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!

Standard
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

 

 

Standard
#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.

Standard
Trade Show Shenanigans

A Spouse’s Story of Scottsdale: That Time My Husband Went to Centurion

The Centurion Scottsdale show was a couple of weeks ago and I decided to drag along my husband, kicking and screaming (meaning I was kicking and screaming that he came along…. OH I KID, I KID!) He wound up having such a great experience that he asked if he could share it with you all. Who am I to deny this man, right? I wouldn’t be half the writer I am without him.

Without further hesitation, I present to you, Todd’s Tale:

**********************

So for years I tried to talk my wife into leaving the jewelry business. I’d say things like, “Just call this lady back, Barbara, and at least talk to her about the high-end furniture sales position.” Or, “You like chairs; and don’t get me started about your love for a good sturdy couch.” And after every Christmas that came and went where I would look around at the detritus of a month’s worth of decorating and baking and shopping and designing, and decorating – wait, I think I said decorating already – and then say to her, “Babe, I think you have a real career in marketing, or something that lets you show off all that creativity,” I really thought I could convince her to do something other than work in jewelry.  But she never took the bait. Not just because she has a strong personality (somewhere can I get an “Amen?”), but because she always told me, each and every time, how much she loved what she did.

In her previous positions in the industry I did not often get the chance to see her in hot and heavy jewelry action. Now stop your off-color imagery right there kids, because I won’t be writing a saucy tale interspersed with salacious tidbits of what goes on behind the scenes (although I could). I leave the innuendo and wink-wink-know-what-I-mean writing to my beloved, who’s quite good at it. So, ahem, as I was saying. Her job for most of our many years together didn’t offer the chance for me to get much of a peek into what was going on inside the industry, and although I knew generally what she did, I didn’t see what she did, at least not in great detail. But in the last year, and especially in the last few weeks, I got a full-faced introduction into what makes her tick; into the folks who help her stay inspired, and the places in the imagination that being surrounded by lovely people and beautiful jewelry can take you. And do take her. This is my story.

This year I got to tag along to the Centurion show in Scottsdale for a little R & R. And since I wasn’t working and Barbara was, and since I had no kids with me, and since I was alone each and every day to do as I pleased (my twenties called and asked me if I remembered them!), I was looking forward to playing a little during the day and partying a little in the evening. (I should mention that all this was made possible by Myriam Gumuchian, who kindly let me borrow the other half of the room that Barbara wasn’t using. I owe her a big thank-you.) I knew all would be well when, after being at the hotel for all of 15 minutes, I was at the pool bar drinking quite likely the tastiest beer (and absolutely the first beer) I’d had since last year. Dry January was done and for a few quiet and relaxed moments it was just Barbara and me. It was exquisite.

toddpost1

First beer since last year… nothing finer.

Then it was over. Time to go to work (her, not me – a recurring theme of the rest of the week), and off she went to help set up the booth. I made my way down to the show floor at some point to drop off something she needed, and it was at that moment I realized the true scale of the operation. It’s hard to know just how much work is going on inside of those ballrooms when your only view of it is obstructed by the exterior walls of the building and the shadow of the waitress walking over to you with your second beer. Such a hive of activity! Such organized chaos, everyone working together to get things ready for the next several days’ events. It was impressive.  The sheer number of booths, and the care that was being taken to decorate each one in its own distinct fashion. It was my first inkling of things to come.

Throughout the next days and nights I found a new home away from home at the gorgeous outdoor bar overlooking the immaculate grounds of the Phoenician resort. I was hiking, swimming, eating, and relaxing during the day, then at night I came face to face with the true energy of the industry. After a quiet dinner alone with my wife the first evening, the events rolled by one after the other, and they were all fantastic, but it seemed like the lobby bar was the place that everyone ended up; the place where many of my favorite memories were made.

For one thing, I remember meeting so many people.

Here’s Jennifer Heebner coming up to me and introducing herself, knowing me only from Barbara’s Facebook page. And Zuraja with Carelle threatening to rat me out at the pool for looking so relaxed. When I needed restaurant advice in Scottsdale it was Jay Mednikow who volunteered his pick for the ultimate place to dine. Over there is Craig Danforth (whom I may still owe an apology? He knows why). He was one of the few faces I previously knew in the glittering crowd, gliding up to greet me just before he took off to the mountain for a quick hike that first day. And I’m still recovering from the extended hug from Michelle Orman, by virtue of which I think we are married in at least 13 states.

At dinner the first evening I met the entire Gumuchian crew, and it gave me another reason to understand why Barbara loves not only what she does, but the people she does it with. Especially these people. It’s no exaggeration to tell you that I was made to feel immediately welcome into the jewelry world, even if I don’t know a blue topaz from an aquamarine. (God, I hope those aren’t the same thing.) Chris Matty, Jodi, Tatiana, and the whole team were great, and funny, and friendly. Even though Tatiana, seated right up next to me the entire evening, spoke fourteen more languages than I did, she was kind enough to get me counting to twenty in German while only mildly and simultaneously correcting my pronunciation. But what made it extraordinarily special were the nice things they all had to say about Barbara – hearing about her hard work and great attitude were highlights for me – and it became a theme no matter who I was meeting. My girl knows her stuff, and works hard, and that’s all right by me.

toddpost2

Mountain man. Maybe my wife will get to see the top one of these days.

Some of you may know that I play a tiny part in this blog’s production. Mainly, I read it before it goes out the door to be that extra set of eyes to catch the odd typo or punctuation slip. Although it’s only a small part, and even though all the creativity comes from Barbara’s mind and her process, it is still nice to be a part of it. So it was especially cool for me to have her introduce me to many folks not just as her husband (although to some of the better looking guys she failed to mention that), but also as her editor. What made it so exciting were the reactions I saw from people when they talked about her writing. I’ve always been her biggest fan and I try to tell her often how I feel about what she’s creating in these pages. But, like when your mom tells you that you are a handsome young man or a beautiful girl, it’s, well, it’s your mom. So maybe she feels like I have to say it. But all of you who told me what you thought, none of you had to say anything. So I was proud of her in those moments, tremendously.

