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INSTORE Design Awards

The Cindy Edelstein Memorial Emerging Designer Award -2019 Winner

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Debra Navarro knew she wanted to design jewelry the minute she stepped behind a jewelry counter 20 years ago, but it would take over a decade before she gathered the courage to start her own collection. After a career in radio, she went to work in sales and appraisals at Randy Cooper’s Fine Jewelry in Wichita, KS, and earned her graduate gemologist degree. It was a trip to East Africa with Roger Dery, the award-winning gem cutter, global educator, and philanthropist, that spurred Navarro to strike out on her own. She formed her LLC in November 2015 and had a one-hour Skype call with Cindy Edelstein. “Sadly, Cindy passed away before our next call, but the notes I took that day were like a gift, and pointed me in the next direction,” says Navarro. “I spent approximately a year in development with the Barefoot Collection, which is the foundation for our brand.” Now, Navarro is taking the industry by storm, having won the Industry Choice Award at JCK Tucson in February, and now winning the Colored Gemstone Jewelry Under $10,000 category and placing third in the Colored Diamond Jewelry category in the INSTORE Design Awards. Of her collection, she says the aesthetic is “polish and grit” — that is, luxurious and refined, yet also relaxed and organic. “Every new collection will take you on a journey to other places where gemstones are mined as responsibly and sustainably as possible,” says Navarro. “I want my jewelry to be a part of their story.”

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Q&A WITH DEBRA NAVARRO

1. Why did you become a jewelry designer?

I’ve always wanted to make a living using art and creativity, which I always did in some way, but never with my own product. There was way too much vulnerability and risk in that! It took a lot of years and a long road filled with doubt, fear, and inadequacy before I took the leap of faith into designing jewelry, but I can definitely say it feels like the most natural and exciting thing in the world to do. I knew I wanted to design jewelry the minute I stepped behind a jewelry counter for the first time 20 years ago. In fine jewelry I found the perfect marriage of art and science. I could see designs taking shape in my head, but had so little knowledge of this industry in general having come from a radio background. I decided to build a foundation by earning my G.G. and working at Randy Cooper’s Fine Jewelry in sales and appraising over a period of 15 years, but learning about jewelry design and manufacturing in Wichita, KS was another thing. This became my roadblock. What moved me past that self-imposed roadblock was a trip with Roger Dery, the award winning gem cutter, global educator, and philanthropist, to East Africa. I met Roger at a screening of the documentary Sharing the Rough, which is about the journey of a gemstone from mine to market while attending the 2015 AGS Conclave, and immediately felt like I HAD to go. Less than two months later, Roger took me on my first gemstone buying trip to Kenya and Tanzania. I was in the middle of the East African bush, seeing what artisanal mining is like for the miners, brokers, runners, and their whole communities working in the gem trade. I continue to learn so many lessons from the people of East Africa, but the most impactful lesson I took away was to take the resources and knowledge that you have, from where you currently are, and just start doing it, whatever “it” is, that passionately drives you. When I came home and could no longer make excuses for why I wasn’t chasing my own dreams, I got myself out of the way and just started moving forward.

2. When and how did you officially launch your collection?

After forming my LLC in November of 2015, I asked myself, “Now what?” A friend in the industry recommended I call Cindy Edelstein for advice, which led to a one hour Skype call I will treasure forever. Sadly, Cindy passed away before our next call, but the notes I took that day were like a gift, and pointed me in the next direction. I spent approximately a year in development with the Barefoot Collection, which is the foundation for our brand and will tie together all future collections. We soft launched Barefoot in a few markets and began working on Watu, the collection honoring the beautiful gemstones and people of East Africa. My goal was to show in Vegas this year, but I had a strong hunch to do my first major trade show in Tucson, maybe just to work out the kinks before Vegas. I chose the JCK x WJA Pavilion at the Starr Pass Resort because membership in WJA has been like a backbone for me as I struck out on my own. Quite serendipitously, our launch coincided with that of Gem Legacy, the non-profit organization we partner with in putting 5% of net sales from the Watu Collection to work in the communities the gems came from, helping them thrive. The founders are none other than Roger, Ginger, and Rachel Dery, with whom I travel to East Africa. We were honored to receive the JCK Tucson Industry’s Choice Design Challenge Winner with our Vincent Cocktail ring featuring green beryl. We are so thankful for such a positive response to the jewelry design and for the larger purpose it serves.

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3. What is your design aesthetic?

My design aesthetic merges two opposites, “polish and grit”, that have both literal and figurative meanings to me. You see it in the perfectly imperfect finish of the 18k recycled gold, in the palette of earthy colored faceted diamonds, gorgeous pops of natural colored gemstones with a high polished facet against the natural rough surface. I design from what I call a “barefoot state of mind”, where I’m outdoors, enjoying the warmth of the day, grounded by the beauty of the world around me. The feel is luxurious and refined, but also relaxed and organic…polish and grit.

