By Michelle Graff
New York—Carolyn Kelly, a beloved member of the industry for more than four decades, died Tuesday at her home in New York following a five-year battle with bile duct cancer. She was 60.

“Our industry lost one of its queens yesterday,” longtime friend Myriam Gumuchian said Wednesday. “Carolyn’s passion and knowledge for our jewelry world was unparalleled.”

Born Nov. 21, 1957 in New York, Kelly lived her entire life in the city. She grew up in Queens and then moved to Manhattan.

She started her career in 1974 as a divisional merchandise manager and buyer at Bloomingdale’s and remained with the retailer for 15 years, learning the business along the way.

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While at Bloomingdale’s she met two women who would become lifelong friends—Francine Klein and Sybil Yurman, who was just launching a line with a designer who then was up-and-coming, David Yurman.

Klein and Sybil Yurman used the word “brilliant” to describe Kelly and her merchandising abilities. Both also painted a picture of a woman who wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is but, at the same time, was a kind, loyal friend.

“She was truly brilliant, a very talented merchant with a great sense of humor,” Klein said. “She always saw the truth in everything.”

After Bloomingdale’s, Kelly spent one year at Mastoloni as director of “Gifts from the Sea” before taking a job as the divisional merchandise manager for fine jewelry at Saks Fifth Avenue, where she stayed from 1990 until 1999.

It was in the early ‘90s at Saks that she became a friend and colleague to Peter Webster, the president of Roberto Coin.

“She was one of the icons of the industry,” Webster said of Kelly when reached by phone Wednesday, “and a very loyal friend.”

She also served short stints at internet company Adornis and David Yurman, where she was vice president of merchandising from 2002 to 2003, and worked as a fine jewelry consultant for five years.

Sybil Yurman said Kelly continued to consult with David Yurman after leaving the company.

“She meant a lot to our family," Yurman said, referring to herself, husband David and son Evan. “She was always here in the family business for us.”

In 2006, Kelly and one of her sisters, Nancy Kelly, bought Old World Chain, with Carolyn explaining on her LinkedIn profile that, “After many years as a jewelry retailer and wholesaler, I wanted to be on my own.”

She is survived by her mother, JoAnne; three sisters, Lauren, Nancy and Suzy Kelly; one nephew, Gregory; one niece, Suzanne; and many friends.

“I am blessed to have had [Carolyn] as my friend. She will be forever in my heart, which is very heavy right now,” Gumuchian said. “I will never forget our fun, crazy times together, whether at trade shows, 24 Karat (Club) events, or in my house with my family and friends. She surely knew how to enjoy life. I will miss her and her wisdom ... until we meet again!”

The family will receive friends from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Hillebrand Funeral Home in Rego Park (Queens), New York. The funeral is set for Saturday.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to The Pancreas Center at Columbia University Medical Center.

Editor's note: This story was updated post-publication to include quotes from Sybil Yurman, Francine Klein and details on services for Carolyn Kelly.

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