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Penny Proddow, a jewelry editor, curator and educator, died in her Manhattan home on Saturday at the age of 65.
This story first appeared in the March 3, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The cause of death was ovarian cancer, according to Marion Fasel, her business colleague with whom she was a contributing editor of fine jewelry and watches for In Style magazine, as well as co-author of several books.
Born in Washington, D.C., Proddow grew up in Greenwich, Conn., and graduated from Miss Porter’s School in 1961 and Bryn Mawr College in 1965. She began her career in the classics, focusing on the study of Greek and Roman history. She moved to Manhattan in 1967, where she lectured children ages eight to 15 on the classics at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for over 35 years.
In 1967, she met Ralph Esmerian, the third-generation arts and antiquities collector, for whom she helped determine the provenance of over 5,000 cameos in his namesake collection.
“She was a magical person,” said Esmerian, who owns vintage jeweler Fred Leighton. “She spanned worlds and could go from the Renaissance to the ancients. She also spanned the worlds of new designers and new jewelry. With that she retained the marvelous freshness that only children have.”
Martha Nelson, director of Time Inc.’s Style and Entertainment Group and founding editor of In Style, concurred. “Penny was just the kind of person that you dream about meeting in New York City,” said Nelson, who hired Proddow and Fasel at In Style as contributing jewelry editors in 1996. “She took this incredible intellect and intelligence and passion and focused it on jewelry, fashion and style and made it so exciting and so stimulating for everybody.”
Together Proddow and Fasel curated exhibits for the likes of Fred Leighton and also co-authored books on jewelry. On her own, Proddow also wrote children’s books based on the classics.
“She was a great woman,” said Efraim Grinberg, chairman and chief executive of Movado Group Inc., who worked with Proddow since the mid-Nineties. “On top of how nice and sweet she was, she was always discovering trends in jewelry and watches. She had an elegance and class that everyone can look up to.”
Tiffany chairman and ceo Michael J. Kowalski said, “Working with Penny was a joy and an inspiration. Her unrestrained passion for jewelry was always uplifting and never failed to remind us of the beauty and joy that is the heart and soul of what we do.”
Proddow was also known for supporting emerging talent. “She was so enthusiastic and had so much knowledge,” said designer Philip Crangi.
Proddow worked until just a few weeks ago alongside Fasel. “Penny was the most humorous and witty person, and that was how she viewed our work,” said Fasel. “She was the most upbeat person and had the most unique sense of style.”
A private burial for Proddow will take place on Saturday in Nantucket. Donations in Proddow’s name are being accepted at the Development Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A memorial service is being planned. Proddow has no immediate survivors.