Melissa Spencer Wins WJA 2016 Carelle-WJA Grant
The Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) awarded its 2016 Carelle-WJA Grant in memory of Brooke Tivol McGrath, to entrepreneur Melissa Spencer, who launched her company, Spencer Fine Jewelry of Los Angeles, CA, in 2016. The designer earned a B.A. in Photography from Southern Methodist University, and also has Graduate Gemologist (G.G.) and Graduate Jeweler (G.J.) diplomas from the Gemological Institute of America. Her volunteer work includes serving as event planning co-chair for WJA’s Los Angeles chapter.
Spencer’s new company re-invents the art of traditional jewellery portrait miniatures via its trademarked Spencer Portrait gemstone. The designer uses a proprietary process of projecting an image into a natural gemstone, including rock crystal quartz, mother-of-pearl and diamond. The gems are then set into customisable frames of 18-karat gold and sterling silver and decorated with diamonds and coloured gemstones. Spencer draws inspiration from the Egyptian, Byzantine, and Victorian eras, when hand-painted portraits in lockets were the fashion for nobility and royalty. Her technique re-imagines these treasured objects for the 21st century, while maintaining their intention to depict a loved person, animal, or art object in an authentic gemstone.
Spencer plans to use her grant money to enhance clients’ ability to customise their Spencer Portraits online, a service that will also support the retailers who sell her line. She’ll also use the funds to invest in other aspects of her business.
“Winning the Carelle-WJA Grant in memory of Brooke Tivol McGrath is a great honour,” says Spencer. “The award will fuel the production of beautifully interactive website, which is the most important next step of my business so that I may best connect with my customers. I have learned that Brooke and I would have shared many passions, including French language studies, travel, and most importantly, jewellery design. In accepting this award I aspire to honour her legacy.”
The $5,000 merit-based Carelle-WJA grant is intended to aid in the establishment of a designer’s business. Eligible candidates must be current members of the WJA, and in their first five years of business. Applicants are required to submit an essay explaining why they deserve the award, placing an emphasis on personal dedication, determination, and a positive attitude towards the industry. Brooke Tivol McGrath, who was a driving force in the launch of luxury brand Carelle, unexpectedly passed away at the age of 28, due to a rare blood infection. The grant is funded by Carelle as well as through donations to WJA’s grant and scholarship funds.