4. What influences and inspires your designs?

Barefoot is inspired by life’s journey, marked by stepping stones, crossroads, and courageous leaps of faith you’ll see represented in the designs. Each piece is a mindful appreciation of every milestone reached along your way. They are one of a kind, just like each of us, made from rich 18k recycled gold and an earthy palette of natural colored diamonds in sizes and shapes as individual as every rock, pebble, or grain of sand in the ocean.
Watu features responsibly sourced natural gemstone rough I hand select on my East African visits. The designs are artfully inspired by pops of color against an earthy landscape, accented by earth-toned diamonds set in 18k recycled gold. Watu means people in Swahili. The real story of Watu is about the people who have touched my life. Each style in Watu is named in honor of one of these people. As the collection grows, so will their story. A highlight of many stones is a Tenda cut, a flat facet intentionally placed with a Swahili meaning of “doing good to someone.” In the words of my friend Jose (Gee) Maboi, “What you do not see, you can remember in your heart.” Wearing a piece from Watu reminds you of the good that gemstones do. For all items in the Watu Collection, 5% of net proceeds go to Gem Legacy. To find out more, visit www.gemlegacy.org supporting education, vocational training, and local economies in East African mining communities.

5. What’s next for your collection?

I am bursting with designs I want to make right now, but we want to focus on building our client base and sharing the story of our jewelry. In Vegas, you’ll see Barefoot stackables in mixed metals. Watu styles will be represented with East African gems in every color of the rainbow. Looking even further out, my next collection already exists in my mind. I’ve been collecting very intriguing gemstones over the years from a different source and can’t wait to start working on this collection. It has its own very cool and unique look, but you’ll definitely recognize it as a Debra Navarro piece. Every new collection will take you on a journey to other places where gemstones are mined as responsibly and sustainably as possible. I want my jewelry to be a part of their story.

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Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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INSTORE Design Awards

INSTORE Design Awards Retailers’ Choice Awards – 2019 Winners

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Alternative Materials Jewelry
SARAH GRAHAM METALSMITHING

$4,830
Spiral band in 18K gold and oxidized cobalt chrome

Best Bracelet Over $5,000
PASCAL LACROIX DESIGNS

$9,042
18K yellow gold hinged bracelet set with a 2.59-carat tourmaline and diamonds (0.33 TCW)

Best Bracelet Under $5,000
E. L. DESIGNS

$858
Ablaze bracelet in sterling silver and 14K gold with channel-set diamonds

Best Earring Over $5,000
LAUREN K

$13,420
18K yellow gold Emerald Carly chandelier earrings with emeralds (15.05 TCW) and diamonds (0.07 TCW)

Best Earring Under $5,000
QUINN’S GOLDSMITH

$1,480
14K white gold earrings with sapphires (1.20 TCW)

Best Necklace Over $5,000
YOKO LONDON

$28,000
Stellar necklace with 34 Japanese Akoya pearls (4-8 mm) and diamonds (4.79 TCW) in 18K white gold

Best Necklace Under $5,000
EL DORADO JEWELRY

$2,380
18K white gold necklace with diamonds (0.26 TCW) and sapphires (1.87 TCW)

Best Ring Over $5,000
ANNAMARIA CAMMILLI FIRENZE

$11,590
Sultana ring in 18K natural beige, ice white and lava black gold in company’s signature velvety matte finish with 192 white diamonds (0.60 TCW)

Best Ring Under $5,000
EL DORADO JEWELRY

$3,850
18k rose gold rainbow color sapphire ring with diamond (0.90 TCW) and rainbow sapphire (2.83 TCW)

Best Statement Piece
AVIANTI JEWELRY DESIGNS

$9,815
Custom-made natural 80.50-carat Australian Boulder opal framed with 14K rose gold and embellished with pavé round diamonds (1.61 TCW)

Colored Diamond Jewelry
VIVAAN

$46,200
Diamond bracelet in 18K white gold with natural fancy color diamonds (28.22 TCW)

Colored Stone Jewelry Over $10,000
UNEEK JEWELRY

$27,194
18K white gold Rio Elbaite one-of-a-kind necklace with pear-shaped 8.98-carat Indicolite green tourmaline, 0.28-carat kite-shaped diamond and a 0.25-carat shield-shaped diamond

Colored Stone Jewelry Under $10,000
DENNY WONG DESIGNS

$9,000
18K gold two-tone ring with 126 diamonds (0.64 TCW), two tanzanites (0.12 TCW), and morganite (4.54 TCW)

Diamond Jewelry Over $10,000
ANNAMARIA CAMMILLI FIRENZE

$11,590
Sultana ring in 18K natural beige, ice white and lava black gold in company’s signature velvety matte finish with 192 white diamonds (0.60 TCW)

