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Industry News: WJA Awards Grants And Scholarships; JVC’s Tiffany Stevens Addresses United Nations July 17, 2019 (0 comments)


WJA Awards $65,500 In Scholarships and Grants

New York, NY—The Women’s Jewelry Association has awarded $65,500 in business grants and scholarships to 49 women in the industry, who will use the funds to underwrite education or advance their professional careers. 

“Our grant and scholarship winners are an impressive group,” said WJA executive director Bernadette Mack. “Helping women enter and sustain careers in the jewelry business is one of the most important goals of the Women’s Jewelry Association.” The 2019 scholarship and grant recipients are:

Carelle-WJA Grant Winners ($5,000): Anne Holman and Jen Townsend, The Smithery. Holman and Townsend (left) are jewelry artists who each earned a BFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio. Together, they built The Smithery, an artist-made shop and metalsmith studio focusing on contemporary jewelry and modern craft located in Columbus, OH. Holman and Townsend plan to use their grant to establish a separate studio space and acquire additional tools for expanded class offerings.

Female Veteran Scholarship, sponsored by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group Winner ($5,000): Nora Micheli Hernandez. Hernandez, a disabled veteran of the U.S. Army, is currently a student at Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology at Paris Junior College in Paris, TX. She will graduate later this year with certificates in jewelry repair, computer-aided design, and jewelry technology. She plans on creating custom jewelry and working with other disabled veterans and will use the grant money to buy the equipment and supplies needed to set up her studio.

Nora Hernandez received the Female Veteran Scholarship sponsored by Jewelers Mutual.

The Cindy Edelstein Jewelry Design Scholarship Winner ($5,000): Coco de Salazar. de Salazar is a jewelry designer and teaching artist in Miami, FL. A metalsmith for nine years, she currently teaches fabrication and soldering classes at Jewelry Creations Workshop in North Miami. Her jewelry line, "de Salazar Jewelry," is designed and fabricated in her private Miami studio, while she also works as a graphic designer and fine arts photographer. She is president-elect of the WJA Miami Chapter. She plans to use her scholarship funds to pursue the Comprehensive CAD/CAM for Jewelry certificate at GIA.

Coco de Salazar, left, and Xabrina Michel'li Thompson, right.

The Gabriel Love Foundation Scholarship Winner ($5,000): Xabrina Michel'li Thompson. Thompson is a 22-year-old graduate of one of South Africa’s leading girl’s schools, Epworth High School. She is pursuing a graduate gemologist diploma from GIA, for which she will use her scholarship funds. In her travels, she identified a business opportunity, which she researched and introduced to her employer and was given a shareholding in a new subsidiary company to develop a freshwater pearl, colored stone, and sterling silver jewelry brand. She also wants to establish a WJA Chapter in her home country in South Africa.

The June Herman Designer/Creator Scholarship Winner ($5,000): Qianwen Lu. A student at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, Lu is studying towards her degree in jewelry design and plans to continue studying jewelry in a post-graduate course.

The Peggy Kirby Designer Scholarship Winner ($5,000): Hsinyu Chu. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Chu received her BFA in fashion design and MFA in jewelry metal art at Academy of Art University, San Francisco, CA, and also studied at The Revere Academy in San Francisco. In 2017, she launched her jewelry workshop, JC Art & Design. Chu would also like to become an appraiser and wishes to take an appraisal course.

Other Student Scholarships: Designer/Creator (based on images of finished pieces designed and created by the student): Lauren Delbracco $3,000, Xun Liu $2,500, Zoe Larson $1,500, Melissa Cousins $1,000. Designer (based on designs by the student, includes CAD and drawings): Mengjie Zhang $2,000, Xinchen LI $1,000. Non-Designer (essay-based for applicants studying to be gemologists, appraisers, watchmakers, bench jewelers, or retailers): Bonnie Cornell $3,000; Jennifer Pollard $2,500; Katie Soule $1,500; Laura Marsolek $1,000.

