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WJA Announces 2016 Female Veteran Grant Winner

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Tara Hutchinson

(Press Release)
NEW YORK, NY – The Women’s Jewelry Association has awarded its 2016 Female Veteran Grant to Tara Hutchinson of Tara Hutch Fine Jewelry, San Antonio, TX. Each year, the merit-based grant, which is offered in partnership with Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, goes to a deserving U.S. military veteran to use toward her professional growth within the jewelry and/or watch industries. The grant was established to lend support to women veterans who continue to serve their communities through their work in jewelry.

Hutchinson, who grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, served a 10-year tour in the U.S. Army as a military police officer, retiring as a Sergeant First Class. While deployed in Iraq in 2006, an explosive device severed her right leg, causing a significant blood loss that left her with severe limb movement disorder, third-degree burns, permanent back injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite suffering from severe depression, the veteran decided to make jewelry after an occupational therapist suggested trying a hobby that might help her gain back some control in her hands.

At first, Hutchinson’s dexterity was so compromised that stringing a large wooden bead onto a leather cord was almost insurmountable. "Nonetheless, I’ve never been one to give up, and a stubborn need to succeed demanded I keep moving until I mastered this task," she says. "This achievement ignited a spark for jewelry creation, and practically in a frenzy, I began teaching myself everything I could about the craft. I gradually built a library of materials and techniques, and eventually my garage turned into a fully furnished jeweler’s studio. I began practicing all day, every day, and shockingly, within a year, my movement disorder had almost vanished." Today, she uses many techniques, including forging, soldering, stone setting, chasing, fusing and patinas.

Hutchinson sells her jewelry through her website and social media, as well as at juried shows, both local and national. She specializes in two finger rings, open-top rings and jewelry that incorporates organic shapes. The jeweler also creates jewelry that caters to women with swollen knuckles, or who have difficulty opening and closing clasps. "I am inspired by natural gemstones and those with a rough finish. I feel they are a good representation of myself, and what I want women to think about when they wear my work: rough around the edges and certainly not perfect, but still bearing something beautiful to give to the world."

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Hutchinson plans to use her grant to create custom packaging and displays. She is expanding her business into the wholesale market, and one of her enduring aspirations is to be featured in Sundance Catalog. Other goals include opening a new climate-controlled location with more space that would allow her the option to teach. A much shorter-term goal is simply the need for an air conditioner in her present studio, located in high-temperature San Antonio. The jeweler also aspires to use a portion of the sales of her jewelry to give back to charities that help others who have suffered and survived like her. Since her injury, she has skied, sailed, white water rafted, kayaked and completed two-hand cycle marathons.

"This business has truly given me the phoenix rising that helped me rediscover the ‘old’ Tara’s self-esteem and confidence," says Hutchinson. Her aim, she adds, is to help women with similar issues to become independent and self-reliant. "As each piece is created, I purposefully breathe this ethos into it, along with a pinch of courage, force of character and self- confidence. I truly thrive on giving back the beauty the world has shown me and reaching out to the people who have been in dark places like myself. I want to prove to them it’s possible to move on after a devastating injury and that believing in yourself will never fail you."

The WJA Female Veteran Grant is administered by the WJA Foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation. Applications were reviewed and the winner selected by WJA Foundation Veteran Grant Chair Isabel Cajulis, retailer account manager, JCK Tucson and JCK Las Vegas shows; Sheri Ihde, manager of industry relations and trade shows for Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company; and WJA Foundation President Lisa Slovis Mandel, owner of Lisa Slovis Metalsmithing.

To raise funds for next year’s WJA grants and scholarships, WJA is hosting its annual Awards for Excellence gala, on Monday, July 25 at a new location: the Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center, 311 W 34th St., New York, NY. In 2015, the event raised $60,000 for WJA grants and scholarships. A raffle will again be mounted in 2016 to raise additional funds for these awards, which invest in the future of the jewelry industry.

At the annual gala, WJA will also present three honorees with awards: Sissy Jones, owner of Sissy’s Log Cabin will receive the WJA Lifetime Achievement Award; Peter Engel, president of Fred Meyer Jewelers, will receive the Ben Kaiser Award; and Ben Bridge will receive the Corporate Award.

