Roland Benavides has returned to the jewelry industry after a three-year hiatus to become executive vice president at Princess Pride Creations in Chicago.

Benavides started selling jewelry at age 16 with Zales in Corpus Christi, Texas. After graduating from college, he became a sales representative with Medco Jewelry Co. and eventually rose to manager and then senior vice president of the 150-store operation.

After Medco sold its leased jewelry departments, Benavides joined GKG, the Midwest regional Seiko and Speidel distributor. During his 11-year tenure with GKG, it became the largest Seiko and Speidel distributor in the United States.

In 1990, when Seiko purchased all distributors and began selling directly to retailers, Benavides was offered the position of vice president of sales for the Midwest at the company. Seven months later, he was promoted to vice president of sales for the entire United States. After six years in the position, he accepted a job in the home fashion and accessories industry, where he worked before joining Princess Pride.


Christy Leeder of Jack Seibert Goldsmith & Jeweler, Columbus, Ohio, has received accreditation as a Certified Gemologist Appraiser from the American Gem Society. Leeder is also a Registered Jeweler and a Certified Gemologist of AGS and a Graduate Gemologist of the Gemological Institute of America. Only about 370 AGS jewelers in North America hold the Certified Gemologist Appraiser title.

Three students at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco—Paul Bartnik of Portland, Ore.; Edward Broome of Atlanta; and Jane Reyes of St. Louis—have become Jewelers of America Certified Bench Jeweler Technicians after completing the Graduate Jeweler Diploma Program at the academy. The JA title recognizes their skills in jewelry fabrication and repair.

Sananda R. Perrin of Neel Jewelers in Palestine, Texas, has achieved Jewelers of America’s JA Certified Bench Jeweler designation, the second level of the JA Bench Jeweler Certification program. Perrin, who has been with Neel Jewelers since September 1998, has been working as a bench jeweler for more than four years and is a graduate of the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology in Paris, Texas.

James Uhlin of R. Steinmetz (U.S.) Ltd., Chicago, has been awarded the title of Registered Supplier by the American Gem Society. The title is awarded to an individual in the wholesale jewelry industry who is affiliated with an AGS firm, has met a high standard of business conduct, and has completed formal, comprehensive gemological studies. Uhlin has more than 20 years’ experience in the jewelry industry.

Jewelry designer Aya Azrielant has been named one of 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World. She was honored at a gala in Monaco in April. With her husband, Ofer, Azrielant founded Andin International, New York.

Mark Schmits of Cincinnati was named as the I.B. Goodman Co.’s Salesperson of the Year for 1998 at the company’s recent spring national sales meeting. Schmits received a commemorative plaque and a $5,000 check.


Kendra Bridel is the new executive sales representative at Grando Gioielleria in Los Angeles. She will be responsible for sales of Grando’s platinum and 18k gold jewelry throughout the United States. She is the daughter of Robert Bridel, executive director of the American Gem Society, and grew up working in retail jewelry stores.

Kayleen Cox has joined G.A. Wright Inc. Direct Marketing, a Denver direct marketing firm, as an account executive. She will manage the newly acquired JA Direct Marketing Account. JA Direct Marketing offers services to Jewelers of America members. Previously, Cox was with John Atencio Jewelry.

Mary Katherine Rafferty has been appointed director of marketing and public relations at C3 Inc., Morrisville, N.C., the worldwide manufacturer and marketer of moissanite gemstones. Prior to joining C3, she was the director of marketing and public relations for Bvlgari Corp. of America. Previously, she worked at Cartier Inc. and Hermès of Paris.

Kostas Metaxas of Exero Multimedia is the new international marketing manager for Mouawad SA of Geneva, the largest jewelry manufacturer and retailer in the Middle East. He will manage the company’s press and marketing activities and will build wholesale business relationships outside the Middle East. His client list has included Paspaley Pearls of Australia.

Steven Parks has been named to the new position of vice president for New York sales at Hallmark-Sweet, Attleboro, Mass. He has 18 years of selling experience in the New York area, including nine with Hallmark-Sweet. He will manage the New York sales staff as well as his own territory.

Jane Ries has assumed the newly created position of executive vice president, chief merchandising officer at The Museum Co., a Fairfield, N.J., retailer of fine art reproductions from international museums. Ries had been acting president at Gump’s By Mail since 1997 and has also been at Hanover Direct and the Lillian Vernon Corp.

Stephen R. Williams has been appointed vice president at the Handy & Harman Refining Group Inc., South Windsor, Conn. He will concentrate on the mining and jewelry market sectors. Previously, he was vice president, sales and marketing at Metalor USA Refining Corp., North Attleboro, Mass. Longtime mining industry veteran Barry Mountford has also joined Handy & Harman as director of mining sales.

Chippenhook, a Texas designer and manufacturer of visual merchandising concepts and packaging for the jewelry industry and specialty retailers, has made two appointments. Jim Pennybaker has been named regional account executive for Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. He has more than 15 years’ experience in sales and sales management in the jewelry, giftware, optical, and visual merchandising markets. Deborah Tuuk has joined the company as Midwest regional account executive. She has a background in retail sales, management, and operations in the jewelry and cosmetic industries.


Mike Koven, owner and operator of L. Larson Jewelers Inc., Phoenix., died March 21. He began as an apprentice bench jeweler in his teens. He bought L. Larson Jewelers, then a one-counter repair shop in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1961. He received Gemological Institute of America training and became a Registered Jeweler, developing L. Larson into a jewelry shop specializing in colored stones, diamonds, and watches. He had a 17-year commission from NASA to design and manufacture the pins awarded to astronauts who completed space missions. In 1992, he moved the store to the Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix. He closed the store in 1998.

Henry T. Viens Jr., 80, a manufacturer’s representative in the jewelry industry, died March 21. He was the owner and president of the former H.T. Viens Screw Machine Products Co. of Pawtucket, R.I. He retired in 1986. He was a military government investigator in World War II and attended Rhode Island School of Design.


Phillip Brodnax Jr., 74, a former Nashville, Tenn., jeweler, died Feb. 11 of heart failure. He learned the family business from his father, Phillip Brodnax Sr., who was a jeweler in Birmingham, Ala., before coming to Nashville.

The younger Brodnax served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a pilot during World War II. After the war he became the Middle Tennessee region’s first registered jeweler and expanded Brodnax into a five-store Nashville chain. He then left Nashville to manage stores in Memphis, Tenn., that had been started in 1897 by a relative. In the 1960s, he merged all the Mid-South Brodnax stores that had been owned independently by different family members into one 13-store chain. He retired from the industry in 1982.