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If there was an Academy Award given for best jewelry, the AGTA Spectrum Awards would be it. And believe me to take home the honors from this prestigious event hosted by the American Gem Trade Association, a piece of award winning jewelry not only has to be drop-dead gorgeous, it has to embody excellence based on a host of criteria. And the competition is super stiff. Every year in August, roughly 500 entries from jewelry designers all over are carefully scrutinized by an expert panel of judges. In the Day Wear category, for example, it has to be stylish, yet practical for work. In the Bridal category, it has to captivate onlookers as the wearer comes down the aisle. To earn a Fashion Forward honor, it has to be new and innovative. And of course, all the jewelry is examined for superb craftsmanship. In addition, it has to pass the wearer test to see how smoothly and comfortably it fits when worn by a real person. This was my very first AGTA Awards show. I even got to vote! And it was thrilling. Beyond all the sparkle that dazzled the eye as I walked into a room filled with entries displayed on tables, I felt a huge responsibility to study both the winners and the also-rans. What made one ring or necklace a star, and another, well, simply a nice bauble? In some cases it was really hard for a newbie-to-the-show, like me, to tell. When I asked, one of last year’s judges told me that all the voting is based on points, which means that some entries lost by a hair. That made me feel better, because I thought some that didn’t make the winners’ circle (like the 3-stone sparkler with mint green tourmalines by Carley Jewels, shown above) were simply stunning. I’d cherish them in my jewelry box any day. Here’s just a sampling of what was best in show.—Sue Perry


All of the following pieces took first place in their categories.

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Talk about the perfect accessory! This would be my go-to piece to chic up my work looks and take me through a day at the office to a night on the town. No wonder it took home first place in the Business/Day Wear category. Shown: “Cosmos” pendant in rose and white gold with a Morganite center stone and diamond accents by Adam Neeley, Adam Neeley Fine Art Jewelry.

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Talk about timeless style! I wasn’t the only one obsessed with these pink sapphire sparklers; they took home first place in the Classical category. I call them classic with a mod twist of pink. Shown: Platinum and pink gold earrings with unheated oval pink sapphires and diamond accents, by Allen Kleiman, A. Kleiman & Co.

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Be still my heart! Unfortunately, my snapshot doesn’t do this beauty justice. But don’t just take my word for it, it also dazzled the judges and won first place in Bridal Wear. Shown: White gold and Rhodium “Double the Love” ring featuring a heart-shaped blue Zircon accented with a heart-shape diamond and pave halo, by Ricardo Basta, E. Eichberg, Inc.


Again, wish you could have been there to see the dramatic drape of the exquisite back-drop necklace, shown below. It obviously impressed the judges who awarded it the Fashion Forward award.  Shown: White and yellow gold “Solar Flare” citrine and aquamarine necklace, by Ardeshir Dabestani, Asha Gallery, Ltd.


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