By Michelle Graff
Ed Bridge, center, was the recipient of the 2020 Gem Award for Lifetime Achievement. The awards were presented Friday night at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York. (Photo credit: Benjamin Lozovsky/
New York—Gem Awards Committee Chair Olivier Stip made an astute observation from the stage as the awards were wrapping up Friday night in New York.

“It would appear that, at least for tonight, the new capital … of jewelry is the Pacific Northwest,” he said, a reference to both the Lifetime Achievement Award winner and the store that took home the innovation award.

20200114 Olivier Stip GEM AwardsGem Awards Committee Chair Olivier Stip on stage Friday night. Stip is the general manager of watches and fine jewelry for Chanel. (Photo credit: Benjamin Lozovsky/

The Gem Awards, an event produced by Jewelers of America, took place Friday night at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York.

It was the 18th year for the black-tie event that’s come to be known as the Oscars of the jewelry industry, and it was as glamorous and collegial as ever.

Moda Operandi’s Will Kahn, the former fashion market and accessories director at Town & Country and a winner last year, took the stage to present the first award, the 2020 Gem Award for Media Excellence, which went to Rachel Garrahan

20200114 Rachel GarrahanLondon-based journalist Rachel Garrahan, the jewelry and watch director at British Vogue, won the 2020 Gem Award for Media Excellence. (Photo credit: Bart Gorin)

Garrahan, who beat out Anthony DeMarco and Tanya Dukes, is the current jewelry and watch director at British Vogue, and was a longtime contributor to publications like The Financial Times and International New York Times when she lived in New York City.

In her speech, the London-based writer thanked the New York-based editors who helped her learn about the industry, the designers who inspire her writing, and British Vogue Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful, her “inspirational, agenda-setting editor.”

“He loves jewelry and watches as much as I do, and I’m so grateful the support he has given me in making the category as integral to Vogue as fashion and beauty are.”

The Retail Innovation award went to Twist, a forward-thinking, designer-focused independent jeweler with stores in Portland, Oregon and Seattle.

Twist topped Foundrae designer Beth Bugdaycay’s TriBeCa flagship and the Hodinkee Shop to take home the Gem Award.

20201014 Paul Schneider TWISTTwist co-owner Paul Schneider came on stage to accept the Gem Award for Retail Innovation for his store, which has locations in Portland, Oregon and Seattle. (Photo credit: Bart Gorin)

Paul Schneider, who owns and operates Twist alongside wife Lauren Eulau, accepted the award.

He and Eulau, who are both artists, started Twist 40 years ago.

“If I’m going to thank anybody, it always has to start with her,” he said, drawing applause from the audience. “She’s the buyer, she’s the visionary, she’s the one who sets the tone.

“It’s really made the whole thing 42 years of joy and creativity and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

The Gem Award for Jewelry Design, the last of the three awards announced live at the event, went to Nikos Koulis, who edged out Ana Khouri and Carlo Traglio, who heads Italian brand Vhernier.

“I am grateful for this community. You have embraced me warmly, you have supported me so much over these years and now you are giving me this wonderful Gem [Award] that I will keep forever,” he said. “Thank you all.”

The last award presented Friday night was the Lifetime Achievement Award, which, as previously announced, was given this year to Ed Bridge, chairman emeritus of Seattle-based chain Ben Bridge Jeweler.

He became the third member of the Bridge family to receive this award, after his father, Bob Bridge, and uncle, Herb Bridge, who were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award the same year, in 2005.

So, it seemed fitting his two children—daughter Lisa Bridge, the current CEO of Ben Bridge Jeweler, and son Marc Bridge—introduced him and that he delivered a speech that was all about family and relationships.

20200114 Bridge family GEM AwardsThe Bridge family on the red carpet at the 18th annual Gem Awards, from left to right: son-in-law Gilad Berenstein, daughter Lisa Bridge, son Marc Bridge and parents Pam and Ed Bridge.

“One of my mentors, Warren Buffett, said, ‘True success in life is when you get to be my age and the people who are supposed to love you actually love you. Then you’re a success.’ I feel very successful tonight,” Ed said.

And he wrapped up his speech by thanking his wife of 40 years, Pam Bridge.

“Pam has supported me, traveled with me, raised our family—which you see she did a good job of—been my sounding board and is the most important person in my life. Pam, I love you.”

Also over the weekend in New York:

— The Jewelers Vigilance Committee held its annual luncheon Friday afternoon and honored Gemological Institute of America President and CEO Susan Jacques with the 2020 Stanley Schechter Award;

— The Jewelers’ Security Alliance held its annual luncheon Saturday, honoring Signet Jewelers Vice President of Asset Protection Christina Hackler with its Industry Service Award and presenting the James B. White Award to three special agents with the Detroit office of the FBI: Michael Baumgartner, Matthew C. Schuff and Bryan Toltzis; and

— The 24 Karat Club of New York City had its gala Saturday night, where English singer-songwriter Calum Scott performed.    

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