A highlight of the JA New York jewelry show, which took place last week, is always the presentation of the 2017 Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year award. 

This year, Lori Friedman of LORIANN Jewelry was the winner, applauded by a circle of fans toasting her with champagne. She’s in good company. Abelson, former JA trade show director, for whom the award was named, launched the inaugural New Designer Gallery 40 years ago. The gallery promoted brands that have risen to prominence, including David Yurman, Lagos, Charles Krypell and Penny Preville. By seeking out and cultivating emerging jewelry artists and proving they could be commercially viable outside of the craft-show circuit, Abelson broke down barriers for designers and eventually changed the merchandising strategy of many mainstream U.S. retailers.

True to the spirit of the Abelson tradition, Friedman doesn’t see herself as a trend follower. "Rather, I am following my passion. I don’t believe in rules or restrictions when it comes to jewelry. Never be hesitant to layer different themes or colors within my collection. It’s all abut wearing what you love and loving what you wear."

Friedman uses exclusively cut, organic-shaped gemstones for a natural, colorful effect drawn from “all that Mother Nature provides,” from sea life to plant life. Her handcrafted, one-of-a-kind jewelry is also clearly influenced by her hobby of watercolor painting. “Painting in watercolors has taught me to try colors that I would have never thought would work together, yet I found in juxtaposing the unexpected that the natural beauty of the gems are highlighted and they catch a woman’s eye and draw her in on a visceral and emotional level,” she says. Her debut at JA marked her first collection shown entirely in gold.INSTORE Loriann dome earrings 4x4 reflections

A piece from Lori Friedman's Garden Party Collection.

Here’s a sampling of jewelry from other designers that caught my eye in the design-themed sections of the show last week. Each of the collections is bold in its own way, whether it makes a statement through its size and detail, its creativity or its exuberant use of colorful gemstones.

Statement pieces? Yes, of course. But gemologist and designer Kate Hubley of K8 Jewelry Concepts Bijoux says her jewelry pieces are also conversation starters. Kate won a 2015 Saul Bell award for a sterling silver pendant called MagiSphere inspired by the city of Montreal, where she lives and where her jewelry is crafted. Kate says she only wears black and designs for other women who do, too. "I create fine jewelry for women who wear black. Iconic, elegant, powerful, mysterious, luxurious, eloquent, sexy black." Because, she says, "women who wear black wear colorful jewelry.” She also launched a fairytale engagement collection this year. INSTORE KateHubley1

INSTORE KateHubley2Kate is wearing a gold pendant called Lumina in 18K gold with gemstones. Also shown is her double ring in 18K gold.

Gigi Ferranti loves to layer, so she creates 14K gold geometric pieces that naturally complement each other while reflecting her inspirations: her Italian heritage and the country's ancient architecture. Her gem-studded rings can be combined to create what she calls a "super stack" of high style. Her angular silhouettes are splashed with exuberant colors -- with blue and pink sapphires, deeper pink tourmalines, pinkish-purple rhodolite garnets, tsavorite and lighter green sapphires. As a former boutique owner, Gigi is also rooted in fashion, and she says she's been wearing jewelry since she was an infant.

INSTORE GinaFerrantiOne standout piece attracting attention at the show: A yellow gold locket showcasing an Ethiopian opal with a blue sapphire accent on a 22-inch chain.

For Designer Pam Zamore of Chasseur Fine Jewelry, there’s powerful symbolism in jewelry. Her collection, boldly presented in sterling silver and gemstones, made its world debut at the show. Pam, who has a background in interior design, weaves together eclectic influences that range from art and architecture to American Indian jewelry, yoga symbols and Greek goddesses. She loves the juxtaposition of wearing jewelry from different periods and styles and combining textures and motifs. But what really sets her collection apart, she believes, is the attitude of the pieces. "It's the result of the way I see the world," she says. It even feels important and substantial.INSTORE PamZamore

This top-of-the-line Starburst diamond & moonstone cabochon cuff is made in America.

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