Events & Awards

First Responders Win BIJC’s Second ‘Together by Design’ Contest

Events & AwardsFeb 13, 2024

First Responders Win BIJC’s Second ‘Together by Design’ Contest

The couple won a bespoke engagement ring set with a 1.44-carat fancy yellow diamond and designed by Michael Hogan.

Nana and Jennifer
First responders Nana, left, and Jennifer won the Black in Jewelry Coalition’s second “Together by Design” contest. As the winners, they received a bespoke yellow diamond engagement ring created by designer Michael Hogan.
New York—It’s a story perfect to share ahead of Feb. 14.

A pair of first responders who met during training and later reconnected are the winners of the Black in Jewelry Coalition’s (BJIC) second “Together by Design” contest and competition.

The future groom, Nana, was the one who entered the “Love Story” portion of the contest, sharing details of how he met his now-fiancée, Jennifer, while the two were attending an EMS training academy.

They initially were just friends but after graduation, they reconnected and became more.

Phase two of Together by Design challenged jewelry designers to sketch a bespoke ring based on the couple’s love story as well as the dates, symbols, and landmarks Nana listed as being special to the pair.

Michael Hogan, of Michael Hogan Jewelry, won the competition and, with Nana’s input, refined his sketch to create a one-of-a-kind platinum ring centered on a Gemological Institute of America-graded 1.44-carat fancy yellow diamond. 



“The creation of this ring draws profound inspiration from the couple’s narrative, weaving in the significance of their special place at Coney Island, [with] the Roman numeral date they value discreetly placed at its base, [three] sapphire gemstones representing their spiritual journey, and the Ferris wheel delicately etched on its inner circumference,” Hogan said.

“Each element holds deep personal meaning meticulously intertwined within the design. That’s why I call it ‘Elements of Love;’ it encapsulates these cherished symbols that resonate intimately with their story and emotions.”

Nungu Diamonds donated the yellow diamond, while Platinum Guild International USA donated the metal used to create the ring. 

While Nana and Jennifer went home with a bespoke engagement ring, the winning designer’s prize package included $5,000 cash, various scholarships for continuing jewelry education, and one-year memberships to BIJC, Jewelers of America and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

Launched in 2021, Together by Design was conceived by BIJC to spotlight Black love and award an emerging Black jewelry designer.

Nellie Barnett, GIA’s manager of corporate communications, led the Together by Design committee.

She was assisted by Adrianne Sanogo, G.G.; Amanda Gizzi, director of PR and events at JA; JA Chief Financial Officer Annie Doresca; Elyssa Jenkins-Pérez, director of membership and marketing at JVC; Grace Barretti, senior marketing manager at Greenwich St. Jewelers; GIA Vice President of Human Resources Lisa Jones; Rebecca Moskal, PGI’s vice president of marketing; and Michelle Graff, editor-in-chief of National Jeweler.

All the Together By Design judges are BIJC members.

Love Story contest judges included Graff and Jones along with jewelry editor and writer Tanya Dukes, and Severine Ferrari, founder of Engagement 101.

Sanogo, Johnny Nelson of Johnny Nelson Jewelry, Lauren Harwell Godfrey of Harwell Godfrey, and Christian Bolling of Christian Stoné judged the jewelry design portion of the competition.

For more about the BIJC, visit the organization’s website.

To see a video of Nana’s proposal, check out BIJC’s YouTube channel.

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