From F-Bombs to Ventriloquists, Industry Celebrates 24 Karat Weekend

New York City may have been suffering a record-breaking cold snap, but the annual 24 Karat weekend brought plenty of heat to the shivering city, with its standard whirlwind of glittery events, heartfelt awards, and a few surprises.

The Diamond Empowerment Fund’s GOOD Awards kicked things off on Jan. 8 with an event at the Empire Penthouse Lounge. Jane Seymour, the actress behind Sterling’s Open Hearts Collection, and David Rocha, executive director of Jewelers for Children, were both honored for their commitment to giving back to the community.

In her speech, Seymour said that when the industry commits to giving back, “everyone wins and the entire world can be impacted by doing just a little good.”

At the Jewelers Vigilance Committee luncheon the following day at the Waldorf Astoria, Signet vice president of corporate affairs David Bouffard was honored with the organization’s Stanley Schechter Award, given to those who show a commitment to improving trade ethics. 

“No one is more dedicated to fostering responsible practices in the industry,” said JVC president and CEO Cecilia Gardner in honoring Bouffard. His daughter surprised him at the announcement. 

World Diamond Council president Edward Asscher was the event’s keynote speaker, and his speech discussed the brief rift in the group.

“People always talk about the diamond family and, like in every family, there is sometimes a fight,” he said. He compared his organization, which represents the trade in front of the Kimberley Process, to a Patek Phillipe: “You don’t own it, but you’re the keeper of the next generation.”

A frank and funny speech by Stephen Webster was among the highlights of Jewelers of America’s GEM Awards, held the evening of Jan. 9 at Cipriani 42nd Street.

“The American jewelry industry has been f—ing amazing to me,” the designer said, to hoots from the audience, accepting his GEM Award for design. 

He also thanked his wife, as “she is the only reason I leave the house in the morning.”

W magazine’s accessories and jewelry editor Claudia Mata took home the GEM Award for media excellence; watch manufacturer Shinola nabbed the award for marketing and communications; and Neiman Marcus vice president and divisional merchandise manager of precious jewels Larry Pelzel was honored with the award for lifetime achievement. Pelzel’s award was the only one announced in advance.

Introducing Pelzel, Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz said that the three-decade company veteran has doubled the retailer’s jewelry business by focusing on quality product.

“No two days are ever the same in my job,” Pelzel said in his speech, “which makes it fun.”

For the first time, the event was live-streamed, and highlights can be viewed here.

At the Jewelers’ Security Alliance’s annual luncheon at the Harmonie Club on Jan. 10, the James B. White Award to law enforcement went to supervisory special agent James A. Tarasca of the FBI violent crimes force, Philadelphia division, and detective Mark McCullion and task force officer John L. Benham, both of the Philadelphia Police Department.

JSA president John Kennedy said that the industry has grown safer thanks to the committed work of those in law enforcement, who are showing a greater interest in jewelry crime. 

Finally, on the evening of Jan. 10, the 24 Karat Club of the City of New York presented its annual gala at the Waldorf Astoria, with entertainment by speed painter Dan Dunn and ventriloquist and America’s Got Talent winner Terry Fator. Before the dinner, there was a moment of silence for past 24 Karat Club president Robert J. Wueste, who died days before the dinner. 

—Additional reporting by Victoria Gomelsky

JCK News Director