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Industry News: Judith Lieber Dies; GIA Grants $50,000 To AGS; Edge Retail Academy Expands; More May 02, 2018 (0 comments)


In Memoriam: Judith Lieber, Famed Minaudière Designer

Springs, NY—Judith Peto Lieber, the designer whose bejeweled minaudières were de rigueur for socialites and First Ladies alike, died Saturday at age 97, just hours after the passing of her husband, abstract painter Gerson Leiber, also 97.

Lieber was born in Budapest, Hungary. As World War II approached, young Judith’s father, a wealthy Jewish commodities broker, hoped that sending his daughter to University College in London would keep her away from the war. That didn’t happen, but through her father’s professional connections the Peto family survived the Holocaust in a ghetto instead of being sent to the concentration camps.

Lieber’s father always brought her mother a handbag whenever he would travel from Hungary to western Europe. With that inspiration, she apprenticed to one of the top handbag makers in Budapest, learning how to do everything herself. Then, as now, it was not easy for a woman breaking into a man’s industry, but she said in an interview years ago that it was an invaluable training period. She also hoped it would be a path to immigrate to the United States.

Judith Lieber

She began selling her bags to members of the U.S. armed forces. In that capacity, she met Gerson “Gus” Leiber, an American stationed in Budapest as a member of the U.S. Signal Corps. They married in 1946 and moved to New York, where Lieber worked for several handbag manufacturers until 1963, when they began their own factory with four employees. In a later interview, Lieber bemoaned industry shifts that she could no longer hire talented artisans from Europe to assemble a bag start to finish the way she herself had learned her craft; instead, she found only workers trained to do one part of the whole.

Leiber’s sparkling little evening bags were sold by the nation’s most exclusive top retailers. They came in shapes ranging from birds to cats, lions, rabbits, frogs, dogs, and more, all executed in rhinestones and even semiprecious gemstones. Although she made other (and bigger) luxury bags in exotic skins, those whimsical minaudières accounted for 40% of her business. Though her husband Gus had a full career as a painter, lithographer and sculptor, he also ran the business side of the firm and came up with many ideas to enhance it.

A Judith Lieber bag in the shape of a peacock. Image: Wall Street Journal

Lieber sold her firm in 1993 and retired in 1998. Today, De Ocleppo Hilfiger is now co-owner and creative director of Judith Lieber (the firm) and, according to Women’s Wear Daily, plans to expand into children’s wear, footwear, apparel, and jewelry.

Lieber’s bags—which first rose to prominence when Mamie Eisenhower carried one—are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Dallas Museum, the Museum of the City of New York and the Smithsonian. In 2016 and 2017, three exhibitions about Judith and Gerson Leiber’s works were mounted in succession: “The Artist & Artisan” at the Flomenhaft Gallery, in November 2016; “Brilliant Partners: Judith Leiber’s Handbags and the Art of Gerson Leiber” at the Long Island Museum of Art in Stony Brook, launched in February 2017; and “Judith Leiber: Crafting a New York Story” at the Museum of Art and Design, which opened in April 2017.


Edge Retail Academy Adds Four Business Experts To Team

Omaha, NY--The Edge Retail Academy announces the addition of four new team members. Three are business advisors who work with jewelers on boosting sales, profits, and inventory health; the fourth helps retailers maximize their use of Edge Pulse, the company’s real-time dashboard of sales and inventory data, which aggregates data from 900 stores and more than $1.5 billion in annual sales.  

“This is the largest addition to our team in the company’s history,” says David Brown, president of The Edge Retail Academy. “We are seeing increasing demand for our services, and we are delighted to bring in this seasoned group of business professionals to meet our growth.” The new team members are:

Shelly Burton Schulz, MBA. Schulz has 17 years of sales and marketing experience, with the majority of those dedicated to helping jewelry retailers increase their bottom line through strategies designed to maximize revenue and preserve margins.

Charleen Pfaff. Pfaff was raised in the jewelry industry, heralding from a family of watchmakers: her father, her husband, and both of her sons are watchmakers, while her daughter is a senior manager for a leading Swiss watch company.  A consummate professional with 36 years of experience in jewelry store management, Pfaff excels at recruiting, on-boarding, organizational development, and building strong, winning teams.

