Love Stories: Couples Who Met, Romanced, or Wed at JCK

We loved hearing these adorable anecdotes, from a (sort of) surprise proposal to an impulse wedding to a meet-cute at Mandalay. What can we say? We’re hopeless romantics!

Love has always been an integral part of the jewelry business. For starters, jewelry is practically a love language unto itself. From the deep affection a piece of jewelry symbolizes to both giver and recipient to the pride and care embodied by family businesses that have passed the craft down through generations, love is inextricably woven into everything we do.

At JCK, we’re proud to be connected to another facet of love within our industry. A huge part of our business has to do with personal connections. It’s the thing we hear most often when we ask professionals about their favorite aspect of the jewelry industry. It’s our favorite thing about the JCK Las Vegas show, too. This year we’ve decided to be more explicit about these connections by officially declaring love as the theme of this year’s event.

To celebrate, we asked our readers to share love stories connected to the show, and boy, did they. Here, we recap five unforgettable tales of romance at JCK Las Vegas. —Natalie Chomet


Jeff and Jolissa Hebard
Jeff and Jolissa Hebard

2003: Jeff and Jolissa Hebard

Jeff and Jolissa “Jo” Hebard didn’t expect to get married in Las Vegas. The couple from Southern California had been separated four years when, a few days before the 2003 JCK show, Jeff—then-manager of trade relations for Platinum Guild International (PGI) USA in Newport Beach—called Jo on a whim. “A couple months before that, she’d come to our son’s baseball game and we briefly reconnected,” Jeff recalls. “I don’t know what came over me, but I called her and said, ‘You should come to Vegas; I’ll fly you out.’ ”

Jeff had worked for PGI since 1997 and regularly attended JCK. This year was already shaping up to be more raucous than most. “It was my brother’s 21st birthday, and my sister and her then-fiancé, now husband, came out, too.”

On Jo’s last night in town, she joined Jeff and his siblings at Gilley’s Saloon, a nightclub at the New Frontier. That same night, the couple’s mutual friend, Alex Alvarez, then-manager of public relations for PGI, was at a Women’s Jewelry Association event at The Venetian, where he won a trip for two to Italy. Afterward, he convinced a crew of jubilant partygoers—­including designer Jose Hess, PGI’s then-CEO James Courage, and the guild’s then–technical director Jurgen Maerz—to ­accompany him to Gilley’s.

When they arrived, Alvarez told Jeff and Jo about the trip he’d won, and challenged them to a dare. “He told us, ‘I’ll give you the trip to Italy if you get married tonight,’” Jo says. “And we’re like, ‘Okay, we’ll do it, we will get married—but you have to give us the trip.’

“Suddenly, everyone was really excited. ‘Oh my gosh, they’re going to get married.’ ”

Courage secured a stretch limo for the wedding party, and though it was well past midnight, about 20 well-wishers accompanied the soon-to-be Hebards to a liquor store, where they stocked up on refreshments and bought a “Just Wed” Nevada license plate. From there, it was on to the Little White Wedding Chapel to seal the deal.

But when they got to the chapel, the manager thwarted their plans. “The guy tells us, ‘Listen, you can’t just get married. There really is actual paperwork to be filled out.’ We’re like, ‘We’ve got 20 people, can we just use the room?’ ” Jo says. As Jeff explains: “Jurgen was an ordained priest.”

The manager relented and let the couple carry on with the ceremony. “People are sitting in the pews, there are flower decorations all around, and we had this wedding,” Jo says. “Jeff’s ­brother and sister are crying. People are taking this really seriously. Except for us.” The manager gave the pair some paperwork and urged them to file it the next day to make the marriage official.

“Alex told us he wasn’t giving us the trip unless we filed the paperwork, which was not part of the deal,” Jo says with a laugh. “And when Jeff showed up to work at the show the next day, Alex had taken the photos from the night before and made a slideshow with music. By now, the news was out: PGI had a wedding. People were coming to the booth, asking, ‘What happened?’ ”

With the paperwork still unfiled, Jo flew back to Los Angeles and, despite how close she and Jeff had come to tying the knot, they didn’t speak for months. She was working on getting ­sober, and her newfound sobriety was the catalyst for the couple’s ­official reconciliation in February 2004, followed by the birth of their second child, a daughter, a year later.

“Having that Vegas experience made us realize there was still something there,” Jo says. “Even if we weren’t ready to admit it to ourselves.”

It was Jo’s first time at JCK (“Boy, did I make a splash,” she says), but hardly her last. The couple attended JCK ­together three more times, even after Jeff stopped working at PGI in 2008. In October of that year, they eloped to Vegas, and finished what they’d started.


