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WJA Gives $65,500 in 2019 Scholarships and Grants

The money is going to 49 women.

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(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK – In advance of its Awards for Excellence Gala on July 29, which will raise funds for scholarships and grants, the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) announced that proceeds from 2019 fundraising resulted in awards totaling $65,500 in grants and scholarships to 49 women. The recipients are using the funds to underwrite education and advance their professional careers.

“Our grant and scholarship winners are an impressive group,” says WJA Executive Director Bernadette Mack. “Helping women enter and sustain careers in the jewelry business is one of the most important goals of the Women’s Jewelry Association.”

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The named scholarship and grant recipients are:

Carelle-WJA Grant Winner ($5,000)

Winners: Anne Holman and Jen Townsend, The Smithery
Anne Holman and Jen Townsend are jewelry artists who each earned a BFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design. Each has been building her own jewelry business, exhibiting work and teaching jewelry and enameling workshops in art centers and undergraduate metalsmithing classes. Together, they built The Smithery, an artist-made shop and metalsmith studio focusing on contemporary jewelry and modern craft located in Columbus, Ohio. The Smithery features lines of jewelry designed and created in house by the two artists, and also represents over 70 American and International artists. In addition, The Smithery includes an exhibition gallery and classroom area offering jewelry and enameling workshops. Holman and Townsend plan to use their grant to establish a separate studio space and acquire additional tools for expanded class offerings.

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Female Veteran Scholarship, sponsored by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group ($5,000)

Winner: Nora Micheli Hernandez
Nora Micheli Hernandez is currently a student at Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology at Paris Junior College in Paris, Texas. She will be graduating later this year with certificates in jewelry repair, computer-aided design, and jewelry technology. She is a disabled veteran of the U.S. Army, as well as a wife and mother to two boys. She plans on doing custom jewelry and working with other disabled veterans. Hernandez plans to use the grant money to buy the equipment and supplies needed to set up her studio.

The Cindy Edelstein Jewelry Design Scholarship ($5,000)

Winner: Coco de Salazar
Coco de Salazar is a jewelry designer and teaching artist in Miami, Florida. She has been metalsmithing for nine years and currently teaches fabrication and soldering classes at Jewelry Creations Workshop school in North Miami. Her jewelry line, “de Salazar Jewelry,” is designed and fabricated in her private Miami studio. In the daytime, de Salazar is a graphic designer and fine arts photographer, focusing on branding, marketing, and design needs for clients. She holds the president-elect board position for the WJA Miami Chapter. She plans to use her scholarship funds to pursue the Comprehensive CAD/CAM for Jewelry certificate through the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

The Gabriel Love Foundation Scholarship ($5,000)

Winner: Xabrina Michel’li Thompson
Xabrina Michel’li Thompson is a 22-year-old graduate of one of South Africa’s leading girl’s schools, Epworth High School. She is pursuing a graduate gemologist diploma from GIA, for which she will use her scholarship funds. She is a student member of the Women’s Jewelry Association. Thompson works in the jewelry industry and as part of her duties and responsibilities she has traveled widely, particularly in Asia and the Far East, marketing and sourcing jewelry products. In this process she identified a business opportunity, which she researched and introduced to her employer. As a result, a subsidiary company was formed, in which Thompson was given a share holding. She’ll use her newfound gemological knowledge to develop a freshwater pearl, colored stone, and sterling silver jewelry brand. She also wants to establish a WJA Chapter in her home country in South Africa to help others achieve their dreams.

The June Herman Designer/Creator Scholarship ($5,000)

Winner: Qianwen Lu
Qianwen Lu is a student at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where she is studying towards her degree in jewelry design. She plans to continue studying jewelry in a post-graduate course.

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The Peggy Kirby Designer Scholarship ($5,000)

Winner: Hsinyu Chu
Hsinyu Chu was born in Taipei, Taiwan. She received her bachelor of fine arts in fashion design and master of fine arts in jewelry metal art at Academy of Art University, San Francisco. She also studied at The Revere Academy in San Francisco. Chu received a jewelry design & technology diploma and a graduate jeweler diploma from GIA and is a student in its graduate pearls program. In 2017, she launched her jewelry workshop, JC Art & Design, in San Francisco’s Mission District before moving it to Milpitas, California. Chu would also like to become an appraiser and wishes to take an appraisal course.

Other Student Scholarships

These scholarships are awarded in three different categories: Designer/Creator (based on images of finished pieces that are designed and created by the student): Lauren Delbracco $3,000, Xun Liu $2,500, Zoe Larson $1,500, Melissa Cousins $1,000. Designer (based on designs by the student, includes CAD and drawings): Mengjie Zhang $2,000, Xinchen LI $1,000. Non-Designer (essay-based for applicants studying to be gemologists, appraisers, watchmakers, bench jewelers, or retailers): Bonnie Cornell $3,000; Jennifer Pollard $2,500; Katie Soule $1,500; Laura Marsolek $1,000.

