Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART THREE: The Element of Surprise

Weeks before my fellow writers and I were to participate in JCK’s “Power of Blogging” panel as part of their JCK Talks education sessions, I started to think about what would make a good presentation. As it was somewhat explained to us, this wasn’t to be the sort of panel where you get up in front of the crowd (if you were lucky enough to have a crowd attend) and *tell* them how to blog. Rather, we were told to explain to those in attendance what worked for us as successful bloggers. The only issue with that as I saw it was that we only had four minutes to speak, so I knew that I needed to not only get my points across, but that I also needed to make those points impactful. And how does one make a presentation impactful in merely four minutes? Well, my friends, one does so by using The Element of Surprise…

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DAY ONE, COUTURE:

Quoting (paraphrasing, actually) my friend and fellow writer, Andrew Hanelly during a recent conversation about how beautiful everyone is at the COUTURE show:

I felt like a vagrant when I got there last year.”

Andrew was missed this time around during Vegas week but his statement rang as true as ever. The reality is, I often felt like my game was strong when I was exhibiting down at JCK. In other words, I could walk on the show floor – all 6+ feet of me in heels – and eyes would follow; heads would turn. But at COUTURE? I may as well have been taking out the garbage… and by “garbage” I mean ¾ of the kale salad/no dressing left of the “lunch” that was smelled eaten by the ridiculously svelte, model-esque sales associate working for Ivanka Trump.

Everyone at COUTURE is stunning. Let me explain further…

The old dudes are stunning: They possibly hail from Italy or other fabulous European countries so their loafers are made of the softest Italian leather and their pocket squares are Gucci, or Prada, or Valentino.

The young dudes are stunning: They’ve got handsome beards with cool long hair or white-boy afros and their metrosexuality puts Brad Pitt and his fedoras to shame.

The older women are stunning: They speak French/Turkish/Spanish/Russian, and with an unassuming grace they kiss you on both cheeks and reek of a sexuality untamed by age.

The younger women are stunning: Because youth, because Crossfit, because kale, because yoga, because fashion, because hats, because winged eyeliner, because boobies.

Team Gumuchian in front of our Sew Sketchy panels. L to R, Chris, Jodi, Myriam, Me, Tatiana

Team Gumuchian in front of our Sew Sketchy panels. L to R, Chris, Jodi, Myriam, Me, Tatiana

But let’s face it, folks… doesn’t jewelry just make everyone a little prettier? And what lovelier jewelry is curated in one place than the lines that exhibit at the COUTURE jewelry show, right?

With a pride beyond what you could ever imagine, I stepped up to the GUMUCHIAN booth and stared in awe. GUMUCHIAN had partnered with Instagram sensation, Sew Sketchy, and the end result was a magically chic world combining beautiful product images, a ridiculously tall supermodel, and hilariously-written catch phrases. It was colorful, whimsical, and powerful, and I expected nothing less from the women who run the company I work for.

One of the highlights for me of showing at Couture was that I’d being doing so alongside people and designers who are very dear to my heart. For one, Vicente Agor would be showing at Salon 137 along with five other Contemporary Jewelry Design Group designers. Vicente and his husband (that’s right, his HUSBAND! THANK YOU, SCOTUS!!) Michael really came through for me (along with the AWESOME, PATIENT, and PROFESSIONAL Andrea Hill) when it came to getting my logo in order for the banners that were to grace the room at the Power of Blogging panel. There are no two finer humans on this planet and I absolutely LOVED them the second I met them (that’s for you, Vicente!). Also showing at Couture for the first time were the RAD women of Buddha Mama, whom I met in NY in January after an introduction by Michelle Orman, and who have been super warm to me since.

One of the best feelings I’ve experienced in this industry is when I meet people who are genuinely their own people; those who don’t follow a crowd, or a clique, or a trend. I’m an acquired taste, and I know that about myself, so I appreciate it when people like (or, even dislike) me based on their own experiences with me. I welcome everyone to judge me by determining in their mind how they think I’ve interacted with them, and I promise those people in return that I will treat them how I feel they’ve treated me. In this regard I can honestly say that there are several COUTURE vendors who have welcomed me and accepted me with open arms. People like Zoe Chicco, and Victor Veylan, and Todd Reed, and Paula Crevoshay, and Jennifer Dawes, and Julie Romanenko, and the gals at Jane Taylor, and Erica Courtney, and the folks at Omi Prive, and Jade Trau, and Margery Hirschey and… well, the list goes on. Thanks, you guys. Thanks for making me feel welcomed at Couture, and being interested in what I’m doing on this blog in terms of its honesty and sincerity. It means a lot. A whole lot more than you could ever imagine.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, shall we? It’s time to discuss, The Panel….

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DAY ONE, “THE POWER OF BLOGGING” PANEL, JCK TALKS

Picture taken from @idazzle's Instagram account

Picture taken from @idazzle’s Instagram account

It was my absolute honor to be included in a blogger group containing Monica Stephenson (Idazzle.com), Danielle Miele (GemGossip.com), and Katerina Perez (KaterinaPerez.com). JCK could not have picked four more diverse and different bloggers than we four, and I felt honored to sit alongside the three of them on our “Power of Blogging” panel, moderated by Diane Warga-Arias, who was in charge of running JCK’s education programs.

My boss, Myriam, has given me an unbelievable amount of support as it pertains to my blog. She knows that I don’t make money from it and that I do it as a hobby in my spare time, but still, I was nervous to ask her if I could leave for HOURS so that I could do this *thing* at the other end of the strip that would pull me away from my paying job. But Myriam is nothing short of amazing… she welcomed the opportunity and wished me only the best of luck and for that, I cannot thank her enough. It really is a privilege to work for this woman.

When I showed up at Mandalay Bay, I found Monica and Roger Dery going over some things for their upcoming African excursion. Roger explained that he’d be at the panel, so naturally, I handed him an “I read Adornmentality because fun” pin that I had made for the event. Oh, I’m sorry, do you not know about those yet? Well, you will soon enough.

When I finally got to the room that the panel would be in (after walking for what felt like a year and a half) I met up with Danielle, Katerina, and Diane’s assistant, who was prepping us on how everything was going to go, and how she would tell us how much time we had left to speak during our presentations. After Monica showed up and the four of us were hooked up to our microphones (hello? Is this thing on??) I informed the girls that I had a bag that contained several mini bottles of scotch and asked if any one of them wanted to do a quick shot with me to calm their nerves…

Monica: “I probably shouldn’t.”

Katerina: “I don’t drink.”

Danielle: “I’m in.”

Me: “(Glug, glug, glug.)”

My darling, talented friend Erika and me. Photo credit: Erika Winters and Peter Walberg.

My darling, talented friend Erika and me. Photo credit: Erika Winters and Peter Walberg.

OH MY GAWD THE ROOM IS STARTING TO FILL UP. And by “fill up” I mean my friend Jay Mednikow is here. Thank heavens. That means that there’s one for my team so even if I f*ck up royally, I can count on Jay to give me applause. I hope. But frankly, it didn’t stop there…

So many of my pals, colleagues, and readers came out to support the blogging community. Andrea Hanson, Amanda Gizzi, Helena Krodel, Marylouise Lugosch, Rebecca Moskal, Jennifer Heebner, Erika Winters (as well as her husband, Peter), Amy Rosevare, Robyn Hawk, and Peggy Jo Donahue just to name a few. Oh, and our fellow #VegasGem Cheryl Kremkow LITERALLY got off of a plane and came right to the panel! Now’s THAT’S some SUPPORT! When the four of us were finally asked to step onto the stage after a short introduction by the lovely Mark Smelzer, we looked out at the crowd and were pretty amazed. It was standing room only, and that, my friends, was a damn good feeling. Nerve-wracking, but good. And the feeling only got better.

