The Jose Hess Design Awards
It was an emotional night at the inaugural AJDC Jose Hess Design Awards. An events space in the Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum in Tucson, Ariz., was filled with renowned American jewelry designers, representatives of the largest jewelry trade organizations and many others who support American artistry in jewelry design. It was a celebration of both the man who the awards honor, and a group of new jewelry designers who were awarded for their original creations.
In the middle of the madness was Magdalena “Maggie” Hess, a renowned designer in her own right and the wife of Jose Hess, who spent the night in an emotional rollercoaster changing constantly from laughter to tears.
Jose Hess, who died two years ago at the age of 87, is considered one of the original leaders of the American designer jewelry movement. He is arguably the first person who lobbied the jewelry industry to place his name on his jewels, marketing them as uniquely branded pieces as early as the 1960s. He and a few others, including David Yurman, Penny Preville and Steven Lagos, were among the first to create jewels under their personal brands in the 1980s. Prior to this, jewels were displayed in cases without identification. Today designer jewelry is ubiquitous in the industry and among consumers. His famous expression was “Strong like a bull,” a phrase that was repeated among his friends throughout the February 2 awards event.