Now back to those men I kept meeting – like Todd Reed, and Gannon with Couture, and that kid from Ritani Barbara had mentioned once or a thousand times – all over the place, handsome men! And they all knew Barbara. How odd! I could have easily felt uncomfortable by the presence of so many guys who were not only good looking but young enough to be my sons (had I of course started having kids at four). But the thing is, they all were respectful of Barbara and certainly on their best behavior with me there. I’m pretty confident and not terribly sloth-like in appearance, so I mostly kid, but regardless, I was impressed with the way everyone handled themselves. Good for her that she works in a field where it’s not just the jewels that are sparkly and attractive.

So many people, and such fun. I met Brandee Dallow, the crew from Hales, Blakeman’s, and Galloway & Moseley, along with Jen Cullen Williams. There was Desiree Hanson, Andrea Hansen, Trace Shelton, and many others whom I had only read about in Barbara’s posts. (Hey, Rachel from the Knot!) I was able to put faces to names, finally. Oh, and Kevin Reilly; cannot forget him. He’s a friendly face to me, and a kind and caring person who has always made me feel comfortable. Great seeing him too.

toddpost3

Man, maybe you jewelry people are on to something.

On the last evening in Scottsdale, I had the chance to talk to Myriam’s husband Ronnie for an hour about real estate. Finally, something I knew about and could talk about, which was nice. There we were, much different in that he has been a part of Gumuchian’s shows and travels for many, many years, but much alike in that we were two middle-aged dudes who had kept themselves together, who both clearly married up, and who were both enjoying being surrounded by people and an industry that celebrates life, glamour, baubles, conversation, travel, lifestyle, and fun. Yes, fun. It’s a simple word to describe what I think it all boils down to.

A wise man – or woman – once said that if you find a job that you truly enjoy and that you have fun doing, it never feels like a job and the money is secondary. I’m not suggesting that anyone in this industry wants to work for free, mind you, but I am saying that when the work is hard, the travel is long, your plane is delayed, and your clients forget they were supposed to show up, or that you were showing up, you can depend on the fact that you love what you are doing and have fun doing it to give you the energy you need to keep going. A show like Centurion is clearly a highlight for many in the gem and jewelry business, and I suspect the energy from this show carries a lot of folks through any number of difficult moments.

So now I see why she doesn’t want to go anywhere else. Maybe there is more money in Aeron chairs and laser-machined modular filing systems. Hell, I don’t know. But I tell you this, I don’t think that furniture convention would be as exciting, or the people as interesting, and I one hundred percent know that the product couldn’t hold a candle to the shiny things I saw over those four days. I know why she doesn’t want to go anywhere else and she’d be silly to leave her extended family. I don’t want her to leave that family any more, and I won’t ask again. I’m grateful they adopted me in Arizona…if only for just a few days.

Standard
Uncategorized

A Diamond in the Buff: How the Naked Body Became the Ideal Canvas for Feminine Jewels

buff1

Images taken by Sean Murphy. @murphyphoto on Instagram.

Back when I was about to turn forty, I wrote a blog, quite different from this one. It was a countdown to a pinnacle year in my life and each story was presented firstly by how many days I had left until it arrived. I also had a bucket list of sorts, which included some rebellious things I had never done before but wanted to accomplish because, f*ck it, why not? One of the things on my list was to have professional photos taken of myself in the nude. I had a confidence now at forty that didn’t exist even ten years prior. My body – with all of its scars, battle wounds, tattoos, and two-time pregnancy reminders – was still unscathed by reconstructive surgery, liposuction, or Botox, and I wanted to document what it felt like to be naked in this form, at this point in my life, and at my age. I was empowered – not by any man or the almighty dollar – and felt that the time was right to see this wish through.

When I first had the idea, I spoke to my husband at length about it. He didn’t want me to use just any photographer because, let’s face it, I’m still the mother of his children and the internet is a dangerous thing. Thankfully, he is longtime friends with a badass rock photographer in Hollywood. Sean Murphy has shot everyone from the Beastie Boys to Green Day to Kid Rock, and his resume includes some of the most well-known magazines in the music and surf world. I had to wait for a time when Sean would be on the East Coast to do the shoot, so on a Saturday afternoon in July of 2012, we rented a space on the Westside of town; off went the clothes and out went the inhibitions. But there was one thing I remember making clear to Sean during the process… no matter how naked I got, I wouldn’t be taking off my jewelry. It was part of who I was, and whether it was a shot of my husband and me together with my wedding rings in focus, or the topless pictures in the middle of a field with my feather necklace blowing in the wind, my jewelry was prevalent, and my body – sometimes – became a backdrop to it.

The process and the PG-version of the shoot was written about in a follow-up post, and to this day, I’ve not regretted my decision. I felt alive then, yet not just in a sexual way. I felt free of consequence, even as cars whizzed by and beeped their horns. In my mind, I was living my very own version of burning my bra in the 60’s. It was liberating. It was far from conservative. It rocked. And my jewelry was a very special part of it.

buff5

Jewelry by Jacquie Aiche. Images from @jacquieaiche in Instagram.

When I see the tweets of jewelry designer Jacquie Aiche, I’m often brought back to the experience of that day, which sure as shit makes me smile a huge smile. Aiche’s Instagram feed is also filled with gorgeous bodies draped in precious gems in the form of earrings, rings, necklaces, and body chains, yet they’re tastefully taken pictures clearly geared toward women. One of Aiche’s biggest fans is ultimate bad girl, Rihanna, and I guarantee you RiRi is buying those jewels for herself.

