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Calendar Boys: Presenting The Industry’s Top Twelve Best Dressed/Most Handsome Men

It’s Election Day, the votes have been counted, the results are in, and the blog is written. I want to thank all of the women who played along with this here crazy experiment of mine. It was only a matter of days after this thing got started that some guy mentioned to another guy how they should do a looks contest on the women of the jewelry industry, which of course, added to my justification for starting this little poll in the first place. This, m’ladies, was to turn the tables and give us the opportunity to do the judging… for once. You took the chance and ran like a bat out of hell with it, and I can’t thank you enough for making it fun for me, while hopefully giving a bit of an ego boost to those guys who made the list below. Without further hesitation, here are your top twelve Best Dressed/Most Handsome men in Jewelry according to your vote:

No. 12 – The Rockstar

IMG_20141104_094312For me, the hottest thing about a man is his sense of humor. If a man is funny – and I mean, genuinely humorous – then chances are he’s intelligent, and that, too, is an incredibly sexy characteristic. The second hottest thing for me is a damned good head of hair. Stephen Webster – our resident industry rock star, or as we’ll call him, “Mr. December” – has both of those attributes and oh, so much more. I’ve been following Mr. December on Twitter for a while now, and if for some reason you don’t, know that you’re severely neglected in the world of social media. With tweets like “To show my support for my partners in KC (Tivol Jewelers) I’m rooting for the Royals. Baseball, and not the Windsors” it’s no wonder so many find the man infectious and superbly attractive. I’ve not met Mr. December personally as of yet but I thank the gals who voted for him because I couldn’t imagine this list without his snark and spark.

No. 11 – The Celebrity

IMG_20141104_094122What would this business be without the style and swag of Michael O’Connor? This man is walking perfection, and he never has so much as a hair out of place. Er, scratch that last part. Not only did Mr. November attain multiple votes in his favor, many of his female colleagues made sure they added their reasons why. “Seriously, does the man age?” “I’ve got to go with Michael O’Connor for Best Dressed. I mean, duh.” “If Michael O’Connor doesn’t make this list we all need a serious lesson in HOW TO KNOW WHEN SOMEONE LOOKS GOOD.” I couldn’t agree with that last statement more. I mean, he’s sort of the male version of Joan Rivers (God rest her soul) so why on earth wouldn’t he have made the cut? Congrats to you. My friend! Well deserved, and please keep up the good work.

No. 10 – The Guy I Always Thought Was Italian

IMG_20141104_094057There’s a special place in my heart for Italian men. Why do you think they’re the poster children for all things fashion-related? Ever step foot in the Italy pavilion at any of the trade shows? Yeah, uh-huh. You know what I’m talkin’ about. I mean, the French are hot and all, but the Italians… well, they just “get it.” And Barry Verragio gets it, too, even though he’s Russian. Wait, what? I’ve been HAD! Ah, screw it. He can be an honorary Italian in my book. With a great head of hair, cheekbones for days, and a disposition that most of us are simply not worthy of, Mr. October was a popular choice among those who have either been in his presence or stared at his profile picture, not that I’ve done that myself… lately.

No. 9 – The Fashionisto

IMG_20141104_095542Dallas Selsey. What do I think about Dallas Selsey? He’s sort of like… a portable vibrator. Meaning, he’s small enough for you to throw in your purse, stealth enough that you might forget he’s there for a while, yet dependable enough that he shows up when you really need him most… for example, that time you sat in a traffic jam in Charlotte for three hours and you started tearing your handbag apart swearing that you threw in an apple pie flavored Larabar before you left the house that morning, and then, WHAMMO! There he was! Traffic? What Traffic?? Yeah, he’s kind of like that but in a designer cashmere sex toy pouch autographed by Tom Ford. I’m pretty sure Mr. September will like this description of himself. I know for a fact I couldn’t have used it for anyone else on this list. Thank you to everyone who voted for Dallas Selsey. Seeing him make the cut makes me wonder where my purse is.

