Meeting new people and forming meaningful business relationships is the hallmark of the Women's Jewelry Association and its world-wide network of members.
The WJA Chicago Chapter focuses on helping members advance and develop careers in the jewelry and watch industry. Throughout the year, we host educational and social events with opportunities to network and to learn more about various facets of the industry.
Our members come from both city and suburbs. They include a mix of those involved in retail and wholesale businesses, design, marketing, sales, support services, and other aspects of the industry. To facilitate professional growth of members, the chapter supports and promotes grants and scholarships, offers opportunities for mentoring, and participates in national and chapter recognition programs.
We have resumed some in-person events and are mindful of Covid-19 precautions and will continue with some virtual events too.
WJA has put together webinars and other resources available to help during this time.
Also, many local chapters are opening their virtual events to others. New ones are added often. Check the Event Calendar to find events that interest you.
We were happy to host the Chicago Chapter Women's Jewelry Association's tenth annual Jewelry Night Out! For one night, WJA brings together industry professionals for an inspiring evening of community, connection, collaboration, and celebration!
Our evening included:
-Best in Chicago Jewelry Awards
-First drink on WJA Chicago!
Responsibly Sourced Sapphires:
A lunchtime chat with Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House
On Septermber, 29, 2021, Eric Braunwart, President of Columbia Gem House, shared his insights from personal experience in responsibly sourcing sapphires from Australia, Malawi, Montana and more. He has 45 years in the industry and 20 years building the world’s first and largest transparent gemstone supply chain. He talked through practices you can look for, where to find sapphires produced in this way, and who you should be asking what questions when you’re looking to buy. Columbia Gem House sponsored the event. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: https://columbiagemhouse.com/)
Jewelry Night Out 2021
On September 9, 2021, WJA Chicago hosted our first in-person event in a year and a half. We gathered among the flowers at City Grange, a plant and flower shop, in Lincoln Square, Chicago … with food, drinks, great music, and plenty of space to mingle outside. We caught up with old friends, met new ones, and enjoyed being together as a Chicago jewelry community! And this year at JNO, we were pleased to present Best in Chicago awards to some of our community.
A Conversation about Freshwater Pearls
with Eve Alfillé
On June 29, 2021, we gathered online at lunchtime to learn about freshwater pearls with award-winning designer and our resident expert on pearls — Eve Alfillé, owner of Eve J. Alfillé Gallery & Studio. Eve talked about their history, how they are cultivated, and why they're so popular. She showed samples to share from her vast collection at the gallery!
For more information about Eve and her gallery, visit her website, and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
Spring Bling: Mix & MingleOn April 28, 2921, we met online for a virtual mix and mingle happy hour. In addition to time networking and catching up with jewelry peers, participants were invited to wear a favorite piece of jewelry that represents spring and to share its story with the group!
Professional Looking Photos with a Smartphone
Presented by Janelle Hinesley
Sponsored by Halstead
Colored Gemstone Saturation and Pricing —
On February 25, 2021, we gathered online for a dazzling presentation by Richard Drucker about colored gemstone, including saturation, windowing, extinction, and more. He also talked about some interesting new developments and how labs are influencing this C, making it harder, not easier to interpret and sell or appraise.
Richard Drucker, GIA GG, is the president of Gemworld International, Inc., in Glenview, Illinois. His credentials include: Graduate Gemologist of the Gemological Institute of America; Honorary Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain; Senior Member of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers; Senior Gemologist, Accredited Gemologists Association.
An Evening with Fred Zweig
Metalsmith, Teacher & Collector
Fred Zweig is a metalsmith, teacher, and collector. A self-taught metalsmith and a teacher for over 40 years, Fred has a passion for paying homage to those who preceded him.
Virtual Happy Hour
On October 22, 2020, we met online for a virtual mix and mingle happy hour.
An all-chapter online event … followed by a Chicago Chapter
On September 10, 2020, we celebrated WJA Jewelry Night
Out In. This year the annual event started with a Zoom call that brought together WJA members and prospective members from around the world to celebrate jewelry and share the value of being part of the WJA community. Guest speaker for the all-chapter event was Caryl Capeci, CEO of Chow Tai Fook/Hearts On Fire. She shared an inspiring message about leadership and the importance of community and mentorship.
What's Inside Susan Wheeler's Safe?On August 27, 2020, we had the opportunity to see some amazing gems that Susan Wheeler, of Susan Wheeler Design and Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference, has stored in her vault! Susan showed us a myriad of stones she has as well as some projects she has in process.
Mix and Mingle Chicago
On August 8, 2020, we met online for a virtual mix and mingle happy hour. In addition to time networking and catching up with jewelry peers, participants showed interesting pieces of jewelry and shared stories about the pieces with the group.
Virtual Studio Tours!
On July 23, 2020, three of our members conducted virtual tours of their personal jewelry studios. They showed how their workspaces are arranged, pointed out favorite tools, and answered questions about their studios and their businesses.