While some feminists might cringe at the idea of naked women in social media, I take what Aiche is doing as a sign of new feminism through women showing their bodies in the way they choose to. For years women weren’t *supposed* to talk about what they desired, sexually. They weren’t *supposed* to use swear words, hold high-ranking positions, or wear pants. Today’s women are saying, “Yeah, well, guess what? We don’t want to wear pants now. You know why? Because we don’t want to wear anything. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Montana.” Yet Aiche isn’t the only designer using the female form to woo women buyers.

buff3

Body chains by Amrit Jewelry. Images from @amritjewelry on Instagram

Jennifer Aniston was caught twice (to the dismay of those who believe you can’t do something twice if you’re famous unless it’s get divorced, or arrested for cocaine), wearing the same black diamond body chain by Amrit Jewelry (designed by Sat Hari) on the red carpet, yet the red carpet isn’t only where she wears it. Aniston – now forty-six years old – also wore it unapologetically in an interview on Access Hollywood. And while early in her career she shied away from showing her skin, these days it seems she’s caught a bit of the “f*ck it” bug, too, allowing these beautiful body chains to compliment her newly outed braless breasts. Sat Hari’s designs are popular with the starlet set, but that doesn’t mean they’re not for gals like you and me.

buff2

Starting at top left going clockwise: Images: @loreerodkin, @zoechiccojewelry (for Victoria’s Secret), @gemgossip, and @gemaporterblog, from Instagram.

Also embracing the naked female form is the always interesting Loree Rodkin as well as the subtly sexy Zoe Chicco. Rodkin’s creations are often in a class by themselves and her frequent bird flips on Instagram prove that she doesn’t give a shit whether you think she’s a feminist or not. Zoe Chicco’s designs, however, are less about being worn while completely in the buff and more about never wanting to remove them because they’ve become part of your physique.

buff4

Designs by Maggi Simpkins. Images from @maggisimpkins on Instagram.

Now, I don’t want you to think that it’s just the middle-agers embracing body jewelry as some sort of way to prove we’re still here; the twenty-somethings are at it as well. I’m not referencing the kids doing it to feel popular, either. I mean the clearly talented and rightfully confident young women who are both designing and buying jewelry for their bodies. Women like my gorgeous friend Maggi Simpkins, who currently makes brass and gold body armor and sells it under the brand M By Maggnolia. Maggi started designing jewelry back in 2008 but it’s her body chains and body armor that have caught the eye of Grammy nominated stars like Jhené Aiko. And it isn’t just designers showing us what they’re made of either. Don’t believe me? Then follow the feeds of bloggers Gem-a-Porter and Gem Gossip to see just how happy they are with not only their bodies, but how they think jewelry feels on those bodies. Want one more example? Broken English Jewelry. But don’t take my word for it. Go visit them on Instagram.

Fashion jewelry and designer jewelry are in a different league than say, bridal. Designers – female designers, especially – are at an advantage more now than ever as it pertains to how women feel about themselves and their needs. Showing your female customer that it’s okay to feel sexy in the jewelry they select for themselves is a new norm. No matter the size, stature, or skill set, every woman can put on a necklace, or a body chain that she purchased for herself, and feel a bit like Joan of Arc. We can dress ourselves in an armor of our jewels and conquer the planet one slaughtered stereotype at a time.

The women of this world are taking their bodies back. They are adorning them in gold as if to make a statement not unlike a garbage can on an Atlantic City boardwalk during a Miss America pageant in the 1960’s. They are all around you, and they are saying the following:

“Look at us before you, not naked, but rather cloaked in creativity, determination, sensuality, and spontaneity. Our bodies are the canvas on which our talented voices will be painted upon. It is, however, our brush to hold and our paint to stroke. You cannot rush the process. You must wait your turn to see our masterpiece.”

Standard
Uncategorized

“What Golden Globes?” A New York Jewelry Events Novella

LaGuardia is the only New York airport I fly into anymore. Partly because of their improved Delta terminal with better restaurants and a zillion places to plug in. And partly because every time I fly out of JFK, a piece of my luggage goes all Dave Chappelle on me. But mostly because I know that the view coming into New York City is my generation’s version of my great-grandparents’ “arrival on the boat”… meaning, if I’m sitting on the left side of the plane, it’s assured in good weather that I’ll lay eyes on dear Lady Liberty. Her sea foam-colored arm raised toward the heavens, she’s a reminder to me that I’m here to make my ancestors proud. I see her, and I want to work harder. I see her, and every memory of this place – good and bad – comes flooding back. But I see her, and I’m certain that I’m absolutely where I’m supposed to be.

Hello New York; my lover and friend. It’s good to see you on this frigid January afternoon. Let’s grab ourselves a skinny latte, check into our Eastside hotel, and make our faces a whole lotta pretty, ‘cause the hours are limited and baby… it’s show time.

Thursday, January 8th: The Diamond Empowerment Fund GOOD AWARDS

No sooner did my flight land did the texting frenzy begin. It took an hour to get from LaGuardia to the GUMUCHIAN offices which left not a ton of time to work with Jodi on some suites for our VIPs to wear at the weekend’s “big three,” and even less time to get all fancied up for the Good Awards. Eventually my Uber arrived and I was off to 42nd and 2nd, where I was to meet my jewelry bestie, fellow blogger, and roommate for the next two days, Monica Stephenson of Idazzle

(Now, if you read this blog you’re already aware that when the two of us get together mayhem has been known to ensue, right? Good, then you won’t be surprised or offended. Carry on.)

I should have known she was walking through the revolving door when I heard the sounds of trumpeting archangels in the distance. There she was, all five feet, eleven glamorous inches of her, slow-motion walking in my direction as the bellhops carried bags in her shadow while trying desperately not to fall over one another’s snow boots.