No. 8 – The Southern Gentleman

IMG_20141104_094243You should see his closet!” That was a quote included by Terry Chandler’s beloved wife Cindy when she emailed her vote for him to me last week. Has anyone in this industry laid eyes on this man and not thought to themselves “that guy knows how to wear a bowtie”? I highly doubt it, and yet it isn’t just the bowtie that draws people in; it’s the complete Tennessean package. Nice suits, great disposition, cool glasses, Southern manners, and an infectious personality only add to the tall stature and handsome face. Terry is a presence in this business in more ways than one, and when it came to voting for him in this competition, his many fans showed up in droves. Well done, Mr. August! Don’t ever change your style!

No. 7 – The Renaissance Man

IMG_20141104_094510For a while there my email inbox looked like a Todd Reed groupie convention broke out in it. Vote after vote had “Todd Reed” as the subject line which neither shocked nor surprised me because I’ve met the guy… and he’s pretty dang cute. People who didn’t recognize him by name were messaging me saying “I’ll take the guy with the shaggy hair in the center-right square to block”… so it appears that you don’t even have to know who Mr. July is to know how sultry he can be. On top of being one of the sexiest men our industry has offered up thus far, he makes cool jewels and does a slew of other interesting projects as well. Glasses + messy mop + Coloradoesque attitude + talent = lucky number seven. Good on ya, Mr. Reed, and keep those awesome hugs a flowin’!

No. 6 – The One We Want to Convert

IMG_20141104_094412Come on. Admit it. If you’re a woman, you think JCK’s Mark Smelzer is gorgeous. If you’re a man, you also may think the same thing but for the sake of this little poll, we kept the votes to gals only. Who here hasn’t imagined some steamy night under the covers with Mr. Smelzer after four or five (dozen) martinis? If you haven’t yet had that vision, you will soon enough, trust me on this. I personally love a challenge, and well… I should probably change the subject. Stunning duds are only a part of what makes this Mr. June so fantastic. He’s witty, kind, and passionate about what he does, and the fact that he’ll soon be a dad makes all of us swoon just a little bit more, which is likely one of the reasons he received so many votes. Congratulations on making our poll, Mark. We are all here if you ever ((wink)) need us.

No. 5 – The Pleasant Surprise

IMG_20141104_094348I have no idea who you are, Jeremy Dunn, but clearly, it doesn’t matter whether I do or not. Your name is now forever burned in my brain via the private tweets, Facebook messages, emails and smoke signals I received (I mean, you are in Seattle, maaaaan. Smoke signals are alllll goooood.) One voter stated “(Jeremy Dunn) is very handsome, indeed, but what’s more important is that he’s beautiful on the inside.” Let’s face it, you’re the “Pleasant Surprise” because I don’t remember the last time I saw a master bench jeweler who looked anything like you. You’re adorable! You’re your own secret weapon, bro, and you’re going places, from what I hear. Good luck with TheRephinery.com and Mazel Tov on the title of Mr. May!

No. 4 – The International Man of Mystery

IMG_20141104_094040What can anyone say about GIA’s Craig Danforth that hasn’t already been said? He’s charming, suave, personable, charming, funny, friendly, stylish, and charming. Oh, and he’s charming… did I mention that? Craig got so many votes at once that I had to reboot my laptop. That’s saying something, right there. Mostly that I need a new laptop. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t consider him a close friend and I’m pretty sure most men (and women) envy the life he leads. The consummate traveler, Mr. April prides himself on dressing his best and according to one vote-giver, he has “the most wonderful collection of cufflinks I’ve ever seen in my life.” Kudos to you, dear Craig. You are loved and admired amongst your minions, friends, and followers.

No. 3 – The Breath of Fresh Air

IMG_20141104_094437Young, blue-eyed, and stunning. Or so, that’s what I hear from the multitude of women who scurried to get their vote in for Gannon Brousseau, show director for Couture. I don’t know a damned thing about this guy and I’m pretty sure he likes it that way. Was he a KGB agent in another life? Is he in the witness protection program because he used to be a North Jersey mob boss named Vinny Acquilinni? Is he wanted in six states for killing alpacas and selling their hooves to be ground down as the latest hallucinogen? I HAVE NO IDEA. But that’s also the part that’s refreshing. Mr. March doesn’t have to be sprawled across social media to have the ladies fawning all over him. All he needs to do is show up when he needs to, do the job he’s supposed to, and exit with the grace bestowed upon him, and the women of the world will be at his beck and call. Rock on with your blue-eyed self, yo.

