Many of the honorees at the Women's Jewelry Association (WJA) 27th annual Awards for Excellence celebration are familiar faces to Centurion retailers and exhibitors.
Susan Jacques, president of Borsheim’s, Omaha, Neb., was awarded WJA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and James Courage, global chief executive of Platinum Guild International (PGI), received the organization’s Ben Kaiser Award, presented to a man who has demonstrated a commitment to advance the careers of women in the jewelry and watch industry. The event was held July 26 during the Jewelers of America summer show in New York.
Both Jacques and Courage took a few minutes to visit with camera-wielding Centurion editor Hedda Schupak. See their interviews here:
Jacques, who began her jewelry career as a typist at a jewelry store in her native Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), was appointed president and CEO of Borsheim’s in 1994 by Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett, who owns the retailer. She quipped that she was too young to accept a lifetime achievement award, given that she became Borsheim’s CEO while in her early thirties, and still has a three-year-old child at home.
She detailed the path of her career from Africa to Omaha, joking about such pivotal moments as having to drive from California, where she had been working as a diamond grader, to Nebraska, to work as a sales clerk at Borsheim’s, in the first snow she’d ever experienced. It was to be only for a year, she told herself, to get some retail experience.
Among the advice she gave to the audience: take risks and get out of your comfort zone, stay optimistic, and maintain a sense of balance in your life with family and friends.
Another key honoree of the evening was James Courage, introduced by Jewelers' Vigilance Committee president and chief executive officer Cecilia Gardner. She called him the “James Bond" of the jewelry industry, and joked that aside from her professional respect, he’s one of the few men in the industry who’s taller than she.
A former De Beers executive who started out handling corporate public relations in South Africa, Courage lived in many cities around the world. He joined PGI as chief executive in September 1996, and is currently based in London.
"There can be no higher accolade," Courage said, while accepting WJA's Ben Kaiser Award. His commitment to women’s advancement is obvious: at PGI, women hold the top office in almost all regions of the world. The only country where a man heads the national office is the United States, which is under the direction of Huw Daniel in New York. Women head each of the other seven international offices around the world.
Courage—who spends about half of his time traveling each year—gratefully acknowledged the support of his wife, Tessa, throughout his peripatetic career, and also pointed out that his table at the dinner was filled with women from various sectors of the industry who had been colleagues or otherwise instrumental in his career.
Also recognized was JCK Events and JCK magazine, which received the corporate award for excellence. WJA also awards outstanding individuals in a variety of industry categories, many of which are familiar Centurion faces. The 2010 winners were:
-Fiona Tilley, who co-launched Gurhan with her husband, the brand's namesake designer, won in the category of Manufacturer/Dealer/Supplier for Fine Jewelry/Gemstones/Metals/Watches.-Sarah Graham, Sarah Graham Metalsmithing, won in the category of Design: Fine Jewelry and Watches.
-Aida Alvarez, senior vice president of merchandising for the Canadian/American chain Birks and Mayors, won in the category of Retail: 15 stores or more, while Lula Halfacre, owner of Traditional Jewelers in Newport Beach, Calif., won for Retail: Fewer than 15 stores.
-Shayne Kiesbuy, national sales director for Erica Courtney, was the winner in the category of Sales and Merchandising.
-Helena Krodel of Jewelers of America (JA), who is director of media and special events for JA's consumer division, the Jewelry Information Center, won for Marketing and Communications.-Ruth Batson, executive director and chief executive officer of the American Gem Society, won the Special Services category.
-Tanya Dukes, director of fashion, accessories and fine jewelry coverage for Elite Traveler won in the category of Editorial/Reporting/Publishing.