In May 2018, Donna Distefano presented at the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies, an annual gathering of around 3,000 scholars interested in medieval studies. Her panel was entitled Dante Studies II: Corporeality, Materiality, Sin, and Suppression in the Divine Comedy. Co-presenters included academics from Binghamton University, Auburn University, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and the University of Leeds. Distefano spoke about Dante's use of gems in the epic poem.

In 2016, Distefano was the sole presenter on goldsmithing at the National Arts Club in New York City. The event was sponsored by the Gemological Institute of America, the world’s leading authority on diamond and gemstones. Distefano’s focus was “Off the Canvas" jewels inspired by Renaissance masters who were also goldsmiths, such as Brunelleschi. Distefano’s 2015  “Off The Canvas” presentation at the National Arts Club in New York City focused on these images:

Distefano delivered another lecture at the Università di Napoli in June 2016 in Naples, Italy, as a part of the AATI (American Association of Teachers of Italian) international conference. The lecture Dante & Gems was an in-depth study of Dante’s use of precious gemstones and metal in the Commedia. For example, concentrations of rubies are found in Paradiso, especially when describing angels and blessed souls. Emeralds are a stronger presence in Purgatorio, and precious gems are noticeably absent as a descriptor of beauty in Inferno. Dante’s choice and placement of gemstones and metals was evidently not arbitrary and was likely informed by the writings of scholars and saints whom he respected and emulated.

Donna Distefano Thomas