No. 2 – The American Sweetheart

IMG_20141104_094213Is there a kinder, more empathetic man in jewelry than Lecil Henderson? I doubt it. Which is why when his closest colleague rallied the troops to send in their votes for him, billions and billions of women showed their support. Maybe not that many, but if you had to read every one of those emails it would have felt like billions to you. Not everyone has that effect on people, and the fact that Lecil has left such a mark on people’s lives is a true testament to just how lovely he is. He’s a defender of the weak. He’s chivalrous to a fault. He’s kind-faced, sweet-natured, and just an all-around wonderful man. All of these things are what make him so handsome to those who voted, and I send my congrats to Mr. February on an impression well left.

No. 1 – The Royal

Are you surprised? I know you’re not surprised. I wasn’t surprised. I’m pretty sure this was a lock.

IMG_20141104_094541The title “Mr. January” of the Best Dressed/Most Handsome Men in the Jewelry Industry goes to none other than *the* Mike Asscher. A few quotes from his voters to start…

Mike always looks as if he stepped off of the pages of GQ magazine…”

Mike is not only the best looking and best dressed, but he’s also the best friend you could ever have…”

I only just met Mike Asscher this past May at JCK Las Vegas but there is a particular memory involving his attire that stands out for me. A huge group of industry folk were hanging out in the casino bar when one of my colleagues playfully pulled Mr. Asscher’s pocket square from his jacket. Without skipping a beat in his conversation he politely took it back, and continued to speak while folding the thing into the neatest geometric shape I’d ever seen in my life. Then he tucked it back in, like it looked like he’d done a thousand times before, and carried on as gracefully as a prince, which is when my friend turned to me and said “that thing we just witnessed was on a completely other level,” She was right. There is a grace and charm about this man that makes him what most in his position are not… approachable. He is debonair. He is witty. And he is madly in love with his wife and his kids. Combine all of those characteristics and pour them into a hand-tailored Italian suit and you have yourself a winner of any competition, day after day, and time after time. Mike was the only one of my three votes who made the top twelve, but I have to say, I’m incredibly happy to see that he came in as number one. Three cheers for you, sir. It’s more than deserved.

Congratulations to all of the winners! Keep straightening those ties, polishing those shoes, adjusting those glasses, and slicking back that hair, because you just never know who’s watching you or when and if those watching will vote again.

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Calling All Jewelry Industry Ladies!

I need your help…

I’m compiling a list of the jewelry industry’s best-dressed/most handsome gents, and your opinions will be what makes it happen.

Twelve gents from our industry will be featured in an upcoming post on Adornmentality.com. Whose ties always strike your fancy? Whose face makes you blush when he shows up at your store? This is about having some fun but also about anonymity, so feel free to send a private tweet, Facebook message, or email with your choice, a picture, and maybe even why you think what you do, and it will be included in the running.

The choices will be made by October 31st, so get to me soon, and share this post!

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Worn On the Bayou: Styles, Sights, and Songs from the Northern Gulf Coast

“Wish I was back on the bayou

Rollin’ with some Cajun Queen

Wishin’ I were a fast freight train

Just a chooglin’ on down to New Orleans” 

- Creedence Clearwater Revival

It had been fourteen years since I had flown into New Orleans. Don’t misread that… I have been to The Big Easy several times in the last decade and, sure, maybe once or twice I experienced a hangover there or possibly got myself into a little trouble because I kidnapped Tulane’s mascot (and still have him), but I’d driven from Atlanta on each of those trips, so flying high over grand Lake Pontchartrain brought back memories from my twenties that I had long since moved to the back of my overly-crowded, sazerac-infused brain. For this experience, I’d be travelling alone. No husband to show me where he used to buy groceries during his four-year stint as a NOLA resident during college. No kids to drag against their will through shops in The Quarter or the Magazine District. It was just my map, my agenda, and me, and hopefully maybe even a bit of something we call lagniappe. But before I get to my experience in The Crescent City, let me share with you what else was happenin’ ‘round the other parts…

