Beyond Brilliance: Recognizing Six Outstanding Women in Jewellery

From innovative jewellery designers, skilled bench jewellers and jewellery artists to an award winning jewellery journalist, this International Women’s Day, discover 6 brilliant women from the world of jewellery.

by Reema Farooqui

Women and jewellery are inextricably linked. Women understand jewellery, almost at a cellular level. They love jewellery and jewellery loves them back.

But women have also come to play an important role in the jewellery industry. By designing and creating jewellery and by drawing our attention to this high art, through their ideas, skills, voices and words, women have brought fresh perspectives to the jewellery world, as they traverse new horizons .

Here are six phenomenal women from the jewellery world. Each of them has made their own special place in the jewellery world and in the process, changed it forever, and for the better.

Peggy Grosz

“There’s no such thing as not-a-pearl person, there are only not-a-pearl people yet!” Peggy Grosz, senior Vice President and Creative Director at luxury jewellery brand Assael, once commented. And her work with pearls is making sure that women and men all around the world realize the truth behind her statement.

Grosz is a powerhouse of innovative ideas and inspiration. Apart from heading Assael, she is also the artistic genius behind several of Assael’s jewellery collections. Grosz is a bold and self-assured jewellery designer who intimately understands the gem material she works with, both pearls and coral. What’s more, the collections she has headlined have been groundbreaking in their design aesthetic and in their concepts.

With The Colors, Grosz paired pearls with sumptuous gemstones, and in the process drew our attention to the innumerable, sublime colours that can be found in pearls. Up until then, pearls were seen as monochromatic gems. The Colors turned this idea on its head and showed us just how wonderfully and playfully bright and multihued pearls can be.  

However, it is Assael’s NatureScapes collection that has clearly demonstrated Grosz’s distinctive artistic vision. The collection is an ode to the wonders of nature, written in jewellery design. Sourcing unusual gem materials like dendritic agate, petrified wood and jaspers, and pairing them with pearls and coral, Grosz has created a collection that has blurred the lines between the beauty of Nature and high jewellery.

Adding a new chapter to Assael’s 75 year legacy, Grosz has given the company her own, unique flair, making it one of the most iconic luxury pearl brands today.

What drew you to a career in jewellery, and jewellery design? What has been the most fulfilling part of your journey so far?

PG: When I was 15 years old, in my hometown of New Orleans, I fell in love with a ring at the jewelry store of a cousin. It had rubies and my parents gave it to me as a ‘Sweet Sixteen’ gift. Colored gems were my first love in the business. I worked for my cousin’s stores during semester breaks and after graduating found my way to wholesale gem sales and eventually moved to NYC.

It wasn’t until my mid thirties that I started participating in design. I distributed a wonderful Italian collection and needed to make it more salable in the US, so I spent a lot of time in Italy at the factory, working with the designers. Transitioning to design has definitely been the most rewarding for me, especially doing so for a great legacy brand like Assael!

The world of jewellery is known for its creativity and innovation, which is how I would describe your work at Assael. How do you stay inspired and continue to push the boundaries with your designs?

PG: I actually think that our business is less creative than the rest of the fashion world, and that is for the obvious reason of ‘cost of materials’. But I think the opportunity lies in that wide gulf. The inspiration is to be relevant and to contribute something that isn’t already there, while being wearable and collectible.

If you were to meet your younger self, just as you were starting your jewellery journey, what would be the one piece of advice you would give her and why?

PG: Don’t second guess yourself just because you didn’t have a formal ‘design’ background/education! Understanding the materials and how things are made are the most important things.

Don’t get discouraged when people don’t understand what you’re doing, when you aspire to do ‘out of the box’. By definition, attempts toward extraordinary cannot have ordinary appeal. The people who understand will be there as well, with great support.

