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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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Press Releases

Chairman Elected for JSA Board

He is replacing Stewart Wicht of Rolex.

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Steven Kaiser

(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK – On Jan. 12, the Jewelers’ Security Alliance held its annual meeting and luncheon at the New York Yacht Club in New York for 170 supporters, law enforcement personnel and industry leaders. At the luncheon it was announced that Steven Kaiser of Kaiser Time had been elected chairperson of JSA for a three-year term, replacing Stewart Wicht of Rolex, who had completed his term.

John Kennedy, president of JSA , began the luncheon with a moment of silence for Helen Buck, who worked for JSA for 37 years and passed away in October 2018, and a moment of silence for the one jeweler who was killed in the U.S. in 2018 during a
robbery.

Kennedy said that in contrast to one jeweler killed in 2018, there were 37 U.S. jewelers killed in 1992, indicating a remarkable decline. He also said that in almost every year since 2000 the total dollar losses from crime against the U.S. jewelry industry hit new lows. He attributed this decline to a powerful War on Jewelry Crime that JSA has helped organize, encourage and promote, and which now includes a network of 3,000 law enforcement personnel and broad representation of the jewelry industry.

He stated that JSA’s network of over 21,000 industry members and supporters extended from the behemoths of the industry like Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co., GIA, JCK, Rolex and Signet, to manufacturers, chains, independents, security firms and mom-and-pop jewelers coast-to-coast.

Newly elected to the JSA Board was Alan Zimmer, CEO of Reeds Jewelers, a chain of 60 fine jewelry stores. Re-elected to three-year terms were: Patti Geo lat of the Geolat Cos.; Chris Hackler of Signet Jewelers; Mark Smelzer of JCK; and David Tearle of GIA. Continuing in their terms on the JSA Board are: Chad Berg of Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry; David Bonaparte of Jewelers of America; Marc Green of Lux, Bond & Green; Adam Heyman of Oscar Heyman & Bros.; David Sexton of Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co.; Mark Udell of London Jewelers; Stewart Wicht of Rolex; and Stanley Zale of Stuller.

At the luncheon, JSA presented the Annual Industry Service Award s to Michelle Graff, editor-in-chief of National Jeweler; and Rob Bates, news director of JCK.

Kennedy said that these two journalists had made a valuable contribution to the security of the jewelry industry by helping spread JSA’s information and advice to a wide audience.

JSA also presented the Annual James B. White Law Enforcement Awards to three officers with the Paramus, NJ, Police Department: Deputy Chief Robert M. Guidetti, Detective Lieutenant Frank Scott and Detective Nicholas Luciano. Kennedy stated that these officers had provided valuable service to the jewelry industry by investigating and arresting numerous suspects in over 100 crimes against jewelers totaling millions of dollars.

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Press Releases

GIA Alum Craig Danforth to Join Jewelers Mutual team

He will work closely with the leadership team.

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Craig Danforth

(PRESS RELEASE) NEENAH, WI – Craig Selimotic Danforth will join the leadership team of Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group on Monday, January 28, assuming the role of vice president of client solutions.

Danforth has 25-plus years of sales, business development, marketing, training, and finance experience, most recently demonstrated as Director, Global Business and Development at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

“Craig’s experience in the industry makes him an ideal candidate for this role,” said Mike Alexander, senior vice president of commercial lines. “We will work together to enhance our current offerings and develop new opportunities to strengthen and grow the jewelry industry.”

As part of the Jewelers Mutual team, Danforth will work closely with the leadership team to shape the foundation, priorities, and vision of our key initiatives. His experiences at upcoming industry events and trade shows will offer Jewelers Mutual insights to further develop our core offerings and expand our emerging businesses.

Prior to his 10 years at GIA, Danforth held management roles at Cartier, David Yurman, and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Danforth completed his BA at Hamilton College, his MBA at ESSEC Business School in France, and has several diplomas from GIA including Graduate Diamonds, Graduate Pearls, and Accredited Jewelry Professional (AJP).

He is on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA), a member of Jewelers 24 Karat Club of Southern California, and also serves on the 24 Karat Club of Southeastern US’s scholarship committee.

Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group is seeking skilled and experienced employees to fill a variety of roles within the company. For a full list of employment opportunities, visit jewelersmutual.com/careers.

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Press Releases

Picchiotti Expands U.S. Team with Former Retail Executive Mark Mazzarese

He will help extend the Picchiotti presence across North America.

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                      Mark Mazzarese

(PRESS RELEASE) VALENZA, ITALY – Valenza based Italian jewelry brand Picchiotti is expanding its U.S. team effective February 1st with the addition of former retail executive Mark A. Mazzarese. Building upon the success of its patent-pending Xpandable Collection and its one-of-a-kind gemstone classics, Picchiotti will commence its 52nd year in business with the addition of a second U.S. sales representative. Mazzarese will join U.S. Chief Agent Barry Meyrowitz to help extend the Picchiotti presence across North America.

“My family and I are delighted to welcome Mark to the Picchiotti team,” says President and Founder Giuseppe Picchiotti. “His unique expertise and leadership skills, coupled with his lengthy experience in the fine jewelry industry, ensure that he will grow our business with the standard of excellence and customer service for which our brand is known.”

Mazzarese comes to Picchiotti with a life-long history of excellence and passion in the fine jewelry industry. A nationally recognized retail jewelry executive, he served as President of Mazzarese Fine Jewelry in Kansas City from 1998 to 2017. He has also served on the boards of such prestigious organizations as the FBI Citizens Academy and the Kansas City Zoo. He is a member of the Centurion Leadership Program of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Leawood Chamber of Commerce. Mark will bring a unique customer-service and retail-oriented approach to his work with Picchiotti and will take responsibility for the western portion of North America.

Mazzarese is a graduate of the University of Kansas and an alumnus of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Mazzarese or the Picchiottis, please contact Maria Carola Picchiotti (mariacarola@Picchiotti.it) or Luxury Brand Group (duvall@luxbrandgroup.com).

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