Last updateThu, 17 May 2018 7am

WJA to honor Diane von Furstenberg, Matt Runci, and GIA at Awards for Excellence Dinner

The Women's Jewelry Association (WJA) annual Awards for Excellence gala will held this year on a new night - Monday, July 27, 2009 at Pier 60 in New York City. At this year's gala, WJA will honor fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg with its 2009 "Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement" award and Matt Runci with the 2009 "Ben Kaiser Award." The WJA will also be honoring the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) as the first organization to receive the "Corporate Award for Excellence." WJA will present awards to women who have excelled in the following categories: Retail, Design, Manufacturing, Marketing and Communications, Editorial/Reporting/Publishing and Special Services.

Diane von Furstenberg
"Diane von Furstenberg, one of the leading icons in American fashion, is not only a connoisseur of jewelry, but a modern woman in every sense," said Yancy Weinrich, WJA president, in announcing the Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award. Von Furstenberg has created a global luxury lifestyle brand that revolutionized the way women dress and accessorize. In 2004, the designer inspired the creation of the Diane von Furstenberg by H.Stern fine jewelry collection, an acclaimed and enormously successful step in her quest to empower women around the world.

Roberto Stern, H.Stern's creative director, says, "Diane von Furstenberg is a businesswoman with a powerful, yet feminine aura surrounding her; her style is timeless and forever young. All of these things inspired us to create jewelry that would not only embody her spirit and her lifestyle, but also would appeal to the women of today."

Headquartered in New York City, there are currently 26 freestanding Diane von Furstenberg boutiques worldwide in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, with collections also sold in select retail specialty stores in over 56 countries. Born in Belgium, Ms. Von Furstenberg's New York City fashion house became synonymous with confidence and female freedom. She pioneered fashion and business trends, receiving the New York Mayor's Liberty Medal for citizens of the world who have achieved the American Dream.

She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She sits on the board of Vital Voices, a women's leadership organization that empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the world. Located in the NYC Meatpacking District adjacent to DVF the Shop, the DVF Studio is a creative lab for new talent. The event space highlights young artists and gives them a place to showcase their work.


Matt Runci
Matt Runci, a national and global leader and activist in the jewelry industry for more than 30 years, will receive the Ben Kaiser Award for his dedication to furthering the reputation and professionalism of the jewelry industry. "For decades, Matt has advocated nationally and globally on behalf of retail jewelers and the jewelry industry, in general, to preserve and enhance customers' confidence in the purchase of jewelry. He proves that one person can make a significant difference in the resolution of complex national and global issues," said Weinrich.

Mr. Runci joined Jewelers of America (JA) in 1995 as president and CEO, following a successful term as president and CEO of the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America. Under his leadership, JA developed comprehensive professional skills standards for retail jewelers and has continued its work in national governmental affairs.

He was centrally involved in initiatives to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds, including the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and the Clean Diamond Trade Act, and with the World Diamond Council's System of Warranties.

In 2005, he led JA to become a founding member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, and he currently serves as the council's chairman. The council created the Responsible Jewellery System for independent, third-party auditing of ethical, social, and environmental practices of companies at every level of the diamond and gold jewelry supply chain. Mr. Runci serves on the board of directors of the Diamond Development Initiative to address the political, social, and economic challenges facing the artisanal diamond-mining sector.

GIA to receive"Corporate Award for Excellence"
This year will mark the inauguration of the WJA "Corporate Award for Excellence." "While many organizations in the jewelry industry came to mind, it was clear that the Gemological Institute of America holds a special place of honor for its support of women and the Women's Jewelry Association," Ms. Weinrich said.

Women have played important roles in the success of GIA throughout its history: Beatrice Shipley was critical to the founding of the Institute in 1931; Eunice Miles was a GIA pioneer, recognized as one of the world's leading gemologists for decades mid-century; and Donna Baker's visionary leadership is moving the Institute ahead today. In pursuing its global activities in research, education, laboratory services, instrument development, and outreach, GIA considers itself fortunate to have high-caliber women employed in various capacities throughout the Institute to help meet its mission to ensure the public trust in the gem and jewelry industry.

WJA's vice president of Events, Lisa Cochin of the Diamond Promotion Service, will chair the Awards for Excellence Dinner again this year. "We are excited about bringing a new feel to this year's event as the association moves into its second quarter century," says Cochin. "We will once again have a silent auction that raises funds for scholarships and grants, as well as a program that entertains, honors, and informs."

For ticket and sponsorship information, please contact the association at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 708-361-6266.