In addition, WJA will bestow Awards for Excellence in 10 categories including Design; Manufacturer/Dealer/Supplier; Retail – 15 Doors or More; Retail – Fewer Than 15 Doors; Retail – Non-Traditional; Sales and Merchandising; Marketing & Communications; Editorial Media; Special Services; and Watches. Once again, the nominees for these awards will only discover if they won on the evening of the gala.

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To purchase sponsorships or tickets for the Gala visit www.womensjewelryassociation.com/awardsforexcellence.

For more information about WJA member grant opportunities, visit www.womensjewelryassociation.com/grantscholarship.

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Christopher Designs Draws Winner for an Original Oil Painting During 2019 JCK Vegas Show

Draw was open to all retailers who attended JCK who made and kept their appointment with the designer brand.

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(PRESS RELEASE) Rhonda Jacobson of Cumberland Diamond Exchange, Smyrna, GA, won the original artwork titled “New York State of Mind,” painted by Christopher Slowinski, founder and owner of Christopher Designs. In response to her win, Rhonda shared, “In my opinion, when you obtain an original piece of art, you also receive a piece of the artist’s soul – a true treasure. That is the greatest gift of all! I knew Christopher was a talented jewelry designer, but I’m amazed at what a gifted artist he is as well. I can’t wait to hang this gorgeous New York skyline in our store and share the Christopher Designs story with all of our customers that come in.

Original oil painting entitled “New York State of Mind”, is oil on canvas and measures 30” X 30”. The piece was painted by the designer himself, Christopher Slowinski and is an homage to lower Manhattan in New York City. The scene depicts the juxtaposition of the old and new showing the architectural details of the storied Brooklyn Bridge next to the recently completed One World Trade Center. Slowinski used a painterly technique in pastel shades of yellow, pink and blue.

Drawing took place at the Christopher Designs booth at JCK Las Vegas and the painting was shipped to winner in Georgia on Sunday afternoon, June 2, 2019.

Draw was open to all retailers who attended JCK who made and kept their appointment with the designer brand.

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Lark & Berry Unveils the Brands First Global Campaign Celebrating One Year in Business

It has won the Editor’s Choice design at the 2019 JCK Las Vegas.

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(PRESS RELEASE) LONDON —Diamond mining industry disrupting jewelry brand Lark & Berry, fresh off its Editor’s Choice design win at the 2019 JCK Las Vegas conference, has launched its new ‘Clean. Cool. Cultured.’ ad campaign comprised of web ads, upcoming commercials and previews of new summer jewelry collections.

The three tenants of ‘Clean. Cool. Cultured.’ have become a hallmark slogan of Lark & Berry’s due to positive reception of initial uses of the phrase from the brand’s customers and many social media followers.

“People want to know the significance of this ad campaign. It’s all in the three words, all of which have many cultured connotations we want to evoke,” explained Lark & Berry founder Laura Chavez.

“Why ‘Clean?’ Ever since I discovered diamonds could be grown and cultured with no land or wildlife displaced, using less water and creating far less wastage… well, I thought what’s not to love about that—a clean diamond that’s better for the Earth and just as genuine as a mined diamond.”

“Then, we have the ‘Cool.’ Cultured diamonds, just the same as mined but created more responsibly with technology? What’s cooler than that? Lark & Berry’s cultured diamonds are Type IIa quality—the best in luxury.

Only 2% of mined diamonds reach that benchmark. Having a purer, better quality diamond that is perfect, or close to perfection as it gets, every single time? Doesn’t get much cooler than that!”

“Then, finally, we have ‘Cultured.’ It’s my favorite term for grown diamonds. Much more so than “lab grown,” cultured really embodies my favorite aspect of these technological and luxurious stone marvels—they’re truly the way forward. Cultured diamonds are the progressive choice and truly the only sustainable choice.”

Aside from the effort to make brand intentions absolutely clear and resonant, Chavez and the Lark & Berry team hope to drum up excitement with the new ‘Clean. Cool. Cultured.’ campaign for new collections releasing just around the corner in time for Summer. New pieces to be formally announced soon include Veto Color Petal bracelets featuring multi-colored cultured gemstones, Modernist Stackable Rings which can are bought separately and can be combined and interchanged for creative expression by the wearer, and the Modernist Tennis Collection, which among other pieces, features long and dangling tennis earrings of white gold and 1.56 carats of the finest cultured diamonds in luxury—just recently worn by 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star, Jane Krakowski at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards in New York City.

