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In Memoriam: Jewelry Designer Cornelis Hollander |  January 03, 2018 (11 comments)


Scottsdale, AZ—Legendary jewelry designer Cornelis Hollander died December 26 after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 69.

Hollander, born in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, emigrated to the United States where he quickly became one of the early leaders in American designer jewelry. This was during the 1980s and 1990s when designer jewelry was still an experimental category, and retail jewelers were reluctant to try to sell the unusual pieces or to sell them under the designer’s name instead of the store name. Hollander was renowned for his sculptural designs—especially split shanks—that incorporated distinctive colored gems and geometric gem shapes.


He also was renowned for his tremendous sense of humor. Throughout his cancer treatments, he kept a positive attitude and his humor intact, posting images on Facebook and describing his chemo infusions as flavored cocktails, always making sure his Facebook friends had an ongoing view of the crazy socks and hats he wore to the hospital.

His humor also softened his blunt way of telling it like it is, such as when it came to design copying. “Even suing the hell out of the @#%$! doesn’t help,” he once observed to me in an interview for an article about knockoffs that I wrote in the 1990s when I was fashion editor of JCK.

If there was one thing Hollander loved as much as his beloved gemstones and jewelry, it was wheeled things that go fast. He rode both motorcycles and cars with abandon, and frequently terrified any passengers brave enough to join him. Marylouise Sirignano Lugosch, executive director of the Contemporary Jewelry Design Group, recalls a terrified Susan Sadler (a CJDG designer based in Tulsa, OK), getting out of Hollander’s car:

“When Couture was still at the Phoenician in Scottsdale, CJDG used to send four designers [to attend] and showcase 16 designers’ work, four per showcase. Because Cornelis was in Scottsdale and he had a vault, we would send the jewelry to him and he would drive it to the Phoenician. One year, Susan Sadler was one of the designers and he picked her up at the airport in one of his hot little cars, and drove her and the jewelry to the Phoenician. She thought she wouldn’t live through the drive! He drove so fast and like a race car driver. Susan said she’d never been so terrified, but he laughed the whole time.”

Hollander loved color in both his jewelry and his life. Orange was a special favorite and he horrified many of his biker and auto aficionado friends with his insistence on wearing orange jackets for riding and/or painting his bikes and cars orange or other vivid colors.

One such automobile was a little red and yellow Mazda Miata convertible, painted on the diagonal like the nautical flag that symbolizes the letter O. Hollander and I shared many laughs at various trade shows over the years and he was always ready to make time for an interview, but my best memory of him will always be in the mid-1990s when he picked me up at the Phoenician in that car.  

For one thing, I had always wanted a Miata convertible myself. They’re not terribly practical in Philadelphia, so I never got one, but I enjoyed riding in Cornelis’s. As for that ride, either he was being kind to the press or I don’t scare as easily as Susan, because I remember it as exhilarating rather than terrifying. I’m sure we went fast, but we didn’t go airborne or up on two wheels.

Hollander is survived by his wife, Christa, who worked in the business with him since its founding in 1984. He also is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Dominica and David Dieffenbach, son Walter Hollander, daughter Estella Hollander, and grandchildren Evan and Claire Dieffenbach. Walter, who has worked with Cornelis in the business for 10 years and been very involved with designing for the past six years, will carry it on.

“My dad was most proud of just being able to create whatever he wanted and being successful at it. He loved traveling the world and having a great family all supported by the cool jewelry he creates,” Walter Hollander told The Centurion. “He was an honest man, a hard worker, and always had a positive attitude. I am grateful for him and just want to honor him by continuing the love of jewelry and design.”

A celebration of life ceremony will be held February 11; details will be posted when they are finalized. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the hospital where Hollander received his cancer treatment. Click here for the link or send to HonorHealth Foundation, 8125 N. Hayden Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85258.

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Comments (11):

Dear Christa and family
So so sorry to hear about Cornelius. Many fond memories from our time together at American Jewelry Design Council. Sending heartfelt condolences and prayers
Love Linda

By Linda Orlick on Jan 4th, 2018 at 3:55pm

Rest in Peace, Cornelis. You’re a great person who will be greatly missed.—Howard

By Howard Hauben on Jan 4th, 2018 at 4:01pm

Cornelis, a tremendous talent and a beautiful man, deserving of much respect and appreciation, He will be missed.
Thank you Cornelis for your valuable contribution of beauty and ingenuity.

Zoltan David

By zoltan david on Jan 4th, 2018 at 4:14pm

In the words of Cornelis: “Shit Man!” The world has lost another great man.

By Daniel McAdams on Jan 4th, 2018 at 5:15pm

Our condolences to the family.

By Neal Elinoff on Jan 4th, 2018 at 5:37pm

Cornelis was an incredibly positive person throughout his life. He was a hoot to work with and will be missed by all. I remember trying to follow him to the Las Vegas show from Scottsdale one year…Brutal!  But a blast. To Cees, driving was a competition.  Condolences to Christa and the family.  Rest in Peace my friend.  Anthony

By Anthony Hugo on Jan 4th, 2018 at 7:30pm

So Sorry to hear about Cornelis and we send our condolences to you Christa and your family. Cees made my wife’s first wedding ring back in 1984, when he was just getting going in his career. He was a real pro and an innovative designer.
Life is fragile!
God Bless,
Gary & Jo Anne Wright

By Gary Wright on Jan 4th, 2018 at 9:42pm

Being a Dutch jewelry designer as well, I had the greatest admiration for Cornelis’ designs. However, his kind of humor and his love for the color orange, we both shared, will never be erased. He was the man that could call you $!*#@! and you would take it as a compliment. Being able to talk Dutch with him about many different topics has been a therapy for me. Cees, “Shine on you little diamond!” Condolences to the Hollander family.

By Harold van Beek on Jan 7th, 2018 at 4:01pm

Christa and your family you have our condolences. We shall miss Cornelis and always remember him every time we look at my wife’s wedding ring and other pieces which he created. He was an artist. It was always fun to come to come and talk with him and to see the new designs he created.

By Marc & Lynn Stern on Jan 9th, 2018 at 10:25pm

The world has lost a great talent in Cornelis. My condolences to Christa and the whole family. I will always treasure the ring that Cornelis personally designed for me!

By Kevin Callahan on Jan 14th, 2018 at 11:03pm

Cornelis Hollander.  A man who made an eternal impression on my soul.  Working under his unique supervision, as a know-nothing new hire with a cast on my arm, Cornelis’ willingness to teach me his method of casting and wax modelling showed how unpretentious and down to earth his approach to design was.  Every day gave another glimpse into the mind of his genius.  I see his influential designs in countless wannabe Hollanders.  He changed jewelry design industry wide.  Period!
Always remembered and forever quoted!!!  My favorite being, while casting “F#%@ Man, That’s Hot!!!”

By James Belliston on Aug 8th, 2018 at 3:05am

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