Roland Naftule passed away on April 1, 2023, at the age of 85 after a long struggle with cancer.
He went peacefully, surrounded by his cherished loved ones, placing a final punctuation mark
on a long life of accomplishment, integrity, and adventure.
Though he was born in Switzerland in 1937, few people epitomized the American dream of
upward mobility and success through hard work like Roland Naftule. The son of Jean and
Claire-Lyse, Roland was born to a family that already had several generations involved in the
gem business. While his ancestor Leon Naftule had ushered the family into a world of fine
lapidary and colored stones, it was Roland who made the name Naftule synonymous with
colored gemstones after he came to the U.S. and established NAFCO Gems with his father.
Roland’s tireless work ethic and ambition expanded NAFCO Gems into an international
concern, spurring him to often travel to Thailand, Tanzania, Brazil, Russia, Ireland, and other
countries. He was as much an ambassador for the gem trade as he was a businessman, forging
lifelong friendships, connections, and mentorships with many people in the industry.
Roland became involved with several major gemstone trade organizations which include the
ICA (International Colored Gemstone Association), the GIA (Gemological Institute of America),
and the AGTA (American Gem Trade Association), and the CIBJO (The World Jewellery Confederation).
Roland was a founding member of the AGTA and served as its president from 1983-1985; he was also a
founding member of ICA, serving as its first president from 1984 -1989 and served as vice president and
Sector A president of CIBJO. Roland continued to work with the AGTA as a Chairman of their Industry
Rules Committee and later served on the Board of Governors of the AGTA Gemological Testing Center. In
1989 he was the founding organizer and first chairman of the Gemstone Industry & Laboratory
Long after his retirement from the business, he continued to remain involved in the industry and
would gladly offer his wisdom and expertise to his colleagues. While gemstones would always
be the great professional passion of his life, he was a man of wide-ranging interests. A
gourmand and avid collector of stamps, antique guns, art, and wine, Roland would often share
his love of the finer things with friends and family. Perhaps the only thing he worked on as hard
and with as much loving care as his business was his garden, which he diligently cultivated for
A devoted family man, Roland continued the Naftule family tradition by entrusting his daughters
Myriam and Stephanie with the future of NAFCO Gems after he retired. Roland is survived by
his wife Fabienne, his daughters, his son Ashley, his step-daughters Alison and Margaux, and
his beloved grandchildren Rachel, Ethan, Dylan, and Daisy. He will be deeply missed.