By  on October 30, 2007

Hans Stern, founder of jewelry and gemstone firm H.Stern, died on Friday of complications from an infection, the company said. He was 85.

He was a proponent of colored gemstones, many from Brazil, helping to raise awareness and the value of colored gemstones on a global level.

Stern, a native of Essen, Germany, immigrated to Brazil in 1939. Just 17 years old, he became enamored with colored stones when working at Cristab, a Rio de Janeiro-based exporter of minerals and gems. Stern, who was born almost blind, became transfixed by the gemstones and eventually collected more than 1,000 faceted tourmalines, which are now on exhibit at the H.Stern museum in Rio. He was a pioneer in introducing gems such as tourmalines and citrine to the fine jewelry world.

As a young man, Stern went on buying trips through the Brazilian countryside, sometimes on mule or horseback, camping in the wilderness.

He founded H.Stern in 1945 as a gemstone trading business. It eventually evolved into a jewelry business, as well. Stern prided himself on promoting and encouraging young talent. He arrived at work at the firm's Ipanema office at 8 a.m. daily until recently when he started at 8:30 a.m., which he described as "semiretirement."

Stern was named an "Honorary Citizen" of Rio in 1956, for his passionate and enthusiastic (unofficial) ambassadorship.

H.Stern's fine jewelry line focuses on the modern, independent woman. The firm also has successfully collaborated with designer Diane von Furstenberg and hair stylist Frédéric Fekkai on collections — unlikely partnerships in the world of fine jewelry. The company has 160 family owned and operated boutiques and 170 points of sale in 26 countries.

Stern is survived by his wife, Ruth, and four sons, Roberto, Ronaldo, Ricardo and Rafael, and six grandchildren. Roberto and Ronaldo are president and vice president of the company, respectively. Hans Stern was chairman and his four sons sit on the board.

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