To Honor a Design Legacy

In 2021 the American Jewelry Design Council (AJDC) lost an influential founding member, Jose Hess. Jose was a brilliant designer, a mentor and leader, and one of the first designers to see that design-driven jewelry was the future of the jewelry industry.
To honor Jose's legacy and encourage today's visionary new designers, AJDC has created the AJDC Jose Hess Design Awards, a biennial contest.

Jose Hess

When Jose came onto the American jewelry scene in the early 1960s, most jewelry stores were still purchasing generic jewelry from manufacturers that were anonymous to the consumer. Retailers sold the jewelry under their store names, and design innovation was generally not highly valued or identified.

Jose successfully challenged that reality and insisted that his named jewelry designs be recognized and prized for their artistic merit. He helped change the way the jewelry industry thought. Once Jose was established with his own brand, he banded together with other designers who were developing branded collections to advocate for well-designed jewelry, and a subset of that group eventually became the AJDC.

The idea of design-driven jewelry spread throughout the jewelry industry during the 1980s and 1990s – and altered it forever. From large manufacturers to small, individual brands, American jewelry designers and their aesthetic contributions are now recognized and lauded. Designers’ stories animate many collections, and their journeys and creative inspirations often drive sales.

Design Competition Criteria

Applicants for the first AJDC Jose Hess Design Awards are asked to design and create an original piece of jewelry based on the theme Connection. This theme mirrors the AJDC members' themed project for 2022 (each year AJDC members participate in creating a theme-based jewelry object).
Applications will be judged on originality, design excellence and technical skill. The application fee (per entry) is $75.

The Awards

  • One $15,000 grand prize
  • Six $1,000 finalist awards
  • All award-winning pieces will be exhibited at a gala premier event in Tucson in February 2023.


  • Applications open on March 15, 2022
  • All submissions, including sketches, CAD renderings, jewelry paintings or photos of finished design are due June 1, 2022.
  • All pieces must arrive no later than September 2, 2022. Live judging will take place in the days following.

The AJDC Design Theme Project

One of the most important ways AJDC has advocated for creativity in jewelry design is through its AJDC Design Theme Project, an annual challenge for AJDC members. For 25 years, AJDC has asked its designer members to create an original jewel that celebrates a specific theme. The project is intended to stretch the imaginations of jewelry designers beyond their established collections, often sending them in new design directions for their work. 

Competition entrants will be asked to design to the 2023 AJDC design theme: Connection. In addition to financial awards, all award-winning entries will be displayed along with AJDC member projects at a gala premier event in Tucson in February, 2023.

The images below are just some of Jose Hess's project through the years.

A Selection of Jose Hess AJDC Design Theme Projects

© 2022. American Jewelry Design Council