Via a Zoom call …
Virtual Happy Hour
On July 28, 2020, we met online for a virtual mix and mingle happy hour.
The History of Jewelry in the Age of Modernism:
Women as Makers
In the 20th century, the role of jewelry transformed mere objects of vanity into modern expressions of personal, social and economic change. As an indicator or 'antenna' of the times, it is no coincidence that many women were designing and making these objects which would prove useful in the creation of a new independent female identity.
On our webinar on June 25, 2020, Kathleen Baum presented an inspirational talk about how key female designers such as Marianne Brandt, Elisabeth Treskow, Margaret de Patta and many others who pioneered the breaking of gender stereotypes in the jewelry studio.
Kathleen Baum has been teaching jewelry making, art and fashion history at the College of DuPage for over 25 years. Her course ‘Body Art through the Ages’ explores the meaning of adornment through multiple cultures and traditions.
College of DuPage
Do I Have to be Naked to Get in Here?
Women in Museums — More Paintings than Painters
Historically, and still today, for every score of paintings of naked women you see in a museum, you'll be lucky to see even one painting by a woman. While many female artists have been rediscovered in the last few decades, they’re still a ways behind in being feted, displayed in museums, and taught with the same regard as their male counterparts.
On our webinar on May 21, Dominique Larson presented an overview of a few of brilliant women painters (from the past and in the present), the works they did, and the lives they led (scandals included).
Relief Efforts for Artisanal Gemstone Miners
How can you help artisanal gemstone mining communities
On our webinar on May 6, 2020, Monica Stephenson and WJA Chicago's Susan Wheeler answered that question. Monica described how Gem Legacy is enacting relief efforts in Tanzania and Kenya. Susan Wheeler shared about all of the initiatives listed on the Gemstone Covid Relief Hub and the Zambia Action Plan.
They discussed the rising problems with food insecurity that the women miners are facing and provided insight into how these women are affected during the pandemic and the struggles to support their families. Actionable initiatives are being formed that want you to engage in relief efforts. Gem Legacy has already enacted successful food drives in East Africa and the ad hoc supply chain forming in Zambia to help miners. Proceeds were donated between Gem Legacy and The Responsible Jewelry Transformative.
The Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference
& Susan Wheeler Design
Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art
Learning by Exploring Exhibits and
Viewing Lapidary Treasures
On Sunday, February 23, 2020, we visited the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art at it's new location in Oak Brook, IL. The Lizzadro Museum, established in 1962, displays gemstone treasures, antiques to modern, with a blending of earth science exhibits. It has an extraordinary collection of gems, hardstone carvings, rocks and minerals from around the world. After exploring the exhibits, we gathered for lunch at a nearby restaurant.
Mix & Mingle
On January 29, 2020, we gathered at the Queen Mary Tavern in Chicago for a casual get together to chat jewelry, network, and meet new friends!
Presentation with Brian Cook:
and Bahia Rutilated Quartz
On Monday, October 28, 2019, we gathered to learn about the history and current sourcing of Brazilian Paraiba Tourmaline and Bahia Rutilated Quartz from expert Brian Cook. Brian Cook has been involved in “Paraiba” tourmaline mines from 1988 to present. In 1989, he established Nature’s Geometry Inc. with his wife Kendra, as a jewelry design, manufacture and lapidary arts business. In 2016, he was an AGTA Spectrum Winner for the Fashion Forward category. An early advocate of responsible sourcing, Brian has orchestrated an initiative for an artisanal small-scale mining community in Brazil and is involved in scoping studies to verify and audit stone sourcing in the Amazon basin.
Mix & Mingle
On October 10, 2019, we gathered at the Waydown Bar on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel to meet new acquaintances, catch up with friends, and enjoy an evening with network peers.
Jewelry Night Out
On Thursday, September 12, 2019, WJA members and prospective members gathered to celebrate Jewelry Night Out, the WJA annual membership drive. We gathered at Gallery 2052 for the celebration. In addition to enjoying networking, wine, hors d’oeuvres, and live music, we had the opportunity to have a complimentary headshots (valued at $125) taken by Kato Photography.
Lyric Opera House Private Tour
... followed by networking
On August 6, 2019, WJA members and friends enjoyed the tour of the Chicago Lyric Opera House. A Lyric docent gave us behind-the-scenes insights into the vibrant world of grand opera. We saw the inside of the Art Deco Ardis Krainik Theatre, enjoyed an up-close-and-personal view of the orchestra pit where the acclaimed Lyric Orchestra plays, and toured the backstage area where we will learned about the vast array of skilled professionals who bring operatic stagecraft to life.
WJA Mix & Mingle
On July 25, 2019, we gathered at the All Together in Chicago for an evening of networking.
