Scenes From the 24 Karat Club of Southern California’s 72nd Annual Dinner Dance

The West Coast’s jewelry industry turned out in force for the shindig, which returned this year to the Beverly Hills Hotel

The Beverly Hills Hotel, and especially its famed Polo Lounge, is a place to see and be seen. Add a few hundred jewelers who converged on the property on Oct. 8 to attend the 72nd dinner dance of the 24 Karat Club of Southern California, and it’s a downright schmooze fest. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of the people with whom I crossed paths during Saturday’s truly convivial night of celebration (in somewhat chronological order).

• JCK publisher Mark Smelzer, aka my work husband, erudite as ever, returning to his second favorite topic, the architectural history of Los Angeles. (Mark’s favorite topic? His 11-month-old son, Nolen, of course!).

• Adam Graham, director of sales and marketing at Omi Privé, and his lovely wife, Allison, reminiscing about the lodge they owned on Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands (and the local scallops, as big as salad plates!).

• Gannon Brousseau, vice president at Couture, father to a 10-month-old son, joking about his lack of sleep, and his fondness for Los Angeles, where he spent 17 years prior to moving to New York City.

• My table seatmate Donna Jolly, director of marketing at the American Gem Society, laughing about the celebrity neighbors she used to have when she lived in West Hollywood, Calif.

• Jen Cullen Williams accepting the evening’s Rising Star Award (congrats!!!)—with an entourage that included her husband, Brad Williams; their parents; her colleagues at Luxury Brand Group, Frank Proctor and Arlene Guerrero; and fellow WJAer, the NPD Group’s Desiree Hanson.

“My first 24K dinner dance was 2007,” Cullen Williams said when she accepted the award. “I’d just joined the agency, and it felt really special. I got to see people making connections and I thought, wow, I want to be a part of this.”


A Luxury Brand Group ad congratulating Jen Cullen Williams on her Rising Star Award (designed, as it happens, by my sister, Julia Gomelsky)

• Bev Hori, chief learning officer at the Gemological Institute of America, recalling her years at Ben Bridge Jeweler, where she worked with Mary Todd-McGinnis, vice president of sales and training for the company, one of the night’s two Excellence in Service Award honorees. “Mary was a ‘maximizer,’ ” Hori said. “Someone who wants to take good and make it excellent.”

• Nikhil Jhaveri of Jhaveri Diamond Corp., the second of the Excellence in Service Award honorees, reflecting on the first time he attended “one of these events 35 years ago.

“This is a unique business,” he said. “On any given day, you deal with different people around the world, different backgrounds, different cultures, and you haven’t even left the office.”

• Manos Phoundoulakis and his wonderful wife, Kelle, mugging for the camera in a crowded step-and-repeat shot with his colleagues at Omi Privé.


The crew from Omi Privé

• Julia Popovich, the designer of Zhulia, who’d driven up from San Diego’s North County for the evening; designer Loretta Castoro, a home shopping sales veteran, explaining the critical price-to-size relationship of jewelry sold on television; and Communiqué publicist Rebecca Moskal on the highlights of Tokyo, where she recently spent a few days and where I’m headed on Oct. 25.

• A large contingent from GIA, including Kathryn Kimmel, senior vice president and chief marketing officer; Craig Danforth, director of global business development; and alumni relations manager, Kate Donovan.

I could go on, but the three gin cocktails I enjoyed that night may have impaired my memory. I do, however, remember this: It was a fun, sociable evening of making connections and honoring three people whom I truly respect and admire. What a glorious reason to get dressed up. To echo Cullen Williams, I’m so grateful to be a part of this.

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