Shelly Burton Schulz (left) and Charleen Pfaff (right).

Ben Stahl, GG, MBA. A 19-year retail jewelry veteran, Stahl comes to Edge from a Mid-Atlantic luxury jeweler, where he doubled the sales volume of its freestanding destination store. Stahl is particularly strong in training and organizational development as well as retail operations management. 

Mona Lisa Shaffer, DCA Certified. With 30 years of progressive retail jewelry experience as well as GIA and AGS professional accreditation, Shaffer is highly driven, intuitive, and creative. She uses her expertise to help clients achieve and exceed their goals.

Ben Stahl and Mona Lisa Shaffer

“Ben, Charleen and Mona are proven jewelry veterans who bring their clients an unrivaled set of best practices from their retail experiences. The advisor’s insights coupled with data from the jeweler’s POS systems enable the team to put together and execute a plan to grow retailer’s sales and profits,” said Brown. “Shelly is focused on helping jewelry principals maximize their use of Edge Pulse to create healthier inventories, to make better buying decisions, and to improve the performance of their sales teams.”

To schedule an appointment or consultation with these or any of the Edge team at the JCK Show (Booth B63048 from June 1-June 4) contact Becka Johnson Kibby at or (714) 925-2456.


GIA Supports AGS with $50,000 Education Grant

Carlsbad, CA—GIA (Gemological Institute of America) has awarded the American Gem Society (AGS) a $50,000 grant to fund awards for GIA education for AGS members, bringing GIA’s financial support for AGS to nearly $150,000 for 2018. 

Announcing the grant at the Robert M. Shipley Award luncheon during the recent AGS Conclave in Nashville, TN, GIA president and CEO Susan Jacques said, “We are thrilled to be able to support AGS with this education grant. Education and certification are the core competencies of our closely-related organizations and they are the keys to helping jewelers reach success.”

“Through our closely aligned missions, AGS and GIA protect consumers and ensure their trust in gems and jewelry,” Jacques continued. Both organizations were founded by the late Robert M. Shipley.

“I would like to thank the entire team at GIA and the Institute’s Board of Governors for this generous grant,” said Katherine Bodoh, CEO of the American Gem Society and AGS Laboratories. “This gift will allow AGS members access to the education they need to obtain their titles. We are extremely grateful and look forward to working together to fulfill our founder's vision of consumer protection.” 

AGS will administer the awards. Eligible recipients must be AGS members and meet certain requirements. AGS members interested in the awards may contact AGS at (702) 255-6500 ext. 1034; email

GIA also will sponsor the GIA Diamond Grading, Gem Identification and Colored Stone Grading lab classes offered at AGS in Las Vegas this year.


OroArezzo Opens Saturday

Arezzo, Italy—The 39tth edition of OroArezzo opens Saturday, May 5 and runs through May 8 at Arezzo Fieri e Congressi. The show, organized by the Italian Exhibition Group (IEG), promotes the best of “Made In Italy” gold. It will feature more than 600 companies in 8,000 square meters of exhibit space, divided into three areas: gold jewelry, cash-and-carry, and technology. 75% of exhibitors are jewelry companies; 13% produce machinery and 12% are in the cash-and-carry section.

For information, click here.


Italian Exhibition Group Joins UN Global Compact Sustainability Initiative

Rimini, Italy—Italian Exhibition Group (IEG) has become an official participant in the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. IEG is the main Italian tradeshow company adhering to the UN Global Compact, and just one of three tradeshow organizers worldwide to have adopted the initiative’s standards, launched in 1999 by the then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The UN Global Compact commits participants from the private sector to operate according to four fundamental pillars: respect of human rights, adherence to fair labor principles, environmental sustainability, and the battle against corruption.  Participating companies and organizations must adopt and respect these pillars in their own approach to business.

IEG endeavors to promote and support the protection of the environment, combat challenges related to climate change and the depletion of natural resources, work to develop fair and safe working conditions, eliminate the gender gap, and to provide better work opportunities for younger employees.  By joining the UN Global Compact’s international community, it will help advance these goals on a worldwide scale and joins 10,000 companies and 3,000 non-profit organisations worldwide. The initiative is currently present in more than 170 countries. 

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