Antique brooches at Claude Moore in Mobile, AL

Antique brooches at Claude Moore in Mobile, AL

The Northern Gulf Coast has its own way of thinking, and not all of it is how New Orleans folks think. Things are big there, sort of in a Texas-type way. Personalities are big. Politics are big. Food is big. Waist lines are… well, you get the point. But thankfully I found that jewels and gems are big as well. And while in Mobile, Alabama, where I visited the wonderful Claude Moore Jeweler, I was elated to see that heirloom jewelry was getting even bigger. These four gorgeous pins were just part of a collection of antique pieces carried by Claude Moore, and while what’s happening in fashion jewelry up North hasn’t quite found its way to the South yet, owner Howard Moore was optimistic that the tide is changing, and that Mobile was ready to embrace the next wave. I, for one, am a big fan of Mobile, so it’s nice to see the changes they’re embracing there. Little known fact about the city: Mobile, like New Orleans, was originally settled by the French in 1702. The city has flown six flags since its existence: French, Spanish, British, Republic of Alabama, Confederate, and of course, the United States. Because of this there’s a diversity there unlike most other larger cities in Alabama, which is a draw – and the fact that the Mobile River Delta has an incredible variety of fish and sea life – bringing in more hipster-run restaurants, a younger population, and dare I say… a newer, fresher, jewelry and fashion scene. Good on ya, Alabama. Oh, and um… Roll Tide ((ducks)).

Gulf Coast area jewelers

Gulf Coast area jewelers

After several hours visiting folks in the Mobile area, I decided I’d spend my first night at a hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi. My fifteen-year-old soul was hoping to run into circa-1988 Matthew Broderick there, but sadly, that was not the case. My short time in Biloxi was less than stellar as I was likely dressed a little too “fancy” for the hotel/casino guests there, making for some awkward conversation and unfortunate visuals that will long be burned into the back of my oculi. I’m sure there are several lovely parts of Biloxi, but where I was staying was far from being one of them. (**SOAPBOX ALERT**) How any city can still allow smoking in restaurants – and I mean, what their version of “high-end” restaurants is – is beyond me. No, I would not like a side of nicotine with my Crawfish pasta, sir. I think I’ll pass on the tobacco-encrusted salmon, thanks. Mmmmmm… smell that? It’s as if Marlboro is now raising its own livestock. I mean, I get that this is a “free country” and all and that the South – above anywhere else in this land – LOVES them some G*d-given freedom, but when it comes to destroying the clothing, hair, lungs, and even the most mediocre meal of the people around you, I say, SURE… you can have your freedom… but you must take it in a tiny little room, far, far away from where I’m trying to eat my overcooked asparagus. (Editor’s note: YES, BILOXI… IT’S CALLED ASPARAGUS. IT’S GREEN. NO NEED TO FRY IT. YOU SHOULD TRY IT SOME TIME. AND NO, YOU CAN’T SMOKE IT. **END OF RANT**.)

The *new* Aucoin Hart Jewelers in Metairie

The *new* Aucoin Hart Jewelers in Metairie

Thankfully the following morning would bring me back to the New Orleans area where there was no shortage of smoke-free restaurants, ladies in Lulu Lemon, and elegant jewelry stores just waiting to be visited. Some of the biggest names in the biz are in this region – namely, in a city just northwest of N’awlins called Metairie. The Lakeside Mall alone houses two major players when it comes to selling watches and jewelry: Lee Michaels, which has eight locations throughout Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi and carries brands like Marco Bicego, Henry Daussi, and Mikimoto. Also, there is Adlers Jewelry, which has three other locations in Louisiana and is a premier seller of Patek Philippe watches. It was wonderful to be able to visit these and the other beautiful boutiques that make Metairie a jewelry-buyers mecca, but there was still one location I was familiar with but had never visited…

Aucoin Hart.

