Oklahoma City—Craig Underwood, a second-generation jeweler who is deeply involved in both the American Gem Society and his local community, is the recipient of the 2022 Robert M. Shipley Award.
Underwood, president of Underwoods Fine Jewelers
in Fayetteville, Arkansas, received the award Tuesday afternoon at AGS Conclave, held this week in Oklahoma City.
After accepting the award from another past Shipley winner, Cathy Calhoun
, Underwood shared an apt simile for a jeweler who also is an award-wining landscape and nature photographer.
Underwood, who was clearly emotional, said he felt like “a turtle on a fencepost … not only [is he in] an awkward position but you know that he didn’t get there by himself, and that is certainly the case here.”
He thanked everyone who has helped him throughout the course of his career, including his parents, and he urged other attendees to get involved in AGS like he has.
“It is so enriching. You get back so much more than you put in by stepping back and volunteering to be a part of AGS,” he said.
Underwood wrapped up his speech with another nature analogy, this one centering on the Amur carp, or koi fish.
The growth of the fish, he said, depends on the size of its habitat. It will grow a lot more in a large lake than it will in a small tank.
“This is very similar to the human race, but with our minds. If we continue to expand our horizons and expand our world, we will grow larger,” he said, noting how his involvement with AGS has helped him grow personally.
“It is a phenomenal organization, so thank you again,” Underwood concluded.
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The American Gem Society presents the Robert M. Shipley Award, its highest honor, at a luncheon held annually at Conclave.
Shipley founded both AGS and GIA and initiated organized gemological research and education in the United States.
The award presented in his honor goes to an AGS member for outstanding service to the society, significant contributions to the science of gemology, and/or exemplifying the ideals of AGS in their own community.
In presenting Underwood with the 2022 award, Calhoun said he has “excelled in all.”
Underwood has been in the jewelry business since 1975, working as a manager and buyer at another AGS store, Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry, before joining his family’s business full time.
He is the second generation to run Underwoods Fine Jewelers, which his father, Bill Underwood (a past AGS president and Shipley Award winner), opened in 1957.
Under his leadership, the store has won numerous awards, including being named one of America’s “Coolest” jewelry stores by Instore magazine.
He is a past president of AGS’s International Board of Directors, past chair of the Diamond Standards Committee and the Gemological Sciences Committee and was founding chair of the Fancy Cut Grade Task Force.
He has served on the boards of Jewelers for Children and the AGS Jewelers Education Foundation (JEF) and was a JEF industry education speaker. He currently serves on the board of directors for Jewelers Mutual Group.
Underwood is a graduate of Baylor University, where he studied entrepreneurship, and is a Gemological Institute of America Graduate Gemologist (GG) and an American Gem Society Certified Gemologist Appraiser (CGA).
Outside of the jewelry industry, he is one of the founders of an award-winning restaurant in northwest Arkansas, a co-developer of a 744-unit apartment complex and the developer of a mixed-use project in Fayetteville.
Alongside wife Laura, he recently purchased and then donated 65 acres of land to the city of Fayetteville, creating the city’s largest park.
Underwood also, Calhoun said in presenting the award Tuesday, has won a number of state and national awards for his landscape photography. One of his photos of Arkansas’ Buffalo River was featured in The Nature Conservancy’s 2022 calendar.
AGS Conclave 2022 continues through Wednesday in Oklahoma City.
— Associate Editor, News, Lenore Fedow contributed to this report.