Jewelry Industry News Wire

AGTA Scraps Tentative Plans for a Tucson Show in April

Dallas. Feb. 26, 2021. The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) announced that it has canceled plans to reschedule the AGTA GemFair Tucson show for April 2021.

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After announcing the cancellation of its February GemFair in Tucson, the AGTA board of directors worked to reschedule it to mid-April. Efforts included surveying buyers to gauge a level of expected participation in an April event. Ultimately, outreach suggested a fair should be shelved for 2021. 
“After much discussion with our exhibitors and buyers, it was determined that producing a Tucson show would not be viable this year,” said Douglas K. Hucker, AGTA CEO. “Moving forward, we are all committed to planning a robust show in Tucson in 2022. Additionally, we are currently investigating other opportunities for AGTA and its members to participate in Las Vegas this August as well as other exciting possibilities that we expect to announce very shortly.”

The Gem & Jewelry Exchange (GJX) show, located across the street from the AGTA GemFair Tucson, housed at the Tucson Convention Center, also cancelled its event for 2021. As a result of the lack of shows this year, many gem dealers have been hosting virtual Tucson events to try to drive sales that would normally happen during in-person fairs.

Jewelry Industry News Wire

Jova Inc.’s Joseph Varjabedian, 63-Year-Old CAD/CAM Designer, Dies

New York City. Feb. 24, 2021. President and founder of Jova Inc. and Z.Jova Joseph Varjabedian, died on Feb. 12 from complications due to Covid-19.

Born March 10, 1957, in Aleppo, Syria, to Armenian roots, Varjabedian had a well-traveled life, was a skilled jeweler, and was treasured by many. He studied computer science at New York University but fell in love with jewelry after a brother-in-law introduced him to the trade in Syria. Varjabedian moved to Russia for a period to run a large manufacturing outfit, eventually returning to New York City to open his own Jova Inc. in 1999. At the time, he sensed a shift in manufacturing from wax models to CAD/CAM and became an expert in it and in 3D printing. He attracted a high-profile cadre of designer clientele, including Wilfredo Rosado—who made an engagement ring for Mariah Carey—and also unveiled, a custom jewelry website where clients could make their own zodiac signs merged with initials, shopping from a library of more than 300 designs.

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Colleagues will remember Varjabedian for his generosity, mentorship, care and concern for others, and commitment to excellence in work. 

Jewelry designer Alison Nagasue recalls being struck by the quality of his polishing work when she started working with Varjabedian 20 years ago. A friend had recommended him, and he graciously accepted her desire to be hands-on in the production process. “He was totally open to my visits, and his finishing was flawless,” she says. “The quality was what impressed me.”

Meanwhile, designer Doryn Wallach leaned on Varjabedian as her sample maker since the inception of her line in 2015. She credits him for meticulous work, generosity of spirit (and time), and as being a beloved mentor.

“No CAD person will ever let me do what Joseph did—let me sit behind him while he created my CAD and allow me to direct him,” she recollects. “He was so patient and such a good guy. Anytime I went in to see him, he would ask about my family first. He was meticulous and a complete perfectionist; he invented a tool just to clean my fluted work! He taught me so much about making jewelry—I knew how to design but not manufacture. He was honest, an artist himself, and deserves to be recognized. He and Cindy Edelstein were my two biggest mentors.”

Varjabedian is survived by four sisters, nine nieces and nephews, and 17 great nieces and nephews. A service took place shortly after he died, but donations can be made to the Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in Ridgefield, N.J. The family plans to continue operating Z.Jova.

Jewelry Industry News Wire

Jewelers of America Opens 2021 CASE Awards

New York City. Feb. 22, 2021. Jewelers of America (JA), the national trade association for businesses serving the fine-jewelry industry, is now accepting entries for the CASE Awards, its national jewelry design competition. The CASE Awards honor JA members who exhibit creativity, artistry, style, and excellence in jewelry design. CASE Awards are open to all employees of JA member retailers and suppliers. Employees of JA member companies can enter through March 17, 2021.

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“Jewelry designers and bench jewelers create beautifully executed pieces of jewelry that showcase their creative vision and exceed their client’s expectations,” says Amanda Gizzi, JA’s director of PR and events. “CASE Awards gives jewelers the opportunity to showcase their talents and enables them to receive well-deserved recognition.”

