Rapaport Magazine

Designing Forward

Design is the heart of the jewelry business and fostering talent is key to its future. In that spirit, the Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America (MJSA) showcased the winners of its annual Vision Awards competition at the recent MJSA New York Expo and played host to the Jeweler’s Resource Bureau’s Future of Design Business Incubator Contest finals.

By Amber Michelle

Bree Richey

In an effort to help upcoming designers grow their businesses, Cindy Edelstein, founder of Jeweler’s Resource Bureau, created the Future of Design Contest to find the designer with the best business plan and then provide that person with a package of resources that would take his or her business to the next level. Launched in the fall of 2011, the contest finale took place during the MJSA show. Designers were asked to submit a detailed business plan that was then reviewed by five judges: Andrea Hill, chief executive officer (CEO), StrategyWerx, a business consultancy; Kate Peterson, president, Performance Concepts, dedicated to developing small businesses; Mendel Rotenberg, Fusion Jewelry; Jim DeMattei, ViewPoint showroom and Edelstein.

The entrants were narrowed down to six semifinalists, each of whom was awarded a mentoring session with a member of the Future of Design Dream Team: Robert Lee Morris, Erica Courtney, Todd Reed, Gurhan, Lisa Jenks and Penny Preville. The semifinalists were interviewed via a conference call by the judges, who then selected three finalists. At the MJSA show, those chosen three — Jennifer Dawes, Elizabeth Garvin and Bree Richey — each made a ten-minute presentation about their businesses to the judges and the audience, using a reality television show format. After the presentation, judges and audience members asked questions of the designers regarding their business plans. Following the presentation and question-and-answer session, the judges left to confer about what they had heard and to select the winner.

The winning designer was Bree Richey, who edged out her competition due to her finely honed vision for the future of her company. Richey has a sterling silver collection informed by her love of Art Deco and modern architectural design. Her designs pull from the lines of contemporary furniture, the fluid patterns of fabrics and the vibrant colors of gemstones. Born into an artistic family — Bree’s father is the award-winning designer William Richey — she discovered her own talent at a young age by exploring sculpture and drawing. She studied at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts and San Francisco’s Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, later apprenticing with jewelry designers Conni Mainne and Jayne Redman. Bree founded her eponymous jewelry design studio eight years ago and today sells to retailers and museum stores around the country.



The MJSA Vision Awards recognize design skill, technical expertise and outstanding talent in the field of jewelry design. This year’s competition added two new categories, Design Excellence and Visionary Technical Solution, to the existing Distinction Categories of Gold, Laser, Palladium, Platinum and Custom Design. In addition to professional jewelry designers, the contest also allows students enrolled in jewelry-making and design programs to compete for a Future of the Industry award. Ariel Alexandrou, University of Kansas, won first place in the student competition and there was a tie for second place, with honors going to Youngjoo Yoo, University of Iowa, and Bongsang Cho, Savannah College of Art & Design. Judges for the Vision Awards were Michael Coan, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT); Cindy Edelstein, Jeweler’s Resource Bureau; Sarah Graham, Sarah Graham Metalsmithing; Todd Reed, Todd Reed Inc.; Marlene Richey, consultant and Tina Snyder, MJSA.



First Place (left)
Adam Neeley Fine Art Jewelry,
Laguna Beach, California. 

South Sea pearl, black and white diamond
and 14-karat gold ring.


Second Place (right)
Gregoré Morin, Gregoré Joailliers

Santa Barbara, California.

Chrysoprase, Mexican fire opal, white and black diamond and platinum earrings.



First Place
Julie Buckareff, JJ Buckar,
Toronto, Canada.

White and pink diamond, rock crystal, Peruvian opal, 18-karat rose gold and palladium brooch.



First Place
Edward Mirell, Edward Mirell,
Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Black titanium and 14-karat gold ring.

Second Place (left)
Julie Buckareff, JJ Buckar,

Toronto, Canada.

Blue zircon, diamond and platinum ring.
(This ring also won Second Place in Laser Distinction.)


Gold Distinction

First Place
Julie Lynn Romanenko,
Just Jules LLC, Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Diamond slice, diamond and 14-karat
gold cuff.


Second Place

Liaung-Chung Yen, Henrietta, New York.

Brown and white diamond, pearl, steel and
18-karat gold pendant/brooch.


Palladium Distinction

First Place
Brian Sholdt, Sholdt,
Seattle, Washington.

Diamond and palladium ring.


Second Place

Susan Drake, Spectrum Art & Jewelry, Wilmington, North Carolina.

Mint green tourmaline, pink spinel, diamond and
palladium ring.


Platinum Distinction

First Place
Brian Sholdt, Sholdt,
Seattle, Washington.

Diamond and platinum ring.


Second Place

Mark Schneider, Mark Schneider Design, Long Beach, California.
Black onyx, emerald, yellow and white diamond and platinum brooch.


Custom Design Distinction

First Place
Mark Schneider, Mark Schneider Design,
Long Beach, California.

Black and white diamond, acrylic, magnet and
14-karat gold ring.

Second Place

Cynthia Renée, Cynthia Renée Inc.,
Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Spessartite garnet, yellow diamond, yellow sapphire, red spinel, white diamond, blue sapphire, 18-karat yellow gold, 14-karat rose gold and platinum ring.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - April 2012. To subscribe click here.

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