Anyone Can Enter the Jade Ring Contest - But Can Anyone Find the Jade Ring?
Help unravel a mystery and restore history to the state’s oldest writing competition.
The history of the Jade Ring
The Jade Ring Writing Contest has a celebrated history that began in 1949 when the Wisconsin Rural Writers Association (which later became the Wisconsin Writers Association) opened its inaugural writing competition. At the time, the contest was unnamed and its prizes, one could say, were ordinary. But that fall, the extraordinary happened when members gathered at the Green Lake Conference Center in Green Lake, Wis. for the first statewide meeting.
They were treated to a presentation by a man whose name could be found in almost every refrigerator across the country. James L. Kraft’s talk that day wasn’t about the popular pasteurized cheese slices that had taken America by storm, or how he’d built a business that today is one of our country’s most powerful brands. The 76-year-old founder of Kraft Foods shared his collection of semi-precious stones and hobby of collecting, cutting and polishing jade into beautiful gemstone. He read his poem, Desert Jewels and offered to create and donate the prize for the first annual writing contest.
Kraft’s talent and generosity of a beautifully handcrafted jade ring sparked interest that inspired over 1,000 writers to enter short stories, poems, and plays in the 1950 competition. The contest found its name in the highly valued and sought-after first-place prize. Through the decades, Kraft’s original jade ring design was lost when the jeweler he worked with went out of business.
According to WWA lore, the Jade Ring Writing Contest would never have been if not for a happenstance meeting at a diner near Kraft’s Wisconsin home. While members of the organization discussed the writing contest during lunch one afternoon, Kraft happened to be present, overhearing their conversation. Kraft enjoyed honing his writing and jewelry making skills at his nearby home, Kraftwood, an estate that meanders along the shoreline of Lake Mashkinosiew (known today as Enterprise Lake).
In search of the Jade Ring
Kraft passed away in 1953, leaving behind one of the world’s largest food manufacturing companies and a unique and legendary prize for what has become the state’s oldest writing competition. Unfortunately, his original ring design was lost. To honor the legacy of Kraft’s jade ring design, the WWA is in search of an original jade ring, allowing us to restore the writing contest prize for what it was meant to be.
Can you help us find an original jade ring?
Clues for gumshoes
- The jade ring has undergone at least two transformations since Kraft’s original design went missing.
- It’s believed there are current WWA members who won an original jade ring.
- Work is underway to obtain records and photos of past contest winners from our archives and that of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Have a jade ring tip?
Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
1950 Green Lake, WI
JL Kraft read this poem he wrote to Wisconsin Rural Writer Association during his talk about his passion for rock collecting. He later designed the jade ring, the namesake for the writing contest sponsored by Wisconsin Writers Association.
Jewels and gems and beautiful stones
Are minerals and rocks and dinosaur bones
They come from the valley, mountains and streams
And the bowels of the earth yield the fire of dreams.
They hold you entranced, these wonders of God
They are where He placed them in gravel or sod
Gems are where you find them – they’re yours for the getting
They are where they are, regardless the setting.
No combination of color has ever been known
To equal the beauty of a colorful stone.
The hues of the rainbow, the gold of the sun
Are reflected in glory when the cabochon is done.
Agate rose of the desert and chalcedony rare
In bleak lonely places, why are they there?
God scattered His jewels from clouds in the sky
That’s why we find them so low and so high.
Therefore we should search wherever we are
For the jewels of heaven that came from afar
He scattered them widely – He tossed them away
So people who love them could find them some day.