Campaign imagery and cut out’s can be downloaded here.

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GJEPC’s India Silver & Fashion Jewelry BSM Witnesses Buyers from 39 Nations at Jaipur

The BSM between 12 – 14 June will witness international buyers from countries namely Algeria, Australia, Egypt, England, Ireland, Jordan, UAE, USA, Spain, Kuwait and Thailand.

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(PRESS RELEASE) JAIPUR — Gem & Jewelry Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) kick started India Silver & Fashion Jewelry Buyer Seller Meet (BSM), in the pink city of Jaipur at Rajasthan from 12th – 14th June 2019.

The event was inaugurated by Mr. Pramod Kumar Agrawal, chairman, GJEPC; Shri Nirmal Bardiya, regional chairman, Silver Panel Convener Ram Babu Gupta along with International buyers and exhibitors from India.

Commenting at the inauguration, Shri Pramod Kumar Agrawal, chairman, GJEPC said, “The BSM has been organized with an objective to meet current business needs of silver jewelry industry and to further establish and strengthen new business opportunities and promote business globally. The 3-day business matching program will be an ideal opportunity to showcase India’s strength & capabilities in manufacturing silver jewelry which is in demand due to its exclusivity and craftsmanship, whether its machine-made or hand made. Made in India silver jewelry has gradually made a mark in international markets with remarkably good designs, bold use of diamonds and colored gemstones thereby adding more value addition. I am sure buyers will get to see a range of innovative and trendy jewelry as per their needs and requirements”.

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India’s gross exports of silver jewelry for the period April 2018 – March 2019 accounted for US$ 837.81 million.

The India Silver Jewelry BSM will be a mix of a Buyer Seller Meet (BSM) and an open meeting day between invited buyers and exhibitors. Over 20 silver jewelry manufacturing companies will be showcasing their manufacturing skills to 39 International buyers consisting of silver jewelry Wholesalers, Retailers, Traders & Chain stores from the targeted region viz., Algeria, Australia, Egypt, England, Ireland, Jordan, UAE, USA, Spain, Kuwait, Thailand, during the BSM meet.

At the same time, for buyers, this is an opportunity to understand the Indian silver sector better for their sourcing needs, understand supply chain, business practices and culture. “I am sure both the buyers and sellers would make the most out of this platform to further establish and strengthen new sourcing relationships and promoting business globally”, added Agrawal.

The gem and jewelry sector is going through tough times and Agrawal expressed concerns impacting exports and overall growth of the sector.

GJEPC has been talking with the government to address major banking issues affecting G&J industry including, increase in cost of funds, need for interest subvention, dollarization of credit limits, allowance of release of BG/ cash margins of exporters after exports; reintroduction of ECGC WTP policy for the sector, gold card and taxation issues.

Shri Pramod Agrawal also presented the Pre-budget proposals of the industry to the Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman. Following are few of the points presented:

1. One of our burning issues of the industry is imposition of IGST on re-import of consignments which are exported through consignments/ exhibition mode. The industry is hopeful that the issue will be resolved soon.

2. Reduction in import duty on Cut and Polished Diamonds from 7.5% to 2.5%: Due to certain data anomaly in the import figures of cut and polished diamonds, duty on diamonds got increased from 2.5% to 5% and thereafter to 7%. The industry has been repeatedly representing that returned consignments of polished diamonds had constituted a major portion of the import figures which was erroneously captured and reported. 93% of the imported polished diamonds are exported back and are also procured in manufacturing and exporting studded jewelry from the country

3. Reduction in import duty on Precious Metal Gold from 10% to 4%: Industry for a long time has been making this request to reduce the import duty on gold to a realistic level. Duty reduction will definitely re-initiate the flow of raw material through official channels into the country thus strengthening our jewelry exports

4. Introduction of a realistic turnover taxation regime for Special Notified Zone in Mumbai: Special Notified Zone in Mumbai was inaugurated in December 2015 and since then, the zone has been running successfully. The only major hurdle is that foreign mining companies, in the absence of favorable taxation regime, have not yet started selling rough diamonds. They still come, display and take their goods back to their country. The industry has been requesting that on the lines of the level playing field being offered by Belgium, Israel, UAE etc, Indian Government should introduce presumptive turnover linked tax rate (0.125%) on sale of rough diamonds at SNZ

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