By Ashley Davis
Ashley.Davis@nationaljeweler.com

New York--Members of the jewelry industry headed to the Hammerstein Ballroom Monday night for the Women’s Jewelry Association’s annual Awards for Excellence gala.

Winners of 10 awards across eight categories were announced live at the event, while the three previously announced Hall of Fame honorees also took the stage to accept their awards.

Claudia Kretchmer won in the Design, Fine Jewelry and Watches category for her work at Steven Kretchmer, the company started by her late stepfather who, she noted at Monday’s awards, would have celebrated his birthday on Monday.

Tiffany Kay, daughter of the late Scott Kay, won in the Manufacturer, Dealer, Supplier category. Her acceptance speech echoed the sentiments of many of the night’s winners and honorees: “I’ve grown up in this industry. You’ve all become my family,” she said.

The Retail category was split into three separate awards.

Winning for Retail, 15 Doors or More was Saks Fifth Avenue’s Marta Nowakowski.

Jennifer Gandia and Christina Gandia Gambale, meanwhile, took home the award for Retail, 15 Doors or Fewer.

The sisters thanked their parents, who were in attendance.


“Any excellence we exhibit is a direct testament to their hard work, their support, their direction and their love,” said Jennifer Gandia.

Kris Kulesza of Jewelry Television won in the Retail, Non-Traditional category while the Sales and Merchandising award went to Stuller’s Maren Rosen.

“I have to thank my background in the fashion industry in New York City,” said Rosen as she accepted her award. “When I walked into my very first interview and had a boardroom full of men laugh at me, I took that as the most motivating tool to conquer my dreams.”

To many laughs, Jen Cullen Williams admitted that winning the Communications and Marketing Award fulfilled her childhood fantasy of winning an Oscar, so she rightfully thanked “the academy.”

Syl Tang won in the Editorial Media category while Dona Mary Dirlam of the Gemological Institute of America took home the award for Special Services and Michelle Peranteau of Baume and Mercier won in the Watches category.

Also at the event, the WJA recognized this year’s three Hall of Fame honorees.

Bill Jones of Sissy’s Log Cabin was on hand to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of his mother, the industry legend simply known as Sissy.

Sissy Jones is battling breast cancer and could not attend the awards but she did record a message thanking the WJA for all it does, and Bill Jones vowed that his mother would be at the Awards for Excellence next year to thank everybody in person.

Ben Bridge Jeweler won the WJA Corporate Award and Peter Engel, the president of Fred Meyer Jewelers, was the recipient of the Ben Kaiser Lifetime Achievement Award.


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