Shlomo Moussaieff (businessman)

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Shlomo Moussaieff
Native name Hebrew: שלמה מוסאיוף
Born Shlomo Moussaieff
1925 (age 88–89)
Jerusalem
Residence London
Occupation Jewelry merchant
Years active 1950s to present
Organization Moussaieff Jewellery Ltd.
Known for Dealer in exclusive diamonds and gemstones
Biblical antiquities collector
Spouse(s) Alisa
Children Dorrit
Tamara
Sharon
Parents Rehavia Moussaieff
Relatives Shlomo Moussaieff, grandfather
Website
www.moussaieff.co.uk

Shlomo Moussaieff (born 1925) is an Israeli multimillionaire of Bukharan Jewish descent who has lived in London since 1963.[1] Founder of Moussaieff Jewellers Ltd., he and his wife and business partner, Alisa, were ranked No. 315 on the Sunday Times Rich List 2011, with a fortune estimated at £220 million (US$352.6 million).[2] Moussaieff made most of his fortune selling precious jewellery to international royalty and high society, especially Arabs from Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states. He speaks Arabic fluently.[3] In addition, Moussaieff is regarded as one of the world's top private collectors of antiquities associated with the Bible and ancient Near East,[4] with a collection of 60,000 artefacts.[3]

Early life[edit]

Moussaieff is the second of 12 children of Rehavia Moussaieff, a Jerusalem-born jewellery dealer.[5] He was named for his grandfather, Shlomo Moussaieff, a wealthy Bukharan merchant who was one of the founders of the Bukharim neighbourhood in Jerusalem in 1891.[6] Rehavia, who later traded in fine gems in Paris,[7] introduced Shlomo to the jewellery trade at a young age.[8] Shlomo's youngest brother, Alon, also became a Jerusalem jewellery dealer. Several of his sisters own jewellery stores: Hannah in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, Naomi in London, and Aviva in Geneva.[9]

His father, a strict and often cruel disciplinarian,[5] threw him out of the house at the age of 12 because he could not fulfill his father's dream of him being a scholar; Moussaieff says he had dyslexia and was unable to read and write.[3][9] He began sleeping in synagogues,[3] buses, and even the street,[9] and worked for a carpenter in Sanhedria.[10] After hours, he hung around the Second Temple-era Tombs of the Sanhedrin in the nearby park. Inside the caves, which were then open to the public, he discovered ancient coins that he sold to traders. He also carved up lead coffins and sold the lead in the Armenian Quarter.[9] Apprehended and beaten by an Arab policeman, he was brought before an Arab judge and sentenced to nine months in a reform school in Tulkarm. He asked to learn in a madrassa, where he found it easy to learn the Koran by heart, and became familiar with Arab culture.[3]

In 1940 Moussaieff joined the Etzel to battle British rule in Palestine.[9] Upon the recommendation of his Etzel leader, he joined the British Army at age 17 to fight Nazi Germany during World War II. Stationed in the Egyptian desert and Livorno, Italy, he searched through synagogue genizot (treasuries) during his free time and bought old Kabbalah manuscripts and marriage contracts written by well-known rabbis.[3][10] In 1947 he rejoined the Etzel to battle the Arab Legion in the Old City of Jerusalem. When the city fell to the Jordanians in 1948, he was taken captive and imprisoned for one year in Transjordan. He married his wife, Alisa, an Austrian native,[9] two weeks before he went into captivity.[3]

Jewelry dealer[edit]

After his release, Moussaieff worked in his family's jewellery store[9] and opened his own antique jewellery shop in downtown Jerusalem.[3] He supplemented his income by smuggling "gold and antiquities from Jordan to Israel" in the 1950s. During this time he came in contact with Moshe Dayan, another confirmed antiquities smuggler, and provided Dayan with artefacts in exchange for the use of Dayan's car for transporting smuggled goods.[1][9] In 1954 he was detained under suspicion of stealing 1,000 coins and other antiquities from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Moussaieff claimed he had "paid full price" for the items, but would not disclose the seller. He was released after his wife returned the lot to the Jerusalem District Police.[9]

In 1963 he decided to move to London, citing the "constant fear of being caught" by his smuggling activities.[9] He opened his first jewellery shop in the lobby of the London Hilton on Park Lane,[3] and subsequently opened another store on London's Bond Street. Sales began to pick up in 1967 when wealthy Arabs from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states started patronising London jewellers.[9] He and his wife operated the business in partnership;[7] she managed sales while he designed the jewellery.[8] In addition to diamonds, coloured gemstones, and natural pearls, Moussaieff re-set stones and pearls that he acquired at antique jewellery auctions into new jewellery designs.[7]

