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Why WJA?

 

Meeting new people and forming meaningful business relationships is the hallmark of the Women's Jewelry Association and its world-wide network of members.  

Recipients

 

2024 Responsible Business Education Grant Winners (SPONSORED BY Platinum Guild USA)

 
Christine Lopez 

Christine Lopez is an avid entrepreneur, community leader, and GIA Graduate Gemologist based out of Southern California. She is the co-founder of Gem Surprise Box LLC, a STEM orientated monthly mineralogical experience for all ages, along with fine jewelry company Golden State Works LLC which has a focus on handmade chain manufacturing and bespoke designs that encapsulate joy. She also teaches the art of gemstone cutting in a fully digital environment. Christine sits on the Program Advisory Committee for the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), served as President of the San Diego Chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) from 2020-2021, and was a Director for the United States Faceting Guild (USFG) from 2020-2023. Christine was elected to receive the 2018 WJA Shining Star Award, chosen as the 2019 College of the Canyons Rising Star Alumni Award, selected for the inaugural UCLA Alumni Bruin Business 100 in 2022, received a WJA Diversity & Inclusion Grant in 2022, and won the 2023 Manifest Grant from Alibaba.com.

Andrea Pooler  

Andrea Pooler is a dynamic force in the jewelry industry, blending creative flair with strategic acumen. Armed with an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a gemologist certification from GIA, Andrea spent 15 years running her own successful jewelry business in Brooklyn. Her entrepreneurial journey included over 500 shows and managing her retail store.

Transitioning to corporate roles, Andrea managed various departments for a major jewelry retailer before joining James Allen, where she oversaw operations and client relations. With over 25 years of experience, Andrea now advises manufacturers, retailers, and designers on growth strategy at Hill & Co.

Beyond her professional achievements, Andrea is an adventurer, art collector, and skilled chef. Committed to giving back, she volunteers with various organizations and serves as Vice President of the Mentorship Committee for the Women's Jewelry Association.

2024 CARELLE GRANT WINNER

 


 

Jennifer Pusenkoff

JEN. is an accomplished jewelry and fashion designer, holding a Master’s degree in Int. Business specializing in luxury goods management & marketing, along with various certifications including GIA Graduate Gemologist and Accredited Jewelry Professional. As the founder of the GIA Alumni Collective Germany Chapter, she actively fosters collaboration and continued education within her international network.

Under her brand JEN.International, she crafts fine jewelry and exclusive fashion accessories, reflecting her passion, creativity, and attention to detail. From minimalist to maximalist, her pieces cater to diverse lifestyles and occasions, offering custom designs and a collection of convertible jewelry meant for everyday wear.

Committed to responsible production and exceptional craftsmanship, JEN. sources materials attentively, ensuring high-quality hand-made fashion accessories that blend seamlessly with her jewelry creations.
 
 

2024 VETERAN GRANT WINNER (SPONSORED BY JEWELERS MUTUAL)

Melanie Otero Torres
Melanie Otero Torres, a chemistry graduate from the University of Houston and a USAF veteran, transitioned from her role as an analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency to follow her passion for design, leading to the inception of Verde Luz Jewelry. 

A pivotal experience at JCK Las Vegas and training with a Master Jeweler in Houston ignited a spark, prompting her to create Verde Luz Jewelry that began by offering permanent jewelry as a resourceful means to support her ongoing education in the field.

Currently, Melanie is expanding her expertise through courses at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). She's also committed to ethical craftsmanship as she takes part in the Ethical Metalsmiths Emerging Jeweler Program. These experiences are laying the groundwork for her goal: to create a sustainable jewelry line that resonates with her core values. 

 

2024 MEMBER GRANT RECIPIENTS


The Women's Jewelry Association (WJA) announced that it has awarded approximately $20,000 in member grants to women around the country. Member Grants are awarded to professional-level, WJA members in good standing, in increments of $500 to be used toward professional growth.

Funds for WJA Member Grants are raised by the national organization, as well as by WJA chapters around the country. All applications are reviewed by the WJA Member Grant Committee, chaired by Lauren Johansen, Directory of Membership Strategy and Experience at the American Gem Society. All qualified applicants are entered into random drawing to determine the winners.

A portion of the proceeds from WJA's Conversations in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion series helped to fund six additional WJA member grants this year to specifically support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color) and LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, +) applicants. 

