The Advisory Council is composed of jewelry industry leaders who are dedicated to sharing Gem Legacy’s story and actively uniting the industry in giving back to the source. The Advisory Council members serve as ambassadors for Gem Legacy and advocates for Gem Legacy’s initiatives.
CEO, American Gem Society (AGS) & AGS Laboratories
CEO & General Counsel, Jewelers Vigilance Committee
Vice President, Gemworld International, Inc.
Parlé Jewelry Designs
CFO & Treasurer, Jewelers Mutual Group
Omi Gems & Omi Privé
Ben Smithee is a fun-seeker with an entrepreneurship problem. In 2015, Ben launched The Smithee Group which focuses on helping brands and retailers strategically succeed in the age of digital everything. While he loves helping businesses become rock-star brands and out-perform their competition, he is even more passionate about the work he does with The Warren Center in Dallas, which helps families and their children that have developmental delays, and his work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization. He currently resides with his wife, Nicole, in New York City.
Monica Stephenson, a writer, jewelry expert, and entrepreneur with over 20 years experience in the jewelry industry, chronicles stories of artisan jewelry designers on the award-winning jewelry blog, idazzle.com. In 2015 she launched ANZA Gems, which fuels development in Kenya and Tanzania through fair trade gem purchasing and supporting education in gemstone communities. She is on the national board of the Women’s Jewelry Association and Ethical Metalsmiths. Follow her global adventures as an “accidental gem dealer” on social media at @idazzle and @anzagems.
Peggy Jo Donahue, a writer by trade, provides editing, writing, blogging, website content creation, and social networking services to magazines, retailers, designers, miners, associations, and other institutions. Donahue is the former editor in chief of Professional Jeweler and JCK magazines and was also public affairs director for both Jewelers of America and MJSA. Donahue is the author of five books. The writer’s past pro bono work has included: the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), Women’s Jewelry Association board, and Ethical Metalsmiths. She is also the recipient of the WJA Cindy Edelstein Mentorship Award.
Craig Selimotic Danforth, is an industry executive and is passionate about building relationships and brings his 25-plus years of training, sales, marketing, and finance experience to his position on the board of directors for the Women’s Jewelry Association. He is also a member of the Jewelers 24 Karat Club of Southern California, and the 24 Karat Club of the Southeastern United States sitting on its scholarship committee. He actively supports several local charities in his hometown of Charlotte, NC.
Melissa Quick has been a retail store owner for more than 25 years together with her husband and business partner Steve. Melissa first visited East Africa in 1998 and fell in love with Tanzania & Kenya on that trip. In 2018 she returned, traveling with the founders of Gem Legacy to visit gem mines and meet the miners. This offered Melissa a fresh and holistic perspective on the gems often used in the designs she sold. It was during that trip that she saw the positive impact the industry could have in these communities, and she felt compelled to join the effort to make gem supply chains safer, healthier, and more equitable.
Rachel Merisheki, G.G. is the Director of Communication and Education at Roger Dery Gem Design, where she shares the story of Roger’s holistically sourced, precision faceted gemstones that give back to those most in need at the source. Rachel and her Tanzanian-born husband, Bjorn, reside in Michigan and in Tanzania, where Bjorn mines Tanzanite in his 2nd generation family mine. Rachel spent her first years in the industry marketing for retail jewelers before returning to the family business where she focuses her time on her dream for the future: exponential progress at the source of East African colored gemstones.
Roger Dery, President of Roger Dery Gem Design, is a precision flat-faceter of colored gemstones and prides himself on providing holistically sourced, one-of-a-kind gemstones to retail jewelers. He first began in the industry 40 years ago and has since founded Gem Legacy, a 501c3 nonprofit supporting gemstone miners, traveled to East Africa 40 times, and perfected his craft with over 40,000 hours of gem faceting.
Ginger Dery, Vice President of Roger Dery Gem Design, was a lover of color and fashion in the world of custom clothing and cosmetics, long before her foray into the world of gemstones began. Marrying into the business, Ginger brings a knack for visualizing jewelry, developing client relationships, and bringing an unparalleled excitement about the possibilities available with colored gems.
Bjorn Sune Merisheki is a Tanzanian 2nd-generation Tanzanite miner and precision gem faceter trained on 3 different faceting machines. He grew up learning the mining business, which he has inherited from his father. Bjorn is also the Tanzania Initiatives Director for Gem Legacy and a trainer at the Arusha Gemological & Gem Faceting School, of which he is a graduate. He resides in both Michigan and Tanzania with his wife, Rachel.