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Joris, Joannes Julius Alphonsus (1888–1963)

by Kevin Fahy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Joannes Julius Alphonsus Joris (1888-1963), diamondcutter and merchant, was born on 27 February 1888 at Broechem in the province of Antwerp, Belgium, second of five sons of Joannes Alphonsus Joris, diamondcutter, and his wife Maria Dorothea, née Luyckx. His forebears had been farmers in the region since the twelfth century, but closer generations had entered the diamond trade. Alphonsus Joris trained all his sons as diamondcutters. Jules found employment with several diamond merchants at Antwerp. There, on 10 June 1911, he married Maria Henrica Francisca Dekkers (1889-1959) in a civil ceremony at the town hall.

Early in World War I Joris was seconded from the Belgian Army and sent to Birmingham, England, where he supervised the manufacture of diamond tools at the factories of Kynock Ltd and Birmingham Small Arms Co. Ltd. When the war ended he returned to Antwerp and the gemstone trade, but continued to work with industrial diamonds and was associated with Fabrique Nationale, Liège. Within a decade he was employing forty workmen to cut and facet diamonds.

About 1929 Joris decided to emigrate to South Africa. A chance meeting with an Australian family led him to change his destination. With his wife and children, Albert and Elza, he reached Sydney in the Oder on 4 March 1930. They settled at Bondi, before shifting to Wahroonga. Jules started business in George Street in the city, but soon moved to the Bank of New South Wales building in Pitt Street where he was assisted by his son and daughter. His experience with industrial diamonds was quickly recognized.

Following the outbreak of World War II, the Ministry of Munitions prohibited the cutting and polishing of diamonds for jewellery, allowing them to be used only for precision industrial tools. Joris acquired larger premises above the Commercial Bank of Australia, Pitt Street. His was the first and only business in the country that was able to comply with the full extent of the Federal government's wartime requirements. Helped by Albert, he made machines, projectors and jigs previously unprocurable in Australia and eventually an accurate diamond-piercing machine to produce dies for very fine wires.

The firm drew on diamond fields at Copeton in northern New South Wales, but its supplies were largely from South Africa, even in wartime. Joris had long recognized the possibilities of diamond-producing areas of Australia and revealed his fascination with their history and potential in his contribution to I. L. Idriess's Stone of Destiny (1948). Joris gave samples of Australian diamonds to the Mining and Geological Museum, Sydney. After the war he and his son formed a company, Diamond and Boart Products (Australia) Pty Ltd. Jules handled the gemstone trade, and Albert the manufacture and design of diamond tools and industrial machines.

A well-developed and fit man who was capable of dealing with intruders, Jules Joris was a keen gymnast and fond of surfing. As a young man he was an amateur wrestler and boxer. He possessed a good sense of humour and was an artist of some proficiency. Survived by his son and daughter, he died on 13 August 1963 in a railway train near Chatswood station and was buried in the Catholic section of Northern Suburbs cemetery. Arthur Fleischmann's statue of Joris is in the family's possession.

Select Bibliography

  • D. P. Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry (Canb, 1958)
  • I. L. Idriess, The Diamond (Syd, 1969)
  • A. Joris, A Destiny in Diamonds (Brisb, 1986)
  • K. A. Lodewycks, The Belgians in Australia (Brisb, 1988)
  • People (Sydney), 31 Jan 1951
  • Commonwealth Jeweller and Watchmaker, 10 Mar 1959, 19 Oct 1963
  • naturalisation file A659/1, item 40/1/415 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Kevin Fahy, 'Joris, Joannes Julius Alphonsus (1888–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/joris-joannes-julius-alphonsus-10645/text18921, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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