Today Moussaieff Jewellers Ltd. has two London stores and a shop at the Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneve in Switzerland.[11] Most customers desire gems worth more than £1 million (US$1.6 million).[9] Moussaieff's clients have included government figures such as Imelda Marcos and Princess Ashraf and Princess Shams of Iran, and celebrities Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Stavros Niarchos, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Joan Collins, Bob Cummings, Shirley MacLaine, George Raft, Peter Sellers, and Frank Sinatra.[3][8] In the late 1990s he developed a following among affluent Israelis.[9]

Moussaieff owns rare stones worth millions of dollars, such as the Moussaieff Blue Diamond, a flawless 6.04 carat stone that Alisa purchased at a 2007 Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong for $7.98 million, setting a world record in price per carat, with a final bid of $1.32 million per carat.[12] The Moussaieff Red Diamond, a trilliant cut, 5.11 carat red diamond purchased in 2001 or 2002,[7] is the world's largest known red diamond.[13]

Moussaieff retired from the business in 2004. His wife Alisa continues to oversee sales, designs and acquisitions.[7][14][15]

Antiquities collector[edit]

Moussaieff is widely regarded as one of the foremost private collectors of antiquities of the Bible and ancient Near East.[16] According to his own estimate, he owns 60,000 artefacts,[3] specialising in ancient manuscripts and personal seals from the First and Second Temple periods.[10][17]

Since he is willing to pay top dollar for antiquities that can prove the historical truth of the Bible, antiquities experts believe that some fakes and outright forgeries are included in his collection.[10] In 2004[10] Moussaieff testified as a victim in a forgery trial involving the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Inscription.[18] Moussaieff had bought two ostracons (inscriptions on pottery shards) from Oded Golan, one of the defendants in the trial; these purchases were also determined to be forgeries.[19] In March 2012 the defendants were acquitted of the forgery charges.[18] Moussaieff was also involved in a seven-year lawsuit filed against him by the Republic of Iran, accusing him of stealing artefacts from ancient Nineveh after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Though Moussaieff claimed he had bought the antiquities legitimately from a Swiss dealer, he returned them all to the Iranian government to avoid undue publicity.[3]

Personal[edit]

Moussaieff and his wife, Alisa, reside on Grosvenor Square in the Mayfair district of London.[20] They have three daughters.[9] Their second daughter, Tamar, works in the business with them.[8] Their eldest, Dorrit, is the First Lady of Iceland and is married to the current President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson.[21]

Works discussing Moussaieff's antiquities collection[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Ben Zvi, Ehud (2006). Perspectives on Hebrew Scriptures: Comprising the Contents of Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, Vols. 1–4. Gorgias Press. p. 517. ISBN 1593333102. 
  2. ^ "Jewellery Rich List 2011". Professional Jeweller. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Feldinger, Lauren Gelfond (17 April 2012). "The Genuine Article". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  4. ^ Deutsch, Robert; Lemaire, André (2000). Biblical Period Personal Seals in the Shlomo Moussaieff Collection. Archaeological Center Publications. p. 3. ISBN 9659024053. 
  5. ^ a b Yavin, Jonathan (22 January 2004). "A Match Made in Heaven". Haaretz. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Bukharim – Beit Yisrael". Jerusalem Municipality. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Moussaieff Jewelers". GemSelect. 22 July 2008. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Shlomo Moussaieff". The Connoisseur (National Magazine Co.) (218): 100–103. 1988. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "A Man of Good Fortune". Haaretz. 10 October 2001. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Ben Zvi, Sarah Jo (2010). "Solomon's Treasures". Segula. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  11. ^ "Moussaieff Jewellers website". Moussaieff Jewellers Ltd. 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  12. ^ "Blue Diamond Sets New World Record in Price Per Carat". Hindustan Times. 9 October 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  13. ^ "The Splendor of Diamonds: The Moussaieff Red". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  14. ^ "Special Report: A Cut Above: Jewelry; An Exceptional Rainbow of Rare Stones". The New York Times. 11 December 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  15. ^ Razaq, Rashid (8 April 2010). "It's a Steal Says Jeweller Who Paid £4.2m for Dome Raid Diamond". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  16. ^ Block, Daniel I.; Cribb, Bryan H.; Smith, Gregory S. (2008). Israel: Ancient kingdom or late invention?. B&H Publishing Group. p. 67. ISBN 0805446796. 
  17. ^ Deutsch and Lemaire (2000), p. 5.
  18. ^ a b "The Response of the Israel Antiquities Authority to the Verdict by the Jerusalem District Court in the Matter of the Forgeries Trial". American Schools of Oriental Research. 14 March 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  19. ^ "VERDICT: NOT GUILTY – Two remaining defendants cleared of forgery charges after 5-year trial". The Times of Israel. 14 March 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  20. ^ Shanks, Hershel (2010). Freeing the Dead Sea Scrolls: And Other Adventures of an Archaeology Outsider. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 200. ISBN 1441152172. 
  21. ^ "Dorrit Moussaieff". Office of the President of Iceland. 2006. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 

External links[edit]