Member Grants

Previously, WJA announced that it had awarded 32 member grants of $500 each to recipients around the country, for a total of $16,500 in awards. The grants are awarded to female, professional-level, WJA members in good standing, to be used toward professional growth. Grant winners are listed by the WJA Chapter that submitted their names:

  • Austin: Jen Leddy-Barnes; Boston: Wendy Jo New; Chicago: Sue Rosengard, Anne Van der Meulen, Olivia Zale; Colorado: Alexandra Fitzgerald; Dallas: Kelly Grise, Patricia Schrag; Houston: Maggie Segrich; Los Angeles: Harvinder Keila; Miami: Tiffany Joachim; Northern California: Sara Beck, Christy Comstock, Brittany Stadtmiller; NY Metro: Kristine Cabanban, AnnaLisa Cervi, Christine Malle, Stephanie Maslow Blackman, Annmarie Sclafani Stewart; Ohio/Kentucky: Christina Miller, Leslie Wright; Philadelphia: Christine Alaniz; Providence: Jennifer Skiba; Raleigh: Martha D’Alessandro; San Diego: Laura Fischer, Niki Grandics, Kathleen Lynagh House; Seattle: Nancy Castillo, Jessica Herner; Twin Cities: Jennifer Bellefleur, Dawn Bruggeman; Charlotte Preston “Get’s it Done” Grant: Betsy Sanders.

WJA grants and scholarships are administered by the WJA Foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation. Funds for these programs are generously provided by our corporate partners, local WJA chapters, the annual Awards for Excellence gala, and by individual donations. Donations are tax deductible. The foundation’s board of trustees is chaired is Brenda Gamba, Jewelers Board of Trade. Member grants are administered by board member Sue Elliott of GIA, and scholarships are managed by Lisa Slovis Mandel, Lisa Slovis Metalsmithing, immediate past president of the foundation. Various committees choose the winners of a number of the named scholarships. Member grant winners are chosen via a random drawing.

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WJA raises funds for its member grants and scholarships via its annual Awards for Excellence gala, which brings together industry leaders for a social evening in support of women in the industry. This year’s gala is on Monday, July 29, 2019, at Pier 60 in New York. It will once again feature a silent auction and raffle for that purpose.

The gala will also honor Visionaries in the jewelry industry – individuals making a difference in the cause of women’s equality. This year, the two individual WJA Visionary Awards will be bestowed on Carol Pennelli, president, David Yurman; and Stellene Volandes, editor in chief, Town & Country magazine.

In addition, Mark Hanna, chief marketing officer, Richline Group, will be presented with the Cindy Edelstein Mentorship Award. Hanna is the fourth recipient of the award, which was established in 2016 after the passing of Cindy Edelstein, a longtime WJA member who dedicated her life’s work to the development, encouragement, and enrichment of the lives of women in the jewelry industry.

Tickets to the awards gala are available at womensjewelryassociation.com.

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GIA Commits $1.3M to Artisanal Mining Education Project

It’s a four-year commitment.

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(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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Press Releases

Brooklyn Jewelers Launches Newest Line

It’s called “Neighborhoods Collection”.

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(PRESS RELEASE) BROOKLYN, NY – Brooklyn Jewelers announces the official launch of its newest line, the new “Neighborhoods Collection”. Taking inspiration from the art and fashion trends of Brooklyn, this collection is designed with millennials in mind. All of our jewelry is available in castings with select styles offered finished (in white, yellow, rose, 14K, 18K, palladium, and platinum).

For more information, contact: info@brooklynjewelers.com or call (718) 534-4408

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Check out our website: brooklynjewelers.com

We are also on Facebook and Instagram: @brooklynjewelers

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David Sexton of Jewelers Mutual Group Retires

He retires after 39 years with Jewelers Mutual.

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David Sexton

(PRESS RELEASE) NEENAH, WI – Earlier this week, Jewelers Mutual Group announced the retirement of longtime vice president of Loss Prevention and Consulting, David Sexton, CPCU.

Sexton began his association with Jewelers Mutual in 1980 as an Underwriting Assistant and enhanced his career through roles in commercial lines customer service, CL underwriting, and specialty account management, becoming vice president of Loss Prevention and Consulting in 2004.

In this critical loss prevention leadership role, Sexton was responsible for the development, recommendation and implementation of Jewelers Mutual’s loss prevention policy. He is credited with building key relationships between Jewelers Mutual with the jewelry, alarm, and law enforcement communities, to effectively promote comprehensive loss prevention strategies to reduce jewelry exposures to loss.

“It was never about me, it was always about us,” Sexton said.

Sexton will officially retire from Jewelers Mutual on December 31, 2019, however he plans to remain involved with the company for the foreseeable future through engagement with Jewelers Mutual associates, jewelry associations at industry events, and collaborations with agents/brokers. He will continue to work with the Jewelers Mutual executive team to ensure key relationships and partnerships he has helped forge remain strong.

“I will always treasure the relationships I have made during my association with Jewelers Mutual,” Sexton said. “My retirement is not an end, but rather a beginning. The leadership of Jewelers Mutual has a clear path for continuing our vital loss prevention mission to provide innovative risk management solutions for the industry we serve, not just insurance.”

Sexton, a member of the 24 Karat Club of New York, currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, a nonprofit association devoted to reducing crimes against the jewelry industry, as well as the Canadian Jewellers Association. In 2016, Sexton was the recipient of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance Industry Service Award and in 2018 he received the American Gem Society’s John J. Kennedy Law Enforcement Award.

Sexton has served on the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Security Systems Council, formerly known as the Burglary Protection Council, since 1994 and also serves as a corporate member of UL in the insurance category. He served on the Central Station Alarm Association’s Insurance Liaison Committee, which assisted in the development of the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) burglar alarm modular certificate program and remains active on several UL/ULC Standard Technical Panels through which UL/ULC develops and maintain their standards for safety.

“You’re known by the company you keep,” Sexton said. “It’s all about the people. Working with people to help them solve their risk management challenges has really been the most rewarding aspect of my insurance career.”

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