 

Grant Winners are listed by the WJA Chapter that submitted their names:
  • Austin: Christine Fail, Haley Lebeuf, Lorenna Najera*, Hima Yalamanchili*
  • Boston: Wendy Jo New
  • Chicago: Nancy Hudson
  • DMV: Catherine Rudacille, Estelle Vernon
  • Los Angeles: Sarah Senzer, Kaitlyn Foster*
  • Miami: Tracey Carswell
  • NY Metro: Mary Enright, Olga Gonzalez, Delphine Leymarie, Stephanie Maslow Blackman, Tamsin Rasor, AnnMarie Sclafani Stewart
  • Northern California: Isabel Dennis, Patricia Lauritzen, Wendy Wagner, Olivia Shih*
  • Ohio/Kentucky: Olivia Garcia, Rebecca Weatherford
  • Philadelphia: Carly Kent
  • Providence: Julia Prout
  • San Diego: Jennifer DeMoro, Kathleen Lynagh House, Tammy Tresor*
  • Seattle: Rebekah Jaramillo, Amara Palmer-Gould*
  • Twin Cities: Julie Burkhart-Haid
  • No Chapter Nearby: Veronique Goguen*

*Indicates recipient of WJA DEI Member Grant

 

2023 HELENE FORTUNOFF WOMEN IN RETAIL SCHOLARSHIP


Ashley Kets
Ashley found her retail sea legs when she ventured into luxury retail at Barney’s New York in Beverly Hills in the early aughts. She soon felt compelled to lean into the management side of retail, and after a cross country move found herself eventually settling down as the Store Manager of Springer’s Jewelers in Portsmouth New Hampshire. There she was encouraged to grow her skillset, acquiring an AJP through GIA. Working for a family owned, women led company has been life changing. She looks forward to continuing to grow with their team and company.

“I am beyond thrilled and humbled to be the recipient of the 2023 Helene Fortunoff Woman in Retail Scholarship. Hearing about Helene’s strength, trailblazing business savvy and her determination to help future women in the business is doubly meaningful as both a working mother and a retail manager in an often male dominated field. I am honored to be a part of her lasting legacy and will do my best to embody her tenacity and passion for both jewelry and helping others succeed.”
 
 

2023 RADIANT MINDS SCHOLARSHIP

                                                   
Jennifer Rosado
Jennifer comes from a background of customer service coupled with apparel + jewelry production. Jennifer's commitment to continued education at the junction of technology and ecommerce led her to learn the languages used behind the scenes: JavaScript, HTML, & CCS. Having these skills on hand will be useful as jewelers expand their ecommerce presence and look for new ways of internal organization. 

"With this scholarship I can make time to visualize & build my contribution as a resource to the WJA, BIJC, and future waves of Radiant Minds Technology Scholarship recipients."
 

2023 Cindy Edelstein Jewelry design scholarship

 


 

Casey Perez
Casey Perez is a Mexican American independent jewelry designer based in New York City. Her namesake line is a celebration of form, drawing inspiration from an artful lexicon of modernist shapes and architectural elements. Each handcrafted piece showcases her unique design sensibility, skillfully blending imaginative elements with contemporary elegance, resulting in unique and captivating expressions of beauty and self-expression.

"I am so honored and grateful to have been awarded the 2023 Cindy Edelstein Design Scholarship. This recognition marks a significant milestone in my journey as a jewelry designer and I'm excited to embark on a journey of growth toward achieving my creative and entrepreneurial goals through this award. Thank you for this generous support!"

 

2023 Gabriel love foundation scholarship

 

Cydney Elliot

Cydney’s earliest memories of jewelry were in getting into her mother’s and grandmother’s jewelry collections. Although she’s always loved the appearance of antique jewelry — especially Art Nouveau and Edwardian — she had never considered it as a career path until her mother-in-law encouraged her to enroll in courses at GIA and to start working at a local boutique. 
 

While obtaining her Associate’s Degree from Saddleback College in American Sign Language Interpreting, Cydney’s instructors had emphasized the frustration felt by the deaf and hard of hearing communities when trying to interact with the larger hearing community, and how rare it was for somebody to engage with them in a patient manner.
 

Cydney witnessed this frustration while helping as an interpreter for a Deaf friend, as well as when employed at a fine jewelry location, and resolved to be an advocate for clear and compassionate interactions with that community.
 

After completing her Graduate Gemologist diploma at GIA, her goal is to work as an appraiser. She also plans on creating content that is accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing communities. As an individual with dyslexia and dyscalculia, she also wants to make content that is accessible for those with learning disabilities so that they can not only share in her education and knowledge but ultimately feel empowered when selecting jewelry.

 

WJA DIVERSITY Scholarships for GIA Education

 
  • Gwen Beloti
  • Nicole Cisneros
  • Emi Harase
  • Tadiwanashe Madzime
 

2023 STUDENT SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS 

 
  • Betsy Yates - New Approach School
  • Julia King - Savannah College of Art