Jennifer Heebner

Jennifer Heebner, Women in jewellery
Editor and Award Winning Jewellery Journalist Jennifer Heebner. A selection of her favourite jewellery pieces including Suzanne Kalan Diamond Heart (top left), Assael Modernist Tahitian and South Sea Pearl Earrings (middle), Aurora Green diamond ring (bottom left)

Editor, multiple award-winning jewellery journalist and jewellery consultant Jennifer Heebner has been writing about fine jewellery and the jewellery industry for over 25 years.

Her list of achievements is as impressive as it is inspiring. Heebner served as a senior editor at JCK Magazine for 19 years, was editor-in-chief of The Jewelry Book, is a contributing editor at The Gem Guide and Rapaport Magazine and continues to contribute to the INSTORE magazine.

In addition, Heebner is the executive director of CPAA (Cultured Pearl Association of America). She was also the founder and editorial director of the association’s quarterly magazine, #thisispearl. Recently, Heebner was appointed editor in chief of AGTA’s (American Gem Trade Association) PRISM magazine and their e-prism newsletter.

Heebner’s writing is crisp, thorough, and detailed. She gives her readers a clear and unbiased look at current events unfolding in the jewellery world. Whether discussing emerging jewellery design talent, the unbridled increase in pearl prices or turbulence in the diamond market, a piece written by Heebner will always be well-researched, balanced and thought-provoking.

It is not uncommon to read every Heebner piece twice – first to glean the information she has shared and second to enjoy her writing, where the authenticity of her voice comes through clearly and with strength. As a veteran jewellery journalist, Heebner has seen many changes in the jewellery world since she first started covering it. And her writing remains as relatable and impactful as ever.

What inspired you to pursue a journalism career with a focus on the jewellery industry? What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your career so far?

JH: My strength since high school has always been in English and writing. I was discouraged from pursuing writing as a career by my family, so I tried a couple of other majors—political science, accounting—before following my own inner voice and switching to English.

I didn’t set out to be a jewelry writer. I got a job at big trade publishing business out of college and made my way to fine jewelry after writing about two other industries (collision repair and industry safety and hygiene news). Jewelry was a lot more fun! And I learned from a big team of accomplished writers like Hedda Schupak (former JCK editor in chief who died in fall 2023) and Rob Bates (JCK editor who is still there). That was my on-the-job education about jewelry writing! I spent 19 years there.

After I left, I wrote for just about every other publication and organization in industry. Today, my clients are the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), the Cultured Pearl Association of America (CPAA), INSTORE magazine, Rapaport Magazine, and The Plumb Club.

I don’t know that there was one aspect that was most fulfilling. I am proud of every journalism award I win because people discouraged me from pursuing this career. It was the only thing I felt that I was “good at,” and it’s given me a great deal of satisfaction to cast a spotlight on so many deserving talents in jewelry. My favorite aspect of the job now is writing meaty feature articles that tackle difficult topics!

What are some of the triumphs or highlights of your career that you are very proud of? Why do these projects/events/experiences hold a special place for you?

JH: I find satisfaction in writing about complicated subjects, such as “The Paper Chase” in Volume II 2023 of Prism magazine, which I produce for the AGTA. It involved a lot of interviews and fact checking. The topic was lab reports, and the complicated matter of selling gemstones with or without one. When you write something that involved, you are always fearful of forgetting something, but nobody complained after it printed, so that made me happy. J That meant it was fair and balanced.

And I’m one of the few—besides you!—who loves covering the pearl industry. I started a magazine for the CPAA called #thisispearl. I guess I’m proud of that, too, and it paved the way to me securing the newly created Editor in Chief position for AGTA.

In your experience, how has the landscape for women in jewellery, in creative, leadership and journalism changed or evolved over the years? 

JH: I’ve always seen ample opportunity for men and women in jewelry but I’m a Gen Xer, so by the time I entered the workforce, women before me had done the hard work of making our voices heard. In creative, I haven’t encountered any difficulty because of my sex, but because jewelry is a borderline-fashion industry, you do encounter some big egos—men and women—when it comes to photography and visuals. Everybody thinks they’re Anna Wintour. That got old fast.

