Melissa Spencer Wins WJA 2016 Carelle-WJA Grant

Solitaire - - SPECTRUM -

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.

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