WJA Honors Industry Leaders at 25th Gala

The Women’s Jewelry Association’s 25th annual Awards for Excellence, held July 27 at Chelsea Piers in New York City, was a festive toast to the women who founded and nurtured the organization as well as to two exceptional industry leaders. Sybil Yurman, president and CMO of David Yurman, and Steven Kaiser, president and CEO of Kaiser Time, received WJA’s highest honors.

On accepting her Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, Yurman said, “It’s not often that you get to do what you love and get to do it with someone you love.” She also acknowledged Carolyn Kelly, former jewelry buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue, and now co-owner of Old World Chain, for “helping in the early years.” She spoke about the sense of “family” in the industry and acknowledged “all the people who have taught us so much.”

Kaiser, who received the Ben Kaiser Award, was introduced by retailers John Green and Lee Berg. He said his father, after whom the award was named, was ahead of his time for promoting women in the industry. He thanked his mother, Eta; wife, Vivian; and daughter, Emily, and acknowledged his female team, who were in attendance.

WJA president Yancy Weinrich, industry vice president for JCK Events, recognized the association’s three Pillar of Distinction sponsors: Platinum Guild International, Jewelers Mutual Insurance, and David Yurman. She also introduced a special 25th anniversary video that was produced by Filmworks Inc. and overseen by anniversary cochairs Linda Goldstein, a WJA founder and former president, and Billie Sutter, a former national board member. The video highlighted key initiatives, such as WJA’s student scholarships, DIVA Awards, Awards for Excellence, and the Women in the Know conferences.

In celebration of WJA’s 25th year, Weinrich announced that $25,000 will be distributed this year in student scholarships. WJA’s annual scholarship fund is supported by its silent auction, held during the Awards for Excellence gala, and donations from companies and individuals. Overseeing the 2008 Silent Auction was Nessi Erkmenoglu of Harper’s Bazaar.

Monies raised from a drawing for a special Hearts On Fire Dream diamond will also be donated to the WJA Scholarship Fund, according to dinner chair Lisa Cochin of Diamond Promotion Service.