By Brecken Branstrator
The women honored Friday night at the 16th annual Gem Awards included, from left to right, jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth; editor and author Marion Fasel; and actress Debra Messing.
New York--Cipriani 42nd St. was packed by industry members donning their sartorial best and decked out in their finest jewels Friday evening as the venue played host to the 16th annual Gem Awards.  

Jewelry designer Stephen Webster served his second turn as the event’s emcee, saying that it was the “single most glittering night of the year, when the only thing that outshines the brilliance of the diamonds is the brilliantine finish of the people who work with them.”

The gregarious designer kept the audience entertained in between inviting presenters to the stage to announce the winners in three categories.

E-commerce site Moda Operandi took home the Gem Award for Retail Innovation, while editor and author Marion Fasel of The Adventurine won in the Media Excellence category and the award for Jewelry Design went to Irene Neuwirth.

The event, in fact, was a sweep for women, also recognizing Sally Morrison with the Lifetime Achievement Award and actress Debra Messing with the Gem Award for Jewelry Style, both of which were announced prior to the event.

Morrison has worked on pivotal projects like Love Gold for the World Gold Council and in marketing for Gemfields, helping the mining company get colored gemstones on the red carpet.

When she got up to accept her award, she said that it was moments like these that made her think about what she has done and what she still wants to do.

After talking about her many mentors and projects that she’s fortunate enough to have been a part of, she added: “However, with such incredible opportunities and such amazing access to incredible role models and mentoring, I can’t help but wonder, if I were a man, would my career have had a different, loftier trajectory?”

She then asked aloud why there weren’t more women in leadership roles in the industry, adding that there needs to be more though and discussion about this.

“We make products that represent and celebrate the most meaningful and transformative moments in a woman’s life. Ultimately, she’s our customer, and we need to honor her. We need every aspect of what we do to be worthy of the product we sell. To do a better job at this, we must involve women in all aspects of our industry.”

Messing, meanwhile, was recognized for her role in helping raise consumer awareness of fine jewelry, and at the Gem Awards Friday night, she showed herself to be a true lover of the sector.

In a video that played before she took to the stage, she talked about her early memories of jewelry, stemming from her father’s experience manufacturing in Rhode Island and coming home with bags of samples. “It’s what I played with,” the “Will & Grace” star said. “I didn’t play with Barbies. I played with jewelry.”

Her love for jewelry has grown and evolved since childhood, not only playing a part in her real life but also in her characters’ lives.

She said in the video that when she puts on jewelry, “It’s like I’m choosing what aspect of myself I want to reveal for the day. It’s visceral. It’s chemical. It’s not something you can fake. I see it, and it literally changes my blood pressure. It changes my pulse. It feels like it gives me life.”

Messing continued to gush about her love for and the importance of jewelry when she got onto the stage to accept her award, delivering a heartfelt speech that was well-received in a room full of people who thrive on selling love and emotion.

“I can tell you where every piece of jewelry in my now vast collection comes from: from whom, for what occasion, which country pieces were discovered in. Jewelry tells the story of my life.”

She talked about putting on a coral necklace and Tuareg ring to remember her time in the Sahara desert. When she misses her mom, the only thing that comforts her, she said, is putting on her ring.

Messing also talked about wearing jewelry being a “shared experience,” with a piece being able to affect the viewer as much as the wearer.

“It is a potent balm that has the power to comfort and uplift. That is no small thing. Thank you for bringing beauty in to my life and for making this fan girl feeling so welcomed in your community.”

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