“You’re here!” I exclaimed from the check-in counter. “I’m here!” she replied, as she coolly removed her sunglasses. We hugged. We kissed. We immediately went to the bar for wine. I was so excited to have her as a roomie. If we smoked ciggies, sang, and did mud masks we’d practically be a scene out of Grease.

GEMgrid3Black was our chosen color for the night, but since the evening was all about Diamonds Doing Good, both of us wore diamond jewels by GUMUCHIAN. Our arrival to the Empire Penthouse Lounge was on the earlier side but we were greeted almost immediately by lovely familiar faces and a few, not as familiar. Monica and I were the last to jump into an already packed elevator car of party attendees who weren’t quite as, shall we say, “vertically gifted” as the two of us. This made for a bit of banter on the ride up to the event, and started the night the way all nights should begin… with laughter.

The bar area and lounge had a warm feel to them with views of the Empire State Building hard to match anywhere in the city. After kisses to JA President Dave Bonaparte and some other guy named Tratthew Matner or something, I zoned in on one of the guests of honor having her picture taken in front of the step and repeat.

Jane Seymour is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning actress. She is an Officer of the Order of the British Empire; a title bestowed upon her in the year 2000 by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Jane is also an artist, receiving accolades and great success for her works, painted mostly in oil and watercolor. One of her original works – titled “The Open Heart” – was the catalyst for the design of the jewelry collection “Open Hearts by Jane Seymour” which is available at Sterling stores such as Kay Jewelers and Jared. The collection is only one part of her Open Hearts Foundation, whose mission is to impact young people in the arts, sports, wellness, and education. It is this reason that one of the 2015 GOOD Awards was to be presented to her.

We watched as she stood solo; camera lights flashing while she smiled a still youthful and perfect smile. Monica and I then approached her to introduce ourselves and have a professional picture taken in front of the S & R, but before making our exit, I powered up the front camera on my phone and said… “Jane! Selfie with me?” to which she replied, “Well, I’m not really good at the selfies, but yeah, alright.”

And that, kids, is how you take a picture with a celebrity.

When the time came for the awards to be presented, a hush came over the crowd as Dr. Ben Chavis spoke. You remember Dr. Ben, don’t you? He’s the kind-faced gentleman I mentioned in one of my Tales from the Strip blog posts from Vegas. To my surprise, not only had Dr. Ben remembered who I was, but went as far as to say “I loved what you wrote about Vegas. I tweeted it!” Um, I’m in love. I think I found my next ex-husband. Todd, you’re out. Dr. Ben… you’re in.

Jane Seymour graciously accepted her award by sharing with the crowd an anecdote about her mother, while images of the two of them together rolled behind her. She explained that her mother would remind her that “love had no boundaries” and that whatever happened, if she kept an open heart, love would always find its way in, which was the inspiration for not only Jane’s painting, but also her jewelry collection.

Jeweler’s For Children’s David Rocha received the night’s other GOOD award for his work with children’s charities and tireless fundraising efforts in the jewelry industry. I’ve known David for a few years now but we didn’t really know one another’s story. This past August, David learned a little about mine and in turn, I learned, firsthand, of the wonderful work done by Jewelers For Children. My son was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was sixteen weeks old. The first several years of his life were a blur, and a nightmare, but thankfully the seizures eventually came to a halt and now, at eight years old, my son is a brilliant third-grader with a passion for running. To raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation, each year he and I run the Magnolia Run 5K together. When I posted the link for Roman’s fundraising page to Facebook just three days before the race was to take place, the first donation that came through was quite substantial, and quite familiar…

It was from David Rocha.

Watching David be recognized by the Diamond Empowerment Fund was personal for me, and I was thrilled to stand in the crowd and celebrate all that he, Jane, and the DEF are doing to help children both abroad and here in the United States. Three students – hailing from Tanzania, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe – were also on hand to share their stories of how the Diamond Empowerment Fund enabled them to further their education through sponsorships and programs. Emmanuel Ewald Mushy’s goal was to get a better education in order to return to his native Tanzania and “change the system.”

After the awards part of the evening was over, the socializing continued. Maybe some of us took to the dance floor. Maybe some of us tortured the young, cute waiter who taunted us with warm chocolate chip and M&M cookies. Maybe some of us borrowed a buck or two to give to the bathroom attendant and somehow wound up with an extra forty dollars before the night was over (??). And maybe a bunch of us eventually made our way down a freezing, Manhattan street to a tiny, warmly lit oyster bar, and maybe we drank and we laughed and we talked and we made memories. Maybe. I guess you just had to be there to know for sure.

I’m thrilled to have attended this heartwarming event as well as to share the news of the DEF’s consumer site, diamondsdogood.com. I want to thank the beautiful (inside and out) Nancy Orem Lyman for her kindness and for enlightening me on this foundation which is now a part of my jewelry story.

Monica and I drifted off after recalling many of the wonderful experiences of the night. I can’t speak for her, but I know I fell asleep with a smile on my face and a giggle in my heart.

Wait, where did this pocket square come from?

Friday, January 9th: The GEM Awards

It’s snowing. Rad.”

Rad? I’ve got to go to the Village for brunch. I’m not prepared for snow.”

