WJA Announces 2019 Scholarship and Grant Winners

IndependentsJul 17, 2019

WJA Announces 2019 Scholarship and Grant Winners

The Women’s Jewelry Association will award $65,500 total to 49 women this year.

The WJA will award $65,500 in scholarships and grants this year to 49 women, including (left to right) Anne Holman, Jen Townsend, Coco de Salazar, Nora Micheli Hernandez and Xabrina Michel’li Thompson.

New York—The Women’s Jewelry Association will award $65,500 in grants and scholarships to 49 women this year.

The recipients will use the funds to underwrite education and advance their professional careers.

“Our grant and scholarship winners are an impressive group,” Executive Director Bernadette Mack said. “Helping women enter and sustain careers in the jewelry business is one of the most important goals of the Women’s Jewelry Association.”

The recipients are as follows.

--The Carelle-WJA Grant Winner ($5,000): Anne Holman and Jen Townsend, The Smithery

Holman and Townsend developed their own jewelry businesses before they decided to collaborate. Together they built The Smithery, a shop and metalsmith studio focused on contemporary jewelry and modern craft located in Columbus, Ohio.

It features their own jewelry, as well as over 70 American and international artists. It also has an exhibition gallery and classroom area offering jewelry and enameling workshops.

Holman and Townsend plan to use their grant to create a separate studio space and acquire additional tools for more classes.

--The Female Veteran Scholarship ($5,000): Nora Micheli Hernandez

Micheli Hernandez is currently a student at the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology at Paris Junior College in Paris, Texas, slated to graduate later this year with certificates in jewelry repair, computer-aided design and jewelry technology.

Hernandez is a disabled veteran of the U.S. Army. She plans on creating custom jewelry and working with other disabled veterans, and will use the WJA grant money to buy the equipment and supplies needed to set up her studio.

--The Cindy Edelstein Jewelry Design Scholarship ($5,000): Coco de Salazar

De Salazar is a jewelry designer and artist in Miami, Florida. She has been metalsmithing for nine years and currently teaches fabrication and soldering classes at Jewelry Creations Workshop in North Miami.

Her jewelry line, De Salazar Jewelry, is designed and produced in her private Miami studio. De Salazar is also a graphic designer and fine arts photographer, focusing on branding, marketing and design needs for clients.


plans to use her scholarship to pursue the Comprehensive CAD/CAM for Jewelry certificate through the Gemological Institute of America.

--The Gabriel Love Foundation Scholarship ($5,000): Xabrina Michel’li Thompson

Michel’li Thompson is a 22-year-old graduate of one of South Africa’s leading girls’ schools, Epworth High School. She will use her scholarship funds toward a graduate gemologist diploma from GIA, which she is currently working toward.

Thompson currently works in the jewelry industry, traveling widely to market and source jewelry products.

She plans to develop a freshwater pearl, colored stone and sterling silver jewelry brand and also wants to establish a WJA chapter in her home country in South Africa.

--The June Herman Designer/Creator Scholarship ($5,000): Qianwen Lu

Qianwen Lu is a student at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where she is studying towards her degree in jewelry design. She plans to continue studying jewelry in a post-graduate course.

--The Peggy Kirby Designer Scholarship ($5,000): Hsinyu Chu

Hsinyu Chu received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion design and Master of Fine Arts in jewelry metal art at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She also studied at the now-closed Revere Academy.

Chu received a jewelry design and technology diploma and a graduate jeweler diploma from GIA and is a student in its graduate pearls program. In 2017, she launched her jewelry workshop, JC Art & Design, in San Francisco’s Mission District before moving it to Milpitas, California.

Chu would also like to become an appraiser and wishes to take an appraisal course.

Students scholarships also will be awarded to the following.
--Designer/Creator: Lauren Delbracco ($3,000), Xun Liu ($2,500), Zoe Larson ($1,500) and Melissa Cousins ($1,000);
--Designer: Mengjie Zhang ($2,000) and Xinchen LI ($1,000); and
--Non-Designer: Bonnie Cornell ($3,000), Jennifer Pollard ($2,500), Katie Soule ($1,500) and Laura Marsolek ($1,000).

WJA previously announced that 32 member grants of $500 each would be awarded to recipients around the country. They are as follows.

--Austin: Jen Leddy-Barnes;
--Boston: Wendy Jo New;
--Chicago: Sue Rosengard, Anne Van der Meulen and Olivia Zale;
--Colorado: Alexandra Fitzgerald;
--Dallas: Kelly Grise and Patricia Schrag;
--Houston: Maggie Segrich;
--Los Angeles: Harvinder Keila;
--Miami: Tiffany Joachim;
--Northern California: Sara Beck, Christy Comstock and Brittany Stadtmiller;
--NY Metro: Kristine Cabanban, AnnaLisa Cervi, Christine Malle, Stephanie Maslow Blackman and Annmarie Sclafani Stewart;
--Ohio/Kentucky: Christina Miller and Leslie Wright;
--Philadelphia: Christine Alaniz;
--Providence: Jennifer Skiba;
--Raleigh: Martha D'Alessandro;
--San Diego: Laura Fischer, Niki Grandics and Kathleen Lynagh House;
--Seattle: Nancy Castillo and Jessica Herner;
--Twin Cities: Jennifer Bellefleur and Dawn Bruggeman; and
--Charlotte Preston “Get’s it Done” Grant: Betsy Sanders.

Funds for WJA scholarships and grants are raised through the annual Awards for Excellence Gala, individual member donations and sponsorships.

This year’s AFE gala will be held on Monday, July 29 at Pier 60 in New York, once again featuring a silent auction and raffle. The event also will honor three industry visionaries.

Tickets to the awards gala are available at
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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