Diamond Jewelry Under $10,000
ADEL CHEFRIDI

$7,885
Summer Night earrings in 18K yellow gold with diamonds (0.20 TCW) and emeralds in satin finish

Engagement/Wedding Jewelry Over $5,000
NOAM CARVER – CROWNRING BRIDAL HOUSE

$36,000
2.50-carat marquise diamond set in an 18K gold black rhodium ring featuring white and black diamond with a rose gold detail

Engagement/Wedding Jewelry Under $5,000
K8 JEWELRY

$4,995 set
Bridal set in 18K rose gold with engagement ring featuring 1.15-carat oval peacock blue Montana sapphire and diamonds (0.14 TCW), and wedding bands featuring interlocking elements designed to reduce spinning

Gold Jewelry Over $5,000
GADBOIS JEWELRY

$9,485
Sloane Street 18K yellow gold strié and diamond twisted open cage drop earring with marquise shape pavé diamond top (1.86 TCW)

Gold Jewelry Under $5,000
ALEX FITZ

$3,480
Solid 18K recycled yellow brushed gold shield shaped ring with seven F VS2 natural diamond baguettes

Men’s Jewelry
925SUNEERA

$2,255
Neil link bracelet with vintage finish sterling silver and one 3-row black diamond link (1.00 TCW); features tongue clasp and safety closure

Pearl Jewelry Over $5,000
ASSAEL

$29,500
Tahitian natural color cultured round pearls with hand-carved natural color green and deep black Jade (14.32 TCW) accented with tsavorites (1.16 TCW) set in 18K yellow gold

Pearl Jewelry Under $5,000
IMPERIAL PEARL

$1,995
Natural color peacock 8-8.5 mm Tahitian cultured pearls suspended on 14K gold chain with diamonds (0.17 TCW),

Platinum Jewelry
UNEEK JEWELRY

$148,460
One-of-a-kind platinum ring with 8.05-carat oval sapphire with round diamonds (0.34 TCW) and oval diamonds (4.54 TCW)

Silver Jewelry Over $1,000
LIKA BEHAR COLLECTION

$1,760
24K fusion gold and sterling silver Twist straight earrings with diamonds (0.31 TCW) and 22K gold earwires

Silver Jewelry Under $1,000
ANIA HAIE

$79
Fringe fall hoop earrings in sterling silver with 14K yellow gold plating

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INSTORE Design Awards

INSTORE Design Awards Grand Prize – 2019 Winner

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Grand Prize-winning colored diamond cuff and jewelry by VIVAAN. | MODEL: Janelle Simon.| PHOTOGRAPHY: Gene Mollica and Sasha Almazan. | AGENCY: Wilhelmina. | HAIR, MAKEUP & STYLING: Sasha Almazan

GRAND PRIZE WINNER : Vivaan

Diamond bracelet in 18K white gold with natural fancy color diamonds (28.22 TCW),

$46,200

ORIN AND TINA MAZZONI: This is an unbelievably beautiful bracelet. The uniqueness and workmanship is incredible. I know someone who would love to own this piece, but I’m not telling who.

PATRICIA FABER: Painted with diamonds, I love the movement in the design, the colored diamonds sort of undulating down towards the colorless diamonds which look like flames shooting up.

LAURIE WATT: Such a sexy looking piece. I love the use of colored diamonds and multiple colors of gold.

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INSTORE Design Awards

Best Colored Diamond Jewelry – 2019 Winner

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WINNER : Vivaan

Diamond bracelet in 18K white gold with natural fancy color diamonds (28.22 TCW),

$46,200

ORIN AND TINA MAZZONI: This is an unbelievably beautiful bracelet. The uniqueness and workmanship is incredible. I know someone who would love to own this piece, but I’m not telling who.

PATRICIA FABER: Painted with diamonds, I love the movement in the design, the colored diamonds sort of undulating down towards the colorless diamonds which look like flames shooting up.

LAURIE WATT: Such a sexy looking piece. I love the use of colored diamonds and multiple colors of gold.

2ND PLACE : Audrius Krulis

18K yellow gold necklace with rose-cut diamonds and brown diamonds

$28,600

3RD PLACE : Debra Navarro (tie)

Crossroads necklace in 18K recycled gold featuring colored diamonds (4.41 TCW) and sand pavé on a 22-inch adjustable black leather cord and chain

$22,000

3RD PLACE : TAP By Todd Pownell

Wide hinged bangle with mixed shaped and colored drilled diamonds set with platinum pins on a layer of 14K white gold wrapped with 18K yellow gold, box clasp, and safety

$123,200

RETAILER’S CHOICE AWARD

VIVAAN

$46,200

Diamond bracelet in 18K white gold with natural fancy color diamonds (28.22 TCW)

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