Redondo Beach, Calif.--The Women’s Jewelry Association gathered members from across the country Saturday to honor those whose dedication to their local chapters makes them vital resources for women in the industry.

Held at the Shade Hotel in Redondo Beach, California, outside of Los Angeles, the In The Spotlight event saw 12 WJA members honored as “Shining Stars” for their chapter.

“Local chapter” proved to be a relative term at the awards.

Designer Debra Navarro of Debra Navarro Jewelry, for example, has been involved with WJA Dallas since about 2015, attending most of its events, though she resides 365 miles away in Wichita, Kansas.

The WJA Dallas 2018 Shining Star and chapter treasurer said in her acceptance speech, “When I wanted to do this thing I felt so called to do, which was design jewelry the way that I saw it and wanted to wear it, I knew I couldn’t do this alone from Wichita … Dallas was my closest chapter and I am from Texas so that made sense.”

She wasn’t the only Shining Star whose WJA commute was a bit of a journey.

Andrea Koenig of Annie K Jewelry, treasurer of the Ohio/Kentucky chapter, has been traveling an hour and a half each way to monthly WJA meetings for the past four years.

“What started out as a networking opportunity turned into making connections, which turned into making friendships, which turned into real growth opportunities both for me and the women I was working with in the chapter,” Koenig said.

Honorees thanked their fellow WJA members for the community and family that the organization provides, with one Shining Star, who has spent more than 40 years in the jewelry industry, noting the changes he’s seen in female professional empowerment in that time.

“I was hired by a woman,” said WJA Boston’s Gerard Riveron. “I’m still friends with her today. The most positive change I’ve seen (in 40 years) is the success of many women in the jewelry industry, not only in the designing side but the business side. I think the evolution is amazing and I love to be a witness of it.”

Interest in the WJA seems to be at an all-time high. President Bernadette Mack noted at the event that 12 affiliate and interest groups are in the process of becoming official chapters.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of growth and the Shining Stars are truly the backbone of the organization,” Mack said. “I always say that WJA has the hardest-working volunteers in this industry.”

These are the other nine individuals honored Saturday night as Shining Stars.

Olivia Zale, Artistry Ltd., WJA Chicago
Teresa Pureber, Hyde Park Jewelers, WJA Colorado
Sheila Siu, Trumpet & Horn, WJA Los Angeles
Eve Streicker, Original Eve, WJA New York Metro
Danielle Mainas, Little Bird, WJA Northern California
Lauren Paquin, ESP Global, WJA Providence
Julia Popovich, Zhulia, WJA San Diego
Anna Samsonova, Ben Bridge Jeweler, WJA Seattle
Dawn Morel Bruggeman, D. Morel Gemologist Inc., WJA Twin Cities.

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