Announcing the AJDC Jose Hess Design Awards

It’s what drives our continued appreciation and passion for precious items that transcend jewelry and become art.


The American Jewelry Design Council is pleased to present the inaugural AJDC Jose Hess Design Awards – providing opportunities for emerging talent to have their inspired designs be recognized and applauded!

With appreciation,

Paul Klecka

AJDC President


The American Jewelry Design Council (AJDC), a nonprofit organization, advocates for the aesthetic value of artistic fine jewelry, and promotes the appreciation of original jewelry design as art. 


In 2021, AJDC lost an influential founding member, Jose Hess, one of the first designers to see that design-driven jewelry was the future of the jewelry industry.


To honor Jose’s legacy and encourage today’s visionary new designers, AJDC has created the AJDC Jose Hess Design Awards, a biennial contest.

Jose Hess


Jose Hess’s Influence

When Jose came onto the American jewelry scene in the early 1960s, most jewelry stores were still purchasing generic jewelry from manufacturers that were anonymous to the consumer. Retailers sold the jewelry under their store names, and design innovation was generally not highly valued or identified.


Jose successfully challenged that reality and insisted that his named jewelry designs be recognized and prized for their artistic merit. He helped change the way the jewelry industry thought. Once Jose was established with his own brand, he banded together with other designers who were developing branded collections to advocate for well-designed jewelry, and a subset of that group eventually became the AJDC.


The idea of design-driven jewelry spread throughout the jewelry industry during the 1980s and 1990s – and altered it forever. From large manufacturers to small, individual brands, American jewelry designers and their aesthetic contributions are now recognized and lauded. Designers’ stories animate many collections, and their journeys and creative inspirations often drive sales. 



The American Jewelry Design Renaissance


Through it all, the American Jewelry Design Council has continued to be a beacon for new designers. The nonprofit invites the finest jewelry artists of each generation to join its ranks and this group individually and collectively drives design in new and innovative directions. 


AJDC members are frequent and repeat winners of all the jewelry industry’s various design competitions, from the De Beers Diamonds Today and Diamonds of Distinction Awards, the AGTA Spectrum Awards and the International Pearl Design Competition.


Below, on left: Paul Klecka, President’s Trophy and Spotlight Award, 2021 International Pearl Design Competition. On right: Adam Neeley, 2021 AGTA Spectrum Award, Best of Show.

The AJDC Design Theme Project


One of the most important ways AJDC has advocated for creativity in jewelry design is through its AJDC Design Theme Project, an annual challenge. For 25 years, AJDC has asked its designer members to create an original jewel that celebrates a specific theme, from Transformation, Flight, and Tension to Polka Dots, Stripes, and Spiral.The Project is intended to stretch the imaginations of jewelry designers beyond their established collections, often sending them in new design directions for their work. 

Above, four of AJDC’s Polka Dot Design Theme Projects. Clockwise left to right, top row: Jose Hess, Diana Vincent, Alan Revere and Gregoré Morin.


Each year, AJDC promotes and displays its themed projects to consumers and the trade, at museums, trade shows, university exhibitions, and individual jewelry stores, across the U.S. and Europe, from New York, Ohio, California, and Puerto Rico, to London, Paris, Germany, and Russia. AJDC jewels have created new jewelry collectors and inspired new designers, elevating the category, and reminding consumers that American-designed jewelry is a legitimate art form. 


AJDC believes that emerging jewelry designers who are presented with a challenge can bring fresh ideas and innovations to the American jewelry industry, just as Jose did. The nonprofit wants to recognize and empower the most gifted new designersthrough cash awards, promotion, display, and exhibition, as well as other business help. 


The designers shown below enriched the industry through their audacious design ideas for various AJDC Projects;

Above clockwise: Ricardo Basta’s entry for the Together Project, Barbara Heinrich’s entry for the Tension Project, Kent Raible’s entry for the Secret Treasure Project, and the late Steven Kretchmer’s entry for the Key Project.





Announcing the 

AJDC Jose Hess Design Awards!

We believe that the AJDC Jose Hess Design Award winners will have a sustainable, positive impact on the growth and health of the jewelry industry, and that their contributions will add to the diversity of the American jewelry design scene.


It is AJDC’s hope that winners of the AJDC Jose Hess Design Award will emerge as tomorrow’s leaders in design.





Applicants for the inagural AJDC Jose Hess Design Award will be asked to design and create an original piece of jewelry

based on the theme “Connection,”

which will mirror the AJDC members’ themed project for 2023.


Successful applicants must have the ability to demonstrate a level of originality, design excellence, and technical skill that suggests they will be tomorrow’s leading American designer jewelers.


The applicants’ sketches and final projects will be evaluated by a panel of AJDC members representing diverse backgrounds, including:


Maggie Hess

Michael Good

Alan Revere

George Sawyer

Barbara Heinrich

Gregore Morin

Paul Klecka


Only top-tier submissions will be chosen to receive awards.


One Grand Prize Winner will receive a $15,000 award;

A minimum of six Finalists will receive $1000 each.




The finalists’ winning “Connection” pieces will be exhibited next to AJDC members’ “Connection” expressions, 

with a gala premier event in Tucson, Feb 2023.


Applications will open March 15 on the American Jewelry Design Council website,


Digital submissions sketches, paintings and renderings are due June 1, and finalists’ finished pieces are due September 2, 2022.






Questions can be directed to AJDC President Paul Klecka,, 858 380 6767.


Contact AJDC Executive Director Marylouise Sirignano Lugosch

for hi-rez images;, 724 977 4076



Thanks to the JCK Industry Fund for your support!