Terry and Cindy Chandler
Terry and Cindy Chandler

2007: Terry and Cindy Chandler

Talk about an industry connection! Terry Chandler, president and CEO of the Diamond Council of America (DCA), and Cindy Ramsey, then–deputy executive director of the American Gem Society (AGS), had known each other professionally for years. But their relationship made an unexpected turn at the 24 Karat Club Gala in New York City in January 2007, when they took a spin on the dance floor at the Waldorf-Astoria, and Chandler, a widower, realized he was smitten.

Shortly after that fateful night, Terry invited Cindy to join him in Tucson for the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) Spectrum Awards dinner the following month. For Cindy, who lived in Las Vegas and was committed to her job at AGS, the encounter at 24 Karat was ultimately little more than a fun distraction. “It was nice to be with the gang but I was very focused on my job, and when I got a call from Terry inviting me to his event in Tucson, I thought, hmmm,” says Cindy, now the education director of the Atlanta Jewelry Show. “Then he had me invite two other people, so I thought, maybe not.”

“I hadn’t dated for a while,” Terry says. “I was a little rusty.”

“He was a lot rusty,” Cindy says.

From Tucson, their relationship progressed quickly. “We were on the phone a lot,” Terry says. By the time the next big ­industry gathering—AGS Conclave in Denver—rolled around that spring, Terry was ready to propose.

Cindy said yes, and they began to plan the nuptials. “We wanted a family gathering and couldn’t get the family together, so we planned it for Vegas, when we knew we’d all be there,” she says. “Ten days before the date we were married, we went to The Venetian, made arrangements, and stopped by Nordstrom to try on a dress.”

On the final evening of the 2007 JCK show, the couple wed at the Venetian wedding chapel, with Terry’s son, Ian, and Cindy’s daughter, Sheri, in attendance, along with some 50 industry friends including David Rocha, then–executive director of Jewelers for Children; Doug Hucker, then-CEO of AGTA; and members of the DCA and AGS teams.

“People talk about getting married in Vegas and Elvis and all that, but this chapel in The Venetian is on the ground level [and] opens out to a beautiful garden,” Terry says. “It’s very elegant.”

Every year, when the Chandlers return to JCK, they have drinks and french fries at Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s French bistro in The Venetian. Says Cindy: “It’s our ritual.”


Brad Williams and Jen Cullen Williams
Brad Williams and Jen Cullen Williams

2010: Brad Williams and Jen Cullen Williams

Jen Cullen was a publicist with the Luxury Brand Group when she came to the JCK show in 2010 to handle PR and press appointments for several exhibiting brands. Unbeknownst to her, Brad Williams, her longtime boyfriend, had coordinated a plan with her then-boss, Frank Proctor, to fly to Vegas and stage a surprise proposal in her hotel room the Friday of the show.

“I decided to leave the show a bit early so I could go back and freshen up for an important ‘editorial dinner’ Frank said we had that night,” Jen recalls. As she walked to her room, she caught a glimpse of Brad in the lobby. For a moment, she thought he was there to propose, but he explained that after she’d texted him that morning (to brag about her upgraded room), he decided to surprise her. “He said he would go to the pool and gamble while I worked. I actually believed him!”

Jen then received a call from Proctor. She told him about the events of the afternoon: that she’d left early to prep for their work dinner that evening and ran into Brad, who had flown in to surprise her. “Frank seemed upset and told me I was supposed to stay at the show until it closed, and I needed to come back to the show,” she says. “Meanwhile, Brad had texted him: ‘Abort mission.’ Frank then texted me and told me to just get ready for the dinner. Finishing her hair and makeup, she walked out of the bathroom to discover a rose-petal trail leading to Brad, who was down on one knee with a ring box in his hand. “He said some lovely things and I said yes!” she says.

“It turns out Brad and Frank had coordinated everything—the timing, the upgraded room, the fake editorial dinner—but I messed up the surprise by leaving JCK early and then spotting Brad at the hotel,” Jen says. “In the end it all worked out. We got to celebrate with industry friends, I had a beautiful diamond ring that I still wear to this day from a client that was exhibiting at the show, and lots of bridal editors were excited by the story!”


Brian Lazar and Brittany Dotson-Lazar
Brian Lazar and Brittany Dotson-Lazar

2013: Brian Lazar and Brittany Dotson-Lazar

Brittany Dotson and Brian Lazar’s meet-cute at JCK Las Vegas 2013 is textbook rom-com material. It happened during the show’s decade-long stint at Mandalay Bay, when Brittany, who was the Columbus, Ohio–based office manager for The Kingswood Co., a maker of jewelry cleaning products, and Brian, the New York City–based vice president of a marketing and advertising firm at the time, had a serendipitous encounter.

