She served as “a bridge” between designers and the industry
Cindy Edelstein, who mentored and nurtured scores of jewelry designers through her two decades running the Jeweler’s Resource Bureau, died Jan. 24 of heart failure. She was 51.
Edelstein was known as a tireless advocate for designers and jewelry design in general. But she always reminded the burgeoning talents she worked with to never lose track of the commercial realities of the business.
“If you make the most beautiful things and don’t sell it, it stays on your bench,” she told the podcast Metalsmith BenchTalk in 2013. “Your jewelry doesn’t have vocal cords; it doesn’t speak for itself. Someone has to get it out there.”
Edelstein’s company tried to give them those vocal cords, offering a wide range of services for jewelry designers, from databases to business seminars to trade shows.
“Designers have a special language,” she told a 2010 podcast with Michael Schechter. “They are smaller entrepreneurs, less familiar with terms, [they have] less capital, less marketing savvy for the most part. I serve as the bridge.”
The Brooklyn-born Edelstein admitted she never set out to do what she did; like so many in the industry, she fell into it. Upon graduating from Fashion Institute of Technology, she wanted to become a fashion journalist and was offered two jobs. The one she took was fashion editor for JCK.
“My father was a retail jeweler up until I was 13,” she told MetalSmith Benchtalk. “I thought it was, as my Yiddish grandmother said, beshert, fated … I [knew] the language of the industry. I remember looking for loose diamonds in my 1970s shag carpeting when my dad brought home a customer. It was in my bones.”
Once at the magazine, “I fell in love with jewelry designers,” she continued. “Nothing lit me up like interviewing designers, and finding about their inspiration, and why they made what they made, and how they figured out if you add this fire to this metal, and do this to it, oh my God, look at the beauty. That is what really amazed me.”
She worked for JCK for five years, until the early 1990s recession.
“All of a sudden I couldn’t be JCK’s fashion editor anymore thanks to the bean counters high in the corporation,” she recalled. “I didn’t want to leave our industry. I had five years of great connections, and people I had fallen in love with, and I wanted to continue helping.”
With a company name that her mother dreamed up—Jeweler’s Resource Bureau (“we weren’t sure what I was going to be doing yet, but it would be resourceful”)—she went into business for herself.
Soon after, JCK launched its show in Las Vegas.
“I turned around to my old publisher, who still loved me and was sorry I wasn’t on his team anymore, and said, ‘You ought to have a designer section of your show,’” she said. “It had just become popular to have designer pavilions.”
“It was the 1990s, the depths of the recession. Nobody cared what you did,” she continued. “We weren’t playing to a big crowd. And the industry just took off from there. The 1990s were fabulous for designers. It was a whole generation’s time to bloom. I got to do all kinds of crazy things, like make them their own show-within-a-show, and add a cappuccino bar, and hire a harpist and a guitarist, and [do] specialty publications, and all these things that we hadn’t done before at trade shows, I got to do for the designers.”
Five years later, her husband, former New York Times editor Frank Stankus, joined her in the business.
“The real tenet of our business was: ‘We’ll do everything within our talents,’” she said. “We just kept doing things. Some designer would say, ‘I don’t know who to market to. How do I find all these retailers?’ We started keeping track of all the retailers that we met in the industry, and read about, and visited. The next thing you know, I have the only database of retailers across the country who sell designer jewelry.”
Her business soon became designer-focused: “There was nobody paying attention to them,” she told Schechter.
In addition to her work at the JCK show, she also worked at Couture and AGTA show, and created a designer-centric show, globalDESIGN.
She also wrote for numerous trade publications; just recently, she shared with Jennifer Heebner 10 Things New Jewelry Designers Need to Know. Edelstein and Stankus wrote a book, Brilliance: Masterpieces from the American Jewelry Design Council, that sold out on its first printing.
In her years in the industry, she won the 1995 Benne Award from the American Jewelry Design Council; the 1996 Contemporary Design Group’s award as Best Designer Advocate; the Women’s Jewelry Association’s 1990 Award for editorial excellence; and the WJA 2001 award for excellence in marketing.
She is survived by Stankus; daughter Remy Sasha Stankus; stepson Byron David Stankus; and brother Philip Edelstein.
After her death, jewelry industry social media filled up with countless reactions and recollections. Here are just a few:
Heart Broken for Cindy Edelstein’s Early Departure ! RIP We Lost An Outstanding Human Being . The Jewelry Industry Will Be Incomplete
— Frinette Dunay (@FrinetteDunay) January 24, 2016
— Daniel Gordon (@DanGordon) January 25, 2016
A jewelry industry gem lost way too soon – we will miss you both personally and professionally Cindy Edelstein,… https://t.co/EpPJvZzi9o
— #JCKEvents (@JCKEvents) January 24, 2016
This one hurts, and it hurts badly. The jewelry industry is mourning the loss of @JewelryBizGuru today in a way we may never see again.
— Barbara Palumbo (@BPalumbo16) January 25, 2016
— remy rotenier (@RemyRotenier) January 25, 2016
Shocked and saddened by the passing of @JewelryBizGuru Cindy Edelstein. Hard to imagine the designer jewelry world without her.
— Danielle Miller (@daniellejewelry) January 25, 2016
— Shoshana Kaliski (@ShoshanaKaliski) January 25, 2016
— Zoe DuFour (@zoedufour) January 25, 2016
So much sadness in her passing. So much love and joy and inspiration she leaves behind. RIP Cindy Edelstein. You… https://t.co/WSIu6qjGGl
— Saundra Messinger (@sm_jewelry) January 25, 201