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Menlo’s Jeweled Grand Prix: A Story of Dedication

By Annie Shaw

Jeweler Stephen Silver and Betsy Glikbarg, who founded the Menlo Charity Horse Show. Proceeds from the event benefit Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. (Drew Altizer Photography)

A historic horse show. The highest level of power and speed in an equine jumping competition. The finest gems and precious metals. Bring them all together on a warm summer evening — perhaps throw in a glass of bubbly and that Ascot-worthy hat you’ve been dying to wear while dawdling down the typically luxurious horse vendor row displaying wares from Hermès to La Mundial’s custom riding boots. The stage is set.

The Menlo Charity Horse Show, the crowning event of the Northern California Horse Show Circuit, runs August 6 to August 11. Its designation as a US Equestrian Heritage Competition speaks to the dedication of Betsy Glikbarg, the show’s founder and matriarch.

Heritage status is reserved for long-established competitions that have made substantial contributions toward the development and promotion of the sport, by achieving, maintaining and promoting the equestrian ideals of sportsmanship and competition. Entering its 49th year, the Menlo Charity Horse Show is also unique in its philanthropic vision, donating over $6M to the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired over the years.

Glikbarg knew from the start that the show’s success would hinge upon her connection to sponsors. She began by asking friends and potential sponsors such as Stephen Silver, a jeweler she’d known since she was just 15.

“She was ingrained in our lives!” says Silver. Glikbarg’s show had been a part of Silver’s life since he was a teen, and he’d always admired the dedication and sportsmanship of the competitors, not to mention the beauty of the horses.

If the Menlo contest is a crown, its greatest jewel is the $40,000 Grand Prix show jumping competition for elite riders and their horses. Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry has sponsored Menlo’s Grand Prix for the last three years, and the show itself for nine. When asked how he and son Jared involved with one of the most prestigious prizes in California horse showing, Silver emphasized the philanthropy behind his support. “As long as it benefits children, through either health, education or the arts, and as long as the recipient can show that 90 cents from every dollar raised goes to the benefit of those children, then I’ll look at it,” he says.

Silver studied geology at San Diego State University and earned a Graduate Gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America. He began his career in Los Angeles — grading, cutting and sorting diamonds and colored stones. On his return to the Bay Area, his career evolved from gemology to estate appraisals in 1980 and culminated in the opening of an eponymous luxe retail presence in 2009. In addition to fine jewelry, Silver curates an ultra-high-end collection of rare and exclusive timepieces including those from Greubel Forsey, MB&F and Richard Mille.

What puts the business in a class of its own, though, is Silver’s personal dedication to craftsmanship. Setting very strict guidelines for quality among the artisans with whom he works, he spreads his passion for jewels from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century — a time when there was more emphasis on artistry and detail.

The same commitment goes into training a horse to jump 5 feet and higher without missing a beat. At press time, 15 horse and rider combinations had entered this class, vying for honors and big checks. And each of these horses and riders will have spent years, if not decades, honing their skills to master the ability to navigate a course of serious jumps with accuracy and speed and a real will to win.

Diamonds and pearls, grays and bays: The Menlo Charity Horse Show is so much more than just a horse show.

The Menlo Charity Horse Show Key Events

August 6: “Pony Palooza” — special treats for the diminutive equine fan

August 8: $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby

August 9: Wild West-themed gala and auction

August 10: $40,000 Stephen Silver Grand Prix, followed by the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s World Championship Hunter Rider Southwest Regional Awards Presentation

For more info on Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry, visit shsilver.com or call (650) 325-9500

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