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WJA Awards for Excellence Nominees Announced




Winners will be named in July.

(Press Release) POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – The Women’s Jewelry Association has announced its nominees for the association’s annual Awards for Excellence. The awards are given to female professionals in the jewelry and/or watch industries who have demonstrated significant achievements throughout their careers in categories that include: design; manufacturer, dealer, supplier; merchandising and product development; business services; large-scale, independent, and open-format retail; marketing and communications; and editorial media.

This year, the WJA Awards for Excellence categories were reviewed and redefined, as necessary, in a committee led by WJA Awards and Ballots Chair Jennifer Heebner. “An eligible nominee must have a reputation for integrity, honesty, high ethical standards, and credibility, according to the new WJA Awards for Excellence criteria,” said Heebner. “She also must devote time and effort to help women in the jewelry industry excel.”

The winner in each category will be announced at the WJA Awards for Excellence gala on Monday, July 24, 2017. The awards will be presented at Pier 60 on New York’s Chelsea Piers.

The 2017 WJA Awards for Excellence nominees are:

Category 1 – Design

Wendy Brandes, owner/president, Wendy Brandes Jewelry; Deirdre Featherstone, founder, Featherstone Fine Jewelry; Annie Koenig, president, Annie K. Jewelry; and Pippa Small, owner, Pippa Small.

Category 2 – Manufacturer, Dealer, Supplier

Maureen Murphy, group director of customer service, Lee’s Manufacturing; Betty Sue King, owner, King’s Ransom; and Gabriella Harvey, director of procurement and product services, Gemfields.


Category 3 – Merchandising & Product Development

Anna Samsonova, assistant fashion buyer, Ben Bridge Jeweler; Nan Lung Palmer, owner and managing director, FACEts Jewelry Consulting; and Laura Klemt, president, Artistry, Ltd.

Category 4 – Business Services

Pat Henneberry, vice president of learning and development, Hearts On Fire; Jo-Ann Sperano, paralegal/mediation specialist, Jewelers Vigilance Committee; Judith Shechter, director of global business development, Gemological Institute of America; and Rachel Jackson, vice president of client solutions, ERCBPO, and former director of jewelry, XO Group.

Category 5A – Large-Scale Retail

Carol Pennelli, president and chief commercial officer, David Yurman; Judy Fisher, senior vice president of merchandising, Signet Jewelers; and Lisa Bridge, vice president of education, and designer, Ben Bridge Jeweler.

Category 5B – Independent Retail

Alexis Padis, director of operations, Padis Jewelry; Jan Rose, owner, Rose Jewelers; Tara Silberberg, owner, The Clay Pot; and Melissa Quick, president, Steve Quick Jeweler.

Category 5C – Open-Format Retail

Nadine Kahane, founder & CEO, Stone & Strand; Beth Gerstein, co-CEO, Brilliant Earth; and Sophie Kahn & Bouchra Ezzahraoui, co-founders, AUrate New York.

Category 6 – Marketing and Communications

Olga González, CEO/founder, Pietra PR; Donna Jolly, director of marketing, American Gem Society and AGS Laboratories; Megan Whitmire, marketing manager, American Gem Trade Association; and Monica Elias, CEO, Elias World Media.


Category 7 -Media: Editorial

Eileen McClelland, managing editor, INSTORE magazine; Brecken Branstrator, senior editor, National Jeweler; Barbara Palumbo, founder/editor-in-chief, Adornmentality; and Severine Ferrari, editor in chief, Engagement 101.

Earlier this year, nominations for the WJA Awards for Excellence were submitted by WJA members and industry professionals through an electronic nominations process open to all. The awards committee, consisting of past winners of the awards, then selected the final nominees in each category. Ultimately, a secret online ballot will be held, and each individual on the committee will vote for her choice of winner in each category. The votes are tallied at WJA headquarters, and the names of the winners are kept a tightly guarded secret until the evening of the gala.

Along with announcing the WJA Awards for Excellence winners, the gala also celebrates three WJA Hall of Fame honorees. Announced earlier this year, the 2017 honorees are: Cecilia Gardner, president, CEO, and general counsel of Jewelers Vigilance Committee, who will receive the WJA Lifetime Achievement Award; Michael Pollak, CEO of Hyde Park Jewelers, who will receive the Ben Kaiser Award; and Day’s Jewelers, which will receive the WJA Corporate Award.

“WJA congratulates our 2017 WJA Awards for Excellence nominees, each of whom has demonstrated significant achievements throughout their careers,” said Brandee Dallow, president of the Women’s Jewelry Association. “We look forward to applauding our honorees and nominees at the WJA Awards for Excellence gala on July 24.”

The WJA Awards for Excellence gala has been a part of the industry’s social calendar since 1984. The evening raises money for scholarships and grants to deserving women entering or working in the jewelry industry. A silent auction and raffle will again be mounted in 2017 to raise funds for these important causes. WJA scholarships and grants are managed by the WJA Foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation.

