The Black in Jewelry Coalition, a consortium of Black professionals dedicated to the inclusion and advancement of Black professionals in the gem and jewelry industries, isn’t even a year old—but already it’s catalyzing change.
The nonprofit, which debuted in October 2020, promotes the advancement of Black professionals “with the understanding that by uniting our resources and partnering with allies, we cultivate growth and create opportunities through an alliance that is for us, by us,” according to its mission statement.
Annie Doresca, the CFO of Jewelers of America and the coalition’s president, tells The Zing Report that in 2020, “many of us in the industry said, ‘enough is enough.’” Ultimately, nine Black industry professionals, including Doresca, “decided to take this movement forward to promote the advancement of Black professionals in all aspects of the industry—designers, students, professionals.”
Black in Jewelry Coalition (BIJC) has been proactive from day one, and has several initiatives planned for the second half of 2021. We caught up with Doresca to chat about what’s next for the nonprofit, and how things are changing (or in some cases aren’t) for Black professionals:
The Zing Report: It’s been nearly a year since BIJC debuted. What changes have you seen in the industry in terms of inclusivity and representation?
Annie Doresca: The fact that we brought awareness to a problem that’s been in the industry for a long time has been great. Now we’re able to have more open dialogue and conversations about inclusivity and diversity. BIJC has been embraced by so many of our industry leaders; we’ve been talking about diversity and hiring. [Heightening] awareness of the issues alone makes us feel very successful. Now we’re having those conversations. And we have our Shop Black Owned website up.
This summer, BIJC recently partnered with Ben Bridge Jeweler on a series of beautiful window displays that benefitted the organization. Tell me how that came about.
We are so thankful to Lisa Bridge and her team. She’s on our board of advisors and she truly believes in our mission. She came to us and said, “Hey, would you be interested in selling prints of a painting by artist Aramis O. Hammer that we’re putting in our windows. All proceeds would go to BIJC.” Of course, we said “yes.” It’s great we’re mixing art with jewelry and social responsibility.
You have a BIJC design competition in the works, right?
Yes, we have our first design competition! Participants are asked to design an engagement ring based on one couple’s love story. After the design is chosen, the winning jeweler will craft their ring with supplied precious materials and a natural diamond. The winning jeweler will also receive a $5,000 cash prize and
media, industry, and consumer exposure.
We’ve also partnered with the American Gem Society (AGS) to [secure] free registration and a stipend for two BIJC members for the AGS show.
What are you hearing from your roughly 100-strong membership about what the major challenges they’re facing are?
What I hear from black designers is that there are challenges with access to capital and education. Many non-Black people may have money to take diamond courses that allow them to gain more exposure on the topic. Black designers are sometimes not exposed to that; having fewer resources to buy supplies is also a problem.
As Black professionals, we’re also not seeing enough representation when we walk into a board room or trade room. I’ve been at Jewelers of America for 13 years and I’ve been the only Black person in the room. That is not representation. I do feel things are changing, but there’s more work to do. We would also like to see more stock images that represent a wider range of people.
What challenges does BIJC face as an organization in 2021 and beyond?
I think we’re in a better place compared to last year. But I feel like the industry is starting to [consider] diversity as a trend of the past, and that scares me. Diversity is a never-ending practice, just like conversations around sexual harassment. What we need is training. So several of us will be rolling out free diversity training for the jewelry industry. It will be a two-part training. The first will feature a speaker that will participate in simulations anonymously, so she can really talk about what inclusivity entails. The second part is a panel where consumers and Black professionals can share their experiences in the industry. Training will be a big piece of what we want to do, and we hope to roll it out in January 2022.
Black in Jewelry’s board of directors is comprised of Annie Doresca, CFO of Jewelers of America (president of BIJC); Elyssa Jenkins, director of membership and digital content at Jewelers Vigilance Committee (vice president of BIJC); Miya Owens, associate counsel and director of mediation at Jewelers Vigilance Committee (BIJC’s corporate outreach chair); Lisa Garris, human resources director for lab and research for North America for the GIA (BIJC’s secretary); Nellie Barnett, manager of media and PR at GIA (BIJC’s communications chair); Reginald Johnson, chief diversity officer and SVP of North American field human resources at Signet Jewelers (BIJC’s nominations chair); Malyia McNaughton, founder and CEO of Made by Malyia (BIJC’s treasurer); Adrianne Sanogo, GIA graduate gemologist (BIJC’s chair of education); and Lisette Scott, founder and CEO of fine jewelry brand Jam + Rico (BIJC’s events chair).
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