The two of us looked out of our tiny, 14th-floor window at the snow-covered brick building across the street. It really was beautiful, in reality. Atlanta doesn’t get a ton of snow, and despite what people believe about Seattle, it really doesn’t, either. Plus, it’s New York. I mean, who doesn’t love New York when it’s snowing, right? Unless you live in the city, of course. Or if you drive Uber. You must hate that shit if you drive Uber. Or if you’re one of those Time Square fake Elmos. I mean, the snow must be hell on your already ratty costume. Though it might actually clean it a little. The naked cowboy dude must hate snow, too. Hard nipples suck. I’ll tell you more about those later on. Anyway, where was I? OH! It’s GEM AWARDS DAY!!!! (Does happy dance that I finally get to write about it!) GEM AWARDS! GEM AWARDS! THREE CHEERS FOR GEM AWARDS! And how does one prepare for the GEM Awards, you ask? Beer with Michael Schechter, naturally.

I don’t drink beer. For me to drink beer I have to be one of three things:

  1. In Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany on my birthday
  2. Standing in front of our Heavenly Father at the holy gates after He gave me the choice between drinking beer or drinking poison
  3. With Michael Schechter

I’ve never acquired a taste for beer. And, no offense, beer-drinking lady friends, but, there is nothing that makes me cringe more than when a woman is dressed to the nines, all decked out in designer everything with pristine makeup, Jimmy Choos, and perfectly coifed locks, and I see her holding a beer bottle. It makes me want to smash it in her youthful-looking face, I’m not going to lie. GET A GLASS, FOR F*CK’S SAKE. Save the beers for bars, girls. Bars and boats. Bars and boats and Michael Schechter. That is when you are allowed to drink beer. And if you find a boat with a bar and Michael Schechter on it, you can drink it straight from the keg, for all I care. Knock yourself out.

I picked up Mikey at his office and we walked a few blocks to District Tap House for lunch. There, I made him give me the rundown of how the next night’s 24K event would go, and picked his brain about writing for money (BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Writing for money?! Who on earth writes for money?? HILARIOUSNESS!). I also asked where he thought the industry was headed in terms of the old way of thinking… in other words, will women ever dominate an industry created for them? I pointed out that the highest paid positions are still held largely by men, and that’s when Mike dropped a truth bomb of wisdom unlike any I’ve ever heard spew from his bacon-consuming mouth…

“Yes, but there is a layer of penis in the industry that is slowly going to die out.”

There you have it, gals. In black and white. All we need to do is wait for this penis layer to *die out* and we’re in. The money is ours. It’s so simple. It’s always been right there in front of us. (And by the way, I’ve already copyrighted “Layer of Penis” so that I may use it as the name for my all-male, jewelry designer rock band I plan to front, so don’t even THINK about taking it.)

Needless to say, lunch was a BLAST, but it was time for Mike to get back to the job he acts like he works at and I was getting pretty close to GEM Awards prep time, so off I headed in my Yellow Cab chariot to turn myself into Cinderella for the evening.

My gown for this night was a white Ralph Lauren that had a crystal neckline and slit on the left leg. For my jewels, I selected a pair of gorgeous Gumuchian platinum line drop earrings with diamonds and huge rock crystals as well as a massive Bubble collection domed diamond ring. Monica decided on a Wendy Yue original ruby rose necklace to accessorize her beautiful black and white strapless gown. As we were getting our hair and makeup done, we realized at one point we were both standing in the room sans clothes but avec heels. It was quite the site, I have to admit. We laughed and I immediately said… “Oh, if Dallas could see us now….

We thankfully arrived at Cipriani at the same time as our other #VegasGem, award-winning designer and beautiful gal, Wendy Brandes.. I looked up at the room and was mesmerized. Enthralled, even. Cipriani looked like something I’d only seen on television during awards season. It was a majestic space, decorated splendidly, with huge screens that stated, simply…

The Gem Awards

I was here. I was really here. Nineteen years in the business, six jewelry jobs, and two blogs, and I was finally standing here, with the people I’ve admired from a distance and looked at only on the pages of my favorite publications. Sure, I knew a lot of the guests, but not everyone. And this was different. I was here to cover the event; to write about it. But I was also here to enjoy all that jewelry is and is capable of being.

Recently, just after the terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, I wrote a short piece on my FB page about satire, and humor. It began with the following statement: “The jewelry industry is one of the few industries out there that exists, primarily, to bring people joy. We buy jewelry for ourselves when we get the bonus we wanted at work. We buy jewelry for others when it’s their birthday or anniversary. We wear jewelry on special occasions, or when we’re attending important events. We give jewelry to our family members so that they may remember us after we’re gone; so that they think fondly of us and smile, and potentially pass it down to the next generation of wearers. Jewelry brings happiness, memories, and a sense of satisfaction to those who make it, own it, buy it, give it, and wear it. And the industry, for as serious as it can sometimes be, is also known for its whimsy and playfulness.”

On this night, in this space, all of the above rang true.

gemgrid1Monica, Wendy, and I were met on the red carpet by a cameraman and a gorgeous South African. For the first time, the GEM Awards were being broadcast via livestream on the Jewelers of America website, and industry sweetheart Hayley Henning was playing the role of Ryan Seacrest. “Hello gorgeous girls,” said Hayley, and there we were, for all of America to see, with the major difference being that when Hayley asked us who we were wearing, NO ONE mentioned the dress, and EVERYONE mentioned the jewels.

I’d like to take a moment to give a major shout out to my friend and colleague, Amanda Gizzi, who did an unbelievable job pulling everything together flawlessly for this event. Amanda, you are AMAZING, and if you know me, you know that I only whip out that word about once a year, so you’ve already used it up for me for 2015… that’s just how awesome you are, babe! Great, great job.

