By Rob Bates
Tino Hammid—the California photographer whose exquisitely rendered gem portraits graced catalogs for Christie’s, GIA education materials, and numerous trade publications—died of cancer on July 11. He was 63.
The son of a noted filmmaker, Hammid started in gem photography at the Gemological Institute of America, where he worked as a staff photographer from 1980 to 1982. The next year, he began a 25-year association with writer David Federman, supplying photos for Modern Jeweler’s monthly Gem Profile column. Together, they won two Jesse H. Neal awards from American Business Media.
“I always felt Tino was the Richard Avedon of gem photography,” says Federman. “He didn’t take pictures, he took portraits. Colored stones ‘sat’ for him the way celebrities sat for Avedon. Someday they’ll honor Tino as a pioneer of gem and jewelry portraiture with an exhibition of his work.”
His work later appeared in catalogs for Christie’s and in The Handbook of Gemmology.
Robert Weldon, manager of photography and visual communication for GIA, says he “always admired” Hammid’s work.
Of Hammid’s photographs, Weldon says, “They are beautiful because of the attention he paid to detail—the attention he paid to the lighting, the positioning of the stone. His photos are all about the gem. His photography of gemstones have become the definition of excellence in what a gem photograph should be.”
On a personal level, Weldon remembers him as “a straightforward human being, as uncluttered as his photographs were. He was a real mensch.”
Gem dealer Alan Bronstein, who worked with Hammid on two books and photographs of the Aurora collection, called him “one of the greatest living gem photographers of our time.”
“Tino always strived for the purest, cleanest, and most honest photographs of the true color of cut and uncut gemstones,” he says. “His integrity was unparalleled in his life and his work.”
Industry members expressed their admiration for Hammid’s work on his Facebook page. Many have also contributed to his medical treatment on Go Fund Me.
He is survived by wife Petra, son Tobias, and two daughters, Evelyn and Antonia.