Diane started with an introduction and spoke about the importance of blogging as it pertains to our industry. Once she introduced the first blogger, however, the room became immersed in hearing our stories. Monica was the primary speaker, followed by yours truly, and then came Danielle, with Katerina being the last of the four of us.

The beginnings of a prop - I think I nailed it, save the AGS 1 cut grade.

The beginnings of a prop – I think I nailed it, save the AGS 1 cut grade.

When people have asked me how the panel went, I’ve answered the same way each and every time: “I feel like the four of us spoke in a manner that was reflective of how we write our blogs. Monica spoke about how she writes with stats and facts backing her up, in the diplomatic fashion and Zen-like vibe that Monica is known for. Danielle spoke largely of her love of jewelry and yet still managed to make the crowd laugh with a story about how she was no longer with the guy who helped give her the idea to start blogging in the first place. Katerina spoke of the world of high jewellery, and why details and professional imagery are so important when she blogs. And I, of course, gave a batshit crazy presentation that started with a prop and ended with me throwing mini bottles of single-malt scotch out to members of the audience.” I mean, could all four of those have gone more perfectly? I think not. I think not.

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I believe, in this picture, I’m thanking my Uncle Steve for attending. Thank you to Matthew Perosi for the photo.

When it was time for me to speak, I stood up, grabbed the diamond-plot-shaped-prop I created (out of foam board and electrical tape… because, you know, I’m a mom…) and put a bag of buttons and bottles on the podium. The ONLY thing I had practiced for my entire presentation was my opening line. I decided I would wing everything else as I didn’t want to have to look down at notes or read from a card. I stood, taking center stage in a red dress and, as Danielle described it… hair that was pageant worthy, and introduced myself to the roughly 150 people who had taken the time to come see us.

“Hi guys! I’m Barbara Palumbo, and I’m the blogger that Rob Bates warned you about.”

From the @rachelbostonjewellery Instagram account. Loved her caption on this!

From the @rachelbostonjewellery Instagram account. Loved her caption on this!

This, thankfully, made this audience laugh, whether they knew what I was referencing or not. However, I continued by telling the crowd the backstory of that opening line…

“If you attended the AGS conclave you know that Rob Bates, while speaking of the president’s party during his monologue, told the crowd that it was New Orleans and that they could get crazy and wear masks and have fun. Then he said, ‘Just don’t do anything that will land you in Barbara Palumbo’s blog’ and he was right, because I’m telling you right now: If you’re out tonight and you see me somewhere at some bar, I suggest you start your conversation like this, ‘Hey! Barbara! Off the record…’ because if you don’t, whatever you say is landing in my blog, okay?”

I then went on to explain how I started blogging in the first place and that I had formerly written pieces for BlogHer.com and had been offered full-time paid writing gigs at other popular blogging sites but had turned those offers down because, “who needs money?”

Once the backstory was established, and through the use of six different colored papers fastened to my foam board diamond prop, I began telling the crowd about what has worked for me, with each paper containing a different word or phrase:

Honesty

Humor

Bravery

Humility

Diplomacy

The Element of Surprise

From the Instagram account of jewelry designer Geoffrey Scott. He calls me the "loud and funny one"

From the Instagram account of jewelry designer Geoffrey Scott. He calls me the “loud and funny one”

Every topic was accompanied by a short explanation as to how they’ve worked, or why, until I got to the word, “Diplomacy” which was followed by silence, since, let’s face it, has diplomacy ever really worked for me? Yeah, no. Never has. Not in my blog. Likely never will, either.

By the time I reached “The Element of Surprise” I was roughly forty seconds over my four-minute mark (thank you so much to Matthew Perosi, who sent me some fantastic pictures that he took, as well as the audio of my presentation which allowed me to see just how long I ran). So Diane, thinking I was finished, started her wrap-up. But I, knowing that the best part was yet to come, said loudly “wait a second, I’m not done” and started throwing buttons and bottles of scotch out to the audience, who responded with an eruption of laughter, hoots, and applause. I then thanked the crowd, bowed, and took my seat, feeling satisfied and spent.

After everyone spoke and the Q&A from the audience was over, we were able to do a quick meet and greet in front of our banners before being ushered out into the hallway to continue answering questions anyone may have had. This was a defining moment of the entire experience, I felt, because we were all now able to breathe, relax, and meet some of the faces who had been merely likes, clicks, shares, or tweets before this very moment. It’s humbling to hear someone you have never met say to you “I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I just wish you would post more” or “you crack me the hell up” or even “wow, you really are as tall as you say you are.” It’s humbling, for sure, but man, it’s super effing rad, too.

Another big thank you to Matthew Perosi for capturing this picture of the five women involved in the panel. Left to right, Diane, Monica, Me, Danielle, and Katerina

Another big thank you to Matthew Perosi for capturing this picture of the five women involved in the panel. Left to right, Diane, Monica, Me, Danielle, and Katerina

So, a BIG thank you to JCK for having me as well as an apology to them for running a little over my four minutes. A HUGE merci to those who came out to hear us and to the folks who introduced themselves; it was my pleasure to share a piece of myself with you in person. And lastly, to my fellow bloggesses – my Bloggerati, if you will – you guys were fantastic and I hope we get to take this show on the road someday.

The next series of posts will include stories from the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s “Diamonds in the Sky” gala as well as this year’s “Rocks the Beach” experience (spoiler alert: I walk on water).

Until…

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#jewelrypeople, Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART TWO (b): The Password is “Miami”

Him: (Flustered) “You can’t wear that shirt.”

Me: “WHAT?? Why not? I’m not on the show floor. Myriam said I could even wear midriffs as long as it wasn’t during show hours.”

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Matty and me. I wore the shirt.

Him: (Looking down at my… um… *shirt*) “You just… (now, blushing) you can’t wear that.”

Me: “Hey, after two kids, I’m proud of these suckers (no pun intended). I’m wearing it.”

The above conversation was between my co-worker, Chris, and me, right before we stepped out for the evening on the first night we arrived in Vegas. Let me give you a little back story on him and us, though…

Chris is my twenty-four-year-old colleague, friend, accessory, and sometimes confidant. Over the last year we’ve worked together, we’ve developed a fantastic relationship. Mind you, I’m eighteen years his senior, so it’s sometimes like an “older aunt to younger step-nephew” relationship, but he’s a funny guy and he’s new to the industry, so he’s not jaded like so many seasoned salesmen I know.

I can pretty much guarantee that on any given night I’m going to get a text from Chris with a picture of him at the pool, or him on a golf course, or him with a hot woman, or him saying “I just made a $50,000 sale!” or him exclaiming “NEW YORK IN FIVE WEEKS, BABBBBYYYYYYYY…. YEAHHHHHHH!” Never once am I annoyed, or disappointed, or bothered. I like Chris in my life. He keeps me young, but if I’m being completely honest, he’s not the only one of his kind who does.