“The Awards for Excellence Gala is our prime opportunity to raise funds for our scholarship and grants program,” said WJA Executive Director Bernadette Mack. “We are grateful to all of our honorees, nominees, attendees, and sponsors for their dedication in participating in this event, to invest in the new women entrepreneurs, veterans, and students who win our grants and scholarships. Last year, the WJA Awards for Excellence Gala raised $40,000 for these cash awards. Our goal is to top that amount in 2017.”


Tickets for the gala are now on sale here:

A few select sponsorship opportunities at the Gala, considered one of the industry’s top networking events of the year, are also still available. Interested companies or individuals can contact WJA Executive Director Bernadette Mack,, for more information, or click here:



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GJEPC Announces Special Rate Benefits for IIJS Signature 2020 & IIJS Premiere 2020 for Exhibitors

This is to promote exports of diamond jewelry and gold jewelry from India.




(PRESS RELEASE) MUMBAI — The Gem & Jewelry Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) has announced a series of measures to promote exports of diamond jewelry and gold jewelry from India. One of the latest being the special rate benefits for IIJS Signature 2020 & IIJS Premiere 2020 for exhibitors.

IIJS Signature 2020 & IIJS Premiere 2020 – In view of the current precarious state of the gem & jewelry industry, GJEPC has announced Rate Benefit to IIJS Signature and IIJS Premiere Participants as follows: Ordinary & Ordinary+ MSME Members: 15%; MSME Members: 10%; Associate Members: 5%. To avail this exclusive benefit, application with 50% advance for IIJS Signature 2020 and 10% Advance for IIJS Premiere 2020 should be applied by 20th November 2019.

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Mr. Pramod Kumar Agrawal, chairman, GJEPC, said, “Globally, there’s a low demand for gems and jewelry. There are other factors that have affected the business domestically including the rise in import duty of gold. Our move to give rate benefits to exhibitors of IIJS Signature and IIJS Premiere is with the aim to give relief to our member exporters as this industry has been resilient to such situations in the past. This time at IIJS Signature 2020, we are adding a new Hall for Machinery and 100 New Stalls for Jewelry to accommodate participants in waitlist of last year. Special Buyer Promotion Program will create personalized and better experience to visitors. GJEPC will conduct Roadshows / Door to Door, in 100 plus cities. It will facilitate International connect in important countries to grow exports.”

Mr. Colin Shah, vice chairman, GJEPC Said, “Our vision is to grow India’s gem and jewelry exports to USD 75 billion and create additional 2 million employment in the sector by 2025. Over the last couple of years, the industry has been facing challenges which has resulted in decline in exports. GJEPC has been taking initiatives to address this situation and we have joined hands with Diamond Producers Association (DPA) and contributing rupees 14.2 crores towards DPA-led promotion of diamond jewelry in USA, China and India. We have also allocated rupees 5 crores for the promotion of gold jewelry in the Middle East market. GJEPC has been undertaking a series of initiatives for the sustainable development of the industry. Setting up Common Facility Centers (CFCs), Jewelry Parks, gem & jewelry institutes and promotional activities would help the industry to get back on a growth trajectory. GJEPC has started an employee health insurance scheme called Swasthya Ratna. The total number of lives covered till date are 5,21,659 under Swasthya Ratna. We have also launched Parichay Card for the benefit of the workers and so far we have received requests for 2,60,950 Parichay Cards from craftsmen and workers from the gem & jewelry sector. Parichay card holders would be eligible for various benefits and schemes offered by GJEPC.”

GJEPC has announced the dates for the 13th Edition IIJS Signature 2020. The show will be held in Mumbai’s Bombay Exhibition Centre (Goregaon) from 13th–to-16th February 2020. IIJS Signature, sees participation from over 700+ exhibitors. The focus is on product – jewelry of the highest standards of design, craftsmanship and finish. Just what you need to revitalize your inventory for the coming year. The show is compact enough to fully explore sourcing opportunities and, with a large number of new participants, it is the ideal platform to develop additional contacts.

Mr. Mansukh Kothari, convener-National Exhibitions Sub-Committee, GJEPC Said, “Our aim is to make IIJS amongst the top gem and jewelry shows in the world. Every year, based on the feedback from the buyers and exhibitors, we have been making the show better each year by adding new features and facilities. IIJS Premiere sees participation from over 1,300 exhibitors with 40,000 plus visitors from across cities pan India and 80 countries. IIJS today is reckoned as one of the world’s most preferred Gem and Jewelry Show by the gem and jewelry trade fraternity. Over 8,000 visitors have already pre-registered to participate in this event. The show is also available with navigation on the GJEPC App. I hope the rate benefits would be a relief to our members in this tough time.”

“For ease of retailers – Online visitor registration is open with special rate benefits in early registrations + multi show registration facilities (one show, 2 and 5 shows),” added Mansukh Kothari.

