This month, the jewellery industry lost one of its pioneer female executives—Hilda “Peggy” Kirby. As one of a dozen female founders of the national Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA), Kirby left an indelible mark on the trade as a whole.
Kirby, who was 102, passed away on November 6 following a very brief illness. According to the WJA, she kept up her involvement with the organization until the end of her life, attending her last board meeting this fall.
The daughter and granddaughter of jewellers, Kirby began working at Finlay-Straus, a small jewelry store chain in New York, in 1940. She worked at Finlay Fine Jewelry until 1978, serving as a vice-president and handling marketing, advertising, displays, training, and company statistics. In 1983, Kirby helped to found the WJA, and in 1985, she was the recipient of its first Hall of Fame award.
Throughout her life, Kirby was heralded as a role model for women in the industry.
“Peggy lived every day to its fullest!” says former WJA president Phyllis Bergman. “Her most famous quote that I will never forget was: ‘As you get older you must have two things: enough money and a good driver to take you everywhere.’ I think what I most admired was her lack of fear to capture and enjoy the moment.”