WJA Chicago — In The Know Conference
Gems & Jewelry Over the Years
Glimpses into Our Industry’s Heritage
On June 27, 2019, WJA Chicago hosted an In The Know Conference. which is part of the WJA Regional Conference Series. The evening began with a fun time of networking and refreshments, followed by presentations from our guest speakers: Rachel Derry (Gem Legacy), Maarten de Witte (Master Diamond Cutter), and Maria Hrycelak (co-president of Kalo Foundation of Park Ridge). Each speaker described how the history behind their respective trades (mining, diamond cutting, and jewelry art craft) has impacted our modern day jewelry industry.
SNAG Gallery Crawl
with WJA Chicago and Ethical Metalsmiths
On May 23, 2019, WJA Chicago and Ethical Metalsmiths hosted a whirlwind evening visiting selected galleries during the SNAG Conference Gallery Crawl. This exploration of the world of art jewelry started at Adorned Spaces at the SNAG Conference in the Palmer House and continued by car to two more galleries, the Vale Craft Gallery and the Japanese Consulate. The evening ended at the Lillstreet Open House.
WJA Chicago Mix & Mingle
Meetup at One of a Kind Show Chicago
On April 26, 2019, WJA Chicago hosted a meetup at the One of a Kind Show staged at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. We gathered at the on-site Patio Cafe for a time of networking.
Participants saw the show before or after our meetup.
Colored Stone Market Report and Tucson Recap
with Laurie Watt
On March 20, 2019, WJA Chicago hosted a fun evening with Laurie Watt of Mayer & Watt. In her presentation, Laurie spoke about the colored stone market and did a recap of the Tucson AGTA GemFair. She also showed a variety of gemstones available for purchase from Mayer & Watt.
Wax Carving Workshop
Creating a Band Ring Out of Hard Wax
On February 28, 2019, those fortunate enough to attend the sold-out event joined WJA Chicago for a fun evening of learning how to create a band ring out of hard wax. Participants learned simple techniques such as carving, building up wax and removing wax. Thanks to Lillstreet Art Center which provided the studio space and supplied the basic tools. Thanks as well to WJA members Pam Robinson and Ann vander Muelen who provided instruction and support to learners during the event. Participants walked away from this workshop with a wax band that can be taken to a casting company to create in metal.
Mix & Mingle
In January 2019, we gathered at the 404 Wine Bar Co. in Chicago for an evening of networking.
Mix & Mingle
In November 2018, we gathered at the Queen Mary Tavern in Chicago for an evening of networking.
Pearl Update with Renée Newman
New Types, Fakes, Treatments and Jewelry Styles
On October 22, 2018, WJA Chicago gathered to learn from Renée Newman about what's new related to cultured freshwater pearls, including new types, fakes, treatments, and jewelry styles.
2018 in the Know Conference & Jewelry Night Out
Both events were on September 13, 2018.
The in the Know (ITK) Chicago Conference featured a full day dedicated to educational advancement and communal collaboration between peers, speakers, and friends alike. Events included presentations and panel discussions about current topics and trends pertaining to diamonds, colored gemstones, and issues impacting the jewelry industry at large. Esteemed speakers included:
Hannah Becker (Creative Director & CEO, Diamondoodles)
Brandee Dallow (Fine Girl Luxury Brand)
Peggy Jo Donahue, conference moderator (Writer ― Content Creation & Social Networking: Editing, Blogging, Website Writing)
Beth Gerstein (Brilliant Earth)
Sarah Gorvitz (Diamond Producers Association)
Billie Hughes (Lotus Gem•ology)
Eryn Patton (Wendy Brandes Jewelry)
Louis Price (M. Geller)
Shelly Sergent (Somewhere in the Rainbow)
Goeffrey Watt (Mayer & Watt)
Susan Wheeler (Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference)
Sara Yood (Jewelers Vigilance Committee)
In the evening, WJA Chicago celebrated the annual membership event. We brought together members and others in the jewelry industry to share in their passion for the work they do all year long. Some of the most recent AGTA Spectrum Awards™ winning pieces were on display. We viewed a glass-blowing demonstration by staff of Ignite (the venue for both events).
An Evening with Eve J. Alfillé at Her Gallery
WJA Chicago met with with Eve J. Alfillé in Evanston to tour her gallery, visit her studio, and learn more about pearls.
How to Bid and Win at Auction
hosted by Heritage Auctions Chicago
WJA Chicago welcomed four new and renewing members during the networking session that started the evening.
During the program Ruth Thuston, Director of Fine Jewelry, described the auction process, how to prepare for an auction, and tips about bidding. Roberta Kramer, Auctioneer and Managing Director, conducted a mock jewelry auction.
Membership in Women’s Jewelry Association offers
tools you can use to advance professionally.
Join us for the fun as we learn, connect, and grow professionally by participating in local educational and networking events. We offer special member pricing for events.
Attend one of our upcoming events and learn firsthand about the Chicago Chapter.
To learn about becoming
a WJA member and about the Chicago Chapter,
contact Susan Wheeler: email@example.com
2019 — Pam Robinson
2018 — Susan Wheeler
2017 — Olivia Zale