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CPAA Announces U.S. Finalists in 10th Annual IPDC

Winners will be announced on Thursday, Oct. 31.




(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK — The Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA) announces the finalists in the U.S. division of the 10th Annual International Pearl Design Competition (IPDC). Thirty-eight submissions were narrowed down to eighteen finalists after judges viewed images of all entries. The judges are Jean Francois Bibet, workshop and production director at Cartier; Nancy Schuring, owner of Devon Fine Jewelry (whose store will show and offer for sale the winning entries and the finalists of Schuring’s choice); Michelle Graff, editor in chief of; and Hector Hassey, jewelry designer of his own same-name firm.

Finalists in the U.S. division are as follows. Winners will be announced on Thursday, Oct. 31, following a day of judging live pieces.

Chrysanthemum Fold Black Pearl earrings by Karin Jacobson

Pearl Empress earrings by Deborah Meyers of Deborah Meyers Experience

Black Diamond and Pearl earrings by Timo Krapf of TBK Jewelry

Polka Dots cuff by Alishan Halebian of Alishan

Glamorous Keshi Swing earrings by Dilly Kirby of Elizabeth Blair Fine Pearls

Mandala ring by Paul Klecka of Paul Klecka Inspired Design


Esther ring by Polly Baumgartner

Lydia Lighthouse Beacon ring by Lika Behar of Lika Behar Jewelry

Chimera pendant necklace by Brenda Smith of Brenda Smith Jewelry

Golden pearl strand with Wavy O interchangeable clasp by Llyn Strong of Llyn Strong Jewelry

The Kiss of the Spider Woman necklace by Martina Buck of Haute Metal


Power of Pearl pendant by Kelly Charveaux of Scottsdale Bead Supply and Charveaux

South Sea Pearl Paisley ring by Assael

South Sea Pearl Fan earrings by Assael

Ocean Diva necklace by Jennifer Pusenkoff of Jennifer Pusenkoff Jewelry

Rocking Love ring by Jennifer Pusenkoff of Jennifer Pusenkoff Jewelry

Rocking Dandy lapel pin by Jennifer Pusenkoff of Jennifer Pusenkoff Jewelry

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GIA Commits $1.3M to Artisanal Mining Education Project

It’s a four-year commitment.




(PRESS RELEASE) CARLSBAD, CA – Building on a successful pilot and feedback from small-scale colored gemstone miners in Tanzania, GIA (Gemological Institute of America) will expand distribution of its innovative gem guide for artisanal miners to other communities and countries in Africa. Speaking at the ICA Congress in Bangkok on Oct. 15, GIA President and CEO Susan Jacques announced a four-year, $1.3 million commitment, funded from the GIA endowment, to expand the program in Tanzania to Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zambia. Working withPact, a Washington D.C.-based international development nonprofit organization with expertise in the region, GIA plans to reach 10,000 miners with relevant information on how to evaluate the quality of the rough they mine.

“This is a tremendous step forward in our efforts to bring information directly to artisanal miners right at the beginning of the gem and jewelry supply chain,” said Jacques. “We know that this investment will bring an invaluable benefit to miners, their families and the communities in which they live.”

Robert Weldon, GIA director of the Richard T. Liddicoat Library and Information Center, pictured with an artisanal miner from Tunduru, Tanzania.

The gem guide project began shortly after GIA Distinguished Research Fellow Dr. James Shigley saw the difficult working conditions of artisanal miners during a 2008 trip to Kenya and Tanzania. Dr. Shigley and Dona Dirlam, then-director of the GIA library, working with GIA research and library staff, created the booklet, “Selecting Gem Rough: A Guide for Artisanal Miners.” First developed in English and later translated into Swahili, the photo-rich booklet has images of the gemstones found in East Africa and illustrations of how to examine and evaluate rough gems. The booklet is waterproof and comes with a durable plastic tray that can be used to sort gems and do basic gemological evaluations. GIA piloted the program in 2016, working with Pact.

“We found that for every dollar invested, there was a 12-fold social return that will last years into the future,” said Cristina M. Villegas, technical program manager for Pact’s Mines to Markets program. “With their new knowledge, miners improve their income, send their children to school, invest in their mines and their communities.”

GIA staff, including Robert Weldon, current director of the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center at GIA and a major contributor to the development and content of the guide, trained more than 1,000 artisanal miners on how to use the guide and tray during a two-week period earlier this year in Tanzania. GIA’s initial efforts to provide information to small scale, artisanal miners came full circle when the GIA team visited the Tanzanian Association of Women Miners (TAWOMA), who participated in the very first training session for the guide.

“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the reaction of the miners as they learn the material – you instantly see that you’ve positively made a change in someone’s life,” said Weldon. “These transcendent moments make us so proud that we can provide artisanal miners with a gem guide that gives them the confidence to know their value in the market.”

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