Consider it one of the pandemic’s few (sterling) silver linings: New York City Jewelry Week, which runs through Nov. 22, is now open to all jewelry lovers, regardless of location.
As with so many things in 2020, the event has been recast as a virtual gathering with programming accessible through its website.
“We have about 120 events and exhibitions in seven days, and the schedule runs all day,” said J. B. Jones, a co-founder of the week, now in its third year. “People always say, ‘It’s too much, we can’t go to them all,’ but that’s not the intention. When people tune in during New York City Jewelry Week, I want them to be forced to confront something about jewelry: how it’s made and why it’s important to the community, to the economy and to humanity.”
To help attendees make sense of the schedule — which includes panel discussions, fireside chats, museum tours, studio visits and cocktail hours, all conducted online across platforms such as Zoom, YouTube, Instagram and Discord — the organizers have divided the program into seven categories.
The themes include “Full Circle,” dedicated to issues of social justice, ethical sourcing and sustainability; “The Now Now,” a look at jewelry’s role in activism and politics, like Michelle Obama’s choice of a necklace spelling “Vote” for the Democratic National Convention this summer; “Cultural Experiment,” focusing on jewels that play with questions of scale, materials and wearability; “Bench Business,” concerning education, history and the making of jewelry; “Playing For Keeps,” about the timelessness of certain jewels; “Jewelry For All,” an examination of its ability to express identity; and “Mindful Adornment,” which will explore lore around jewelry’s spiritual and talismanic properties.
“One of the conversations we’ve had during Covid is that jewelry is meant to empower us, that its value goes beyond its aesthetic,” said Bella Neyman, the co-founder, along with Jones, of the week. “When times are tough like they are now, it’s about having something that gives you light and positivity, and jewelry has that.”
“We have jewelers hosting meditation sessions with crystals,” she added. “We’re taking jewelry to almost another realm.”
That statement may ring especially true for the jewelers of color whose participation Ms. Neyman and Ms. Jones have been cultivating since 2018, when they invited Jennifer Gandia, co-owner of Greenwich St. Jewelers in Lower Manhattan, to moderate a panel discussion on the industry’s lack of diversity.
“I felt like they’d handed me something very precious,” Ms. Gandia said. “I don’t think there had ever been a conversation like that.”
The inclusivity initiative has since grown into a platform called “Here We Are,” headed by Elliot Carlyle, a life coach and empowerment speaker who joined the event’s executive team in 2019.
“Every panel and professional conversation I’d sat in on as it pertained to diversity and inclusion, there was always this question left lingering in the room: We don’t know where the Black creatives are,” Mr. Carlyle said. “What I realized is that not a lot of people have circles of connection that are different from them.”
This year, “Here We Are” aims to expand those circles by highlighting jewelers from historically underrepresented backgrounds in a series of conversations and events throughout the week.
One of the program’s highlights is “Glimpse,” an online retrospective of Lorraine West’s 21-year career. The showing, which includes images of the Black jeweler’s work along with sketches and photos of people who have influenced her (including the singer-songwriter Erykah Badu, a longtime client) will culminate on Nov. 21 when Ms. West is to receive a $5,000 award sponsored by Greenwich St. Jewelers, which debuted her first fine jewelry collection earlier this month.
“When you’re in the shadows in a way, a lot of people don’t know you exist — that’s one of the reasons why I’m doing this retrospective,” Ms. West said.
“Here We Are” also includes an online marketplace on 1st Dibs, one of its sponsors, and the marketplace gallery will feature a curated selection of new designers’ work through February.
The midst of a pandemic may seem like a strange time to promote fine jewelry, but supporters of New York City Jewelry Week say they are eager to seize the moment.
“We know there’s a subset of people who have available income,” said Sally Morrison, director of public relations for natural diamonds at the De Beers Group, a sponsor of “Here We Are.” “It’s those people who didn’t send their kids to camp this summer, didn’t travel to Europe, aren’t thinking about going skiing this year.”
“There’s a window of opportunity for us, as for the first time, our No. 1 competitor — travel — is off the table,” Ms. Morrison added. “This is the year for us to align and link arms across the industry.”