Journalism has changed a great deal. I started as a print magazine writer. By 2007-2008, blogs were born, meaning writers were tasked with producing twice work as much for the same pay. When the Great Recession struck the jewelry publishing landscape was decimated—I still have PTSD. It was wild and stressful for years, but I hung on for the unique job I had, market editor covering new designers. After JCK, my work shifted to covering more involved topics. Today, I’m in a good place with clients who appreciate my work. I am grateful for them.

Paula Crevoshay

Crevoshay, Fine Art Jewels and Jewelry, inset Jewellery Designer Paula Crevoshay. “Conchita” Butterfly (top middle), Midnight Seduction (top right)

“Wear the Light. Live in Beauty,” luxury art jewellery brand Crevoshay’s catchphrase could not be a more apt description for award winning jewellery artist Paula Crevoshay’s work. Her pieces are bejewelled works of art. They are as evocative as they are remarkable. But more than anything, they have a timelessness that is is hard to describe and can only be felt.

Each piece produced by Crevoshay is suffused with beauty. This can be seen in the architecture of the pieces as well as in their essence. Moreover, her unabashedly generous use of colour places her pieces in a league of their own. But then there is also Crevoshay’s brilliant use of light. Light is an integral element of every Crevoshay piece and the play of light, with the gems and design, softly seduces the onlooker, leaving them enchanted.

It is difficult to pin down Crevoshay’s artistic endeavours to just one medium, jewellery design. She paints and sculpts with gems and precious metals, but somewhere within her pieces, it is possible to discern the forms and fluid movements of an accomplished dancer. There is a panoramic breadth to her work, and looking at her pieces is as much a sensory delight as it is an emotional experience.

What inspired you to pursue a career in jewellery? Could share with us how your jewellery journey began and where it has taken you so far?

PC: I have always been an artist. My talent was recognized and encouraged when I was a toddler, I was given special private instruction in grade school, celebrated and awarded in high school and college, and earned my Masters of Fine Arts with Honors on a full scholarship.

After graduate school I married George Crevoshay, a PHD candidate who was awarded both Fulbright and Institute of Indian Studies scholarships to be served back to back over a period of four years.  We moved to India and I pursued my art career in painting with one woman shows in galleries Bombay and Pune. I also studied traditional Indian dance and performed in Bollywood in that period. 

George discovered the beauty of gemstones on a trip to Burma and was smitten.  He quickly became very successful as a gem and mineral dealer, buying rough at the mines all around Southeast Asia, cutting gems in Thailand and selling in the United States.  We wintered in Asia and summered at home.  One day in Bangkok I told George that I wanted to take some of the gems and design jewelry.  He said, “What’s mine is yours, do what you want.”

To me art is art, whatever the medium.  I started with small fine ruby and parti-colored sapphire. I never looked back!  Paint on canvas is reflected light in two dimensions.  Jewelry is transmitted light in three dimensions.  I am now painting with the light itself!  It is very exciting!

What are the triumphs and accomplishments in your career that you are particularly proud of?

PC: I have been very blessed in that knowledgeable people have recognized and supported me and my work throughout my career.  I am where I am because of the patrons who bought my work and curators who collected and exhibited it. 

I have been honored to be included in over 30 museum exhibitions in North America, Europe and Asia including one woman shows at the Carnegie Museum, Musee de Mineralogie in Paris, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and Perot Museum in Dallas. 

My work is also on continuing exhibition in several museums including the Smithsonian, Carnegie, GIA Museums in both Carlsbad and New York, Maine Mineral & Gem Museum, Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum and the Yale Peabody Museum among others.

Are there some jewellery designs or pieces that hold a special meaning for you?

PC: There have been so many!  Two notable works are “Conchita”, a butterfly made with all the rarest colors of Montana sapphire from Rock Creek that was commissioned for the Smithsonian with stones donated by Robert Kane, and “Midnight Seduction” which contains both mineral and organic gems. “Midnight Seduction” was purchased for the GIA Museums.

