In Kathryn Kimmel’s nearly 30 years as head of GIA’s marketing and public relations efforts, she radically improved the Institute’s visibility in the trade and the public eye. Kimmel established the annual GIA Jewelry Career Fairs and the consumer outreach program on the Institute’s gem identification and grading reports and the 4Cs. She was the first woman on GIA’s executive team, beginning as director of marketing in 1990 and retiring as senior vice president and chief marketing officer in 2019.
A third-generation jeweler, Kimmel learned repair and sales at her parents’ Los Angeles store. She visited GIA as a child—while her father was taking the Institute’s courses—and met Richard T. Liddicoat and Robert Shipley Jr. She even spent her birthdays at the California Jewelers Association’s annual shows. Yet she resisted going into the family business and took a detour to major in theater arts in college and work in entertainment production.
By 1990, when Kimmel met GIA’s then-president Bill Boyajian, she had returned to the industry, managed the family store, and risen to vice president of marketing for manufacturer Nova Stylings. At Nova she learned marketing principles from renowned expert Guy Kawasaki. Boyajian was looking for a new director of marketing and was impressed by her background and drive. She joined GIA that summer.
Kimmel established a public relations department, streamlined and modernized GIA’s brand identity and marketing materials, and revamped the advertising strategy. She directed the launch of the Institute’s first website and with Boyajian wrote the Institute’s first mission statement. When she found herself advising students about how to transition into the trade, she recognized the need for a career fair. With the support of the Jewelers 24 Karat Club of Southern California, GIA’s first career fair was held in Santa Monica in 1991. As the industry’s largest recruiting event, it has expanded to five GIA locations and been an avenue for countless GIA graduates to begin their careers.
“My heart will forever be with the students—seeing them study at GIA, coming to GIA’s Jewelry Career Fair and becoming industry leaders has been one of the most rewarding parts of my job,” Kimmel said.
In the years since, Kimmel increased the Institute’s participation in international trade shows and industry events, co-chaired its International Gemological Symposiums, and steered GIA’s marketing activities in an ever-evolving industry. Echoing her first visit to GIA decades prior, she grew to see Liddicoat as a mentor and father figure and refers to Shipley as one of her heroes.
In 2006 GIA honored Kimmel with the Richard T. Liddicoat Award for Distinguished Achievement, its highest tribute. Other recognition includes the American Gem Society’s Triple Zero and Distinguished Service awards, the Jewelers 24 Karat Club Excellence in Service Award, the YWCA’s Tribute to Women in the Industry (TWIN) award, and the Women’s Jewelry Association Award for Excellence in Promotion. In 2016 she was named one of Luxury Daily magazine’s 25 “Luxury Women to Watch.” Kimmel is a founding member and past president of the WJA’s Los Angeles chapter, and has served on the boards of WJA, the Jewelers 24 Karat Club of Southern California and the Jewelry Information Center.