Scott Kay Remembered: Industry Weighs In on the Loss of a Legend

It was standing-room only at Scott Kay’s funeral yesterday, as industry colleagues mourned the loss of the legendary jewelry designer, who died Dec. 4 at age 57.

A family statement posted on the company Facebook page said that it will “forge ahead with passion, zest, and a sense of humor, and the stubbornness to ensure that we ‘never compromise.’ ”

“While we are heartbroken for this loss, Scott lived a fulfilling life,” it added. “We are comforted in knowing that Scott will continue to be with us forever, through his larger-than-life spirit.”

It asks that donations in his memory be made to Jewelers for Children.

A passionate artist, beloved friend, and devoted husband and father, Kay was revered, respected, and dubbed a visionary by many. In the early 1990s, he worked closely with Platinum Guild International USA to reintroduce platinum to American consumers as the premier metal to “never compromise when proposing a life together,” the tag line for his commitment jewelry division.

“He wanted his work to stand for the best that can be,” observes Huw Daniel, president of PGI-USA, reflecting on Kay’s attraction to the authenticity of the metal. “He was an original and a pioneer in so many fields—platinum being just one.”

Kay was known as a contrarian, never following anyone’s lead. In fact, much of what is standard practice in jewelry today is due to Kay’s early adoption and support.

“Many may not realize how the risks Scott Kay took paved the way for what is now normal jewelry business,” said Hedda Schupak, former editor at JCK, on her Facebook page. “He launched a line of platinum jewelry when everybody said it was too expensive to sell; he got into alternative metals when everybody said people wouldn’t buy a wedding band that wasn’t gold or platinum; he was an early adopter of CAD/CAM; and he was one of the earliest to seriously commit to building a consumer-facing brand.”

Kay’s passion for artistry and no-compromise mantra was unwavering, and his confident persona left an unforgettable impression.

“Scott was a renegade in so many ways, which I learned to appreciate,” says Yancy Weinrich, JCK Events group vice president. “He also had this side of him that embraced people and the industry.”

Family friend Michael Schechter, digital marketing and PR manager of Richline (formerly of Honora), called him Uncle Scott since childhood. Schechter recalls Kay lovingly challenging him—as well as the industry itself—beyond the limits of what he thought he could personally achieve.

“He challenged perceptions, he challenged his team, on more than a few occasions, he challenged his competitors,” says Schechter. “This may not have always been gentle, but for those who were willing to rise to the challenge, Scott made us better. He made our industry better, and we won’t be the same without him.”

But beyond the industry accolades and praise, it was Kay’s family—blood and extended industry—that mattered most to him.

“He was a larger-than-life person who always wanted to do things the best,” recollects B.J. Nichols, president of Reis Nichols Jewelers in Indianapolis. From Kay’s winning attitude to his great business skills and artistry to his sense of humor, Nichols has many memories of his time with Kay.

“When he came into town for a personal appearance, I would do a radio spot explaining that Scott lost a New York Giants–Indianapolis Colts bet and that’s why he was here,” Nichols jokes. “I introduced him to Peyton and Archie Manning, and he put their jerseys on the wall of his office. We rode ATVs together on the Appalachian Trail behind his house. We definitely had fun.”

Friend and peer Sissy Jones of Sissy’s Log Cabin in Pine Bluff, Ark., recalls his commitment to his kids. “He was in town for a trunk show, but said he had to leave early to get back in time for his son’s football game,” she explains. “How many people know this about Scott?” Another fond memory: when Kay shipped thousands of dollars of baseball equipment to Jones to benefit a facility she and her family built for local kids in need.

Jones shared a life lesson with Kay that he took to heart: We have two hands—one to give and one to receive.

“He told me, ‘Sissy, the more I get, the more I can give.’ This business is built on relationships, and because of my relationship with him I can tell you, he is a huge loss.”