5 Parties That Embodied the Best of New York Jewelry Week

Jewelry market week in New York City last week was as vibrant and fun-filled as any I’ve attended in my 14-plus years of jewelry-showing (watch out, Las Vegas!), thanks in large part to its great shindigs.

Friday, July 25: JCK Team Cocktails

After popping by the New York Antique Jewelry & Watch Show on July 25, I hurried back to the JCK office for a team meeting, a precursor to the real team gathering of the day: a cocktail party at publisher Mark Smelzer’s killer pad in Brooklyn. Mark and his husband, Eric, have hosted the sales and editorial staff members at their place before, so I knew to expect a good time. The weather was unseasonably temperate, the sunset views from their living room predictably spectacular, and the opportunity to talk anything but shop with my coworkers incredibly fulfilling. It was the perfect kickoff to the week of schmoozing ahead.

Managing editor Melissa Bernardo, senior editor Jennifer Heebner, and the host with the most on his stellar balcony

Mark’s living room with a view

Sunday, July 27: LUXURY Privé’s American Hustle Soiree

I’ve got to hand it to LUXURY Privé event director Desiree Hanson: She knows how to throw a par-tay. To welcome exhibitors and retailers to the show’s new location at the Waldorf Astoria—which, by the way, went over extremely well with exhibitors and attendees—she organized a 1970s-theme cocktail event on July 27 inspired by the film American Hustle, and here’s the thing: People actually dressed up. The men donned wigs, from afros to tight curls, and sported open-collar shirts revealing thick (if faux) chest hair and heavy gilded chains. The women swung their best Farrah Fawcett fringe. Everyone looked groovy. The only thing missing was the platter of special brownies I half-expected to see being passed around!

Courtesy LUXURY Privé

The grooviest guys I know: Omi Privé’s Niveet Nagpal and Manos Phoundoulakis, JCK Events’ Lars Parker-Myers, and JCK’s very own Mark Smelzer

Monday, July 28: Women’s Jewelry Association Awards for Excellence Gala

I mark the passing of every year not by my birthday or Christmas, but by my annual visit to Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers to attend the Women’s Jewelry Association Awards for Excellence gala. The Monday-night affair is the summertime equivalent of the Jewelry Information Center’s GEM Awards in January. And even though it cuts my summer in half, I wouldn’t dream of missing it.

This year’s gala was a blast. From the cocktails to the speeches, the event went by in a flash. Unlike most July nights in the city, the weather wasn’t muggy. In fact, as we stood out on the balcony, admiring the lights of New Jersey across the Hudson River, I joked that I’d brought the warm but dry temps with me from Los Angeles.

The view from Pier Sixty

But it wasn’t the weather that made it such a good night. Spending an entire evening feting the fabulous women in the jewelry industry, many of them close friends of mine, reminded me of how communal and supportive our industry is. I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

“I’ve been in the business for almost 30 years, and there were hardly any women when I started,” said Calhoun Jewelers’ Cathy Calhoun, who took home the award for excellence in the Retail—Fewer Than 15 Doors category. “And I look around the room and it’s all these wonderful women!”

Amen, sister!

Courtesy WJA

Congrats to JCK Events’ Desiree Hanson for winning the WJA Award for Excellence in the special services category!

Tuesday, July 29: American Gem Society’s Circle of Distinction Dinner

If the WJA gala is the warm-weather counterpart to January’s GEM Awards, the American Gem Society’s annual Circle of Distinction dinner at the Plaza Hotel is summer’s answer to the winter’s 24 Karat Club festivities. Whereas WJA attracts designers and consumer press and plenty of women, the AGS event draws the industry’s traditional leaders, which is to say: mostly men.

Everyone agreed that this year’s honorees—AGTA’s Doug Hucker, Honora’s Joel Schechter, and Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry’s Lee Berg—were winners in the speech-making department. Their remarks included just enough ribbing of their fellow nominees to give the audience a good chuckle. But there were also plenty of genuinely touching moments, like this:

“I’m a first-generation jeweler,” Berg said when he accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award. “This industry didn’t pick me, I picked it.”

Wednesday, July 30: Couture Press Preview

The third annual Couture Preview at the Midtown Loft & Terrace marked the final day of jewelry week—and not a moment too soon, if my liver had anything to say about it. My dear friend Michelle Orman pulled off yet another coup with this fun event, which invites editors to spend time with a small selection of designers affiliated with the Couture show in Las Vegas.

Michelle Orman in her jewelry finest

From Pamela Huizenga’s dreamy opals and fossilized coral jewels to Buddha Mama’s heavy-duty golden Buddha pendant, the pieces on display were inventive, stylish, and super on-point. 

Pamela Huizenga’s fossilized coral ring

Buddha Mama’s big ol’ Buddha pendant in 20k gold; $39,000

After the viewing, we retired to the rooftop and watched the sunset through the skyscrapers of midtown. Cheers to New York City and to all the excuses it gives the industry to get together again!

Farewell, New York City! Till we meet again