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Christopher and I headed to Parasol Up to grab a drink before I was to head out for a “gals only” dinner at Giada De Laurentiis’ new restaurant at the Cromwell. A quick visit to Parasol Down to check out the scenery led to a run-in with Neiman Marcus’ Larry Pelzel, as well as my personal faves, the beautiful and personable Lita and Mike Asscher.

“You really do know everybody,” Chris said to me, and as I turned and winked at him I said… “My love, you have *no* idea…”

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Handsome Sam. Where’s your wallet?

As we hopped the escalator to head back up, we saw the frighteningly gorgeous Sam Jansen (it’s true; I’m actually afraid of him, he’s so damned good looking) while also running into beautiful Rebecca Boyajian, who coincidentally, was part of the group of women I’d be joining for dinner. The four of us grabbed a spot at the bar and ordered our drinks – two Proseccos for the ladies, and two whatevers for the gentlemen (I don’t really pay attention when men speak. Sorry. It’s the “manly” side of me.) What I did realize, however, was that the bartender thought we were a bunch of dipshit millennials (clearly the guy didn’t spot my grays) and tried charging us SEVENTY DOLLARS for the Proseccos. Dude… this is when I gained a whole new respect for Chris Matty. Before I could open my mouth, Chris went BATSHIT on the asshole man for clearly trying to take advantage of us, so as I went to take my first sip of bubbly, the bartender literally took the glass out of my mouth.

Good times.

Once the four of us finished our spirits (and Sam realized he had misplaced his wallet… OOPS!) Rebecca and I headed off in a cab to join our WJA sisters for dinner.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by our host, Brandee, and took our place at a fittingly round table with a fabulous view of the Strip. Brandee almost immediately turned to me and said: “You realize you’re not allowed to blog about any of the conversations that happen here tonight, right?” To which I replied, “I can only make that promise if you and everyone here says that whatever they say is ‘off the record.’”

Brandee (without skipping a beat): “Off the record.”

Des: “Off the record.”

Fran: “Off the record.”

Monica: “Off the record.”

Rebecca: “Off the record.”

Kristie: “Off the record.”

Me: (In my mind) “Y’all suuuuuuuuuck so badly.”

So, that’s pretty much all I can share about the dinner. Can you believe how stupid I am? I gave them the out and they took it and I can’t share a damn thing. I hate me.

OH! I will say this, though, since it’s super important to the rest of the story. As the dinner was ending, Brandee went ahead and checked her phone and said, “Okay, so, we’re going to a speakeasy now, is that cool with everybody?”

For me, she may as well have said, “Hey, I’ve got these five trash bags filled with hundred dollar bills, chocolate, and naked pictures of Paul Rudd that I don’t know what to do with. Can you help me by taking some of them?”

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The Speakeasy.

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Brunettes for days. Photo courtesy of Jen Cullen Williams.

As we waited for taxis to arrive, I began a texting frenzy to a couple of my twenty-something male cohorts to try to get them to meet up with us there.

“Okay, so, a bunch of my middle-aged smokin’ hot friends and I are headed to a burlesque venue called ‘1923’ at the back of Mandalay Bay. It would be nice if we had some eye candy for a change.”

“No, we’re not going to Eye Candy.”

“Yes, I know that’s also at Mandalay Bay.”

“Christ, do you want to go or not?”

“Okay, it’s called ‘1923’ and when you get there, the password is ‘Miami.’”

“Yes, you need a password.”

“Yes, I’m dead serious.”

“Yes, I know you love Vegas.”

“It’s burlesque, not a strip club.”

“You really need to get out more, man.”

And so it was that as our group walked up to the bar and gave the doorman our password, a bookshelf became a hidden passageway into a dimly-lit room with go-go dancers and hipster bartenders. There were people everywhere – three deep at the bar, yet whose was the scruffily-bearded, English face I saw first in the crowd?

“BABS IS HERE!”

Voila. Instant eye candy. Thank you, oh, thank you, you wonderful speakeasy gods.

What… a… CROWD! The jewelry industry’s best and brightest apparently all got the memo – or at least, got the password. Amanda Gizzi, and Jen Cullen Williams, and MY FRIENDS FROM HALE’S and Danny Chandler, too! Lecil and the Henderson crew were there, as was Ron Saltiel, and, no surprise, Raymond Hak. There were beautiful performers (that brunette?! Wowsa.) and the drinks were free as long as you tipped your servers. I felt like I had died and gone to single-malt-scotch heaven, down to when my eyes caught Lucking and Chris Matty doing the bump for a small audience of women.

I FREAKING love this job.

After a couple of brown liquors and an inappropriate offer or two from a handful of overly excited patrons, I decided it was time to get my arse in a car and head back up the Strip to the Wynn. I slipped out of the side door and headed for an exit, walking past the Eye Candy bar and hesitating for a split second on whether or not I should peek in… “Naaaaah. Nothing could make this night any better” I thought, so off I went into the neon madness, with not much more than the next day’s events on my mind.

Tune in to Part THREE to check out how the opening day of the COUTURE show went and what really went on at the “Power of Blogging” panel! (Spoiler alert: no one was maimed but blood was definitely spilled.)

 

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Uncategorized

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART TWO (a): Three Male Escorts and a Really Big… Gun.

After handing off my broken luggage to the lovely bellman at the Wynn, Jorge then took me across town to the Mandalay Bay convention center.

I had several hours to kill before I needed to be on the COUTURE show floor for setup, and decided it would be better to work on getting information for the blog I write (and don’t get paid for) than to go to the pool and relax because, well, in the eyes of the medical world I’m what they would technically call, “stupid.”

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And away… we… go!

Walking the tan carpeting for what would be the second to last time that week was surreal for me. JCK is where a lot of my friends are, and they are definitely a huge reason I would miss showing there, but, you know… COUTURE has… well… it has Gannon, so… ‘nuff said, amiright, girls?

I headed straight for the press room (thank you, JCK, for having an actual press room and not a press stage [I’m glaring at you, Joshua] so that the members of the press can adjust their wedgies when needed) and picked up my press badge. Little did I realize, however, that the badge given to me was for the JCK show, and not for LUXURY, which was the invite-only show taking place on the day that I arrived. This little morsel of information will come in handy later on in the post, so back burner that shit, ya dig?

Once badged-up, I scoured the room for familiar faces, and sure as hell, the face I saw first was the exact same one I saw first last year… fellow blogger, Robyn Hawk. I mentioned in my original post from last year’s TFtS series that Robyn was the gal who snapped a great picture of me, clad in badges, and it was so awesome seeing her again. I was less giddy this time around since last year I was a pressroom virgin and practically peed myself when I saw the swag bags. But this year I knew better…

I wore a diaper.

After catching up with Robyn and the TREMENDOUSLY WONDERFUL AND UNDERSTANDING AND DIPLOMATIC AND FREAKING AWESOME AND RAD Rebecca Moskal, it was time to go say hello to some of my homies, so I walked toward Elite Enclave where I knew I’d find LUXE Intelligence.

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Wearing Daria DeKoning’s Druzy Necklace in 18K Gold

WOW. Just, wow. What a difference a year makes.

