It was a little later than usual and featured two new venues, but the 24 Karat weekend still got the job done in 2018, kicking off the new year with a jam-packed weekend of events, awards, and high-powered schmoozing.
On Jan. 19, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee held its annual luncheon, moving the venue from New York City’s Waldorf Astoria (currently under renovation) to the InterContinental New York Barclay.
Ben Bridge CEO Ed Bridge received the group’s Stanley Schechter Award, given to honorees who uphold industry ethics. The award, named for a former JVC board member, was bestowed by Stanley Schechter’s son Joel.
In a speech, Bridge recalled that, when he was in the Boy Scouts, the goal was always to “leave the campsite cleaner than before.” He hoped that he did same for the jewelry industry.
That night, Jewelers of America’s 16th annual Gem Awards took place at Cipriani 42nd Street. Hosted by designer Stephen Webster (pictured, left), they honored five people for helping to promote the industry.
Will & Grace actress Debra Messing (pictured, right), whose father was a jeweler, received the Gem Award for Jewelry Style.
“Jewelry tells the story of my life,” she said. “It immediately transports me in a way photographs do not. When I miss my mom, the only thing that comforts me is putting on her ring and then I feel close to her again.
“Jewelry—wearable art—that comes from the earth carries energy within it. It makes me feel me bold, aggressive, demure, glamorous.… It helps me identify and free the many different facets of my soul. It makes me feel more like myself. It is my armor, my talisman, my comfort, my joy, my good luck charm, my weapon, my sorcery. And the magical part of it all is it affects the viewer as much as it does the wearer. It’s a shared experience. It’s generous. And to me that’s the definition of beauty.”
The Retail Innovator Award went to website Moda Operandi; the award for Media Excellence went to Marion Fasel, founder of TheAdventurine.com; and the award for Jewelry Design went to Irene Neuwirth, who in a speech called designing jewelry “a dream job.”
“All I really want to do is make pieces that have a soul, pieces that are passed down from generation to generation, pieces that say, ‘You are precious. You are valuable. You are loved,’” she said.
Lifetime Achievement Award winner Sally Morrison (pictured, left) made a heartfelt plea to include more women in the industry.
“We make products that represent and celebrate the most meaningful and transformative moments in a women’s life,” she said. “Ultimately, she’s our customer and we need to honor her. We need every aspect of what we do to be worthy of the product we sell. To do a better job of this, we need to involve women in all aspects of our industry.”
She said the industry can do this by “rooting out sexism and harassment”; “using advertising imagery that informs a broader, more inclusive view of women”; “committing to including the input of women at all levels of our corporate structures, not just in the soft disciplines like marketing and HR”: and by “developing mentoring programs, business coaching, and access to financing that will allow small women-owned brands to grow bigger, sustainable businesses.”
At the Jewelers’ Security Alliance’s annual luncheon, held Jan. 20 at the Pierre Hotel, Yancy Weinrich, senior vice president for JCK and Reed Exhibitions, received the group’s Industry Service Award.
Announcing the award, JSA president John J. Kennedy noted that the alliance between JSA and JCK stretches back over a century. JCK’s then-publisher presided over the initial meeting in 1883 that founded the group.
The group also bestowed its James B. White Award for Law Enforcement to Daniel Gimenez and Mario S. Aguilar. The two FBI special agents broke up a gang that is believed to be responsible for robbing 19 traveling diamond and jewelry salespeople.
Finally, the 24 Karat Club of New York held its annual dinner at the New York Hilton Hotel, after over 100 years at the Waldorf.
The night’s featured entertainer, American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee, sang standards from her new album, I Fall in Love Too Easily, opening with the industry-appropriate “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
(Webster and Messing: Sunny Norton Photography; Morrison: Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com)