Feature

Making Connections in 2019: Alumni Association India-Themed Event, Buccellati Contest Winner, and Other GIA Activities in Tucson


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From left: Robert Gessner, Maryanna Nagle, Jennifer Pusenkoff and Melissa Gessner.

More than 350 alumni and guests from 16 countries gathered for the 2019 Party at the GIA Gem Mine in Tucson recently to re-connect with former classmates, meet new industry friends, and perhaps even establish a new business relationship.

This year’s theme, “India-Odyssey,” paid tribute to the great diversity and beauty of India. The country’s dichotomy of extravagance and simplicity as seen in its colorful textiles, geography and cultures has influenced and changed the course of history, particularly in the jewelry industry. Many legendary gems have been unearthed in India and for centuries master craftsmen have fashioned magnificent jewelry from them. India has made priceless contributions to the advancement, appreciation and desire to own gemstones and jewelry across the globe.

Two woman pose in front of India setting.


Party-goers were able to pose with Indian-themed props at the photo booth and get “Golconda Glam” with a temporary tattoo.

The event was also an opportunity to display the 18 original design renderings of the finalists of the second annual Gianmaria Buccellati Foundation Award for Excellence in Jewelry Design. The competition – open to students who successfully completed the GIA Jewelry Design course in 2018 – recognizes artistic excellence in jewelry design. Hand-rendered designs from 18 finalists from seven GIA schools were judged by a committee comprised of known gem and jewelry industry experts in design, manufacturing and jewelry retail experts.

An illustration of a bejeweled bird pendant.
Ching-Hui Weng’ design of “Urocissa caerulea,” a blue bird that represents Taiwan, won the 2018 Gianmaria Buccellati Foundation Award for Excellence in Jewelry Design. GIA digital file

Susan Jacques, president and CEO of GIA, announced that Ching-Hui Weng, who studied at GIA’s Taiwan school and received her GIA Jewelry Design certificate in 2018, was the winner. Her design rendering of “Urocissa caerulea,” a blue bird that represents Taiwan, was comprised of a yellow and white gold brooch featuring opals, aquamarine, lapis lazuli, black chalcedony, coral, and white and yellow diamonds.

“My source of inspiration is the flight dynamics of these birds, used in combination with gemstones to express their flight,” Weng said.

A woman leans over to write a bid on an auction slip.
GIA Governor Barbara Dutrow bids on an item during the silent auction.

Jacques then kicked off the always exciting and competitive live auction led by GIA alumni Lindy Adducci of DuMouchelle Auctions, who volunteers her professional services each year. All proceeds from the event support the Alumni Endowment Fund. This year’s event raised nearly $30,000 from event tickets and the silent and live auctions. More than 75 items, including loose gemstones and pearls, designer jewelry, mineral specimen, equipment, books and more were available to bid on.

“This annual reunion of alumni and industry friends continues to impress in both its dynamism and attendance, and we excited to bring together so many of diverse members of the trade together for this evening of networking and fun, while supporting the Alumni Endowment and giving ultimately give back to our constituency,” said Kate Donovan, manager of global alumni relations. “This event takes a village to execute and I would like to extend a special thank you to all of our auction contributors, supporters, event attendees and volunteers.

“We look forward to seeing you all again and encourage you to mark your calendar on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 for next year’s party.”

Two woman show of their rings in front of India setting.
Amanda Hornberger and Laura Hornberger.

Alumni Leadership Breakfast

GIA Alumni Association chapter leaders and senior GIA executives also gathered in Tucson for a breakfast meeting that included interactive dialog between alumni volunteer ambassadors and GIA executives who presented and shared GIA’s commitment to support alumni worldwide with programs and expanded benefits.

More than 40 leaders from 19 chapters attended, including representatives from Asia, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and the U.S. were present, along with GIA executives Susan Jacques, president and chief executive officer; Duncan Pay, vice-president and chief academic officer, Robert Weldon, director of the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center, Susan Schindelar, vice president of global marketing and Stephen Morisseau, director of corporate communications.

Kate Donovan, manager of global alumni relations, led the gathering by welcoming attendees and recognizing the volunteer efforts of the global alumni leaders (as individuals and as chapters) for their extraordinary efforts and accomplishments that helped the GIA Alumni Association achieve a banner year in 2018. Looking ahead, she introduced the newly expanded alumni department team members, and shared GIA’s executive commitment to support the Alumni Association and some recent and planned actions to further this support.

Jacques and Pay shared the initiatives under way to strengthen and expand support for all alumni members and chapters worldwide by providing relevant resources. An update was provided on GIA services, education initiatives and the Institute’s commitment to expanded gemological research and how these initiatives support the entire lifetime of our constituency, from student through time as an alumnus and industry veteran. Jacques also urged the group to actively reach out to new alumni and invite them to participate in local chapter activities.

The event wrapped with an open forum discussion and between chapter leaders and GIA’s alumni and executive representatives. They shared best practices and experiences from their chapters, and exchanged ideas, challenges and requests on how to improve support to chapters and leadership volunteers so they can serve the GIA Alumni Association community in the year ahead.

A group of seven gemstones.
Composite image of jumbo gemstones for TGMS Tucson 2019. Left, clockwise: 11905 ametrine, 368 ct, Minas Gerais, Brazil, gift of Dr. L. T. Moore. 684 yellow topaz, 1002 ct, Brazil, gift of Dr. Gerald T. Zwiren. 24606 sherry pink fluorite, 311.55 ct, gift of Donald and Ruth Milliken. 5901 yellow spodumene, 200 ct, Afghanistan, gift of Daniel J. and M. H. Henkin. 1958 green beryl, 156 ct, Brazil, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Vicaro Jay Martin. 14716 pink morganite, 292 ct, gift of Dr. William L. Harville Jr. 36817 yellow beryl (heliodor), 226 ct, Brazil. See related asset. Orasa Weldon/GIA

GIA Museum and Library Exhibits

The GIA Museum presented a display of “Jumbo Gems” – the largest, a 21,290 ct rock crystal quartz from Brazil – to demonstrate the importance of facets and how they play a role in bringing beauty to a gemstone, as well as the size in which some gem materials can occur.

The GIA library presented “Selecting Gem Rough: A Guide for Artisanal Miners,” an educational guide created by GIA that contains basic gemological concepts to help artisanal miners in Africa better understand value factors in the rough they mine. Results have shown that miners have tripled the value of their production. The exhibit case included rough and cut examples of many East African gems including amethyst, aquamarine, diamond, emerald, garnet, opal, sapphire, tanzanite, tourmaline and zircon.

Young man reads illustrated gem guide, sitting on a cement bench.
A miner in Tunduru, Tanzania examines the artisanal mining guide following GIA’s lecture on the subject. Photo by Robert Weldon/GIA

Robert Weldon, director of the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center and co-author of the guide, detailed the story behind the guide and how it benefitted approximately 1,000 gem miners in Tanzania, especially the women.

Amanda J. Luke is a senior communications manager at GIA. She is the editor of the GIA Insider and Alum Connect and was the editor of The Loupe magazine.