Andrea Hansen and the LUXE team have assembled an incredible amount of talented designers to date. I mean, Payal Shah alone lights up even the darkest of spaces, and yet there was so much brightness and such a multitude of stars coming from each and every direction of their salon. Let’s put it this way… I COVET the designs of Kerri Halpern and her Madstone Jewelry collection, so it was awesome seeing her in person, and I’m a great big fan of Daria DeKoning’s work, as well. (And don’t you get me started on those ROYAL ASSCHERS!) Naturally, though, I had to pay homage to two women I’ve known since my days at LAGOS: Anne King Lagos and Toni Leslie… aka REALM jewelry. Philly is as Philly does, yo, and if we don’t have each other’s backs, ain’t nobody gonna have our backs.

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Rings by REALM. Feeling goddess-like.

It was fabulous seeing all of the wonderful designers in that salon, as well as Ms. Hansen and Helena Krodel, but it was time to walk the aisles of the LUXURY show itself, so after a brief conversation with my friend and colleague, Jay Mednikow, I scooted toward the Rio Tinto booth to find the one and only Brandee Dallow.

Every time I see her I want to sing her namesake song. I mean, she must get that shit all the time but I’m filled with musicality and GOSH DARNIT, I WANNA LET IT OUT. Before I could start embarrassing myself, however, Brandee said, “Come here… I’ve got to show you this” and took me over to what I assumed could only be their Oculus Rift virtual mine tour. “You want in? Want to try it?” she said, and while every ounce of my being was shouting from inside of me… “Yes, dork, you know you want to try it. You rode the Great American Scream Machine eight times in a row at Six Flags without vomiting, so clearly, you want to try this thing” I looked at my watch and realized it wouldn’t be long before I’d turn back into a cinder-covered servant and my horses would soon become mice. “B, I want to so badly, but I really need to get going.” Which is when Brandee whipped out her IPhone and a pair of what looked like welder’s glasses, and said to me, “Then here… at least try this…

Technology blows my mind, man. I mean, not in a “how in the hell do people watch the Kardashians?” kind of way, but more in like an “I can’t believe that dude carved Lincoln’s portrait out of a single grain of salt” type of way. Rio Tinto has created an Oculus Rift app that will allow the viewer, using special glasses and their own smartphone, to virtually visit their mine and see what is going on in 3D.

I don’t know about you, but my head just exploded while typing that.

Before I left RT, however, Brandee said to me, “You’re in for tonight, right? I asked Monica to join us, too. Giada’s new place. See you at 8?” To which I replied… “Oh yeah, I’m there.”

With that, I knew I just had one more stop to make before I left; one more very important person to see…

You’re looking smart in your glasses, Mr. Lucking.”

BABS! What are you doing here?!?”

You see, even though I made a point (or several) in last year’s posts about just how dreamy and desirable “that kid from Ritani” was, he’s actually a pretty rad dude who I’ve come to know fairly well. We chatted briefly about work and plans before I had to head out, but I knew it would only be a matter of time before Thor would be in my presence again.

While walking toward the exit, though, I suddenly found myself surrounded by three armed security guards, and not in a “let’s replay a scene from my bachelorette party” way, either.

“Miss, you don’t have proper access to this part of the convention” the small one said. I guess they let the small ones do the talking so that the bigger ones can play the “bad cop” roles.

Me: “Really? I think I do. I just picked this badge up. It’s a press badge. That gives me access, yes?”

Small cop: “Only if you’re here for the JCK show. Your badge says ‘JCK.’ This is ‘LUXURY.’ You need a LUXURY badge or else you can’t be here.”

Me: “Oh. Okay, that’s cool. I’ll just head back to the press room and grab a Luxury badge. No biggie.”

Tiny cop: “We can’t let you go unescorted. We’ll have to go with you.”

Me: “(Laughing) Are you serious? You’re giving me an armed escort to the press room?”

Itsy bitsy cop: “We have to if you don’t have the proper access to be here.”

Me: “This is *so* going in my blog.”

Microscopic cop: (((Silence while walking behind me with his AK-47 or whatever the hell he was carrying)))

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**Adored**

My escorts (escorts in Vegas… imagine that) accompanied me back to the press lounge in time for me to make out with celebrity stylist Michael O’Connor (you had to be there) and share a moment with my BLOGGERATTI – aka – Monica Stephenson, Katerina Perez, and Danielle Miele. I cannot thank the three of these women enough for the positive feedback and support they gave me leading up to our “Power of Blogging” panel. Not sure I could have done it without them, and I’m dead serious when I say that.

Once I arrived back at the Wynn I picked up my “PROPER ACCESS” badge for the COUTURE show and headed off to meet my Gumuchian crew. After a quick conversation with the Adventurine creators, I walked through the doors of the Lafitte ballroom and nearly ran right into Swoonon… I mean, Gannon… who appeared a little frazzled and not quite as Gannonish as I’m used to seeing him. “Hey. Just to let you know, the panels haven’t arrived yet with the illustrations. Just letting you know.”

Nice to see you too, GB.

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5425 had its advantages

But, you know what? This is the GUMUCH crew, man. No panels? NO WORRIES. We don’t sweat it. We’re excited to be here – Chris, Myriam, Jodi, Tat, and I. We got that booth set up in a matter of minutes, panels or not. And when all was said and done, I headed up to my room on the 54th floor, drew back the curtains, took a deep breath, and took in all of it, all while sipping on a glass of Macallan 12 that another not-so-secret admirer had sent to my room.

This has all been so nice so far” I thought to myself. “But, I’m thinking I need a little girl time. And maybe just a little naughtiness.

And that’s exactly what I was in for.

To be continued…

 

*******

 

(And if my little girlfriend is reading this from her bed, and you know who you are, I’m thinking of you and hope this brought you some laughter… hugs and kisses…)

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#jewelrypeople, Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART ONE: “She Came In Like a Wrecking Ball”

The time has come, y’all…

I toyed around with several different titles for the first post in this year’s “TFtS” series, and thought I had narrowed it down to the following:

“Tales from the Strip, 2015: Speakeasies, Speeches, and Everything In Between”

“Tales from the Strip, 2015: How to Throw Scotch and Sharp Objects At Innocent People”

“Tales from the Strip, 2015: The Devil Wears Whitestrips”

Then, my friend Jen Cullen Williams, without realizing it, gave me the perfect title, because goddammit, it’s true… “She Came In Like a Wrecking Ball”… and of course, she was referring to me.

For those who may not know, I’m a bit of a mess. Well, not always… I mean, even with my crappy upbringing on the streets of inner-city Philly, and my newfound reputation as an industry “troublemaker” and “controversial blogger” (I mean, really???), I can promise you that I likely still have better table manners and more decorum than even the darlingest of industry darlings out there. But, there is the fact that when I walk into a room, everyone is aware of it – usually because I’ve knocked over a plant with a loud crash – which is precisely where Jen’s “Wrecking Ball” reference comes from.

My Vegas experience started long before I ever stepped foot on that Delta jetliner heading west. I spent weeks scheduling appointments with my Gumuchian customers as well as preparing a presentation for the JCK Talks blogger panel I was asked to take part in. But I was excited for all of it – every bit. This was to be my first time ever as a COUTURE exhibitor, as well as my first experience taking part on a panel during Jewelry Week. I was stoked, and even though I was informed that “several people questioned” my place on the blogger panel prior to it ever occurring, I was confident, prepared, and determined to make the people in attendance remember who Adornmentality was (if they didn’t already know) and, for all the right reasons. Indeed, my friends… I Came In Like a Wrecking Ball… and I’m not ashamed to admit it. More on how the panel went will be written about in an upcoming tale.

Vegas Shoes

#VegasShoes, or, as I call it, the reason my luggage broke.

