Remembering Hedda Schupak, ‘A Real Gem’

EditorsOct 10, 2023

Remembering Hedda Schupak, ‘A Real Gem’

Members of the industry and Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff share their memories of the longtime editor, who died unexpectedly last week.

Russ Shor and Hedda Schupak
Hedda Schupak, right, and longtime friend Russ Shor are pictured at the Gemological Institute of America’s 2005 “League of Honor” dinner in New York. Hedda died last week at age 62 of lung cancer. (Photo courtesy of GIA)
It seems like I’ve written many obituaries for industry colleagues who have died unexpectedly in recent years, but I don’t remember being as shocked as I was last week by the news of Hedda Schupak’s passing.  
And I don’t remember ever seeing such an outpouring online as I’ve witnessed for Hedda, from LinkedIn to Facebook to my own inbox, which was flooded with messages after the news broke last Tuesday

Former colleagues, retailers, designers, and heads of organizations wrote to me, expressing the same shock and sharing their memories of a woman who dedicated her career to the jewelry industry. 
Hedda spent 23 years at JCK magazine, a lifetime in the world of journalism. For nine of those years, she served as the publication’s editor-in-chief, a grueling and often thankless job.  
After her time at JCK, she remained in the industry, serving as editor of the Centurion show’s newsletter.  
Last year, she told JCK News Director Rob Bates she was “semi-retiring.”  

While I remember reading Rob’s article, I wasn’t surprised when I saw Hedda in Las Vegas earlier this year because she acknowledged in Rob’s story what we all know to be true: “No one leaves the jewelry industry completely.”   
Now, I’m finding it hard to believe I’ll never see Hedda again because she was Hedda—strong, smart, confident, bold, and articulate. She was never one to mince words, and never was afraid of speaking her mind. 
When I talked with fellow industry journalist Russ Shor last week, he described his longtime friend as someone who was “very forthright” and “extremely honest,” two excellent qualities for a journalist.   
“Hedda was a deeply caring, deeply loyal person. We were besties. That’s the only way to describe it,” Shor said.  
She, he also noted, ran JCK magazine with the upmost integrity, which did not go unnoticed among its target demographic—jewelers. 
Jim Rosenheim of Tiny Jewel Box, Veronica Guarino of Louis Anthony Jewelers, Elva Valentine of Valentine’s Jewelry, and Susan Eisen of Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches all reached out to me directly to share memories of Hedda. 
Rosenheim wrote, “I met Hedda at Vincenza fair decades ago. We were both looking into the show window of the same exhibitor … We shared discoveries and experiences whenever our paths crossed.   
“She was a cherished friend and colleague whose loss has left a real vacuum in my life.”    
Valentine described Hedda as a “bright star” and Eisen, a “real gem,” while Guarino wrote, “I am so sorry to hear of Hedda’s passing. I always enjoyed seeing her at the shows. She was a positive, energetic woman who contributed so much to the industry.  
“We were on a trip together to Italy in 2013, [at the trade show] About J, and she interviewed Lou and me regarding trends in the industry. We had a lot of great laughs together. She will be missed.”  
Robert Weldon, who worked alongside both Hedda and Shor at JCK in the ‘90s, said, “Working with Hedda was a trip. She was fun, opinionated, and hard working.  
“When I moved to the Philadelphia area, she became a trusted professional colleague and friend. I remember bringing a cappuccino-maker to work, and every day we would all meet for a quick pick-me-up, the machine screeching and squealing out its steamed milk … But it was not just the coffee; it was our time to share ideas. 
“I am so, so sorry to hear of Hedda’s passing. She was passionate, compassionate, and memorable. In our industry, and Hedda’s beloved jewelry industry, she made a difference.”

I do not have the same history with Hedda as Shor, Weldon, or some of my other fellow jewelry industry journalists who worked alongside her at JCK, so I invite you to read their remembrances.  
Jennifer Heebner memorialized Hedda in the latest AGTA Prism newsletter, Anthony DeMarco recalled the influence Hedda had on his career for Centurion, and Rob Bates rounded up memories from JCK staffers past and present

Even though we never worked at the same publication, I always liked Hedda.  
We talked whenever we bumped into each other at trade shows or other industry events, and we kept in touch via email, discussing politics, journalism, and the Pittsburgh Steelers (all in a fairly dismal state at the moment, to be honest).  
Her husband Jim and I are both Steelers fans, and Hedda would often email me after a tough loss to check in, and to let me know Jim was just as depressed as I was.   
In more recent years, our conversations expanded to include cats.  
An ‘Iconic’ Cat Lady 
You didn’t have to know Hedda well to understand that no remembrance of her would be complete without mentioning her love of cats, the supreme beings of the pet world. 
A couple months after I adopted my tuxedo cat, Salem, I mentioned him in an email to Hedda. She requested pictures (who wouldn’t?) and wrote, “I’m sure you have already figured out that once you have a cat, you wonder how you ever got along without one.” 
She was right. 
After I wrote about Hedda’s passing on Tuesday, one of the first messages I received was a text from Severine Ferrari, who wrote, “So sad to hear about Hedda. She was one of the smartest in the industry when it came to understanding consumer minds. 

“But most of all, she was one of the most iconic cat ladies in our industry. She gave me great tips when Padmé was sick. It was great to see her pop up at JCK [this year], which was the last time I saw her.” 
Shortly after receiving Severine’s message, I got an email from Andrea Hansen, who said, “Heartbroken over the news about Hedda. I am sure as a cat person you know how much she loved her fur babies. I cannot tell you how many times she direct messaged me to tell me about a plant that is toxic to kitties, or to help this ‘dog lady’ become a ‘cat lady.’    
“Her big smile and infectious laugh came through as only Hedda’s could, whether it was bumping into her at a Vegas show, or even in the way she wrote her direct messages.”   
Rest in peace, Hedda. Wherever you are, I hope there are plenty of cats. And, if that’s the case, then please save a space for me.

A memorial service for Hedda is set for Nov. 17 at Temple Brith Achim in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Visitation will begin at 11:30 a.m., with the service scheduled to start at 12:30. Following the service, all will be invited to a yet-to-be-named local restaurant to share their memories of Hedda.

For those unable to attend in person, friends of Hedda’s are working on a live-streaming option.

Editor's note: This story was updated post-publication to include information about services for Hedda Schupak. 

Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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