Designers / Industry

92nd Street Y and De Beers Collaboration Adds New Sparkle to Teen Gems


Through a newly expanded 12-week program, New York’s 92nd Street Y along with its supporting partner De Beers is hoping to train, mentor, and support the next generation of bench jewelers, jewelry retailers, and jewelry leaders.

The 92nd Street Y has doubled the number of participants and added instructors in its Teen Gems program, which provides New York City public high school students with jewelry industry education and experience, including internships and classes with jewelry artists and professionals. The 2023 program is sponsored by the De Beers Group and an anonymous donor, and internships are arranged in partnership with the NYC Department of Education.

Students who have an interest in art and design but may not have access to key aspects of a jewelry career, like studio equipment or comprehensive training, are recruited for Teen Gems, says Jonathan Wahl, director of the 92nd Street Y’s Jewelry Center. It is free of charge for participants.

Ice Cold
The 92nd Street Y’s Jonathan Wahl introduced the panel and spoke at the April event about Teen Gems, a program that introduces New York public high school students to a career in jewelry.

Objectives of the program include exploring a student’s abilities, creating confidence in art, and setting up leadership opportunities, Wahl says. Students are given the time and space to explore whether a career in jewelry may be right for them—and interacting with jewelry industry professionals could spark them onto this path.

“There is little to no access to jewelry studios for teens in NYC with or without resources. Learning the skills of soldering and fabrication, learning to master fire—these are life-changing experiences,” Wahl says.

The Teen Gems program is also conducted in collaboration with New York City Jewelry Week, which helps coordinate visiting artist talks and arrange internships.

“The jewelry industry has a responsibility to open doors and create opportunities for the next generation of talent,” Sally Morrison, director of the natural diamond initiative at De Beers, said in an email interview. “We love Teen Gems because the program offers not just support and education but community for aspiring young creators curious about exploring a career in the craft of jewelry-making.”

92NY event
Audience members for the hip-hop jewelry book talk at the 92nd Street Y included student participants in the Teen Gems program.

In April, the 92nd Street Y hosted an event with De Beers that celebrated Teen Gems as well as the book Ice Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History. Author Vikki Tobak, artist and producer Slick Rick, and stylist June Ambrose participated in a discussion about the past, present, and future of jewelry through the lens of hip-hop, moderated by Janelle Okwodu, Vogue’s senior fashion and culture editor.

The conversation touched on collaborations between hip-hop musicians and jewelry businesses, like Pharrell joining Louis Vuitton as its men’s creative director and Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s work with Tiffany. Students had the opportunity to speak with the event’s guests, says Wahl, who adds that he hopes to continue to grow Teen Gems with De Beers and other support.

Top: The book Ice Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History was featured in a recent event where the 92nd Street Y and its partners, including De Beers, celebrated the expanded Teen Gems program. (Photos: Madison McGaw/ of the 92nd Street Y)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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