By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
Beloved jewelry editor, speaker, and analyst Hedda Schupak succumbed to lung cancer yesterday morning in a Philadelphia hospital. She was 62.
Schupak studied fashion design at Drexel University before transferring to Albright College and ultimately securing a degree in English and Communications. She started her career as a production assistant at JCK in 1986, eventually moving to the writing side and working with George and Debbie Holmes, Editor in Chief and Managing Editor, respectively. Under their tutelage, Schupak became an award-winning journalist and helped define the JCK brand as a powerful player in the jewelry designer arena, covering it in depth and training others (including yours truly) to be accomplished market editors.
When she became the Editor in Chief in 2000, readers looked forward to her monthly “Heddatorials” that covered all aspects of the industry she loved, written in her signature warm, direct, and pragmatic style. She was among the first to write about the importance of the female self-purchaser, recognized the importance of research, and invested in it for the benefit of the brand. Every fourth quarter she would give print subscribers her take on the health of the jewelry holiday season with her “King of Prussia Parking-Lot Barometer”—the more crowded the lot, the better the season for merchants.
More career accomplishments include being named Trade Press Editor of the Year by the Jewelry Information Center in 2004, being chosen as one of Pennsylvania’s Best 50 Women in Business by the state’s Department of Commerce in 2003, and induction into the Women’s Jewelry Association’s Hall of Fame in 2006. She was a member of the 24 Karat Club of the City of New York and one of the initial board members of Diamonds Do Good.
Her most important accolades, however, come from former staffers and friends. Schupak gave everyone an opportunity to learn, innovate, and create editorial assets that could enhance the brand and give individuals the chance to find their own niche within jewelry. She led by example, gracefully handled every difficult situation she encountered, and fiercely protected her staff, particularly when JCK moved from King of Prussia, Pa., to New York City in 2005 and she negotiated a commuting deal for the editors. She earned the respect of virtually every person she interacted with in the industry. She was a larger-than-life figure and a mentor to other women yet was humble to the core. Her smile lit up every room, and she seemed to never age. She endeared herself to many with her love of cats and made others laugh about her intense dislike for cilantro. Schupak will remain a one-of-a-kind industry treasure.
She left JCK in 2009 and moved to Centurion Daily News a year later, upgrading the digital publication’s frequency from a monthly to a daily. Centurion trade show and newsletter Founder Howard Hauben also brought her on to assist at the shows, including running the Scottsdale, Ariz., edition’s design contest.
Schupak is survived by husband Jim Baum and a half-sister, Susan. No word of services have yet been disclosed.
Friends and peers weigh in her legacy below.
“I was so sad to hear of Hedda’s passing. Since the early ’90s, she was not only a personal friend but a great sounding board for ideas, an insightful source for industry and consumer trends and someone in whom you could totally trust. Her untimely passing will definitely leave a gap in many of our hearts, but the industry has lost the sparkle of a true star and one of its most fervent advocates.”
Michael O’Connor, Style & Substance
“Hedda was one of those colleagues who was always interested in what you were doing both personally and professionally. Her keen eye for jewelry and impeccable fashion made her an incredible sounding board for so many things. She was always humble and ready to help in any way. For me, Hedda was one of the first people to ask how she could help when my business scenario took an abrupt change in direction. Her words were always grounded and said with belief that I could do what was put before me. I look back through our 25 years of emails and texts of jewelry and fun jokes and realize that I had not only a great friend but a mentor who helped guide and shape me to where and who I am today. Forever grateful for the Hedda in my life.”
Ann Gieser, Henderson Legacy
“Hedda was one of the first people I met when I came into the jewelry industry, and she helped me learn the ropes of the business, especially how to survive trade shows. She was so engaging and passionate, no matter the topic and loved this business. And hated cilantro. I will miss her dearly.”
Jenny Luker, PGI
“Hedda was one of those people I always looked forward to seeing whenever I was at an industry event. Over the years, we developed such a warm friendship as well as a great business relationship. She had amazing instincts, a keen sense of what was truly going on in the industry, and always courageously spoke the truth! She was a trailblazing journalist, and she knew how to bring out the best in others. She certainly brought out the best in me. I will miss her very much.”
Kevin Reilly, PGI
“The gem and jewelry industry is all about relationships and community. When you have strong relationships, you share life’s ups and downs as a community. Today we mourn the loss of one of our community; Hedda was a true professional and a friend. She exemplified professionalism and the importance of relationships, but most importantly she was great fun to be with. I thank Russ Shor for introducing her to me, and I remember all that she shared with me. My memories will live long, and I am enriched by what she taught me.”
Edward Johnson, Gemfields
“Hedda was larger than life and naturally commanded attention, yet she was unfailingly friendly, easy to get to know (and love), and genuinely interested in others. She was thoughtful and generous. I’m looking at a mouse pad that’s a replica of the Guinness Stout label that she brought back from Ireland for me. Behind me is a pink stuffed mouse toy (one of a pair) that “Aunt Hedda” gave to Zoe, our late cat (inherited by Carli). Hedda was smart, and her knowledge and intelligence weren’t limited to the jewelry industry. We talked about various topics, traded and discussed books, and she kept a Phillie Phanatic statue on her desk. I became managing editor shortly after Hedda became editor in chief, and I remember what she said to me at the time: “We can do this.” I nodded and said, “Yes, we can.” (And we did.) She also said, “Your job is to keep me sane.” Best job description I’ve ever had. Hedda, I’m going to miss you.”
Richard Dalglish, former JCK managing editor and current copy editor for AGTA
“I met Hedda in 2006, when I was brand new to the jewelry industry, and she was an established leader. She was so impressive, so knowledgeable—I really looked up to her. She was always so encouraging to me, from the very beginning, and that someone in her position was supportive gave me an important vote of confidence.”
Kristie Nicolosi, The Kingswood Company
“I have known Hedda for well over 35 years. She was an influencer before there were influencers. She taught so many people so much. Hedda was always there. At every event and function. Always ready with a good word, straightforward, she loved the industry and knew everyone. In addition, as Philadelphians, we shared the love of our sports teams, wins and losses. RIP Hedda.”
Steven Lagos, Lagos
“Hedda was a fiercely loyal friend. She was always the most fun to sit with at an industry event because of her famous biting wit. She made me giggle at inappropriate times, and I loved it! She was also a thoughtful leader and an industry insider who challenged us and asked the very best from us always. She was a staunch advocate of female self-purchase marketing and sustainability, long before those were popular buzzwords in the industry. She was generous with her intelligence, using it to further charitable and social justice causes dear to her heart. She also served on the board of industry organizations such as Diamond Empowerment Fund. She will be missed. I will miss her more than I can say. But like a rare and beautiful jewel, her meaningful contributions and her legacy will shine bright for many years to come.”
Duvall O’Steen, Lux Brand Group
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