This blog was written before the untimely death of Cindy Edelstein. For almost three decades, Cindy was not only a close friend and confidante but also a peer. We often discussed the jewelry world and the designers in it. Cindy came into jewelry about the same time I did, and we shared so many memories and experiences. I have chosen not to change tenses in this piece; since it was written before she died, it will read as if she is still alive and influencing the jewelry designer world in countless ways. Cindy, I (I mean “we”) miss you! –Marlene
“The harder you work the luckier you get.” Gary Player
Cindy Edelstein says she never intended to go into the jewelry business but circumstances, chance, luck and a lot of hard work seemed to determine her direction and fate. She is lucky enough to always be at the right place at the right time, where the action is, where things are happening, changing and evolving. And she has an uncanny knack for having an idea and running with it, helping to make change happen.
Her father owned a jewelry store and, up until the age of 13, she wrapped gifts and helped customers. That period ended when her father sold his store. Cindy grew up with JCK magazine all around her but never gave it a second thought. Her initial passion was for design, but it changed to advertising and communications while she was studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She then went into journalism at Hofstra University. She was on the school newspaper at each school and published her first article while still in college.
Cindy’s first job out of school was assistant editor at JCK magazine. She applied to a job ad at Chilton publishing company without realizing the position was at JCK. She got the job and, when the fashion editor quit a while after she started, Cindy took over her position.
The list of what Cindy has contributed to the jewelry designer world is extensive. At every step of the way, her creativity and focus created opportunities for designers to run successful businesses. Her career has always been closely aligned with the American jewelry design movement—its ups, downs, trends and changes.
The minute Cindy got to JCK she felt it was home. Within a short time she was the fashion editor, which gave her first-hand access to all the designers who were coming into the national market.
It was a heady time. Mort Abelson, a friend and mentor to Cindy, was the powerhouse behind discovering new talent at the Rhinebeck Arts Festival in upstate New York and encouraging designers to show in a much larger venue at the New York Jewelers of America show, which was, without question, the premiere show of the time. He brought David Yurman to the JA show, among many others. The roots of the fledgling design movement started in 1977 but the heyday was in the mid-‘80s and ‘90s. Cindy was there to observe and be an active part of this enormous change and to witness first hand the birth of what is today a major part of the jewelry industry—the contemporary American design movement.
JCK Trade Show
In 1991, Cindy left JCK magazine and moved to the tradeshow division of the organization. The new JCK show was going to be located in Las Vegas, which was a total departure for an East Coast-dominated industry. Cindy suggested that, since her expertise was in the designer movement, she could set up a section specifically for designers called Jewelry 92. She was supposed to sell 32 booths that first year and instead sold 72. It was a hit!
The section placed all of the designers together in a special area designated with a different color of carpet, a cappuccino bar, couches, and a lounge area. It also offered special events such as a live auction. It was so successful that there was always an unbelievably long waiting list to get a space. The designers formed close friendships with each other and a caring community arose. It was during this time that the Contemporary Design Group (later the CJDG) was formally founded, though the roots had been laid earlier at a San Diego jewelry trade show. As Cindy said of the time, “Everything was beautiful.”
The early ‘90s were a busy time for Cindy. In 1991, she founded the Jewelers Resource Bureau with her husband, Frank Stankus. Frank was working at the New York Times at that point, but he was instrumental in starting the company. Their goal and focus was to serve the needs of the designer. What do they want? What do they need that they don’t even know they need? The tag line reads, “The Jewelry Design Community’s Source for Business Support, Marketing Intelligence and Industry Insights.” JRB offered designers a wide variety of information, opportunities, tools and advice. And the organization is still going strong.
Cindy’s elite trade show for designers is now in its 15th year. globalDESIGN started out in a hotel adjacent to the American Craft Council show in Baltimore and featured top designers from around the world. The show has always focused on helping designers sell to retail stores. After running at the same time as the Baltimore show for several years, Cindy moved globalDESIGN to Philadelphia, where it ran at the same time as the Buyers’ Market of American Craft (now known as the American Made Show). globalDESIGN has counted among its ranks such designer celebrities as Bernd Munsteiner, Alex Spekus and Michael Zobel. Currently, the show is back with the ACC show in Baltimore and now has a pavilion directly inside the wholesale show.
When Couture moved from Scottsdale, Arizona to Las Vegas in 2006 to run at same time as the JCK show, it changed the landscape of the jewelry wholesale market. The way Couture showcased and promoted designers was elegant and relaxed. Cindy created and ran the show’s Design Atelier, which spotlights boutique designer-owned companies. Once again she was given the opportunity to create an environment in which the goal was to determine the needs of designers and do what she could to fill them.
Together, Cindy and Frank wrote Brilliance! Masterpieces from the American Jewelry Design Council, a book showcasing pieces from the art jewelry movement. She has also written hundreds of articles for different industry magazines, judged every single design competition there is and been honored with numerous awards, including honors from the American Jewelry Design Council, the Contemporary Design Group and the Women’s Jewelry Association.
If this isn’t enough (and there are still so much I haven’t even mentioned that she has accomplished), Cindy is a passionate believer in volunteering her time and expertise to people in the industry. She has served on the National Board of Directors for the Women’s Jewelry Association for 15 years. She has been active in the Accessories Council and is a volunteer mentor for Fashion Designers of America in their incubator program. These activities are at the heart of what and who Cindy is.
When I asked Cindy about what she does, her answer was, “I help the industry understand and connect to designers and designers to understand and connect with the industry. I am an industry connector.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.