By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
One of the best things about this year’s AGTA Spectrum Awards™ was the return of Editor’s Day. It was different from past editions—it took place in Dallas at the tail end of judging—but the fact it happened at all was a true joy. The year 2019 was the last time Editor’s Day occurred, and it took place in New York City; in 2020 and 2021, the pandemic raged, so the Awards were limited to just local judging in Dallas.
Now as the world reopens, AGTA decided to reimagine the Editor’s Day experience, inviting a handful of industry journalists to, once again, see all the entries, not just the winners. For sure, seeing everything entered in the competition is a much-appreciated tradition upheld by AGTA and serves as endless story inspiration for me.
Both judging and Editor’s Day took place over a few days at the end of October. Full disclosure: I had the job of organizing and inviting editors to attend. Editor’s Day is always a treat for me and my peers; many love the opportunity to see so many incredible one-of-a-kind jewels in one place.
Winning pieces this year were as awe-inspiring as ever. But as I have learned over the years from covering Spectrum, many of the entries that didn’t win official recognition were as fantastic as those that did. The following are my fave four jewels that didn’t win but I think are still worthy of accolades as well as four darlings of the judges that I, too, adore.
Eddie Sakamoto, Somewhere In The Rainbow
Entered into the Evening Wear division, this necklace named “A Rose by Any Other Name” from longtime designer Eddie Sakamoto of Sakamoto Design is absolutely badass. I love his minimalist-inspired, weighty designs with bold curves and geometric silhouettes, so I immediately recognized his handiwork in this significant necklace. Made in platinum and 18K yellow gold, the piece has a 21.83 ct. rose-colored, step-cut Tourmaline center with princess-cut (1.77 ctw.) and round Diamonds (1.00 ctw.). It was made for the private Somewhere In The Rainbow collection, so it’s not for sale (darn). And though it didn’t earn a title, it has one in my mind: the Power Necklace I Wish I Owned.
Ziad H. Noshie, Almaza Jewelers
Also among the Evening Wear entries is the “Princess of the Sea” necklace from Ziad H. Noshie, Almaza Jewelers. The piece is hand-fabricated in 18K green gold with Mother-of-Pearl, Diamonds (1.49 ctw.), multicolored Sapphires (1.88 cw.), tsavorite Garnets (1.15 ctw.), and Rubies (1.02 ctw.). As someone with a major Pearl “problem”—I can’t stop collecting them—I’m naturally drawn to the luster of Mother-of-Pearl (it is responsible for the delicious hues of every cultured Pearl). I’m always impressed with those who creatively use this material in fine jewelry designs, so that’s why I’m digging this statement style. The only addition I would have made would be to affix some cultured Pearls to the shell; then it really could have been a Best of Pearl contender.
Raja Mehta, AG Gems
If a gem is purple or pink, I’m guaranteed to love it. So, when I spied this cool bypass-style ring in 18K white gold with an untreated 3.19 ct. pink Sapphire, an untreated 1.90 ct. purple Sapphire, and hexagon-cut (.36 ctw.) and round Diamonds (.26 ctw.), I was instantly smitten. Apparently, my 12-year-old-self lives on in these favorite colors of mine today. The ring was entered into the Classic division and was made by Raja Mehta, AG Gems. It didn’t win a Spectrum Award, but I’m officially dubbing it the Rosé Ring of My Dreams.
Pamela Froman, Pamela Froman Fine Jewelry
Oh, Pam—she, Pamela Froman of the eponymous design firm, is a seasoned designer with excellent taste in gemstones. A case in point is this men’s ring (entered in the Men’s division) in 18K yellow and white gold. It features an 8.26 ct. StarBrite-cut golden Beryl with Diamonds (0.48 ctw.). The center is a signature cut of John Dyer Gems, a master in our industry. I love to see designers and craftsmen with strong signatures team up. The result is a ring like this—a beautiful gemstone, masterfully brought to life with a compelling effect, set into a stunning mounting that speaks to a recognizable design DNA (Froman’s “Crushed” texturing). Though this beauty didn’t get official kudos, I’m here to cheer loudly for it.
Laurie Reid, LFR Studios, Best Use of Pearl & Evening Wear – 2nd Place
Just about every single judge and editor present in Dallas was positively taken with this ring by Laurie Reid of LFR Studios. It’s a simple but striking profile with a beautiful, seemingly blemish-free 13.2 mm cultured Golden South Sea Pearl set in 22K yellow gold. Pearls are a small niche in jewelry and elicit strong reactions—people typically love Pearls or just aren’t fans. So, for this ring to be a favorite of many in attendance in Dallas is remarkable. It’s not surprising that I love it, it’s a Pearl, and the rarest color of South Sea Pearl to grow in the wild. Naturally, I covet it and agree with its two honors: Best Use of Pearl & Evening Wear – 2nd Place. And if the day ever comes that I don’t obsess over any variety of Pearl, there’s likely something amiss in my own personal state of Denmark, so, send help. Quickly.
Jaimeen Shah, Prima Gems USA, Editor’s Choice – Cutting Edge & Pairs & Suites – 3rd Place
Zircon is my mineralogical equivalent of Pearl—I love them, especially in their natural brown hues. When I laid eyes on this magical suite of 23 multicolored, Portuguese-cut Zircons (228.64 ctw.) from Jaimeen Shah of Prima Gems USA, I fell hard and fast for their color and sparkle. Zircon has a high refractive index and dispersion rate, making it as dazzling as a Diamond but available for purchase at a fraction of the price. I also like Zircon because I don’t like anything that everybody likes (the color blue, jumping on the current fashion trend of the day, etc.). This makes Zircon, to me, with its often-misunderstood name, an even more appealing underdog to champion. Shine on, gemological dark horse; I think your two awards, Editor’s Choice – Cutting Edge & Pairs & Suites – 3rd Place, are well earned.
John Dyer, Somewhere in the Rainbow, Innovative Faceting – 1st Place
Here we go again with another beauty from John Dyer, this one executed for the Somewhere in the Rainbow collection (sorry, NFS!). “Crescendo” is a 147.96 ct. orange golden Citrine with fan or starburst patterns and bubbles cut into it. I love this vibrant orange color of Citrine and the whimsical design that takes root in it. What a dream carving! So alive and juicy—I bet if you bit into it, it would literally burst with goodness. What that would look like, IDK, but maybe that’s why this gem took the Innovative Faceting – 1st Place Award; it is so otherworldly and joyful. If you want to call a gemstone your bestie, I think this one is ripe for anthropomorphizing.
Dalan Hargrave, GemStarz Jewelry, Best of Show & Carving – 1st Place
Finally, this masterpiece from Dalan Hargrave of GemStarz Jewelry—what this master carver has done to this green Beryl is mindboggling. What is in the water in Texas (the state he calls home) that gives Hargrave these kinds of carving abilities? Abs on danseurs? Sure, in real life, but he has gone and literally chiseled them into the pair flanking the ballerina. The chandelier, the ceiling panels, the spiral table leg—this 210.55 ct. carving is a masterpiece to behold. Looking at it, I felt like I was at a theater, and these tiny dancers were performing just for me. And they were, at least until I stepped away and let someone else have a view. I think this carving is absolutely worthy of its acknowledgements—Best of Show & Carving – 1st Place. In fact, I can’t wait to learn more about Hargrave when I interview him for the first Cutter Spotlight column, which will appear in AGTA’s redesigned Prism magazine in January 2023.
Well done, 2022 AGTA Spectrum Awards™ entrants! It was a privilege to see everyone’s hard work.
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