since then, sales have sky rocketed to $266 million dollars in 1996.