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WJA Announces 2017 Shining Stars




They’re honored for extraordinary service to their chapters.

(Press Release) POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – The Women’s Jewelry Association has announced the winners of its 2017 Shining Star awards, which annually recognize a member from each regional chapter who has given extraordinary service to her chapter in the previous year.

The winners received an expenses-paid trip to Dallas, where they were honored at a special In The Spotlight evening event after WJA’s annual Presidents’ Conference there. WJA Dallas chapter hosted the event.

“This year’s WJA Shining Stars are such an inspiring group of volunteers who work tirelessly and with such extraordinary passion for the betterment of women in our industry,” said WJA President Brandee Dallow. “It was a pleasure to congratulate so many of them in person last weekend and to celebrate all of their incredible accomplishments.”

WJA Executive Director Bernadette Mack said: “We’re lucky to have these impressive individuals volunteer to support WJA’s mission and help women in the jewelry and watch industries advance professionally through networking, education, and leadership development.”

The Shining Stars for 2017 are listed below, in alphabetical order, by chapter. You can see photos and details about the Shining Star awards here.

Michelle Aldag, Data in the Rough – Boston


Originally from Illinois, Aldag came to Boston in 2009 to pursue a dual degree of master of business administration and a master of science in information technology. Since receiving her degrees, she has been working as a business analyst in the retail industry. Aldag is interested in all aspects of the jewelry industry: the people, the history, the craftsmanship and the business behind it all.

She has a blog, Data in the Rough, that explores different areas of the jewelry industry, including the business side. She also consults on social media marketing. Since she has a passion for jewelry and math, the role of treasurer was an obvious fit and a position Aldag has held for over two years in the WJA Boston Chapter.

Tina Rohde, Artistry Ltd., Kato Photography – Chicago

Rohde currently works in the creative marketing department at Artistry Ltd., Skokie, IL, and also captures the brilliance of its jewelry through her photographs. Her work includes photography of all finished jewelry, designing print and e-blast ads, and being part of the annual catalog production.

Though primarily focused on jewelry photography, Rohde plans on expanding her portfolio to include portraiture and styled tabletop for her company Kato Photography. She enjoys volunteering to photograph events for Evanston non-profits and WJA events. Rohde is grateful for the spirit and camaraderie of WJA. “It is an honor and privilege to be part of an esteemed and talented group of peers,” she says, “many of whom will soon stand as pillars of the industry.”

Cara Dingenthal, ConferenceSource – Colorado


Dingenthal moved to Denver from Texas in 2014 and became involved as a member of the WJA Colorado chapter immediately. She is currently the director of events and has helped plan the mix & mingles, buyers’ panel, Jewelry Night Out, and a new member cocktail party.

She helped launch Liberti, a lifestyle jewelry brand that employs resettled refugees in the U. S., and now works as an event planner for ConferenceSource. Dingenthal’s colleagues at WJA Chicago say she is always there and to lend a hand and her enthusiasm shines through when promoting the chapter and WJA to new members. She is a team player and is passionate about building relationships.

Marcia Hucker, Bock Jewelry Company – Dallas

During her career, Hucker has been an educator, appraiser, manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer. She began her jewelry career at the GIA where she studied in residence and received her Graduate Gemologist diploma. She joined renowned appraiser Cosmo Altobelli as an appraiser at Altobelli Jewelers, before returning to GIA as instructor of distance learning and the American Gem Society courses. She finished her career at GIA as Marketing Supervisor.

After relocating to Minnesota with her family, Hucker worked as an appraiser at R.F. Moeller Jewelers where she earned her CGA title from the American Gem Society. After five years in Minnesota another move took her to Dallas, Texas, where she worked as marketing director for Chatham Created Gemstones, and later as manager of Ben Bridge Jewelers. Hucker is currently director of jewelry operations for Bock Jewelry Company in Dallas, and is vice president of the WJA’s Dallas chapter board.

Lisa Kim, Lisa Kim Fine Jewelry – Los Angeles


Kim entered the jewelry industry in 2011 after a 10-year career in animation. Based in Los Angeles, she designs statement jewelry for strong women. Kim believes that every woman is the hero of her own story and that the jewelry a woman chooses for herself should reflect her strength and individuality. The jeweler combines casting, fabrication, chasing, and repoussé to weave a story into her jewelry that is meant to be told again and again. Her work is produced locally using responsibly sourced gemstones.

Kim is the recipient of the 2013 Carelle-WJA Grant in Honor of Brooke Tivol McGrath, a merit-based grant awarded to a business in its first five years of operation. Kim has been an active member of WJA since 2012 and has served as communications chair for her chapter. Currently she serves as treasurer. Kim is also on the board of trustees of the WJA Education Foundation.

