MJSA, the U.S. trade community dedicated to professional excellence in jewelry making and design, has named custom jeweler Joel McFadden its first Mentor Jeweler, a newly created designation that recognizes those who have been exemplary in sharing their technical and business expertise throughout the jewelry industry.
McFadden, the owner of The Art of Jewelry by Joel McFadden in Red Bank, New Jersey, was selected for the honor by MJSA’s newly formed Council of Custom Jewelers, a group of leading jewelers and related suppliers who are guiding MJSA in its efforts to advance the art and creation of custom design.
“Joel is the personification of what it is to be a mentor jeweler,” says Lee Krombholz, the owner of Krombholz Jewelers in Cincinnati and chair of the council. “He is a constant contributor, willing teacher, and active leader to many jewelers and jewelry organizations over his lifetime. The jewelry industry is a better place because of Joel.”
In a career spanning more than three decades, McFadden has worked in a variety of roles. Trained as a boy in his grandfather’s North Carolina store (“I came from an environment of sharing,” he says), he spent his early years doing trade work throughout the South, opened his own retail store in Massachusetts, and eventually opened his current custom studio in New Jersey. Throughout that time, he’s willingly shared his expertise with others. He’s had many apprentices who have gone on to successful careers, and he has also been a sought-after presenter at industry conferences and shows.
Among his accomplishments, he’s brought standing-room-only crowds to MJSA’s signature At the Bench demonstrations on stone setting, finishing, and other core skills; been a regular contributor to MJSA Journal and the MJSA Custom Jeweler section; and initiated a “Jewelry 101” program to teach the basics of bench work. He also played a pivotal role in the formation of the “Bench Pressure Challenge” at the Smart Show in Chicago in the early 2000s, and more recently helped to found a Roundtable group to drive communication and camaraderie among bench jewelers and custom designers, and with Tira Mitchell of Engraver.com is starting “Precision Bench,” an online training program. McFadden says he plans to continue to help jewelers succeed as businesspeople and perfect their technical skills.
The Mentor Jeweler designation is among the recent initiatives MJSA has undertaken to advance custom design. It recently published the MJSA Handbook on Custom Design, a digital publication that covers everything from communicating with customers to promoting custom effectively. In addition, MJSA is developing a website that will promote and explain the levels of custom design to consumers, as well as offer a searchable database of MJSA members who offer custom services.