As NYC Jewelry Week marks its fifth year, the founders and some early fans reflect on its impact.
Five years ago, accessory-loving friends JB Jones and Bella Neyman were working for contemporary jewelers in New York when they had a lightbulb moment: Why not support industry friends by kicking off a week of fun activities related to their passion? They saw a need to bridge the gap separating contemporary art, fashion, and fine jewelry in people’s minds. Most importantly, they wanted to bring the consumer directly into the conversation. That’s when NYC Jewelry Week (NYCJW) was born.
“We wanted to give consumers the opportunity to have behind-the-scenes access to the history, meaning, making and makers of jewelry,” explains Jones.
They also aimed to help people better appreciate contemporary designs.
“We wanted to share a vision of jewelry that was on the level of how most people wear it: vintage next to fashion pieces, fine jewelry next to something your child made for you, and political pins next to a brooch from your grandmother,” Jones continues. “We wanted to say, ‘This is okay, and here’s a bunch of makers that do what you might be missing in your jewelry wardrobe.’”
Beyond seven days
What started as a single week of events quickly snowballed into much more. From individual speakers and panel discussions featuring jewelry heavyweights, to exhibitions and product launches, it was clear early on that one week couldn’t possibly sate all the interest the idea had created among trade members and consumers alike. And so emerged a blog, an Instagram account that has some 44,900 followers to date, and a podcast entitled Rough Cut.
Though the initial week of activities is still a thing — the 2022 edition takes place citywide from November 14 to 20 — NYCJW is now a year-round community. Sponsors including De Beers, eBay and David Yurman have given Jones’s and Neyman’s efforts a boost.
One of those efforts is the Here We Are (HWA) initiative, which aims to build “awareness around issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, representation and allyship” by highlighting a broad spectrum of US creators, according to the NYCJW website. HWA makers receive a platform for exposure as well as professional development; the HWA class of 2021-22 comprises 60 artists. Another NYCJW project is One for the Future, a mentorship program that gives 15 emerging talents the opportunity to receive coaching and guidance.
“We really became a voice for a global community looking for a place to call their own, [which] didn’t exist before us,” says Jones. “People come to us to discover something new, which has allowed us to expand beyond New York City. And we have built a voice that really reflects the culture around the jewelry industry, and that’s rare.”
‘Moments of wonder’
Designer Lorraine West got involved in 2019 for her love of jewelry and is now on the HWA board. The NYCJW movement has helped her gain exposure, new industry friends and a bigger audience, ultimately increasing her annual sales by 30%, she reports.
That first year, she recalls, “I was invited to be featured in a 42nd [Street] billboard campaign with fellow NYCJW and HWA peers.” In 2020, she debuted her first fine-jewelry capsule collection at the city’s Greenwich St. Jewelers, and the next year, she took part in a collaboration with Muse Showroom and its charitable Have a Heart effort. Pieces from the latter project are available for sale at the Muse x Muse brick-and-mortar and online shop.
Greenwich St. Jewelers co-owner Jennifer Gandia is another early NYCJW fan and admirer, hosting events in-store and striking up collaborations with designers like West. For Gandia, one of the most important parts of NYCJW is the access consumers have to all the “moments of wonder and excitement of jewelry. There’s something regenerative that comes out of…pulling the jewelry industry together as a whole and bringing them into this one week on this stage.”
A full program
In addition to fresh talks with jewelry leaders, this year’s NYCJW attendees will enjoy a new film festival entitled REEL Jewels, which will screen classic and contemporary films where jewelry plays a central role. On the consumer-education front, pop-up events will offer advice on getting jewelry appraised, consigning pieces at auction, and getting heirloom jewels redesigned.
Neyman is excited for this year’s events but is also proud of what NYCJW now means to so many. “I hear people saying, ‘Oh, I’ve cleared my schedule for that week in anticipation of all the events that will take place,’” she says. “NYCJW isn’t just about us inviting people, it is a community-centric event. We would love jewelers to come to us with exciting ideas for how to tell their brand story, to create memorable events for consumers, to launch exclusive collections, or to think about how they can collaborate with their colleagues. The programs are as exciting as people make them.”
Image: NYC Fashion Week