Aucoin Hart's own brand of "Fleur-de-Lis" jewelry

Aucoin Hart’s own brand of “Fleur-de-Lis” jewelry

Many, many years ago, when I worked in the customer service department at Lagos’ Philadelphia factory and design center, the South, the West, and TOLA were my regions. I always remember the folks from Aucoin Hart being super friendly when they’d call for special orders, and meeting them finally in person didn’t change my feelings one bit. The store itself, which has been recently renovated, is a masterpiece in retail design and architecture. The staff is genuinely friendly and knowledgeable, but even more importantly, they’re passionate. I know many people from New Orleans and have a few friends who still live in the city, and “Passion” is the one thing they really pride themselves on. From the way they cheer on their beloved Saints, to the way they cook their unique style of cuisine, to the way they rebuilt themselves post Hurricane Katrina, it’s the passion of the people who reside in the area that carries them through and eventually, puts them right back on top. The folks at Aucoin Hart are passionate about the new store design, passionate about their customers, and passionate both about the brands they carry, and those they create themselves. And when I needed a recommendation for a restaurant in the area, you can bet that every staff member there was passionate about where they wanted to send me. In the end, largely thanks to one salesman’s more-than-convincing argument, I decided on chef John Besh’s French/German/Creole eatery… Luke.

Crawfish, the Quarter, and sunsets on the Gulf

Crawfish, the Quarter, and sunsets on the Gulf

Food is to New Orleans what beer is to Brussels, wine is to Paris, and coffee is to Seattle. New Orleans isn’t just the party city any longer. It’s been “born again” and this second chance at life has made it an even greater powerhouse for dishing out some of the finest cuisine in the world. Does it still have po-boy shops, muffaletta houses, and crawfish boils? Damn straight. But chefs like Adolpho Garcia, Donald Link, John Besh, Sue Zemanick, and yes… even Emeril Lagasse (still) (BAM!) are changing the New Orleans fine dining scene almost daily. (And, no. You didn’t visit a food blogger’s website and a bunch of info on jewelry stores broke out. You’re still at the right place, but I’d be stupid not to mention something about regional eats in this post.)

Before this entry is over I think it only right to talk about one of my all-time favorite jewelry and housewares designers who just happens to call New Orleans home… Mignon Faget.

Having been born and raised in New Orleans, Mignon Faget allows the wearers of her work to explore the mysteriousness of Louisiana through her designs. Her first ever collection, called “Sea,” transformed gemstones and jewels found on the Gulf Coast into wearables that epitomized what it was like to be from the area. Her “Ironworks” collection takes snippets of Marcellino Hernandez’s renowned forgings from the historic Vieux Carré and makes them into beautiful baubles of wearable architecture. But it doesn’t stop with jewelry. Her “Home” collection features glassware and table settings using the classic fleur-de-lis design, as well as apis-inspired aprons and stemware from her “Hive” collection (a personal favorite for obvious reasons).

It was a brief, interesting, but enjoyable visit to the area, and I’m looking forward to getting back there again in the very near future. Until that day comes, however, I’ll leave you all with a little Louis Armstrong:

“Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans

And miss it each night and day

I know I’m not wrong this feeling’s gettin’ stronger

The longer, I stay away

Miss them moss covered vines,

the tall sugar pines Where mockin’ birds used to sing

And I’d like to see that lazy Mississippi

hurryin’ into spring…”

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Calling Bullsh*t on “Subjective Grading”: My Experience with the Different Labs

rd plotIt seems that everyone is expressing their opinions on the recent Rapnet ban of all EGL certified diamonds, so I thought it was the right time to share my own personal experience – or at least, one of them – as it pertains to the differences in labs and how they grade.

Once upon a time, in a faraway part of my existence, I ordered an EGL certified diamond from a dealer in the U.S. that sold them incredibly cheaply. To my dismay, when I received the stone (graded by this particular lab as an “H” color) I noticed that the diamond was far too yellow for my liking, and that I would have never been able to sell it to my customer as such. Upon closer inspection, I saw what I thought was a laser inscription on the girdle. And I was right. It definitely was. The only problem is, it was an inscription by a different lab…

The GIA.

