By  on January 10, 2012

“I tend to wear dainty necklaces — except for this,” said Padma Lakshmi, host of the Jewelry Information Center’s 10th annual GEM Awards gala Friday, pointing to the anything-but-dainty gold leaf Chanel collar she paired with a “vintage” black Gucci column dress. “It’s almost vintage. I bought this when I started making money as a model. It’s from that seminal collection from Tom Ford in 1993.”

The Emmy-nominated star of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” author, actress and model said she purchased the necklace a few years ago to congratulate herself when her cookbook did well and “hit a mark” she set for herself. “Every time I get a movie or TV show, I go and buy myself a piece of jewelry,” she said.

Lakshmi, also a jewelry designer who started her own line in 2009, added that while the collection is currently on hiatus, she plans to return to the category with new product for fall 2012.

Held at New York’s Cipriani 42nd Street, the evening’s honorees included Chanel Fine Jewelry, Ralph Destino, Daphne Guinness and Candy Pratts Price, who received GEM Awards for Corporate Communication, Lifetime Achievement, Jewelry Style and Journalistic Excellence, respectively.

Carolina Herrera, who presented Pratts Price with her award, called the editor a “force of nature,” and jewelry designer Shaun Leane both presented and accepted the award for Guinness, who was unable to attend the event. French actress and Chanel ambassador Anna Mouglalis introduced Chanel senior vice president of watches and jewelry Olivier Stip, and Cartier senior vice president Martin Gatins did the same for 32-year Cartier veteran Destino.

“Designers have gotten far more recognized than they’ve ever gotten before. For years, the industry has been dominated by brands that emanated often from Europe, but American designers have far more recognition in recent years. I say this with respect to all the European brands,” Destino told WWD days after receiving his award, adding that he still considers Cartier — the company where he spent more than three decades — as the “greatest brand in the world.”

Next up for Destino: the Jewelers for Veterans Foundation, which will launch next month. He said the need for this organization arose from the soaring unemployment rates of men and women who have trouble finding work after getting honorably discharged from service.

“I’m trying to pull together the whole industry to get behind the cause, and with key relationships we intend to offer a few things: training any returning service person in retail, wholesale, design, gemology at places such as RISD, FIT or GIA — and then we’ll find a job for them,” said Destino.

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