Events & Awards

Gem Awards Highlight the Power of Retail, Community

Events & AwardsMar 11, 2024

Gem Awards Highlight the Power of Retail, Community

The 2024 winners expressed gratitude to their teams, industry colleagues, and those who turn jewelry dreams into reality.

2024 Gem Awards audience
The 22nd annual Gem Awards, hosted by Jewelers of America, honored the industry’s best and brightest during a sold-out awards ceremony on March 8. (Rupert Ramsey/
New York—At its 22nd annual Gem Awards, Jewelers of America celebrated the best of the industry, from style and design to retail and media.

Held Friday night at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York, the 2024 Gem Awards was a sold-out show, welcoming guests from every facet of the industry.

The Gem Awards ceremony honors individuals and brands whose work has bolstered the visibility and status of fine jewelry and watches.

Marion Fasel, chair of the Gem Awards Committee, kicked off the awards ceremony, sharing some behind the scenes info with the audience, including how voting works and who is on the committee.

The excitement for the night was apparent, with Fasel noting several people had asked her during the cocktail hour who the winners were, though it remains a secret due to third-party vote counters.

The first award of the night, a Special Recognition Award, was presented to Tiffany & Co. in honor of its newly renovated New York City flagship on 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, known as “The Landmark.”

“The Landmark is a gift to New York City, with love from Tiffany & Co.,” said award presenter Aimee Song.

The award was accepted by Tiffany & Co. President and CEO of the Americas Christopher Kilaniotis.

Christopher Kilaniotis
Christopher Kilaniotis, Tiffany & Co. President and CEO of the Americas, accepted the Special Recognition Award presented to Tiffany & Co. (Rupert Ramsey/

Kilaniotis shared some of the storied jewelers’ history and its longstanding connection to beautiful stores, and thanked those who made the project possible.

“If you haven’t visited yet, please visit the Landmark. We’re very happy to have you there,” he said.

National Jeweler Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff presented the next award, the Gem Award for Media Excellence, which she took home last year.

For those who write about jewelry, said Graff, they see not only beauty and craftsmanship, but a story to be told.

“There are no shortcuts to excellence. Excellence demands dedication and unwavering commitment to getting it right, not just once, but time and time again,” she said.

This year’s award went to Tanya Dukes, a New York City-based writer and editor who has covered the jewelry and watch markets for nearly 20 years.

Tanya Dukes
2024 Gem Award for Media Excellence winner Tanya Dukes (Rupert Ramsey/

“I can’t believe I get recognition, get to stand up here in a great dress, to do work I love and to talk about the incredible pieces of jewelry and watches, and tell your stories. Because they move me so much,” said Dukes.

“I do my best to translate all the patience, all the knowledge, all of the artistry that all of you have and bring it to people so that they understand it, so that they are as desperate to have your pieces as I am.”

The other nominees were Milena Lazazzera Martins Alexandre and Alexis Wolfe.

Jewelers of America CEO Dave Bonaparte and CFO Annie Doresca took the stage next to welcome guests and to share what JA has been working on this year.

At the start of the year, JA, alongside the Black in Jewelry Coalition, announced the retailers chosen for its Emerging Jewelers Accelerator Program, launched in 2023 and designed to guide five business owners through an eight-month educational curriculum.

The trade organization also recently debuted its updated careers guide and is currently taking nominations for the next “20 Under 40” class of retail professionals.

 Related stories will be right here … 

The Gem Award for Retail Excellence was presented next by last year’s winners Jennifer Gandia and Christina Gandia Gambale of Greenwich St. Jewelers.

“As consumers’ lifestyles and needs change, so does how they shop, and savvy retailers are capitalizing on these changes, employing new technologies and fresh ideas to create an unquestionably exciting consumer experience,” said Gambale.

Gandia said, “From Seattle to Dallas, Melrose Place to Madison Avenue, consumers are discovering what we in this room already know. Brick-and-mortar stores are not only alive and well, they are the destination of excellence.”

The award went to Ben Bridge Jeweler, accepted by President and CEO Lisa Bridge.

Lisa Bridge
2024 Gem Award for Retail Excellence winner Lisa Bridge of Ben Bridge Jeweler (left) with her husband, Gilad Berenstein (Rupert Ramsey/

“I am very honored. I love the jewelry business. I love the retail business. And I’m very thankful to have a wonderful family who believed in Seattle and believed in this industry,” said the fifth-generation jeweler. She also thanked her parents and her team.