For now, let’s take this experience all the way back to the beginning, shall we? And by beginning, I mean the shoes. If you’re a reader, friend, or fan, you know that I’m referencing the #VegasShoes hashtag that had everyone from Peggy Jo Donahue (and her black Reebok sneakers) to John Carter (and his three pairs of man shoes) instagramming what type of footwear (and how many of them) they’d be transporting to Sin City. As for me, I went with fourteen pairs of heels and one pair of flats because I don’t intend on being able to walk without a cane past the age of forty-six. Am I an idiot? Naturally. But I’m a tall idiot with killer calves and tight buttocks and I intend on living in the present, so, whatevs.

Now, the downside to packing the left half of the shoe department from Neiman Marcus in my luggage is the cost. Meaning, I stepped up to curbside check-in, put my bag on the scale, and had to perform CPR on the Skycap because he had heart failure after laughing so hard. Don’t worry, he was totally hot and it was worth it. I mean, don’t worry, he survived after multiple attempts. (Did I actually type that first part? I meant to think it.) Thankfully, I’m a professional packer, so I pack an extra bag in my bag, allowing me to remove the *several* extra pounds and to walk away, fee and carry-on bag free. GoooooooOOOoooooOOOOo Medallion Miles!

Corn Porn

Corn Porn? WTF, Hartsfield-Jackson?

At the gate, just past the phallic-looking and clearly excited corn sculpture, I ran into my wonderful friend Rachel Jackson from The Knot. Rach helped me with a quote for that day’s Fifty Women of Jewelry pick, which just happened to be our colleague, the uber-talented Erica Courtney. Rach is my homegirl. We’re about the same age (I’m older [weeping on my keys] by a few years) but we’re both of Italian descent and totally get one another when it comes to how we deal with morons people and why we don’t put up with the bullshit that this industry can sometimes dish out. Rach had a first-class ticket (because, have you met her? I mean, obvs) and I, naturally, was seated back in crap class. But because she’s Rach, and because she’s the raddest of rads, she smuggled food to me. I mean, we’re Italian. Smuggling food is a national pastime. Ever been to an Italian baby shower? Yeah, you should totally hire security to check our EXTREMELY OVERSIZED handbags at those things… in them there are definitely about two dozen mini cannoli and a pair of fancy salt and pepper shakers that we swiped from the restaurant. We Italians stick together, too. (TAKE NOTE OF THAT, READERS. THERE ARE LOTS OF US.) (But please don’t take that as threatening.) (Not true… I have to say that for legal reasons, but you should definitely take it as threatening.) (P.S. I’m in the mafia.) (P.P.S. That’s not true. Or is it?) Where in the f*ck am I going with this story? OH! THE PLANE, BOSS! THE PLANE!

After an uneventful flight and getting my bags in a timely manner, I walked outside of McCrappen McCarran airport and through the cigarette-smoke-filled haze to the taxi stand line, which, without exaggeration, already had about four or five trillion people in it (I counted). As I moved around the cattle chute with my seventy-pound bag of shoes in tow, I saw a plethora of familiar faces that I was sure I’d likely see again at some point, yet as I nevertheless went to say hello to one of them in particular, I noticed that my bag suddenly became much, much, MUCH lighter.

I was afraid to turn around as I was sure that whatever had just occurred was going to cost me even more money than I had already spent on this trip that hadn’t technically begun yet. And, naturally, I was correct. The weight of the bag – the BRAND NEW Samsonite Bag, mind you – had caused the body of it to pull away from its handle, smashing it to the ground while making the retractable handle itself snap off, sending the springs flying into Las Vegas oblivion. “She came in like a wrrrrrrecking baaaaaall… “

And all I could think was, “for the love of big baby Jesus, please… please don’t tell me that the week is starting off this way…”

But it did, and frankly, that’s cool, because that was probably the worst thing that happened all week.

because fun

People love me so much it hurts, just ask Roger Dery who bled because of this pin I gave to him.

The cab ride to the Wynn was amazing. Whoa, wait… HAVE YOU EVER HEARD THAT SENTENCE UTTERED IN YOUR LIFE? The cab ride was amazing, Barbara?? Seriously? What the hell could make a cab ride amazing? It’s a CAB RIDE! The driver would have to have had flying squirrels in batman suits jump out of the glove compartment and give me a back massage and pedicure in order for me to describe it that way, right? I mean, you know me, and I don’t just give “amazing” away for anything. It has to be truly special. But, in reality, it really was. My driver’s name was Jorge, and he was so kind and empathetic and left me with such a good feeling about how the rest of the week was going to go. Jorge had lived in Vegas for over twenty years after moving there from Mexico City. He shared these detailed stories with me about how the city is changing every day and about how this week was going to be “my week”… and that the broken luggage would be the worst part. He said, “Vegas is your best friend, Miss. I promise you. It’s going to be there for you this week. This is a little bump. You’re going to have the week of your life. Trust Jorge. I am never wrong. I know my Vegas. You’re going to shine this week. Look at you. You’re shining now, Miss. You’re as bright as the strip at night. You’re a diamond. Trust Jorge. A diamond.”

While what Jorge said was likely a ploy to get a good tip (and he got one), I felt it in my bones. The man called me a diamond, for Pietro’s sake. He had no idea what business I was in. It was a sign! This was going to be the best Vegas week yet, from a professional and personal standpoint, and I could feel that he would be spot on. If you’re out there, Jorge, and you’re reading this, yo soy un diamante! Estás en lo correcto, Jorge! YO SOY UN DIAMANTE!

I’ll end this first tale there as it will serve as a good start to how the rest of the tales will go.

Tune in to the next installment to read about the first night in Vegas, which may or may not feature a bunch of middle-aged women, kissing Michael O’Connor and practically getting him pregnant, a speakeasy, a burlesque show, and “that kid from Ritani…”

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What's On the Brain

“What’s On the Brain?” May 2015 Edition: (More) Jewelry Fo Yo Momma

Oh, heyyyyyyyyy! Didja miss me? I’ve been busy, y’all! There’ve been conclaves to attend, and interviews to give, and podcasts to take part in, and trade media to piss off. Oh, that’s right, and there’s a little show called COUTURE coming up, so, you know, it’s practically a full-time gig trying to get ready for that, plus, there’s… um… this thing called MOTHERHOOD (which, by the way, is alcohol inducing) that’s kind of important, so, unfortunately the blog posts have had to take a back burner…

UNTIL NOW!

Remember what happened this time last year? You don’t? I don’t either because I was likely drunk but according to my WordPress stats, last year, right about this time, I wrote a post about what to get your moms on Mother’s Day, and guess what? YOU REALLY LIKED IT. I mean, it was one of my most popular posts in 2014, so I figured, what the hell? Why not give the public what they want? And when I realized that video of a shirtless Bradley Cooper eating ice cream in super slow motion was no longer available on YouTube, I decided to write a follow-up Mother’s Day gift guide instead. Read on, my minions. READ ON AND THANK ME IN THE MORNING.