CASE Awards will be awarded in each of 14 categories. The categories are all new for 2021 and are as follows:

  • Engagement rings up to $5,000
  • Engagement rings $5,001 and up
  • Wedding bands up to $5,000
  • Wedding bands $5,001 and up
  • Earrings up to $5,000
  • Earrings $5,001 and up
  • Bracelets up to $5,000
  • Bracelets $5,001 and up
  • Necklaces up to $5,000
  • Necklaces $5,001 and up
  • Rings up to $5,000
  • Rings $5,001 and up
  • Pins/brooches/cufflinks and other non-jewelry items made of precious metals or stones that are sold in jewelry stores

Winners will be selected by a panel of jewelry experts who will evaluate entries based on overall design, marketability, wearability, and quality of manufacture.  All winners will receive a customized CASE Awards trophy and national trade and consumer media exposure. JA will promote all entrants through social media and a digital marketing campaign. 

The CASE Awards are sponsored by Jewelers Mutual Group, Synchrony, and Chosen Payments. For more information and complete entry guidelines, click here or contact JA’s Member Services at (800) 223-0673.

Jewelry Industry News Wire

Jewelry Designer and Former CIBJO President Jose Hess Dies

St. Augustine, Fla. Feb. 12, 2021. Jewelry designer and former CIBJO President Jose Hess of the eponymous firm died on Feb. 9, 2021, at his home. He was 87.

According to a statement from the World Jewellery Confederation, Hess served as the group’s first American president from 1997 through 2000. Other prestigious positions include serving as a founding member of the American Jewelry Design Council and the Contemporary Jewelry Design Group, as an instructor at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, as a board member of the Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America (MJSA), and as president of both the Plumb Club and the 24 Karat Club of the City of New York.

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As a jewelry designer, Hess’ aesthetic was legendary: sculptural, timeless, and diamond intense. Over this lifetime, he won seven De Beers Diamonds International Awards, eight De Beers Diamonds Today Awards, two International Gold Corp. Certificate of Merits and an American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Award. His jewelry was worn by celebrities and featured in myriad magazines.

Hess was born in 1933 into a Jewish family that left Nazi Germany in 1938, settling in Colombia. Upon arrival, an immigration official replaced his birth name “Josef” with “Jose,” a Spanish moniker that stuck.

He started working in jewelry at age 14, learning goldsmithing from a Viennese professional who had also fled Germany. Hand fabrication by way of melting gold into wire and sheet shaped his education, and at 17 he immigrated to the U.S. Eventually, he took gemology courses at GIA, obtained a degree from the Mechanics Institute of the General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York, and spent four years in the U.S. military. Afterwards, he made models and jewelry for David Webb, setting up his eponymous firm in 1958, determined to make a name for his own brand.

Hess leaves behind his wife of 33 years, Magdalena “Maggie” Hess, four children—Lawrence, Francine, Aaron and Josef—and four grandchildren.

Asked about his signature “Strong like bull” reply whenever asked how he was doing, Maggie Hess said her husband answered that way out of a desire to offer messages of positivity and inspiration.

“He wanted the person asking to stop and think about how they felt in that moment,” she explains. “Jose was such an optimistic and encouraging person and he truly wanted people to be happy, to see the good things in life, and to always be grateful.”

Hess says a Celebration of Life: A Tribute to Jose Hess is imminent in the coming days but for now, interested persons can make donations to the designer’s beloved American Jewelry Design Council.

The brand will continue on. “Jose and I were just finishing a beautiful bridal collection which will be launched soon,” adds Hess. “It is very much our intention to celebrate Jose’s incredible art and beautiful designs, and we will continue to develop pieces inspired by him. We want Jose to be remembered as a kind, humble, and gifted man who loved the simple things in life, and always reminded everyone to believe in themselves.”

In a CIBJO webinar on Thursday, Feb. 11, Gaetano Cavalieri, CIBJO’s current president, lauded his longtime friend and peer. “He is the reason I was elected president,” he explained. “I was consulting him every day, and the day he died was my worst day in terms of sadness. We have lost a great leader, a great designer, and a giant in our industry.”