“I’m thrilled that my team is here tonight, a team that dreams with me, that plays with me, and that has gone on a journey over the last five years I’ve been CEO and have been willing to dig in and reshape and re-envision, while knowing deeply who and what we are,” she said.

The other nominees were Irene Neuwirth and Ylang23.

Following dinner, surprise guest Ben Platt took the stage to present the Gem Award for Jewelry Style to “Harriet” actress Cynthia Erivo.

“Cynthia is a remarkable individual who lights up every stage, red carpet, and room she enters. I am very blessed to call her a dear friend, and tonight, she is being honored for her extraordinary sense of style,” said Platt.

“She has an uncanny natural ability to make every look flawless. She is unapologetically bold with her fashion, and jewelry has played a big part in her signature style.”

Erivo accepted the award and gave a moving speech about what jewelry means to her.

“I know that jewelry for a lot of people is simply a sparkly luxury, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we want to be sparkly and luxurious, but what I get from every piece I own is a time capsule, a moment crystalized, a conversation waiting to be had, a connection yearning to be made, a memory begging never to be forgotten, a power source,” she said.

“And what has struck me in this bejeweled journey is that I have also been able to connect with some of the most incredible women I have ever met, some who have become like sisters,” said Erivo.

Next to the stage was last year’s winner Anita Ko to present the Gem Award for Jewelry Design.

The nominees in the category were Marla Aaron, Marie Lichtenberg and Jean Prounis.

Marie Lichtenberg, Marla Aaron, and Jean Prounis
The nominees for the Gem Award for Jewelry Design were Marie Lichtenberg, Marla Aaron, and Jean Prounis. (Rupert Ramsey/

“Tonight’s nominees excel with displays of playful elegance designed to surprise and excite, a strong sense of family heritage reflected in the character of soft gold, Parisian sophistication blended with pop culture, or the intricacy of function married with design,” said Ko.

The honor went to Marla Aaron, whose functional approach to fine jewelry, like her iconic re-imagined carabiner lock, has made her a favorite in the world of design.

Marla Aaron
The 2024 Gem Award for Jewelry Design winner Marla Aaron (Rupert Ramsey/

“I’m not supposed to be here. I have made so many mistakes, personally and professionally. It’s just a miracle that I am standing in front of you with this award,” she said.

“Somehow, out of this relentless mess-making, some useful and beautiful jewelry came to be.”

In addition to giving her thanks to her family, friends, and employees, Aaron shouted out the unsung heroes of New York City Diamond District’s 47th Street that make the designs a reality.

“The design is really just a fraction of the entire thing that happens to bring a piece of jewelry to life. Thank you all for doing this with me,” she said.

Next on stage was Anna Martin, the former senior vice president for institute and industry relations at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), to present the Gem Award for Lifetime Achievement to Susan Jacques, president and CEO of GIA.

Anna Martin and Susan Jacques
Anna Martin (left) presented the Gem Award for Lifetime Achievement to Susan Jacques. (Rupert Ramsey/

Martin shared a piece of advice from Warren Buffet, whose company Berkshire Hathaway owns Borsheims, where Jacques formerly served as CEO.

“Do what you love and admire the person you work for. You’ve given yourself the best opportunities for success,” she said.

“These words made me think of one very special person,” said Martin, describing Jacques as a dear friend deserving of the honor.

To celebrate Jacques’ achievement, the ceremony played a video montage of her life and 45-year career, which included kind words and congratulations from colleagues.

Jacques accepted her award, thanking her family and the industry, and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

“I have been truly blessed to have had two dream jobs, at Borsheims and now at GIA, in an industry that I am passionate about, working with incredible teams of committed and dedicated colleagues. This is truly a dream come true,” she said.

She expressed her gratitude for her family and to her parents, “who set my moral compass and taught me the importance of integrity, ethics, honesty, and being a person of your word.”

“To all of my friends, colleagues, vendor partners, and mentors from every chapter of my life who have encouraged and supported me along the way, I am eternally grateful,” she said.

Marion Fasel and Amanda Gizzi
Marion Fasel, chair of the Gem Awards Committee, and Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations and events for Jewelers of America (Rupert Ramsey/

Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations and events for Jewelers of America, closed out the night, inviting guests to join the fun again next year.

For more information on GEM Awards or to view photos from the event, visit the JA website

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