Corporate Mom

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHA

momma1 - mikimoto pearls(Eh-hem [clears throat] ahem) Sorry. I had a brief moment there where I actually thought that mothers were allowed to hold executive positions. Aren’t I so cute and naïve? Actually, I’m messing with you, and if you’ve been following along to my #FiftyWomenofJewelry hashtag on social media channels everywhere, you’d have understood the reference and met it, likely, with an eye roll. ANYWHO, let’s get down to business, yeah? What would be a better Mother’s Day gift for the board room mom than pearls, right? I mean, pearls and power suits will win you a senate seat all day long, unless, of course, you’re someone with a brain who thinks critically, then you’re screwed. In any case, your “power mom” deserves a strand of black, South Sea pearls by Mikimoto like the ones you see pictured here. And if you can’t afford the 12,000.00 price tag because you’re a sophomore in college and had to sell your dirty underwear to the janitor in order to be able to buy yourself breakfast, just remember that you can always borrow the money from your super wealthy, powerful mother. She IS the CEO of her Fortune 500 company, after all.

Judgy McJudgerson Mom

momma1 - stfu necklace wendy brandesIf your mom spends too many hours posting scathing, anti-baby-formula rants on Similac forums, then she likely falls into this category. Still not sure if she does? Then ask yourself the following questions… “Does my mom make other moms feel guilty because their kids are in daycare instead of being homeschooled?” “Does the woman who breastfed me until I was nine remind me of that little morsel three times a week?” “Will my mother ever get over the fact that in 2011, I purchased a gallon of cow’s milk that wasn’t organic?” “Does my mom have a life?” If the answers to those questions are yes/yes/no/no, then welcome to Judgyhood, kid. Have I got a gift suggestion for you! This “STFU” necklace (and yes, it stands for exactly what you think it does) by writer-turned-jewelry designer, Wendy Brandes is the perfect thing to strangle surprise your darling mother with on her very special day.

Imma-Beat-Your-Ass-For-Throwing-Rocks-At-Cops Mom

Look, I’ve never been one to shy away from hot-button issues and this is no different. I will start this description by saying that I do not condone corporal punishment, however, having grown up in the projects of inner-city Philly, I definitely got my ass whooped by my mother once or thrice in my childhood, yet it was only when I did something stupid as shit, like, throw rocks at adults. Baltimore mother, Toya Graham, was caught on video recently teaching her teenage son some, let’s call them, “manners” via a few slaps upside the head. I’ve got to be honest here… momma1 - seaman schepps gold link braceletI saw the video, and while some in the media are calling it a travesty, I’m pretty sure his ego was more bruised than he was in the end. In any case, what I did notice was that Toya was sporting some kick-ass gold jewelry while swinging, which made me think about what her son could buy for her the next time he even thinks about rioting or looting while on camera. This classic gold link bracelet by Seaman Schepps is affordable as well as practical, yet it’s also solid enough that it won’t dent when being smashed into a face. Score!

Bestie Mom

momma1 - jen meyer piece of my heart pendantsIf you and your mom have had the same haircut since you were in the third grade and if she’s never missed an opportunity to hit the outlets with you, then face it… she’s your “bestie.” And hey, there’s not a damned thing wrong with that. These “Piece of My Heart” pave diamond pendants by celebrity jewelry designer, Jennifer Meyer, are elegant and understated, yet they show the world that you are loved by someone else just as much as you love them. So sweet. So nauseatingly yet adorably but still mostly nauseatingly sweet.

Rockin’ Six Pack Mom

momma1 - amrit jewelry body chainMoms today are NOT your mother’s mothers, I can tell you that. Not only are we moms hyper-focused on having it all, doing it all, and being it all, we’re also hyper-focused on all of that shit while still looking good naked. So if your mom (or wife, or baby momma) occasionally sports a midriff to the dismay of her offspring everywhere, think about buying her a sexy-as-hell body chain by Amrit Jewelry in Los Angeles. Now, I know you just cringed when you read the words “mom” and “sexy” in the same sentence, but you’ve got to get over it. Every single one of your college friends wants to do your mom right now, dude, I promise you. Just don’t ever walk into the laundry room if you hear strange noises while home on Spring break. Take it from someone who knows, it’s *not* the dryer.

Scotch Drinking Mom

Whaaat? Oh, COME ON! I had to throw myself a bone, here!

momma1 - jaeger lecoultre grand reverso ultra thinIf your mother drinks Scotch, she’s a badass. If she drinks it neat, she’s a super BAAAADDAAAASSS. Scotch-drinking mommas are in control; they savor the finer things in life. They know what they want and figure out a way to get it every freaking time. They don’t take “no” for an answer. They refuse to be afraid. They live for adventures and challenge the norm. But mostly, they want a new watch. Really, I swear! Scotch-drinking mothers always want a new watch. I did a report on it in college (editor’s note: that’s a lie. I never even went to college.) And because they drink good Scotch, they’re expecting you to get a good watch (see how I rhymed that? So clever.) This Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Ultra Thin has a strap that’s the same color as an eighteen-year Oban. I mean, hello?? Could you get more appropriate? It’s kismet! And I better receive it. I mean, she better. Your mom, I mean. Unless I’m your mom, in which case, you’re way too young to be reading this blog.

For those who haven’t closed your browser by now, I thank you for reading today’s Mother’s Day Gift Guide, and I welcome you to stick around, because Jewelry Week is coming up, and I’ll be doing a “Tales From the Strip” series, version 2015.

See you in VEGAS!

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Uncategorized

Podcast Virgin, No More: My Radio Interview on FourGrainer.com

Yo! If you’re a reader of this blog and a lover of the jewelry industry, then go ahead and check out my interview with Rod Worley of the “Inside the Jewelry Trade” radio show on FourGrainer.com. Rod asked some great questions and allowed me the time to answer them in my own way, which was rad of him, ’cause deity knows I could talk a three-year-old kid hyped up on grape soda and Jolly Ranchers to sleep.

Click the link in the tweet here:

And looky looky at what some of the best in the biz thought about the podcast:

If you liked what you heard after listening, feel free to come see me LIVE (as opposed to unconscious, which will likely happen later in the evening after a few hours at Eye Candy) at this year’s “JCK Talks” education sessions taking place on Thursday, May 28th in Las Vegas. I’ll be joined by other members of the “Bloggerati” (Katerina Perez, Danielle Miele, Monica Stephenson, and Diane Warga-Arias) for a seminar titled, “The Power of Blogging.” Come meet the five of us. Maybe one of us will give out chocolate.

bloggerati

 

 

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#jewelrypeople

An Italian, a Greek, and a Turk Walk Into a Blog, Part One: Yianni Melas

Recently I joked on this blog’s Facebook page that my interview with Yianni Melas (or as some fashion mags have referred to him, the “modern-day Indiana Jones”) might just shut this whole thing down, because I wasn’t sure where I’d get better material than what he gave me. And while that statement is still fairly true, I didn’t know just how true it was until I start playing the role of the “unbiased journalist” (and yes, Virginia, we still exist. That aside was meant for a select few in the room who might be reading.)

If you’re in the jewelry industry and you don’t follow Yianni at his @gemexplorer handle on Instagram, you genuinely are neglecting yourself of an education like none you’d receive on social media, anywhere. A 1988 graduate of and instructor at the Gemological Institute of America, Carlsbad and Santa Monica, and former gemstone consultant to some guy named David Yurman (never heard of him) and some company called Swarovski, (who???) Yianni Melas has not only accomplished what most of us only dream about in his 52 years on this earth, but he has done it in very Frank Sinatra fashion… his way, and unapologetically. This man isn’t afraid to tell his truth, in his voice, no matter who he pisses off, and while I have always been a fan of diplomacy (Did I say always? I meant, sometimes. Rarely. Okay, it’s a skill I need to work on) there is something refreshing about his lack of diplomatic filter. “Refreshing” doesn’t equal “appropriate” in every situation, but then again, who am I to say what’s appropriate and what isn’t? After all, I’m the blogger who only discovered who Yianni Melas was when I saw that he followed me on social media and that his profile picture was of him, shirtless, with a shitload of chest hair. Never being one to turn away from a hairy guy pic (hey, we all have our kinky turn-ons. I don’t judge) I followed Yianni back, changing my views on mining, gemstones, and Greek/Texan men forever.

