By Michelle Graff
Hearts On Fire President Caryl Capeci’s No. 1 piece of advice for young women starting out in the jewelry industry today? “Be a sponge,” she said. “Ask why.”
New York—The Women’s Jewelry Association changed the format of its Awards for Excellence gala this year.

Instead of voting on nominees in more than a dozen categories and revealing the winners live at the event, the WJA pre-selected three individuals and one corporation/organization to recognize with the first WJA Visionary Awards.  

Prior to the jewelry event Monday night in New York, National Jeweler asked each of the recipients about their career paths, their mentors, the jewelry industry today and more.

Second in our WJA Q&A Visionary series: Caryl Capeci, who started her career working on the De Beers advertising account at NW Ayer in the late 1980s and landed at Hearts On Fire in 2007, rising through the ranks to become the company’s president in 2015. 

National Jeweler: Your first job connected to jewelry was in 1986 at NW Ayer, where De Beers was your only account. Compare what it was like to be a woman in business in 1986 with what it is like today.

Caryl Capeci: It’s like night and day. Let’s just say that tremendous strides have been made since 1986.  I would say most female leaders were in creative positions, like design or marketing, and there were very few female business leaders at the helm of organizations.  

NJ: Whom do you consider your mentor and why?  

CC: I’ve been fortunate to work with phenomenal people throughout my career. My mentors, however, are my sisters Claire, Vira, and my sister-in-law Amy.  I’m lucky to have a family of strong and tenacious females who are also a whole lot of fun.  

What I find most spectacular about my sisters is their combination of strength and softness. They have all been very successful, rising to the top of their fields in advertising, fashion, and publishing, but also raise families. They are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives first, all while continuing to drive their companies forward every day.

20180719 CarylCapeciHearst Magazines' Chief Content Officer Joanna Coles (left) presented Capeci (right) with a WJA Visionary Award at the Awards for Excellence Monday night in New York City.
NJ: What is the biggest challenge facing women in C-suite positions, particularly in the jewelry industry, today?

CC: Balance. Most women are managing their time between family, career, and self-care.  We as women need to be at the top of our game in these categories, and sometimes that’s a job in and of itself.

It goes back to being both fierce and feminine, and we need to balance that too—let’s not lose the femininity that is so intrinsic to our DNA, but also be able to counter that with our fierce determination and strong opinions.

NJ: What advice would you give to a young woman starting out in a career in the jewelry industry right now?

CC: Be a sponge. Ask why. Absorb every conversation. It is so important to listen and insert yourself into conversations and learn from them. 

Also, stay connected with every person you respect and find valuable. Be sure to take them along with you as you move forward and advance in your career.

NJ: What has been the most memorable jewelry event of your career?

CC: I have had dozens of great memories over the years, but the most special was the first time I stepped onto the stage at Hearts On Fire University. If you’ve been, you know there is such a sense of community, passion, and energy in that room, an indescribable energy. You really need to experience it to understand. Stepping out onto that stage in front of 700 highly engaged, bell-ringing, Hearts On Fire enthusiasts was so exhilarating.   

We will be taking the next HOFU to the new Encore Boston Harbor property, so HOFU in our hometown will be over-the-top, for sure.

NJ: Tell us one thing people would be surprised to learn about you.

CC: I am equal parts New York City and Boston. I love the New York Post. When I first moved to Boston there were no digital editions, so getting Page 6 was not easy. I remember walking blocks to find it and sharing the key highlights with anyone who would listen.

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