WJA to Honor Sybil Yurman, Steven Kaiser

The Women’s Jewelry Association Board of Directors announced Wednesday their selection of Sybil Yurman, president and chief marketing officer of David Yurman, as the 2008 “Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement” honoree and Steven Kaiser, president and chief executive officer of Kaiser Time, as the recipient of the “Ben Kaiser Award.” They will be honored at the WJA 25th Annual Awards for Excellence gala, to be held in New York City on July 27 at 6 p.m.

The awards will be one of the many tributes WJA will celebrate for its 25th anniversary in 2008 on the national and chapter levels. It plans to honor the organization’s founders as well as those who have shown extraordinary support for women in the industry.

In addition, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company has signed on for the second year in a row as a WJA “Pillar of Distinction” sponsor, said WJA president Ann Arnold.

“We are so grateful for Jewelers Mutual’s generous support and that of our other sponsors. And we are thrilled to honor these two exceptional individuals on this milestone anniversary,” Arnold said.

“Sybil Yurman is an extraordinary business woman—a visionary and risk taker, who by her example has been an inspiration to so many women in our industry,” Arnold added. “And as we celebrate our past, it is fitting to honor the son of Ben Kaiser, after whom the award was first named in 1996. Steven’s generosity to WJA and the industry, like his father’s, has been exemplary.” 

Sybil Yurman, wife and partner of jewelry designer David Yurman, has been instrumental in the success of the renowned design house since its inception in 1979.

“Sybil Yurman is a true muse, partner and businesswoman, said Daid Yurman, who met his wife in 1969 while he was working in a sculptor’s studio and she was a young artist writing grant proposals. “Sculptors tend to focus on form. She opened my eyes to a wider creative process.”

His sense of design, coupled with her keen business sense, marketing instincts, and aesthetic values—along with a mutual interest in the arts—provided a solid foundation for the relationship and the visionary company that today is a leader in the international jewelry industry.

In 2001, Sybil Yurman’s direction was a key factor in the development of the company’s first lifestyle advertising campaign, which has since become iconic. The simple yet striking black and white print images feature David Yurman designs on notable faces in fashion, including Kate Moss, Amber Valetta, Naomi Watts, and Natalia Vodianova.

In 2001 David and Sybil Yurman established their namesake Humanitarian and Arts Foundation as a means to provide significant support to a variety of organizations, including ALS, YouthAIDS, Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Project Angel Food, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

“I absolutely love what I do and that we have been able to capitalize on our artistic abilities to use this success to aid the causes of others,” Sybil Yurman said. “WJA has nurtured the careers of hundreds of women through its many activities, educational conferences, scholarship programs, and networking opportunities. I’m thrilled to accept this prestigious award from my WJA sisters on its 25th anniversary. The jewelry industry would not be the same without this important organization.”

Steven Kaiser has been an owner and executive in the watch and jewelry industry for over 25 years. He began his career in 1982 with Baume & Mercier, USA, and rose to president and chief executive officer. Under his tenure, from 1993 until 1998, Baume & Mercier grew into a leader of the luxury watch industry and increased sales 80 percent, with 25 percent fewer open doors. 

In 1999 he assumed the position of executive shareholder of Benedom, Inc., a subsidiary of luxury brand mega-giant, the Louis Vuitton, Moet, Hennessey Group. Kaiser directed the successful introduction of the Christian Dior and Fred Joaillier brands to the U.S. market. He sold his Benedom interest to LVMH and in 2000 founded Kaiser Time, Inc., a full service consulting/business development, executive recruiting, and mergers and acquisitions firm. The company works with more than 100 leading manufacturers and retailers in the watch and jewelry industry, including GE MONEY, Patek Philippe, JCK/Reed Exhibitions, Tiffany & Co., and the Swatch Group.

“I’m honored to receive this special WJA award that recognized my father,” Kaiser said. “He saw the potential of WJA from its infancy and encouraged me to join in 1983. I’ve watched it evolve into one of the most dynamic and important organizations, and I’m proud to be part of it,”

Kaiser is an active member of many industry organizations, where he has held important positions, including the Jewelry Information Center, Jewelers Vigilance Committee, American Watch Association, and Jewelers for Children. He is the fifth recipient of the Ben Kaiser Award.

The 2008 Awards for Excellence is being totally redesigned for WJA’s Silver Anniversary, according to dinner co-chairs Mindy Fielman of Hearts On Fire and Lisa Cochin of the Diamond Promotion Service.

“Only two awards will be given this year,” said Cochin.  “We will honor all of our past presidents and recipients of the Hall of Fame and Ben Kaiser Awards in a gala event that will celebrate the extraordinary leadership that has made WJA such a vibrant organization as well as the new initiatives that will shape it for tomorrow.”

WJA’s 25th anniversary will officially be kicked off on January 22 by its Metropolitan Chapter, representing the New York City tri-state area. It will host a member event at Gracie Mansion in New York City, the official residence of the Mayor of the City of New York. Peggy Kirby, one of the original founders of the national organization and the first recipient of the Hall of Fame Award, will be recognized. And members will have the opportunity to tour the historic mansion, said incoming Metro Chapter president, Michelle Kwiat Siegel.  

Other chapter and national events planned for the anniversary year will be announced soon.

WJA, founded in 1983, is the preeminent association of professional women in the jewelry, watch and related businesses. Through the national organization, headquartered in Mt. Royal, NJ, and a network of 12 regional chapters, members benefit from educational and networking opportunities, mentoring, scholarships, design competitions and recognition programs. For member or sponsorship information visit its Web site at www.womensjewelry.org .