In your opinion how has the landscape for women in the jewellery industry evolved over the years? 

PC: I know there have been struggles for some, some of which has been gender based, but I have never felt that being a woman has been a handicap for me.  In fact being feminine is integral to my art, so it is an advantage.  There are more and more successful women jewelry designers and executives and journalists.  I think for the most part all the walls have been breached.  Come on in, the water’s fine!

Melanie Georgacopoulos

Melanie Georgacopoulos, Women in jewellery
Jewellery Artist and Designer Melanie Georgacopoulos, Redefining Pearls and Nacre

Jewellery artist Melanie Georgacopoulos is fearless in her pursuit of art and creativity. One of the most exciting contemporary jewellery designers, her work with pearls is highly imaginative. With a background in sculpture, Georgacopoulos’ approach to design is unique and her work has given the jewellery world a new appreciation for pearls.  

No longer gleaming orbs of lustre and nacre, Georgacopoulos presents us with pearls that have been sliced, carved and caged. In the process, however, she has freed the pearl and indelibly changed the way we think of this luminous gem.

Georgacopoulos’ pearls are trendy and slightly rebellious. There is a bold self-confidence in her pearl pieces, which is both refreshing and compelling. In her pieces, pearls and art meet at an unlikely crossroad, completely inconceivable until Georgacopoulos made us realize that this was exactly what we were looking for.

But that’s not all. Her work with mother-of-pearl is equally impressive. With Georgacopoulos, mother-of-pearl is no longer languishing in the wings. Instead, it now occupies centre-stage, enjoying its much-awaited and well-deserved moment in the spotlight. As a jewellery designer, Georgacopoulos has revealed to us the beauty of this gem material, giving it structure and a new identity. Her mother-of-pearl pieces are underscored by a unique marriage of form and function, with both coming out as winners.

Coveted, collectible and infinitely wearable, Georgacopoulos’ pearl and mother-of-pearl pieces have changed the way jewellery lovers think of and adorn themselves with these gem materials. All in all, Georgacopoulos’ work is nothing short of a pearl renaissance.

Can you share a bit about your journey in the jewellery industry and the triumphs and milestones that stand out to you?

MG: I’ve been fortunate enough to know that I wanted to make jewellery since a very young age. Because I was unsure of the type of jeweller I wanted to be, I studied sculpture as well as traditional jewellery making, which gave me a broad background of inspiration, techniques and knowledge to draw from.

Milestones would have to be my Master’s degree in jewellery at the Royal College of Art, London which opened the door to me working with pearls. A second milestone would be establishing my brand in 2010 and then starting my collaboration with TASAKI, with whom I have a joint brand M/G TASAKI.

What do you believe sets women apart from their peers in the world of jewellery?

MG: I would say what sets women apart in our industry is probably the fact that we are able to consider an all encompassing view of a piece of jewellery. It’s not just the way it looks, or how it is made, an important consideration with a piece of jewellery is the way it feels to hold and the way it feels when it is worn. As women I feel we have a better understanding of what feels good on our bodies, I also feel we have a better understanding of the emotional value of a piece. All of this helps to design pieces that appeal, feel comfortable to wear and hold special significance emotionally.

How have you honed your unique style and design aesthetic?

MG: I think I am a naturally curious person. I enjoy pushing boundaries and going into unexplored territories with my designs, be this playing with scale, unexpected colour combinations, pushing materials to their limits or simply flipping conventional ideas on their heads. Over time I have realized that not playing it safe pays off, it is good to surprise people and I enjoy offering something that hasn’t been seen before.

In the end I think the best way to hone your own unique style is to stay authentic and truthful to yourself. If an idea speaks to me, ultimately it will hopefully speak to others too. I also love to be inspired by other people, it’s really important for me to get feedback and have conversations with my clients and other people that engage with my work. 

Can you share some advice or insights for aspiring women jewellers who are just starting their jewellery journey?