Olga González, Pietra PR – New York Metro

González has 10 years of experience working within the field of jewelry communications. A certified gemologist (FGA DGA) and appraiser, she specializes in growing mid- to large-sized companies within the jewelry trade, from designer jewelry brands and manufacturers to trade non-profits and diamond grading laboratories. González is currently the president of PRSA-NY, the third largest chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, which is the largest trade association in the PR industry. While president-elect, she chaired the Big Apple Awards, one of the most prestigious awards shows in PR, and chaired and founded the 15 Under 35 Awards, which recognize up and comers in the industry.

González currently serves as the director of networking for the WJA New York Metro chapter board, planning monthly “Mix and Mingle” events for members to enjoy networking, while exploring the hottest new spots in the city. She is a regular contributor to trade and consumer publications on gem- and jewelry-related topics, and is also a member of Gem-A, ASJRA, and the New York Mineralogical Club.

Rachel Deppe, 66mint Fine Estate Jewelry – Northern California

Deppe has been working with high-end jewelry for the past 10 years, with seven of them in retail sales and supervision at Gucci. Her current position in business development, sales, and operations at 66mint Fine Estate Jewelry, which brought her to the WJA Northern California chapter, where she serves on the board. Deppe is pursuing a Graduate Gemologist diploma with the GIA and does custom design with CAD. In her spare time she enjoys making jewelry for friends and family on her jeweler’s bench at home.

Christina Brandewie, CABBochon Co. – Ohio-Kentucky

Brandewie is the art jeweler of CABBochon Co., with 40 years of professional experience in all aspects of the creation, fabrication and completion of unique gemstone, art-to-wear jewelry. She is represented in various art jewelry galleries throughout the country and has received national and international awards in competitions for jewelry and hollowware, including the Lewton-Brain Foldform Competition, in which she won the 2016 Jurors’ Choice award and the 2015 3rd Place Award for her bracelets.

Since joining the OH/KY chapter of WJA in 2014, Brandewie has been on the board as an event co-chair. In 2017, she served a two-year term as the board vice president. She is also a representative on the Board of Ohio Designer Craftsmen, the statewide fine craft organization, for the 2016-18 term. Brandewie recently served as an applicant and award juror for the organization’s 2016 craft fairs. She is also busy as a volunteer in the community, helping teach Sunday school and assisting local teens raise money for Habitat for Humanity.

Kristen Thurber, JoJo Loves You – Providence

Thurber has been a WJA member for five years and on the executive board of directors for the Providence chapter for the past four years. She has also served as sponsorship chair and events chair for the chapter. She is the co-owner and creative director of the jewelry brand JoJo Loves You. Thurber has worked in the precious metal jewelry industry for over 15 years and spent the past 10 years working as the director of merchandising for Lee’s Manufacturing.

Marreena Appleton, My Eden – San Diego

A native Californian with a lifelong love of jewelry, Appleton began her career in various positions that would mold and shape her future outlook on design and fortify her true passion – the need to create something and have it matter. With an associate of arts degree in liberal arts, Appleton rose through the ranks at a southern California electric utility, working in the talent acquisition department of human resources. As she moved up in management, Appleton became increasingly aware she wanted to do something else with her life.

Following her goal, Appleton went on to achieve her Graduate Jeweler (GJ), Jewelry Design (JD), and Accredited Jewelry Professional (AJP) diplomas at GIA. The founder and creative director of My Eden, Appleton hand renders designs and hand fabricates her jewelry, as well as art pieces. She is a member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) and joined WJA in 2013. In 2015, she received a member grant and currently serves on the WJA San Diego chapter board’s executive team as chapter treasurer.

Monica Stephenson, ANZA Gems, – Seattle

Stephenson is a writer, jewelry expert, and entrepreneur. She has over 20 years’ experience in the jewelry industry in all capacities, and holds certificates from GIA. She is the editor of the jewelry blog,, where she has chronicled stories of artisan jewelry and designers since 2008, and is also a contributor to various trade magazines.

Stephenson founded ANZA Gems in 2015, which fuels development of the gemstone industry in Kenya and Tanzania, through fair trade purchasing, and supporting primary and jewelry trade education in gemstone communities. She is a board member of the WJA Seattle chapter and is also a board member of Ethical Metalsmiths. Stephenson is a frequent speaker about social media and responsible sourcing. When she is not traveling, you can find her in her studio in Seattle, designing around the spectacular gems of East Africa, or on social media at her @idazzle or @anzagems handles.

Scott Stebbing, Stebgo Metals Inc. – Twin Cities

Stebbing is the president of Stebgo Metals Inc., South St. Paul, MN. He started working for the family business in 1989. His expertise is in scrap reclamation and gold buying and he has been able to help jewelers, pawn, shops, and gold buyers to maximize their profits. Through his findings and ring manufacturing experience, Stebbing also helps the industry trouble shoot and improve its gold and silver casting process. He shares his knowledge of precious metals and scrap gold by writing articles for trade magazines as well.

Stebbing has been an active sponsor and supporter of the WJA Twin Cities chapter for many years. Members of the chapter say he is always willing to help, especially with behind-the-scenes logistics, where he lends an extra hand and a smile.



When the Kids Have Their Own Careers, Wilkerson Can Help You to Retire

Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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