If you haven’t already heard, the 2015 nominees for Design were Alexis Bittar, Todd Reed, and Stephen Webster (or as they’ll soon be known… “Layer of Penis”), with Webster walking away with the prize and exclaiming via livestream “This industry has been f*cking amazing!” That prompted cheers from the crowd as well as a text from my husband (who was watching from home) saying, “That man just said ‘f*cking’ on live T.V. Thank God there was no five-second delay. I might have missed that.” The nominees for Marketing and Communications were Forevermark, Tudor, and Shinola. Super model Carolyn Murphy accepted the award for Shinola, who took the prize. The nominees for Media Excellence were Claudia Mata of W Magazine, Maria Doulton, of The Jewellery Editor, and Jack Forster of Revolution Magazine USA. The GEM award in this category went to the lovely Ms. Mata who gave a truly fantastic acceptance speech. And the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Neiman Marcus’ Larry Pelzel who has worked in the high-end luxury jewelry business for 34 years, having joined Neiman Marcus in 1980, or, as Mike Asscher calls it, THE YEAR HE WAS BORN.

Our table (#powertable48) comprised Wendy Brandes, Monica, WJA President Andrea Hanson, Helena Krodel, designer Malak Atut, designer Jules Kim, Bernadette (Pix) Mack, designer Allison Neumann, and yours truly (or as we’re soon to be known… “Layer of Vagina.”) Amanda knew to put us waaaaaaaay in the back because, well, she probably figured we’d go apeshit once Michael O’Connor starting comparing sex to jewelry design in his award presentation speech. I mean, I nearly did go out for a cigarette at that point, since two of the guys up for it were Todd Reed and Stephen Webster.

Oh and hey, since this IS my blog, and since I really don’t care who thinks what about how I write it, I’m going to go ahead and throw some thoughts out to the people I saw at the GEM Awards, so here goes:

Michelle Peranteau: I love you! You’re the best and I miss you. And I need you.

Matt Tratner: Don’t ever ignore us again. Stalkies will haunt you. You’ve been warned.

Rob Bates: ROOOOBBBBBBBBBBBB BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATES!

Brandee Dallow: Where the f*ck were you last night?

Craig Danforth: Don’t go anywhere near a bathtub, dude. Not tonight.

Dallas Selsey: I’m sorry I poked you in the eye. No bra. Cold outside. You get the point. (Literally.)

Stephen Webster: Damn, you fine.

Carolyn Murphy: DAYUM girl. You finer.

Haley Henning: You are flawless.

Terry Chandler: Enough with the slit comments.

Fran Pennella: No one wears fringe like you do.

Beth Bernstein: So nice to meet you!

Bill Farmer: You complete me.

Cameraman: Thanks, bro. You know what for.

Uber driver: YOU HAD MINTS!

Wendy Brandes: That bitch.

Bernadette Mack: You had me at “throat punch.”

Dave Bonaparte: Give Amanda a raise.

That’s all the shout outs I have at this time. Now, off to Whiskey Blue, girls! Taxi!

Monica, Malak, and I hailed a cab and arrived at the bar at the W hotel only to be bum-rushed upon arrival by three Yale hockey players with offerings of drinks. Um, take it down a notch, boys. We’re old enough to be your babysitters… uh, no, that might only add to the flirtation. Wait, we’re old enough to be your stepsisters… no… no… that could be a turn-on, too… um, jeez… okay, we’re married? And old? Still not getting rid of you, huh? Okay, just gonna step on over here a moment and hang out with my girlfriends…. NO. NO. Not my literal… ah, hell, can we just go somewhere else?

Before the evening ended, we, as a group, were faced with that inevitable industry question that is so frequently asked. The conversation goes a little something like this:

Random bar guy: “Are you here on business or pleasure?”
Me: “Business.”
Random bar guy: “Oh. What business are you in?”
Me: “Pretzel.”
Random bar buy: “Pretzel? You’re serious? You’re in the pretzel business?”
Me: “Yep. All about the pretzels. Can’t have a world without pretzels.”
Random bar guy: “I didn’t realize the pretzel business was so glamorous.”
Me: “Oh, you have no idea.”

This is when you know it’s time to say goodnight. Monica and I made it back to our room only to stay up talking another couple of hours. On two hours of sleep, Monica said her goodbye and there I lay, alone, thinking about doing it all over again for one more night. But not just yet. I’m going back to bed, for now.

Saturday, January 10th: 24K Club of New York Banquet

I had a day to myself in the city, and it was nice. I walked from the hotel down to Grand Central Station and opted for a gin martini and lunch at their world famous Oyster Bar. Wearing a black Lycra turtleneck and last night’s mascara, I felt a little like Audrey Hepburn only without the beauty and grace. Or the talent. Or money. Okay, I felt nothing like her but felt I was channeling her independence.  A half-dozen oysters were probably the last thing I needed at that moment but I couldn’t resist. I knew that these were my last 24 hours in this wonderful city – a place that both scares the hell out of me and brings me immeasurable joy. New York represents so much to me, and leaving it is often as hard as leaving my kin.

Post lunch coffee was spent with my friend and fellow Philadelphian, Jennifer Heebner. I don’t get to spend much time alone with Jen but when I do, it’s always worthwhile. Jen speaks my language, just like Peggy Jo Donohue does. We South Jersey/Philly types understand one another. We’re what we call “no bullshit” and that can sometimes come off as “bitchy.” I speak bitchy, and Jen speaks bitchy, so there’s an understanding between us and that usually makes for some great conversation.

The clock was winding down so I headed back to start the process of getting ready for the third night in a row. My feet ached the good ache. My stomach was flat from the lack of food consumed due to socializing, but all systems were go and all thumbs were up. This would be my second 24K Club event in a year, but my first with the massive metropolitan chapter. I opted for a cognac colored strapless gown with train (I know, I know Michael O’Connor. I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. I will never do a train again) with muted gold medium heels and small gold clutch. My hair was down and curled, and my jewels – Gumuchian, of course – were 18K Rose Gold and Diamond, from the Gallop collection.