Member Grants: WJA awarded 32 member grants of $500 each to recipients nominated by their chapters. The grants are awarded to female, professional-level, WJA members in good standing, to be used toward professional growth. Grant recipients, by chapter, include: Austin: Jen Leddy-Barnes; Boston: Wendy Jo New; Chicago: Sue Rosengard, Anne Van der Meulen, Olivia Zale; Colorado: Alexandra Fitzgerald; Dallas: Kelly Grise, Patricia Schrag; Houston: Maggie Segrich; Los Angeles: Harvinder Keila; Miami: Tiffany Joachim; Northern California: Sara Beck, Christy Comstock, Brittany Stadtmiller; NY Metro: Kristine Cabanban, AnnaLisa Cervi, Christine Malle, Stephanie Maslow Blackman, Annmarie Sclafani Stewart; Ohio/Kentucky: Christina Miller, Leslie Wright; Philadelphia: Christine Alaniz; Providence: Jennifer Skiba; Raleigh: Martha D'Alessandro; San Diego: Laura Fischer, Niki Grandics, Kathleen Lynagh House; Seattle: Nancy Castillo, Jessica Herner; Twin Cities: Jennifer Bellefleur, Dawn Bruggeman; Charlotte Preston "Gets it Done" Grant: Betsy Sanders

WJA's Awards for Excellence gala, which raises money for grants and scholarships, will be held Monday, July 29, 2019, at Pier 60 in New York. This year's gala will honor two visionaries in the jewelry industry who are making a difference in the cause of women’s equality: Carol Pennelli, president of David Yurman and Stellene Volandes, editor in chief of Town & Country magazine. Additionally, Mark Hanna, CMO of the Richline Group, will be presented with the Cindy Edelstein Mentorship Award, established in 2016 in memory of Cindy Edelstein, a longtime WJA member who dedicated to the development, encouragement, and enrichment of the lives of women in the jewelry industry.

Tickets to the awards gala are available at


JVC’s Tiffany Stevens Addresses Pearl Farming At United Nations  

New York, NY—Pearl farming can be a significant economic opportunity, says Tiffany Stevens, president and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. Speaking at the 2019 Global Multi-Stakeholder SIDS Partnership Dialogue, held at the United Nations in parallel with the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), Stevens said properly managed pearl farms offer real opportunities to individuals and communities of the small islands in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, both from an economic perspective and in terms of protecting the marine environment.

Stevens, who also serves as president of CIBJO’s Ethics Commission, spoke at the July 10 event on behalf of CIBJO president Gaetano Cavalieri. The discussion focused on opportunities available to a group of 57 small-island developing states in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean, Mediterranean and South China Seas, during the 2019 Global Multi-Stakeholder SIDS Partnership Dialogue.

Stevens emphasized that for a cultured pearl farm to become an economically sustainable asset, it is essential that it also be operated in an environmentally sustainable manner. “Properly managed, a pearl farm can continue producing quality products indefinitely, serving as a resource for national development through the taxes and royalties it provides, and at the local level as a source of gainful employment and community development, both directly and through the secondary economies its nurtures,” she stated.

What has been learned over the years, she added, is that when it comes to cultured pearls environmental, social and economic sustainability are inexorably linked. “Over the course of its lifespan, the oysters of the most commonly used species are able to produce three cultured pearls. The quality of these pearls will be a direct result of the conditions of the water in which the oysters are kept, and the length of the gestation period, during which nacre forms around the irritant nucleus that has been placed in the animal. If the environment is pristine, and the pearl is provided adequate time to mature under water, the chances of obtaining a higher-value product will increase substantially.”

But, she noted, the cost of maintaining an optimal pearl-farming environment can be substantial, meaning that it is essential that the pearl farmers receive an adequate share of the revenues they produce, to encourage them to operate appropriately. As an example, she pointed to a project sponsored by the Government of French Polynesia to reverse a downward spiral in the average quality of pearls being produced there. For farmers working under economic distress there was little incentive to invest in producing a better product: they attempted to generate more income by cutting corners in managing the marine environment and reducing the gestation period of the pearls. This meant a continuing reduction in the quality of the product and the environment. The lessons learned from the Polynesian experience were then applied when CIBJO was invited to consult with the Government of Fiji and the country’s Fiji Pearl Farmers’ Association in the creation of a national plan to increase the size of the island’s pearl sector, optimizing the benefits provided to the country and its people. “The plan called for a community-based pearl farming industry to enhance the effectiveness of locally-managed marine areas, integrate coastal management and land and sea management programs, while also creating meaningful employment and income-generating opportunities for indigenous communities,” detailed Stevens.

To download the full text of Stevens’ address, click here.

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