Jewelry

Mary van der Aa – Jewelry Super Hero for Women in the Jewelry Industry

*Featured image is courtesy of Mary van der Aa by Sara Rey Jewelry Photography

Mary van der Aa is a jewelry super hero and inspiration for women in the jewelry industry. 

She did not enter the jewelry trade seamlessly through a family business, like so many jewelers have.

Both pendants were designed and created by Mary, and are set in 18kt white gold. The pendant on the left is set with hot pink Mahenge Spinel, and color change Bekily spinel; the pendant on the right is set with demantoid garnet and hauyne.

Mary’s path in the jewelry trade started in a jewelry store in her hometowon of Port Huron, Michigan.
While the small store was the start she needed, she was encouraged to pursue a jewelry career of her own.

This is where the podcast picks up with Mary’s story, as she shares her accomplished career from jewelry educator to designing the pageant crown for Miss Denmark, and beyond.

Mary and her team had the distinct priviledge and opportunity to design the pageant crown for Miss Denmark! – photos Mary van der Aa

This is the follow up blog post for Mary van der Aa’s feature on Jewelry Navigator Podcast, “The Amazing Jewelry Talents of Gemologist and Jeweler, Mary van der Aa”, which you can listen to on iTunes, Spotify, Podbean, and Google Play Music.

Becoming a Jeweler & Graduate Gemologist Through GIA

If there were a superlative graduating designation for, GIA, the Gemological Institute of America, Mary van der Aa would have earned summa cum laude.

As an educated jewelry professional, Mary completed all jewelry and gemology programs offered at GIA.

-photo Brenna Pakes

After graduating, Mary taught GIA's jewelry manufacturing arts in Carlsbad.

She was also involved in GIA’s program development through product and quality control.

Tucson Gem Show 2019

I first met Mary this year at the Tucson Gem Show!

Departure From GIA Leads to Great Jewelry Adventures

Mary left GIA’s instructional platform to pursue her career in jewelry design, and launched her eponymous line, Mary van der Aa.

The first six images below are courtesy of Mary van der Aa, photograpy by Sarah Rey Jewelry photography, all others are mine.


Mary, Todd, and I at the New Jersey Gem Show, on April 7, 2019.

While her designs make bold statements, they revolve around color and simple elegance, which I feel are a reflection of her gracious sincerity.

Mary has gained industry wide accolades through publications and trade organizations, like Rapport Magazine, GIA’s Gems and Gemology, Southern Jewelry News, and AGTA.

She’s been featured in three podcasts, two of which have been in Jewelry Navigator, the other in Gemology Worldwide Podcast.

To see all of Mary’s Press features, visit her Press page on Mary van der Aa.

She and Todd cater to educating the shopping public at their shows and are generous mentors to those interested in pursuing gem and jewelry careers.

Like a Modern Day Leonardo da Vinci Among Women Jewelry Designers…

Mary acquired five artistic and liberal arts diplomas before pursuing her jewelry career, allowing her to provide various aspects and skills from graphic arts to business management to her current business.

For instance, she creates the graphic design for her website, as well as the logos and poster designs for her partner, Todd Wacks, of Tucson Todd’s Gems, and upcoming gem and jewelry events and shows.

Above is an example of a graphic poster Mary designed for this year's Tucson Gems show at the Pueblo Show at the Riverpark Inn. -Background image is “Angelic Arizona”, by VizArt Ink

I really enjoyed hearing Mary’s story, and have had the pleasure of meeting her in person twice. 

The first time as this past February in Tucson, the second was last weekend in New Jersey, at the start of her yearly gem and jewelry show tour, at the New Jersey Gem Show.

To see where Mary and Todd during their upcoming shows, click HERE!

You're invited to listen to our visit together via Jewelry Navigator Podcast, simply click the graphic link below to be directed to the link on Podbean.

You can also hear Jewelry Navigator Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play Music.

Following are the minutes in the podcast marking her story and the topics we discussed:

  • 8:10 How her jewelry career transitioned from working in a tuxedo shop to instructing jewelry fabrication at GIA
  • 9:29 How Mary’s father inspired her jewelry career through GIA’s jewelry education
  • 12:55 How a variety of former degrees contribute to the success of her business
  • 15:00 The importance of mentoring each other as women in the industry 
  • 16:07 Mary's journey and process of designing the pageant crown for Miss Denmark with gemstones set in sterling silver; the challenges posed casting larger pieces; feature coverage in Southern Jewelry News
  • 22:12 The inspiration behind her collections, Aria, Orbit, Galaxy, and Architect, and her feature in Rapaport Magazine
  • 24:25 How she came to partner with gemologist, jeweler and lapidary, Todd Wacks, who custom cuts signature shape gems for her jewelry 
  • 28:34 – 38:10 More colored stone and design inspirations; their specialty in fancy garnets; the connection and importance to ethically sourced gems and metals
  • 31:26 What contributes to the value of jewelry 
  • 37:48 What inspires her to pay it forward and share tips for those wanting to join the jewelry trade

And now, a sneak peek, and answer to the posted question on my Instagram feed, which was answered inside the podcast featuring Mary van der Aa.

While you listen to Mary's podcast with me, she shared that there were over 2500 “Melee” stones set in the pageant crown she deisgned for the Miss Denmark pageant.

There was a brief “terminology service” at around minute 18:00 during the podcast that explains what melee is.
If you're unfamiliar with the term, listen for yourself!

Melee is another term for:

A. Gemstones that turn to jelly when exposed to light and heat.
B. Smaller gemstones used for accent stones.
C. An ancient term used to describe pale gemstones.

Click BELOW for the audio answer!

Until next time, buckle up your sparkle!

About Brenna

I share a world of unique jewelry created by independent jewelers and designers with shoppers and readers.