GEMgrid2The last time I stepped foot into the Waldorf Astoria was to take dance classes from master Broadway choreographer, Frank Hatchett. I don’t even want to tell you how long ago that was, but it was long ago enough to say that I had forgotten the grandeur of the hotel. The pre-banquet suites were in full-on party mode by the time I arrived. I was invited to spend some of the early hours in the Rio Tinto suite with my friend Brandee Dallow. It was nice running into Victoria Gomelsky there as well as THE Michelle Orman and THE Beth Anne Bonnano (EAB in the house, yo…). I eventually made my way down to Howard Hauben’s Centurion suite where I mingled with clients, and took pictures with my dear friends Dallas and Craig. Then, as the room became overly crowded, I slowly moved out into the hallway where I ran into my brother in nerdhood, Mike Schechter. “Dude, I can barely move in there.” “Can’t talk. Gotta go. Myriam’s got me doing tasks.” My boss, Myriam Gumuchian, was in charge of taking care of the 24K VIPs and with 1,000 attendees, we barely saw one another all night. As I made my way down the hall toward the Richline Room, I felt a tug at my arm.

“PEGGY JO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

There is no sight for me like that of my PJD. Any nervousness or doubt completely escapes my body, and I am finally myself, f-bombs and all.

It was truly a mind-blowing experience. So many people from our piece of industry and business were compiled into this one place. Owners and designers, and 5th-generation jewelers. Editors and publishers. Cutters and artists. They are all here in this one hotel for this one night, once a year. Even the industry’s best dressed/best looking man is here! There he is, look! With his dad, brother, and sister! And he’s wearing sparkly Michael Jackson shoes! Boy, oh boy, this is going to be a fun night.

As we made our way to our tables, I was happy to see some familiar faces around me. Joe Carullo was one, and Hedda Schupak another. Joe makes me DIE. Joe always says that the best compliment he’s ever received in his life is the time I told him that he doesn’t creep me out. I mean, by rights, he should totally creep me out. He fits the bill, ya know? Mid-fifties, divorcee, single, salesman. That’s got creeper written all over it. Hey, look, I know myself, and I’m SURE I fit someone else’s bill of what creeps them out, too. I mean, yeah. I’ve been known to be inappropriate. Anybody here surprised? But Joe, he’s so good. He never crosses the line, and that means a lot to me. So, Joe’s my guy, and it was good to see him.

The VIPs were introduced, the blessing was said, and the dinner began. Toward the end, however, my phone started blowing up. I have some g-damned funny people in my life, and I thank big baby Jesus every day for them. You know who you are if you’re reading this. You have a knife and a wrist and you just may use them.

The entertainment was… shall we say… interesting. Um, I won’t really express an opinion one way or another on the choice of entertainment since I was someone’s guest but I will say that I never knew how much I disliked socks until I witnessed what I did.

When it was time to have a drink, I found my way to the Bull and Bear, where the other folks my age (not really… they were much younger) were one step and three vodkas ahead of me. As I ordered my scotch, I found myself with an audience. I hate that. Not.

Me: “Do you have Oban?”

Male server: “Yes ma’am. We do.”

Me: “I’ll have that, please. And how big are your rocks?”

You’re welcome, my friends. Consider it my gift to you.

By 2 a.m., I had mingled, danced, talked, laughed, socialized, schmoozed, sang, and swore. I loved every moment of the last three days and hated to see it come to an end. But alas, all good things must come to an end, and so, declining the offer of those much younger than I to go out clubbing until I likely could stand no more (Julia, Rebecca, Allison, Lita, Kendra, Sam, Mike, and Guido… thanks for the invite. Hope you kids all had a blast,) I pulled a Cinderella, took my pumpkin, mice, and shoe, and walked out into the cold, crisp city night, making an ever-so-less than perfect exit, but still an exit, nevertheless.

Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible. Thank you to the three of you left reading this… my longest post in history at over 4,700 words. But thanks mostly to my husband – my support system – for without whom I would never be able to experience things like these. You make it all possible, and I would call you “amazing” but I’ve already used that word on Amanda Gizzi this year.

Seacrest, out, peeps. Oh, and, this industry IS f*cking amazing, Mr. Webster.

Standard
Uncategorized

From Mom to the Mistress: Christmas Jewels for Every Woman in Your Life

Christmas is coming (yes, my liberal friends… so is Hanukkah… so is Kwanzaa) and do you know how I know for sure? Because I watched the Falcons/Browns game in real time on Sunday and threw two shoes, a magazine, and an empty popcorn bowl at my television after the eleventh time I heard the “Every Kiss Begins with Kay” song. FOR THE LOVE OF NOT-YET-BORN BABY JESUS, WHY do they torture me? Don’t they know it’s my day off? The upside to all of the jingles, bad graphics, and fake proposal watching is that it gave me the idea for this here blog post. I know it’s not original – I mean, it sort of *is* that time of year for Christmas gift guides and “what to buy” posts, but, I promise you I’ll do my best to put a creative spin on it, cool? Cool. So here we go… here’s what I think every woman in your life should get as a gift from you this Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Festivus) and why.

FOR YOUR MOM:

xmas promesse watchHow many times has she told her labor story to you by now? A hundred? A thousand, maybe? And do you know why she keeps reminding you about the pain, discomfort, and stretch marks that still exist after all these years and six laser treatments to try to get rid of them? Because your head is f*cking huge, that’s why. It’s huge now, and it was huge then, when it was forcing its way through a tiny little cavity that was used to things going into it, not coming out of it. The experience scarred her for life which is why she questions time and time again why she ever went through it all over when your sister was born. This woman deserves the Cullinan II, but since you’re likely not willing to get arrested trying to steal it from the British Crown Jewels (wimp!), I recommend that you buy her something symbolic. The elegant, new “Promesse” watch from watchmaker Baume et Mercier would do nicely. It’s sleek and stylish, and you could even engrave something on the back, like, “Mom, I’m sorry my skull is gigantic” or, “Hope this makes up for your years of nightmares” or even something sweet, like, “I love every second I spend with you, Mom”… aww, see? I’m a mom and got weepy just coming up with that idea. Do it. You’re guaranteed to be her favorite kid after this and not just because your sister Susan married a poet.

