My Weekend Inside the Jewelry Vortex

I missed the polar vortex when I landed at JFK last Wednesday—just barely. Patches of black ice still dotted the sidewalks, and the water main in JCK’s midtown building burst, causing some mayhem in the elevators and hallways, but the arctic chill had largely receded.

The thought of negotiating snowy sidewalks in shaky heels to attend a series of jewelry events had filled me with a mild sense of dread, so it was a huge relief when the weather turned downright balmy on Thursday—just in time for the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s (DEF) third annual 2014 GOOD Awards.

The awards recognize individuals and companies that promote sustainability and good works in Africa’s diamond-producing countries. I am proud to say that JCK was among the night’s honorees, along with Fred Meyer Jewelers and Forevermark, whose CEO, Stephen Lussier, accepted in person. His presence underscored not only the growing significance of the DEF—which has blossomed under the leadership of executive director Nancy Orem Lyman—but also served as a gentle reminder of how much has changed in the diamond industry over the past few years. (After all, it wasn’t that long ago that De Beers executives had to pretend they were visiting relatives if they wanted to do business in this country.)

Friday it was on to the Jewelers Vigilance Committee’s annual luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria, a sober precursor to the following evening’s 24 Karat Club shenanigans. I couldn’t stay long at the luncheon—as a nominee at that night’s GEM Awards, I had booked hair and makeup appointments just in case I would be asked to stand onstage—but did manage to hear a few excellent tidbits about the legendary Stanley Schechter from my table mate, Steven Merdinger, his former accountant.

The prep work to get ready for the evening’s awards ceremony went smoothly. I made it back to Brooklyn to meet up with my twin sister, Julia, who’d flown in from Los Angeles for the weekend, with 20 minutes to change into my dress and shimmy downstairs into a waiting Town Car.

For those who don’t know about the GEM Awards, here are the pertinent details: Founded to celebrate members of the industry who are promoting consumer education, they’ve been held every year (but one) since 2003—two years after I joined the industry. In other words, they’re a ritual by which I mark my year. The GEM Awards=early January.

It used to be that winners were named in advance; this year, however, the Jewelry Information Center (JIC) decided to amp up the excitement level with a live, Oscars-style reveal. When I learned that the ceremony was changing format and that I would be among three people nominated in the media category, I was thrilled—and a little unnerved by the prospect of being thrust into the spotlight.

After much deliberation, I chose a floor-length emerald green dress by Ralph Lauren that I picked up at Macy’s. It was between that and a one-shoulder gold lamé Laundry dress from Bloomingdale’s. My decision to go green was aided by the fact that my good friend Randi Molofsky, North American marketing director of Gemfields, the evening’s sponsor, had offered to lend me a dramatic 15-strand necklace of Zambian emerald beads worth $50,000 (retail). The monotone green-on-green ensemble seemed just right for the evening.

Thanks to Gemfields for letting me borrow this 15-strand necklace composed of 1,324.55 cts. t.w. Zambian emerald beads to wear to the GEM Awards on Friday night (photo courtesy of Gemfields).

Bedecked in all that mega-caratage, I felt my anxiety about being a nominee fall away the moment Jul and I set foot inside Cipriani 42nd Street. The former bank building is one of Manhattan’s grandest event spaces, and on Friday, it glowed beneath soft lights that, as Lifetime Achievement Award winner Marie Helene Morrow astutely pointed out, made everyone look younger and lovelier.

I relaxed even more when I learned that the award for media excellence would be announced first, meaning that me and my fellow nominees—memoirist Beth Bernstein and blogger Benjamin Clymer (of Hodinkee fame)—would soon be allowed to catch up with the rest of the boozers.

As InStyle’s Marion Fasel introduced the video clips that the JIC had created to honor each nominee, I felt my heart begin to pound. The scallops on my plate sat untouched. Marion opened the envelope and the clock seemed to slow. I looked around the table—at my twin sister to my right, senior editor Jennifer Heebner to my left, and all the JCK family members who’d turned out for the evening surrounding us—and felt so much camaraderie and love that even as my name was called and I half walked–half floated to the stage to say a few words to the crowd of 500 people, I didn’t feel a shred of nervousness or anxiety.

I spoke for a minute or two about how the jewelry industry seduced me 14 years ago, and how it continues to seduce me today. I thanked, in broad terms, my employers, my colleagues, my friends, and my sister. It was over in a flash, and I walked back to my seat, where I cheered Kara Ross for her win in the designer category, Tiffany & Co. for its win in the corporate category, and, last but not least, the inimitable Marie Helene, who gave a beautiful speech—gracious and inspiring.

Here I am with my sister Julia and my GEM Award for media excellence!

Thank you for all the well wishes and kind, congratulatory words I’ve received in the wake of my win on Friday night. I am so honored to be a part of this industry, and so, so grateful.

Amanda Gizzi, director of communications at Jewelers of America, deserves a huge shout-out for coordinating such a beautiful GEM Awards production! And congrats again to all the nominees and winners! I am humbled to be in such stellar company.

P.S. Look for photo highlights from the weekend of jewelry events in the Social Diary pages of our forthcoming February issue.