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Industry News: AGTA Announces Spectrum Award Winners; Legendary Jeweler Fred Leighton Dies August 09, 2017 (0 comments)


AGTA Announces 2017 Spectrum Awards Winners

New York, NY—The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) announces the winners of the 2017 AGTA Spectrum Awards competition. The competition, held in New York on August 5 and 6, is regarded as the world's preeminent colored gemstone and cultured pearl design competition. Judges for the competition this year included designers Arun Bohra of Beverly Hills, CA-based Arunashi and Alishan Halebian of Irvine, CA-based Alishan, retailers Cathy Calhoun of Calhoun Jewelers, Royersford, PA and Holly Wesche of Wesche Jewelers, Melbourne, FL, and lapidary artist and designer Sherris Cottier Shank of Gemscapes, Southfield, MI. 

"The entire staff was immediately impressed as the entries started coming in. It seemed that the quality and artistry of the pieces has ascended to a new level. The number of entries increased and clearly the caliber of entries was exceptional," said Douglas K. Hucker, AGTA CEO. “Of course, this also makes the work of the judges demonstratively more difficult. We were blessed with an outstanding group of judges that were consummate professionals and demonstrated an amazing level of synergy, and this is apparent in the selections that they made."

Awards will be formally presented at AGTA’s annual Spectrum Awards banquet in Tucson in February 2018.

2017 “Best Of” Award winners were:

Best of Show: Mikola Kukharuk, Nomad's, for a pair of neon blue Tourmalines (53.56 ctw.). This entry also won first place in the “Pairs & Suites” category of the Spectrum Cutting Edge Awards for lapidary arts.

Best Use of Color: Naomi Sarna, Naomi Sarna Designs, for 18k and 24k yellow and 18k white gold maple leaf earrings (top of page) featuring multicolored diamonds, sapphires and garnets.

Best Use of Pearls: Naomi Sarna, for freshwater cultured pearls strung with sunstone beads with an 18K yellow gold and black rhodium clasp set with white, pink and green diamonds.

Best Use of Platinum and Color: Eddie Sakamoto, Somewhere in the Rainbow, for his platinum "Dancing Waves" neck collar featuring a 57.0 ct. aquamarine accented with diamonds (8.0 ctw.).

Fashion Forward: Ardeshir Dabestani, Asha Gallery, Ltd., for an 18k white and yellow gold "Solar Flare" back-drop necklace featuring a 436.0 ct. citrine accented with aquamarines (44.50 ctw.), yellow beryls (87.30 ctw.) and diamonds (23.54 ctw.).

Spectrum Awards category winners include:

Bridal Wear: first place (below), Ricardo Basta, E. Eichberg Inc.; second place and WJA Gem DIVA Award, Lindsay Jane, Lindsay Jane Designs; third place, Judy Evans, Oliver &V Espig Gallery of Fine Arts; honorable mention, Zoltan David, Somewhere in the Rainbow; Manufacturing Honors, Randy Coffin, Coffin & Trout Fine Jewellers; Entry Platinum Innovation, Leon Mege, Leon Mege Inc.; Platinum Honors, Craig Slavens, Studio 247 Fine Jewelry.

Business/Day Wear: first place (below), Adam Neeley, Adam Neeley Fine Art Jewelry; second place, Llyn Strong, llyn strong fine art jewelry; third place, Mimi Favre, Mimi Favre Studio; honorable mention, Leon Mege and Omi Prive, Somewhere in the Rainbow; Manufacturing Honors, Gregore Morin, Gregore & Jennifer-Rabe Jewelers; Platinum Honors, John Ford, Lightning Ridge Collection by John Ford; Entry Platinum Innovation, Leon Mege; WJA Gem DIVA Award, Pam Harris, Lost Bird Designs.

Classical: first place (below), Allen Kleiman, A. Kleiman & Co., second place, Niveet Nagpal, Omi Prive; third place, Oscar Heyman Bros.; honorable mention, Varouj Tabakian, Jewellery by Varouj and Oscar Heyman; Manufacturing Honors, Ricardo Basta; Platinum Honors, Michael Endlich, Pave Fine Jewelry.

Evening Wear: first place and best use of platinum and color, Eddie Sakamoto (shown above under Best Of); second place and best use of color, Naomi Sarna; third place, Caroline Chartouni, Caroline C; honorable mention, Victoria Tse, VTse Inc. and Erica Courtney, Erica Courtney Inc.; Manufacturing Honors, Zoltan David; Platinum Honors, John Ford; WJA Gem DIVA Award, Dallas Prince, Dallas Prince Designs.

Men’s Wear: first place (below), Ricardo Basta; second place, Peter Schmid, French Designer Jeweler; third place, Dawn Muscio, D. Muscio Designs; honorable mention, Llyn L. Strelau, Jewels By Design; honorable mention and Platinum Honors: Randy Coffin; Manufacturing Honors, Niveet Nagpal.

For more information and to see the winners of AGTA’s Cutting Edge Awards for lapidary arts, click here.

Derek Katzenbach, Katzenbach Designs, won the Objects of Art category of the Cutting Edge lapidary awards for his "Colors of Maine" kaleidoscope featuring multicolored Maine tourmalines (71.74 ctw.) and Maine quartz lenses (24.92 ctw.) set in 18k yellow and white gold.


In Memoriam: Famed Jeweler Fred Leighton

New York, NY—Legendary estate jeweler Fred Leighton died July 26 at age 85.

Leighton—born Murray Mondschein in Brooklyn, NY—got his start in the industry after buying an arts and crafts store in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1959. The shop, called Fred Leighton, later added Mexican wedding dresses, trendy with brides in the 1970s. Also trendy in the era was Mexican and Native American silver jewelry, which Mondschein added to his store. But when a dealer gave him some Victorian-era fine jewelry to sell, Mondschein grew entrance. His willingness to purchase estate pieces outright gave customers of the time a viable option in the space between Christie’s and Sotheby’s and the scrap heap, which is where most estate jewelry ended up if it didn’t have a famous signature.

In time, Mondschein legally changed his name to Fred Leighton and grew legendary in the world of estate jewelry. Originally untrained as either jeweler or gemologist, his eye for design was both outstanding and intuitive. He particularly favored Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and other strong designs such as the enamel and gems of Mughal India. Leighton bought for beauty, not to break the pieces apart for gem or scrap value as most other estate buyers of the era did at a time when there was little interest in the category. In fact, he once told People magazine that he didn’t even know the difference between 9 karat gold and 18k gold when he first started, and bought pieces solely for looks. (He did later become a certified gemologist.)

In time, his passion for estate jewelry caught on with celebrities and, later, the public. The Fred Leighton store was sold in 2006 and, following a scandal and Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, it was acquired by Kwiat, which owns it today and runs it as a separate brand.

Left to right: Sofia Vergara, Meryl Streep, and Nicole Kidman in Fred Leighton jewelry.

Leighton is survived by his daughter, Mara, two grandchildren, and a sister. He was predeceased by his wife Glorya in 2015. Read more here, here, here, here, and here.

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