So without further hesitation, here is the Adornmentality interview with the man, the myth, the legend, and the soon-to-be Instagram megastar… GEM EXPLORER, YIANNI MELAS:

BP: Okay Yianni, first thing’s first… did you ever find Napoleon’s sword in your back yard? (Editor’s note: Google it.)

YM: No. The bomb apparently incinerated the treasure including the gems. Years later, as a Fireman-EMT, I realized that diamonds that everyone says are forever are not really forever. In a house fire the diamonds will burn rather nicely since they are indeed over-glorified compressed coal. Funny enough the rubies and sapphires will survive since they have a higher melting temperature. 

As for the sword, I may not have found it but I did find lots of other ancient treasures deeper, because as it turns out, our house was built on an Ancient Greek cemetery. I guess I began my career as a young grave robber.

BP: Not everyone can get away with wearing suspenders and no shirt. How did your distinct style come about and when should we expect your line of gem miners clothing on the market?

YM: Lol!!! They were not suspenders in the style of suits but rather functioned as a military knife holder/sheath. I found out that it was the most convenient place that allowed me fast use. And the suspender was military issue. I need to recall which army! I’m happy you chose to ask me about suspender vs the skull carving made from a guy’s femur (too late for new question!)

Now, about my distinct style of clothing: Before it was fashionable to be an “explorer survival guy” on television, I was wearing my vests. They were simply convenient. I have a collection of them but do wear special ones over and over just because I’m a creature of habit and a bit superstitious. But I learned early to wear long sleeves and special clothing when deep in the bush. I recall using my machete to clear very heavy jungle growth and hundreds of spiders and insects falling on me from the top because of the chopping. Vests in those areas are not recommended as they provide too many places for creatures to crawl into. In Vietnam, I also realized that after taking my shirt off because of the heat, the local poison ivy took its toll on me. My body looked like the Michelin tire guy after all the swelling. I now wear long sleeves when exploring through those types of areas. Since time is limited I won’t discuss the killer bees of Africa that attacked me in Kenya, the Butsi worms of Zambia, the leaches of Vietnam or the hundreds of ticks I had to pull from my groin area in Tanzanian border. Oh, yes, my life is so “fashionable” and the most important thing is designing fashion clothes for the *Jungle Man* out there and making your best dressed list, LOL! Moving on to the latest accessory in my collection. It’s a military multi-compartment thigh bag which allows me to carry extra equipment!

I think the vest, lion claw, skull, dog tags, neck scarf, and thigh bag have become my “@Gemexplorer” image, but I never did it on purpose. I’m not an imitator or actor pretending to be Indiana Jones. Or a city boy who a few times a year plays the part of “explorer.” This is what I’ve been doing all my life. I’m not arrogant in saying so because I despise arrogance. But I am humbly confident. This is what I do and this is what people expect from me.

Funny story, in a recent conference in NYC where I was the guest speaker for Eddie LeVian, I was asked to wear my jungle outfits for the talk to the Sterling Jewelers crowd. On the last day I decided to wear my Sartoriali Pal Zileri suit. I was thinking everyone would be proud to see me cleaned up. Everyone was indeed shocked but then asked me to go back to wearing the jungle outfit so that they could take pictures with me.

Also, a thing about weapons: I’m designing a high tech knife based on old Spartan design as well as a Masai spear. Most knives are useless against lions and hyenas. Weapons are important to me as they are part of my job.  I was taught to be a butcher at our farm when I was young so I got used to the whole blood thing at an early age. And I love my custom pepper spray that I had custom filled into a fire extinguisher. That thing can stop an army including killing me if the wind blowing my way!

BP: You’re on a roll, Yianni. Next question… which of the gemstones are your favorite to mine and why?

YM: I think gemstones are like beautiful women, or, men if that’s your preference. Each stone has its beauty and rather than love just one I prefer to see the beauty in each of them. Even stones not so perfect. Truth is, I like imperfect stones. After working for Helmut Swarovski for fourteen years and seeing the perfection of pure glass I realized the beauty of imperfection in natural gems. I’m big into supporting artisanal miners, so in all my jewelry I will not just have clean, perfect stones but also beautifully imperfect ones as produced by nature.

Years ago in New York I visited this luxury chandelier store of the rich and famous. Some chandeliers were over $180,000 each. Turns out there were several of them hanging from the ceiling and some looked kitschy and cheap. Those were the ones that had 100% leaded Swarovski crystals (glass) hanging from them. The most popular chandelier was the one that contained half flawless Swarovski crystals and half natural quartz crystals with lots of inclusions. The mix between the two found to be the most attractive to the eye. The fire from the Swarovski leaded glass and the natural feeling one got from the included quartz created a harmonious design. That had a huge effect on me.

Another reason I cannot choose my favorite gem is because I associate the gemstones I find with the country I visited. Because each country has its own unique beauty I can’t just choose one stone. Brazil, Burma, and Zimbabwe, for example, are all unique in their own way and so are their gems. But if I had to choose just a few they would be Burmese Jade, Burmese Red Spinel and a new stone I just discovered which is sort of bluish-green Chrysoprase. I’ve given it a name but it’s still secret. But if you ask me next year what my favorite gem is, chances are I will give you different stones.

BP: How many heads of state have you met and mingled with on your journeys and have any of them shared one too many glasses of Ouzo with you?

yianni grid 2YM: I’ve met enough to realize I don’t like most of them. The only person I ever looked up to and supported for several years was Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. This was a woman under house arrest for a big part of her life. To me, she was the true female version of Nelson Mandela in Asia. I used to secretly work with her husband, Dr. Michael Aris, to fight the junta there and support her. To this day, I would die for her. She was the most powerful person I ever met in all of my travels.  When I met her, my knees bent from her aura. I think Hillary Clinton felt same. For seven years I risked my life to bring pro-democracy books printed in Bangkok to Burma through the jungles of Thailand, all undercover in order to expose the companies doing business in Burma so the universities could boycott them. This was done under the cover of a ruby factory that employed 92 single mothers providing for their families. Looking back, it was a risky thing to do, but I would do it again if I had to. I stopped when her husband died of Prostate cancer. Sad love story those two.

We didn’t share ouzo but we did eat a Burmese specialty of dried smelly shrimp, garlic, chili pepper, peanuts and other yummy ingredients. It was strange when I first tried it but now it’s one of my favorite dishes. There was so much garlic it killed my breath and anything parasitic, and whatever didn’t die was killed by the Ouzo I drank to kill the worm larvae I may have eaten during my jungle journey.

BP: You state that you’re half Greek and half Texan. Do either of those halves want to secede from the Union and if it’s the Texan half, how soon should we expect that? Not that I’m against Texas or anything. I’m just asking.