MG: The best advice I can give is to equip yourself as best you can, educate yourself to get as ammunition to back yourself up in terms of skills, be these design, communication, making or business skills. This process never ends. Always strive to outgrow yourself. I am certainly still growing, still learning and I think that is an incredibly positive thing. Also try to find, and trust in your own voice, and don’t forget to enjoy it, I feel like this shines through and shows to the outside world.

Heleen Hoogenboom and Sanne Bogers

Hoogenboom & Bogers, Women in jewellery
Hoogenboom & Bogers Fine Jewellery, inset: Heleen Hoogenboom (sitting) and Sanne Bogers (standing)

Although they have been handcrafting fine jewellery since 1987, bench jewellers, goldsmiths, designers and business partners Heleen Hoogenboom and Sanne Bogers established Hoogenboom & Bogers Fine jewellery brand in 2015, with a view to creating timeless yet modern fine jewellery.

In founding their own brand, the Netherlands-based creative duo had one goal – to create jewellery pieces that empower the wearer. Hoogenboom & Bogers’ jewellery pieces are alluring and infinitely tactile. They are made for a woman who instinctively understands style and believes in everyday luxury.

As women in jewellery, both Hoogenboom and Bogers bring their unique vision into their pieces. Their pieces showcase the skill, attention to detail and pure talent of the two jewellers. Understanding the essence of luxury fine jewellery, both Hoogenboom and Bogers use only the most vibrant gemstones and lustrous pearls in their pieces. For their diamond pieces, they gravitate towards the Hearts & Arrows diamonds, a cut revered for its sparkle, fire and symbolism.

Every piece of fine jewellery crafted by Hoogenboom and Bogers is a testament to the dedication and hardwork these two jewellers put in their work. Heirlooms of the future, Hoogenboom & Bogers’ fine jewellery pieces are as remarkable as the two women who craft them.

What inspired you to pursue a career in jewellery design and craftsmanship and what has been the most fulfilling aspect of your journey so far?

H & B: From a young age, we were both fascinated with art. It ignited a passion within us that eventually led us down the path of jewellery design and craftsmanship. Surrounded by creativity, we found inspiration in the fascinating beauty of gemstones and pearls.

As a child, we also found joy in crafting jewellery pieces with simple materials we found around the house. It was a natural progression, fuelled by curiosity and a deep-seated appreciation for the artistry that jewellery embodies.

The most gratifying moments of our journey have been those when our jewels find their rightful place adorning the lives of others. Witnessing the emotions that dance across faces when seeing their bespoke piece for the first time fills our heart with joy. To know that our creations evoke profound sentiments is such a reward.

What challenges have you encountered as women in the jewellery world and how did you overcome those challenges?

H & B: As women navigating the world of jewellery, we have encountered our fair share of challenges. Among them the persistent perception of our craft as merely a hobby rather than a legitimate profession. This misconception undermines the years of dedication, hard work, and skill required to excel in this field. Crafting jewellery is not merely a pastime; it is a profession demanding commitment and expertise.

We recognized the importance of not only creating beautiful collections but also establishing a thriving business that exemplifies the fusion of artistry and entrepreneurship.

By embracing the dual roles of artist and businesswoman, we hope to have transcended the limitations imposed by outdated stereotypes. Proving that our craft is not merely a hobby but a profession deserving of respect and recognition.

As women in the jewellery business, have you noticed any trends or shifts in consumer preferences? Are there any key lessons you wished you had known earlier?

H & B: Looking back on our jewellery journey, there are certainly key lessons we wish we had known earlier, lessons that have shaped our approach to craftsmanship and business. With time and experience, we realized the significance of staying true to ourselves, trusting our own voices, our convictions, and our creative instincts.

Over the years we have seen trends come and go. We have noticed that our customers are at a point in their lives where they would rather choose what they love to wear themselves than follow trends. Pieces with a personal touch, for instance gemstones that symbolize family.  Jewels that truly become heirlooms.

Featured Image: Tahitian Pearl and Demantoid Garnet Earrings, Hoogenboom & Bogers Fine Jewellery

You may also like