The Women’s Jewelry Association has awarded its first Charlotte Preston “Gets It Done” grant. Amanda Bilberry (pictured left) is the recipient of the award, created in memoriam of WJA member Charlotte Preston (right).

New York--The Women’s Jewelry Association has announced a slew of grant winners for this year ahead of its annual Awards for Excellence gala.

Melissa Spencer of Spencer Fine Jewelry was awarded the 2016 Carelle-WJA Grant, given in memory of Brooke Tivol McGrath, who a driving force behind the launch of the Carelle brand before she died unexpectedly of a rare blood infection at the age of 28.

Spencer founded Spencer Fine Jewelry, which specializes in portraits set underneath rock crystal and surrounded by variations of gold, sterling silver, diamonds and gemstones, in 2016 after completing studies at the Gemological Institute of America.

She also serves as an event planning co-chair for WJA’s Los Angeles chapter.

The $5,000 Carelle-WJA Grant is awarded annual to a WJA entrepreneur in their first five years of business.

“Winning the Carelle-WJA Grant in memory of Brooke Tivol McGrath is a great honor,” Spencer said. “The award will fuel the production of a beautifully interactive website, which is the most important next step of my business so that I may best connect with my customers. I have learned that Brooke and I would have shared many passions, including French language studies, travel and most importantly, jewelry design. In accepting this award I aspire to honor her legacy.”

In other grant news, the first annual $1,000 Charlotte Preston “Gets It Done” grant has been awarded to Amanda Bilberry.

Bilberry, a member of San Diego’s WJA chapter, is working to become a buyer for antique and fine jewelry. She has completed studies at the GIA and will use her grant to fund a course in jewelry appraisal.

The Charlotte Preston grant was launched last November, after Preston passed away from cancer.

Preston formerly was the president of the WJA Twin Cities chapter and was an active WJA member and supporter for several years. She ran a jewelry educational programming company called Charlotte Preston Catalysts.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to have won such a special grant in honor of such an extraordinary woman,” Bilberry said. “I'm sad I was never able to meet her, but I am honored to have received this gift in her name.”

An additional 27 grants of $500 each have been awarded to WJA members around the country for their professional growth.

The full list of 2016 WJA grant winners is as follows.
--Boston: Wendy Jo New
--Chicago: Sue Crady, Kerry Gilligan, Alison Neumann, Anne van der Meulen
--Colorado: Kate Swasey
--Dallas: Laura Stanley
--Florida: Maryann Scandiffio
--Los Angeles: Tanya Parikh
--New York Metro: Amy Glaswand, Gabrielle Morris, Madeleine Roslow, Karen Sampieri, Jane Schiowitz
--Northern California: Feurene Chew, Brenda Flanders, Sawyer Riley
--Ohio/Kentucky: Kate Pleatman
--Providence: Loren Barham, Lauren Paquin, Marilyn Salvatore
--San Diego: Judy Colbert, Tara Hesselroth, Kathryn Timmerman-Susak
--Seattle: Kelsey Kovach
--Twin Cities: Jacqueline Gerhart, Diane Munsinger

In 2015, WJA raised $60,000 for grants and scholarships at its annual Awards for Excellence gala.

This year’s gala will be held on Monday, July 25 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, where awards will be given across ten categories, including design, retail, editorial media and watches.

Two honorees will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards: Sissy Jones of Sissy’s Log Cabin and Peter Engel, president of Fred Meyer Jewelers. Ben Bridge Jeweler will be awarded the WJA Corporate Award.

More information, including how to purchase tickets and sponsorship opportunities, is available on WJA’s website.

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