YM: Why secede? We just need to convince Mexico, Canada, Panama, and Cuba to join us and become one big, happy family! Anything can be worked out as long as we drink Ouzo and I cook Moussaka, a few whole lambs, and some smoked Texas bbq ribs! Texans are a warm culture like the Greeks and they’re hard working family people. And I love the food. By the way, not to deviate, but I am a master wax carver and I can’t carve worth a damn if I’m not listening to blasting country music. Drives everyone in my house crazy.

BP: Have you ever wrestled an alligator over a ruby? Please say yes. In my mind you have. Please don’t ruin it for me.

YM: No… But some of the women I showed my gems to didn’t want to return them. Let me tell you, taking a gem away from a woman who thinks it’s hers just because you showed it to her once is as bad as wrestling an alligator. Anyway, why wrestle when you can shoot him? I guess it’s the Texan in me. I see a crocodile and I see an awesome pair of boots and a grilled tail steak.

BP: What’s your favorite thing about your Greek background and what’s a common misconception about Greeks that you find yourself constantly correcting (mainly to Americans?)

YM: Greeks simply know how to live life to the fullest. The sea, the food, and the culture. There is nothing like Greek island life and I’ve seen the world. But the greatest gift Greece gave me was my pride in my people and my country… and to believe in myself. It starts rather early when Greek grandmothers call us names like Hercules and Colossus. It’s only later we find out we were not the Greek gods they told us we were! It’s a kind of a brainwashing but it worked with me. When in the jungles of the world and faced with life threatening obstacles, I gathered strength from the fact I was Greek and had to stand up to my fears, just as my ancestors had to. I know it’s silly, but at times I spoke to my ancestors to give me courage when I felt I had none and when I was alone.

As for a common misconception Americans have about Greeks, it’s that we only own restaurants. As it turns out from a poll last year that I read, Greeks are among the most highly educated ethnic groups living in the United States. To make it relative to the jewelry business, let’s look at some of the major achievements of Greeks in our industry: Nick Paspaley from “Paspaley Pearls” controls 85% of South Sea Pearls. The Pouroulis family, who founded “Petra Diamonds” in South Africa, controls several diamond and platinum mines as well as the most famous diamond mine in the world, “The Kimberley Mine.”  Also, the late Dr. Archie Kalokerinos. He was the world authority of Opals in Australia in his time. The legendary Pappas brothers, George and Yasson, discovered several of the most well-known colored stone mines in East Africa. The Folli Follie and Links of London brands are also owned by some of my Greek friends in Athens.

As a youngster I was influenced by all of these legends. I was lucky to meet most of them before some passed away, and, I learned some of their secrets. I feel I carry a heavy burden to continue their legacy so that I can one day pass my secrets to the youth of the next generation. Oh, and did you know that Bulgari was Greek?

BP: Are you surprised at the amount of stalkers… err, “followers,” rather…  that you have on Instagram?

yianni grid 1YM: Stalkers? LOL. Barbara, you make me laugh. They are my friends! Really, I love them, but lately it has been getting insane. Especially after Vogue magazine in Paris tweeted me as the “modern Indiana Jones of our century.” I opened my page and said, “wtf!?” Yesterday I was surprised that people got excited when I replied their messages! They write that they can’t believe I answered! I’m so grounded and humble in this regard that I feel almost embarrassed when they treat me with such excitement. It’s actually I who gets excited when they answer. I think Instagram is my way of communicating with the world because deep inside me I am a bit shy, though I put a good show on when I’m in public. But Instagram allows me to use images of gems and of my adventures as a means to lobby for my main objective, which is to promote bead cutting for single moms in Africa. Over 80% of the rough sourced at the mines is bead quality, yet nearly 100% of the rough from Africa is exported to India and China. I believe God sprinkled that rough there for a reason. And that is to feed and take care of the poor people of that region. And if you look at where gems are mostly found they are usually the most desolate of places on the planet. Creating my jewelry brand is a way for me to control where I source the gems and where I choose to cut them. In other words, a true “mines to market” strategy few designers have been able to make work successfully.

BP: Speaking of your jewelry brand, when and where will we see the launch of your Philippe Alexander collection that you’ve named after your son?

YM: Regarding the name, I didn’t want to give the jewelry brand my name (which is a bit of a brand already in the inner gem and mining world) for my own reasons. To me, it’s too egotistical as a Greek father. I prefer being the foundation for my son, Philippe Alexander, so he is able to, one day, have the company to himself. I want him to stand on my shoulders and live an easier life than I did. Not spoiled but with a momentum began by his father. But the brand name stands for many things that are not just my son. It also stands for the Golden Period of Greece, which hugely influenced jewelry design as well as world art and architecture. It’s my goal to revive that period back to Greece. And in the heart of the brand, it stands for the personal quest of Alexander the Great to explore new lands and discover new cultures to enrich his own. My designs are predominately Greek but they’re fully influenced by all of the cultures I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with and nations I’m able to travel to. I believe this collection, and this brand, represents my journey in searching for gems. Or, perhaps the real journey wasn’t to search for gems, but rather the artistic influences of each country I’ve visited. The search for the gems, themselves, just made the journey of artistic enlightenment possible. So to answer your question more specifically, I’m launching the collection this year, likely within the next few months. I’m going through an internal debate with myself to go public or just have everything available online on my website. Not sure what ideology will conquer in the end. 

I enjoy being solitary when in the jungles of the world or in my own jewelry world when I carve my waxes, so I can relate to the lifestyle of JAR. All I know is that I want to focus on keeping the marketing simple so I can zone in on the artistic side I’ve been cultivating (yet suppressing) all of these years. At 52, I have paid my dues, but I’m ready now for the other half of creating the most progressive artisanal “mines to market” brand ever launched.

BP: Last question, Yianni… if there is one jewelry industry person, besides yours truly, that you could meet in the next year, who would it be and why?

YM: Truthfully, there is no one I want to meet that I have not already met. At this stage I just want to be left alone (hahaha.) But, to give you an answer for the sake of the interview, and, perhaps to shock YOU a bit for a change, maybe that b***h at that famous luxury jewelry store chain who refused to answer my three emails last December. Now, you may say I’m ending the interview with negativity, but the truth is I love confrontation when good can come out of it. It’s a Greek character trait to debate about everything and when that doesn’t work we burn the streets of Athens down! Problem with today’s society is that they are too diplomatic with people who have power and no one wants to stand up to them. And, that’s what I enjoy doing. Kind of my version of “Fifty Shades of DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS.” And I couldn’t honestly care less if they ever showcase my jewelry at their stores, anyway.  I’m HERCULES! LOL!! (Grandma, I love you wherever you are!) These individuals are used to people apologizing even when they are the ones being rude. And this just feeds their ego. Some of the busiest people I know are great communicators. It means they are either organized, or if not, know how to delegate their communication. And no, you can’t edit b***h out. It’s in the dictionary and It’s PG. But I know you’re thinking… “I need to advise this Greek/Texan to be more diplomatic and choose his words carefully.” I’m reading your mind, Barbara. And stop smiling! Good luck… I’m hopeless!

BP: Hopeless or not, Yianni, I have thoroughly enjoyed this interview and getting to know you through it. Without a doubt, you’re my favorite “find” of 2015, thus far, and trust me when I say you have yourself a new, loyal, and devoted stalker follower.

Please stay tuned for parts two and three of this series which will feature Alp Sagnak (aka, “The Turk”) as well as Amedeo Scognamiglio (“The Italian”), coming soon.

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