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The Jewelry Industry Was the Star at This 116-Year-Old Event

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After 105 consecutive years at the Waldorf, the 24 Karat Club’s annual gala was held at the New York Hilton on Jan. 21. PHOTO BY PATTI GEOLAT

It was a new location for last night’s 24 Karat Club
gala, but the same magical feeling.

As the room darkened, microphone in hand, she glided into view, a single spotlight following her progress.  Almost a thousand voices quickly silenced as the first notes of the iconic song flowed through the air. 

Katharine McPhee of American Idol, Smash and Scorpion fame began her version of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and the evening belonged to her.  But not only her.  It belonged to a 116-year-old event that in many ways reflects the remarkable resilience of this wonderful industry that we all have the luck to be a part of. 

The Twenty Four Karat Club of the City of New York was born at the dawn of the 20th century as a way for jewelry manufacturers and wholesalers centered around the then jewelry hub of New York – Maiden Lane –  to build camaraderie and share industry wisdom.  

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The central feature of the club’s activities has been an annual dinner which started in 1902 and moved to a permanent home at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for the 12th annual dinner in 1913.  The dinner included members and their guests who were, for the most part retailers and other customers.  

In the early days of the dinner speakers were often the “headliners” and in the year before the move to the Waldorf – the sitting president of the United States – William Howard Taft – was the featured speaker.  He really understood his audience saying “You represent that part which furnishes to human nature the satisfaction of love and beauty”. 

Several months ago, the Waldorf closed for a projected three-year renovation so, after 105 years, the dinner – the second oldest continuously running event at the hotel – had to find a new home.  

The New York Hilton – a building that once hosted the largest trade show in the jewelry business until it moved to the Javits Center in the late 1980s –  was chosen as the best alternative.  There was great concern that the move could deeply change the nature of the dinner and the tradition might be in jeopardy. 

After a promising cocktail reception, the glittering black-tie crowd flowed into the Grand Ballroom for dinner and entertainment.  Over the years the headliners at the event have included show business greats like Bob Hope, Jay Leno, Michael Bolton and Aretha Franklin. The pressure to have a memorable show was enormous if the tradition was to survive.  

And Katharine McPhee did not disappoint. Sponsored by Bulova, the singer seized the moment and didn’t let go until the last strains of “Over the Rainbow” faded from the air and the entire room erupted in a standing ovation.   

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The celebration continued deep into the night with all attending reassured that an event that had for more than a century played a central role in our industry would remain as the anchor of every new year.  

But it was not the details of the event that shined brightest. It was the bonds of friendship that are central to our business that were the true star of the evening. We are all part of an industry that shares the common thread of the celebration of “love and beauty”.  From “A Girl’s Best Friend” to “Over the Rainbow”, it’s the jewelry industry that is truly forever.  

 

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