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Jewelry Designer Lecil Henderson Was a ‘Pièce Unique’

He recently died at age 62.




Lecil and Barbra

Lecil Henderson and Barbara Palumbo

THE FIRST VIVID memory I have of Lecil Henderson’s dedication to his friends and colleagues in the jewelry industry goes back to December 2013. At the time, I was working as a sales rep for a company that shall not be named and Lecil and I were both attending a three-day holiday trunk event on the East Coast.

The man I was working for was less than, shall we say, kind? I was expected to stand in heels on my feet for 10 hours without a break, and when I asked if I could be relieved of my duties long enough to grab a bite to eat and get a drink of water, I was told by said “boss” that I should “go choke.” Lecil and his cohort, Ann Bryant Gieser, were in earshot, and it was the first and probably only time I saw him get angry in all the years I knew him.

“Barbara, I’m telling you right now, I will help you find work elsewhere, but you don’t deserve to be spoken to like that,” he said. “No one deserves that. You need to get out and you need to do that soon.

“Whatever you need to make that happen, I will be behind you. We will support you. Ann and I have your back.”

I went to bed that night in my mediocre hotel room and let those words run through my head over and over. Here was a man I barely knew who was witness to how I and so many women before me have been treated by controlling bosses in this industry.


He didn’t know me other than the few times we’d passed one another at shows. And yet here he was, letting me know that he was there for me — that he had my back, and that I needed to get out and fast. Why, though? Why would anyone care? No one did before, so why would anyone now?

The next day, my “boss” saw that a snowstorm was about to hit the city where we were working. He decided to go home early, leaving me stranded in said city for two extra days during the Christmas season because of canceled flights. It was at that moment I realized that Lecil Henderson was a man of honor. He knew what was going to happen. He knew I had two very small children waiting for me at home during the holidays. And he tried his best to warn me, in a way that only Lecil could, so that I wouldn’t be disrespected in that way ever again. So that was the day I decided to quit. The way I saw it, if a man who barely knew me knew what was best for me, why couldn’t I see it, too?

From that point, Lecil Henderson became one of my closest friends and confidantes in the jewelry industry. And while Lecil’s circle of friends was wide — we’re talking equator-sized — he made each feel like the only one he had. Each of us was special to him.

Each of his friends earned a place in his life and in his heart, which explains why that heart of his was so damned big.

As someone who is an acquired taste in the jewelry industry, even welcoming the haters here and there, I look at people like Lecil and wonder how they get to be so likable without BS-ing people. Lecil had a skill, a gift. He’d make — not just find — the time for people. He never had to go out of his way to ask you how you were because asking you a question like that came so naturally to him. He saw the good in everyone, and if he saw the good in you he never wanted you to see the bad, so he built you up by highlighting your positives and offering his help so that you could be successful. To say that he was one in a million would be an understatement. He was, as the horological world says when something is 1 of 1, a “pièce unique.”

On top of being the kindest, most genuinely caring man I’ve ever met in the jewelry world (and please know that I’m not being hyperbolic here), Lecil was always the hardest worker in the room. Anyone who was friends with him on Facebook was in awe of his travel schedule.


He would do in-store appearances four to five times every week at times, coast to coast, and from north to south. He’d always tag the jewelry stores in which he’d appeared afterward, thanking their teams, their clients and the owners, and calling all of them his “friends.” And they were. They all were. WE all were. We were all Lecil Henderson’s friends, and he loved every one of us, but even more importantly, he showed us that he loved us.

What I will miss the most – and please understand that this has been quite difficult for me to write because this wonderful soul of a man did and still does hold a very special place in my heart – will be how he always greeted me. Lecil always referred to me as “Miss Barbara.”

“How are you feeling today, Miss Barbara?”

“Miss Barbara, what can I get you to drink?”

“Miss Barbara, have you eaten yet? Let me get some lunch.”

“What are your plans for after the show, Miss Barbara? If you don’t have plans, please join Ann and me for dinner.”


As long as Lecil was around, I never went hungry. I was never without a glass of wine or a place to rest my feet. And I never doubted how valued I was, how talented I was, or how loved I was. And never, one time, did he expect anything in return.

To the team at Henderson, to Lecil’s family, and to the thousands of friends Lecil had both here in the U.S. and abroad, know that my heart breaks for you, because my heart is also broken.

Lecil will never be replaced. He truly was a “pièce unique.”



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