FOR YOUR SISTER SUSAN:

Or your sister Carol, or Bernadette, or Pinenut (if your folks were hippies.)

xmas knockerWhere would you be without your sister, right? Probably yachting off of the coast of New Zealand but unfortunately you used that money to pay the attorney’s fees when she was on trial for beating up the Starbucks barista who used actual animal-made milk in lieu of soy in her grande latte. That poor little girl never did get her full hearing back. Regardless, she’s still your sister and you (somewhat) love her, so she deserves only the mediocrist best this season. This darling mocha diamond and gold “Door Knocker” pendant by Royal Jewelry is a subtle way of saying to her, “Look, I know that we don’t always see eye-to-eye, but if you ever need me, just knock on my door. I may not always answer, and I may even call the cops on you and claim that you’re stalking me, but I would never stop you from knocking. We’re family, after all.

FOR YOUR WIFE:

Maybe she works really hard, and maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she cooks like a gourmet chef, and maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she cleans every day, nonstop, and maybe she doesn’t, but what she likely does, is love you, and in this day and age, that still stands for something.

earsDiamonds are eternal. Even when they’re lost, they still exist somewhere, or on some lucky tourist who happened to ride the ferry shortly after they fell from your ears. They represent the notion that *something* can last forever, and while 36% of marriages of women twenty-years-old or older end in divorce, as a society largely centered around marketing, we can’t let facts stand in the way of what we want romance to be. And so, diamonds are there for us; for every dream we know will likely not become reality. They’re there to tell the world we’re engaged, or that we’ve just had a baby, or that our husband really loves us at Christmas time. And frankly, as a diamond lover, I have no damned problem with that at all. Yes. I said it. I’m just… that… shallow.

If you’re a husband (or, a wife), I suggest replacing those lost studs with these timeless “New Moon earrings by GUMUCHIAN. I wear mine every day, and I promise you that your significant other will do the same, until she loses them on her third ride in a row on Space Mountain.

FOR YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW:

Repeat after me…. “Rat Poison Is Not A Gift.” Say it again. And again, more slowly. Good. Now, let’s talk about an actual gift for the woman credited for giving birth to your spouse, whether you like it or not.

XMAS medusa madstoneWhat does one get for the woman who knows has everything? Well, I would suggest starting with something fresh, to guarantee it’s a gift she doesn’t already have. Maybe something that reflects her personality… like, say, Medusa! You know, “Near them their sisters three, the Gorgons, winged with snakes for hair— hated of mortal man—” THAT Medusa! The evil one whose glare turns men to stone. Is this MadstoneMedusa” ring not the ideal present for her? You don’t even have to tell her it’s Medusa. Just let her think it’s a really beautiful ring with gorgeous gemstones and sleek yellow gold given to her by her favorite non-blood family member for Christmas. Only you will know all that it represents as she shows it off at her monthly Bridge game. Take that ssssssssssssecret to your grave, champ.

FOR YOUR BOSS:

Yeah, you heard me. In my mind, your boss is a woman BECAUSE THIS IS 2014 but mostly, because vaginas. You better get used to taking orders from women if you don’t already, because our day is coming. Our day is coming.

XMAS LVL Asscher palm tree braceletWhat better way to show your boss that you believe in the empowerment of women than with a bracelet made by sister design team, Lexmond vs. Lexmond? This stunning yellow gold “Palm Tree” bracelet could also serve as a subliminal message by reminding your boss that you desperately need a Caribbean vacation. I’d wrap the bracelet around a bottle of Malibu rum if I were you, just to, you know, get her drunk enough to agree to it. Not that I think that all women drink, it’s just that, well, I’m a woman, and we pretty much all drink.

FOR YOUR BEST FRIEND:

xmas temple st clair locketIf you even go near that Pandora counter, I’ll kill you, and I’m not saying that as a euphemism. THIS IS YOUR BEST FRIEND, PEOPLE. She is your soil; the ground that your roots dig into when the winds are blowing fast and the rain is falling hard. She deserves a gift that represents her place in your world, because family is more than a name and some DNA.

This fabulous Temple St. ClairTree of Life” locket is the ideal present for your forever friend. She’s probably not expecting it either, because friendship, to her, requires no reward. And that’s all the more reason to adorn her this holiday.

FOR YOUR MISTRESS:

Maybe you have a mistress. If you do, this could be helpful. Maybe you are a mistress. If you are, feel free to thank me for putting you in the list. Maybe, a mistress ruined your marriage. If that’s the case, read on, anyway. Trust me on this one. You’ll be happy that you did.

Xmas KEndra BridelLet’s see… what have you gotten your mistress lately? New boobs? Check. Jimmy Choos? Check. STD? Check. Badass apartment in Chelsea with a view of the river and doorman to match? CHECK! My gosh! It’s almost like she has it all! A-HA! But she doesn’t! What’s the one piece of jewelry you *could* get for her this Christmas that you know that she wants more than anything in the world…

That’s right, my dear… a wedding band. But Jeebus knows you’re not giving her one of those, so hey, how about some fancy earrings, instead? These brand new “Flaming Blades” from Kendra Bridelle would be perfect for your mistress since she’ll likely stab you to death eventually and set fire to your bloody corpse, anyway. MERRY CHRISTMAS, BIG GUY! AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR, TOO!

Hope you all enjoyed this little gift guide. In all seriousness, I love every piece of jewelry I chose in this post and I’m sure the person receiving any one of them would be thrilled. Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!

Standard