They had been working at their respective booths for three days when they attended that year’s highly anticipated JCK Rocks the Beach event, featuring Maroon 5.

“After the excitement of the live show, we found ourselves at the same spot for the after-party,” Brian tells JCK. “Where else but Eye Candy?

“This was meant to be Brittany’s last time at the show because she was leaving the jewelry industry and heading off to graduate school in the fall, but the universe had other plans,” Brian says.

Brittany was on the bar’s glowing checkerboard dance floor, grooving to the summer’s biggest hit, “Blurred Lines,” when she spotted Lazar, in a distinctive black fedora. She approached him, smiling and confident, and reached up to take the fedora off his head and put it on hers. But his initial reaction gave her pause.

“She didn’t know that I cared more about the way my hair looked than most things in life,” Brian recalls. “Brittany ­sheepishly returned the fedora. I then looked at the beautiful girl in front of me and realized if I allowed her to walk away, I would never have this opportunity again. I proceeded to put the fedora back on her head, and our lives have not been the same since.”

The couple dated long-distance until Brittany moved to New York City in 2015 and pursued a doctorate in education (she is now director of assessment and accreditation at St. John’s University). They were married in 2018. They even had Bill Furman, the legendary JCK advertising manager who retired in 2017 after 45 years with the magazine, sign the ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract.

“Since Brittany isn’t Jewish, she didn’t have anyone on her side really, so we went with Billy Bob—he was at the show with us when we first met, and was a part of some of our first experiences at JCK events,” explains Lazar, now a partner and chief marketing officer at IGS Creative, a full-service creative agency catering to the jewelry industry.

The Lazars welcomed their first child in 2022. What happened in Vegas…will forever stay in NYC.


Mirek Kraczkowski and Dominika Olejnik
Mirek Kraczkowski and Dominika Olejnik

2019: Mirek Kraczkowski and Dominika Olejnik

Mirek Kraczkowski and Dominika Olejnik met through a dating site in 2007. Divorced, Mirek was living in Paris at the time, working in ad sales for JCK, while Dominika was based in Warsaw, Poland, where she worked in sales for a textile company.

“We were communicating very intensely over one to two months and then we had to meet, to check if this was for real,” Mirek says.

In 2008, Mirek moved to Warsaw, and the relationship grew deeper and more multifaceted, as Dominika began to ­accompany him on business trips to various jewelry shows in Istanbul, Las Vegas, and beyond. She also became a second mother to his young son, Maximilien, who’d initially moved from Paris to Florida with his mother (Mirek’s ex-wife) and his older sisters, twins Victoria and Alexandra, before expressing a desire to be with his dad. “When my son showed up and wanted to live with us in Poland, Dominika always said, ‘Your children are not from my tummy, but they are from my heart,’ ” Mirek says.

In 2013, when the couple was at the Istanbul Jewelry Show, standing next to the Zen Diamond booth, Mirek asked Dominika if she would like to choose an engagement ring. She said yes and chose a simple diamond ring accented with a gold heart. The ­following year, their partnership took on another dimension when she formally joined Mirek in the ad sales business.

“It was an extraordinary time,” Dominika says. “I remember the meeting with everyone in Vegas. There was [then–JCK associate publisher] Donna Borrelli, our mother, as everyone said—she was so patient with me to explain the new JCK system; [then–ad manager] Billy Furman, who was an angel to me and probably to everyone; [then–regional sales manager] Robin Lutin; and, of course, [then-publisher] Mark Smelzer. He and Mirek were my mentors. The entire team welcomed me wonderfully, and I’m very grateful for it.”

The couple had lived and worked together for a decade when they finally decided, in 2019, to make things official. “I said, ‘Why don’t we do something simple in Vegas during JCK, something just for us?’ ” Mirek says. Dominika, however, was nervous. “One day before the wedding, I said that maybe we were making a mistake because we were so happy and everything might change after the wedding.”

On June 3, 2019, Mirek and Dominika tied the knot at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas with Mirek’s three kids, a longtime JCK client, and Smelzer in attendance. Nobody else knew about the secret affair until the wedding party arrived at Carson Kitchen in downtown Las Vegas for a surprise reception with the entire JCK magazine sales and editorial team.

But that’s not where this story ends. For years, Mirek and Dominika tried, and failed, to have a baby. “We got Luna, a Jack Russell terrier, and he became our baby,” Mirek says.

In early 2023, when Dominika was 43 years old, she was shocked to learn she was pregnant. She and Mirek welcomed their daughter, Rose Jasmine, on Sept. 15, 2023. Mirek continues to represent JCK as sales representative for Brazil, Europe, and the Middle East. A family trip to JCK Las Vegas 2025 is in the works.

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