Meet the Expert: Angela Hedges

From a small town to the bright lights of the Big City, a passion for theater and a college job in Indiana launched a career in jewelry that led Angela Hedges to New York City and  her dream job: Director of Archives & Estate Jewelry for Harry Winston. A Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Graduate Gemologist (GG), Angela was with Harry Winston for 16 years — over half of her career. While at Winston, she pioneered digitizing the House’s historical archives and also curated its estate jewelry museum collection. Now, Angela is the Harry Winston expert for the International Antique Jewelers Association (IAJA) Expertise and does consultations through her business AMH Luxury Consulting.

How did you get started with Harry Winston?

After moving to New York City, I was finding my way through the jewelry business in a new market. A few years after I arrived in New York, a position was posted for Inventory Control Manager at Harry Winston. Since I have a background in operations and because it was Harry Winston, I applied. After six months of interviews, I was offered the job. I really didn’t know much about Harry Winston, I always associated it with the “red carpet”. When in fact, there is so much more to Harry Winston than red carpet moments. Four years after starting at Winston, I was promoted and I scored the role of a lifetime: Holding the keys to the Harry Winston archives.

You were the Director of Archives & Estate Jewelry at Harry Winston, what exactly does an archivist do?

While I’m not a trained archivist, I am a natural organizer.  At its core, archiving is about maintaining the integrity of any collection — whether it’s an art collection, jewelry, books or antiques — especially if there is historical provenance. In the early stages of my archiving initiative at Harry Winston there were multiple collections in various countries and languages.  We had to find a safe storage space that was climate controlled so the items could live there and we had to ensure that those various sets of archives all “speak” the same language. My job was to physically and then digitally organize the documents so they would be accessible in one place — at my fingertips. Ultimately, and more importantly to an historic retail house, the end goal was, and always is, to leverage the archives to assist in marketing, sales and aftersales. I felt such a sense of accomplishment dusting off those archives and contributing in a meaningful way to brand initiatives.

The process wasn’t easy though.  Heavy boxes, spider webs, decades of dust, paper cuts, sweating or freezing in a temporary warehouse while organizing — you name it we faced it.  Blood, sweat and tears were spilled by my team and myself to bring the Harry Winston archives to life. Any archivist out there will know exactly what I’m talking about.

In your opinion, what makes Winston jewelry special, what sets Winston apart from other jewelers?

I could say it’s the big diamonds and gemstones or the incredible articulation in the necklaces and bracelets, or even pioneering the manufacturing style of the house motif — the Winston Cluster. The way Harry Winston and his head designer at the time, Nedvon Koumrouyan, created the effect of diamonds floating on  a woman’s skin in the early 1940s is unmatched.  Yet, when I really think about Harry Winston jewelry I think about Harry’s “American Dream” story.  His family migrated from what we know today as Ukraine and through his innate understanding of gemstones and his instinct for business — Harry Winston built an empire. Without his business acumen and passion for gems, I would not be where I am today.  My own story, while not the same, is similar. I grew up in a very small township in Indiana, less than 5,000 people live there today. Then I moved to the Big City searching for my own “American Dream”.  I always joke about growing up next to a cornfield and yet I’ve held the Hope Diamond in my hands. Winston jewelry is deeply personal to me.

When you are evaluating jewelry, what do you look for in a piece?

When I assess a piece of Harry Winston jewelry the first thing I do is try it on. It’s not like I get to wear fabulous Winston jewels all the time! Then, I pull out my loupe and get to work —  looking at the quality of the workmanship, the manufacturing style, makers marks and various other factors that contribute to the overall piece.

What do you do when you are not evaluating jewelry?

In high school and college I wanted to be a performer so I studied theater.  Little did I know how tough the competition would be. I am very thankful that I started selling jewelry in college, which allowed me to build a career and not live as a financially challenged job-hopping actor.  That love of theater is deeply rooted in me and I still enjoy Broadway and off-Broadway shows.  You can usually find me at an early weekend movie as well — “Bohemian Rhapsody” at 9:45am on a Sunday at the movie theatre was bliss!  Recently I started taking my love of dance more seriously and I take bachata (a form of Latin dance that originated in the Dominican Republic) lessons in Queens. I also head a very small non-profit organization that is dedicated to TNR (trap-neuter-return) of NYC street cats. My unofficial slogan: Diamonds by day, cats by night.

You may contact Angela Hedges via Instagram @Winston_Woman.

Featured image (top of page): Angela Hedges

Authored by Amber Michelle