NEW YORK — The soaring humidity last Sunday night didn’t dampen spirits at the annual Women’s Jewelry Association dinner gala.

Held every year in conjunction with JA New York, the event this year was especially meaningful for many of the attendees, since 2003 marks the 20th anniversary of the group’s founding. The event drew a crowd of more than 600 retailers, jewelers and industry executives to Pier 60 in Manhattan and included a cocktail reception, silent auction and awards ceremony.

Anna Martin, president of WJA, spoke about future plans for the organization, which was formed at a time when few women held executive positions in the jewelry industry.

“My goals continue to be to make WJA a more influential organization, to increase our international presence and spread the reach of our educational programs,” she noted.

Martin said the organization expects to open its first international chapter shortly and eventually would like to open chapters in countries such as Italy, Belgium, Canada and India.

Every year, the organization presents Awards for Excellence to female designers and executives in seven categories and also inducts one woman into the WJA Hall of Fame.

This year’s winners were:

  • Design: Erica Courtney, president at Erica Courtney Inc.

  • Manufacturer, Dealer or Supplier, Fine Jewelry, Gemstones or Metal: Norma Haas, co-owner of ENH International.

  • Manufacturer, Dealer or Supplier, Watches: Linda Malias Passaro, vice president for wholesale at Montblanc.

  • Retailing: Marie Helene Morrow, president of Reinhold Jewelers.

  • Sales and Marketing: Diane Mattioli, luxury products director at Vogue magazine.

  • Editorial, Reporting and Publishing: Heather Bracher-Severs, director of jewelry and accessories at Town & Country.

  • Special Services and Education: Bev Hori, director of education at Ben Bridge Jeweler.

This year’s Hall of Fame inductee was Juell Kadet, a jewelry designer and owner of Matteson, Ill.-based jewelry chain Rogers & Hollands Jewelers.

Many of the award honorees gave moving speeches about their own personal journeys and how the changing roles of women in the jewelry industry and society have impacted their own lives.“To come a long way and continue to be successful takes commitment 24 hours a day and seven days a week,” Kadet said. “Can’t is a word that never entered my vocabulary…and no greater honor can come to a woman than the respect of her colleagues.”

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