“These gems have life in them: their colors speak, say what words fail of,” said 19th century author and journalist George Eliot.
Although Eliot made a valid point about the vibrancy of gems, for the past year and a half, I have had the task of using words to tell the stories of the industry—stories that extend beyond the color of a ruby or sapphire.
Prior to writing for JCK, I’ll admit that other than accessorizing my outfits with statement necklaces and admiring the sparkle of diamonds, I didn’t know a great deal about the jewelry industry. However, after getting to know the JCK office and attending industry events, I became attuned to the ins and out and of the business. More importantly, I began to see how passionate everyone is about their craft.
Coinciding with my upcoming move back to my home state (although I’ll still be contributing to the website for a bit), I’ve decided to take a look back at some of my favorite JCK memories, and the insights I’ve learned along the way.
1. Jewelry is for both the young, and young at heart.
“Don’t be a spectator of your own dreams,” says Gabrielle Jordan Williams, the adolescent entrepreneur who founded her own jewelry company, Jewelz of Jordan, in 2009 when she was only 9 years old. When interviewing Williams, I, like many readers, became inspired by her optimism, work ethic, and determination to do what she loves.
Switching gears to an older generation, the story of reunited 1940s wartime sweethearts, David Kershaw, 86, and Jeanne Walker, 85, symbolize the backbone of this industry: love. Their Hollywoodesque tale can make even the most cynical of souls shed a tear and proves that it’s really never too late to put a ring on it.
2. Jewelry can add sparkle, even in the most difficult times.
In the spring, I talked to legendary jeweler Lorraine Schwartz about her partnership with Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation. Schwartz, who lost her mother to cancer, partnered with the charity to create jewelry with the patients of Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The children designed jewelry for their favorite celebrities. “Singers like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé are what kept them going through chemo,” Schwartz says. “Making the jewelry has changed each child from the victim to the hero.”
No one knows the healing power of jewelry-making quite like Linda Cifuentes, a brave teenager I had the privilege of speaking to last summer. Cifuentes was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, forcing her to endure aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Jewelry design kept her going throughout her struggles, inspiring her to create her own line. “For Linda, jewelry is a source of happiness, beauty, and inspiration,” says Carmen Cifuentes, Linda’s adoptive mother.
Cifuentes with her mentor, Ivanka Trump
3. Athletes love their bling.
On a lighter note, athletes, ranging from seven-foot-tall basketball players to petite gymnasts, can’t get enough of jewelry. During my time writing for JCK, I have had the opportunity to interview former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, and current pro basketball player (and Kim Kardashian ex-husband) Kris Humphries about their fascination with jewels. Along the way, I’ve gotten some fashion advice from these superstars. “It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed,” Raisman says. “Keep it classy and presentable. You have to dress for your age group,” O’Neal adds.
With Shaquille O’Neal and Theo Killion, CEO of Zales
4. There’s always a cause for celebration.
There’s no doubt that this industry loves to party and since jewelry symbolizes celebratory moments, there’s nothing wrong with that! The past few years have burdened our country with some difficult events, which is why it is especially important to relish each of life’s happy incidents. From the sparkling cocktail hours at JCK Las Vegas, to the sophisticated soirees in New York City, I have enjoyed toasting alongside of you.
With JCK web editor Daniel Ford, toasting Breguet watches
5. Giving back is the true gem of the industry.
Perhaps my favorite insight onto the jewelry industry is its dedication to doing good. From the number of participants eager to wake up at dawn to run in the Rings of Strength Tour during JCK Las Vegas to the numerous charitable contributions I’ve written about over the past two years, I have found the generosity and compassion of people in this industry to be enlightening and heartening.
In Vegas with avid JCK reader Cait Skjeie
To the JCK readers, staff, and industry friends I’ve met along the way—my true diamonds in the rough—thanks for the memories!