Thanks to the technological progress in our industry, I looked up the GIA inscription on their website. The letter I saw as the color grade gave me goose bumps. It borderline made me nauseated. This stone had been double graded and was selling for a higher price with the EGL grade than it was at the lower GIA grade. I felt my ears get hot and almost immediately picked up the phone to give the dealer a piece of my mind. This wasn’t one color-grade off. This wasn’t two color grades off. It was a fistful… Five. FIVE! There was a five-grade difference between this diamond certified by one of the Hong Kong labs of EGL International and by the Carlsbad lab of the GIA. Five. EGL’s “H “was GIA’s “M,” and the only answer I received from the person on the other end of the line, was this…

“Diamond grading is subjective. It states it right there on the cert.”

Pardon my language here, but I called bullshit. This was an abuse of the term “subjective.” Would you accept a car salesman telling you that the car you were buying from a dealership had four tires when you could blatantly see that it only had three? What if he said that since he was the *expert,* it was his opinion that was the correct one? Would you be infuriated? I would. I was. And at the time of the incident I tried to do something about it, but at the time, I really couldn’t get anyone to listen. And I mean that. NO ONE.

I made calls. I wrote emails. I did research on the overseas lab in question and even sent a fax (a fax!) when I couldn’t reach anyone there by email or telephone. What I got in return was silence. And when I went to one of the major databases listing this wholesaler’s diamonds and explained the situation, my complaint was met with the following response: “Yes, you’re not the first to come forward. We are currently investigating this as it is an issue.”

That was a long, long time ago. Nothing happened then, or shortly afterward, or in the years that followed. But, as we all know, something is happening now. And while, in my opinion, something should have been done prior to any lawsuits bringing attention to the matter, I’m happy to witness the industry step up and see to it that something of impact is done, today.

My advice to the EGL International is this: Create your own grading system. Use numbers for color. Use different abbreviations for clarity. Don’t use the GIA scale if you’re not using GIA grading standards. My advice for EGL-USA: stop calling yourselves the EGL-USA if you want to be able to be listed on diamond trading networks. Separate yourselves. Break free completely. There’s a stigma, now, and you seriously may want to think this thing through. My advice to all diamond dealers: send your stones to reputable labs. Know that this is only the beginning, and if you continue to have diamonds double-graded, it’s going to come back to you and hit you where it hurts. The spotlight is on you, and it’s on you right now. And my advice to jewelry retailers: cheap isn’t always better. Educate your customer, your staff, and yourself. Choose the right wholesalers, because in the end, it’s your name, and your reputation, that’s on the line.

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“We’re Being Attacked”: A Jewelry Person’s Recount of the Events of 9/11

We all have our stories for this day, don’t we? We have our own distinct memories of where we were, what we were doing, and the people we were doing it with. Our parents and their older friends could tell you it was the same when President Kennedy was killed. Some of us could tell you it was the same when the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded in front of millions of television viewers, while the world looked on. But this… this was so much different. This one event changed humans in the long term. Yet here we are, thirteen-years later, recalling our pain as if it were yesterday. And we still have pain. We didn’t need to lose someone in the towers to have pain, either. On this day, thirteen years ago, we were all Catherine Gorayeb’s daughter. We were all Suria Clarke’s dad. And we were all Todd Beamer’s wife. We cried on their shoulders, held their hands, wiped their tears, and prayed to our God. We stood united with them and we stand united today, even if for just today, as a nation of consolers.

This is one jewelry person’s memory of the events of September 11th. This is my memory, and my story, and how my life was changed because of it.

***********

8:55 a.m.

((RRRRrrrrrring))

Co-worker Don (picking up wall phone): “A&K Manufacturers. Oh, hey hon. (silence for about thirty seconds)… You’re shitting me. Oh my God. Okay. Call me back if they say anything else.”

Me (to Don): “What’s up?”

Co-worker Don: “That was my wife. She said apparently a plane crashed into one of the WTC towers. She said it’s all over the news. The whole top is on fire.”

Me: “Oh my God, that’s horrible! Wow. Wait, a plane or a jet?”

Co-worker Don: “She said a plane. Probably a small private plane or something. I’m sure accidental.”

Me: “I can believe that. You know, the same thing happened in the forties to the Empire State building. A B-25 bomber, I think. Guy accidentally flew it into the building because he couldn’t see. I mean, you’d think now the air traffic control would be better, though… right?”

Co-worker Don: “Why are you as young as you are and you’d know something like that?”

Me: “I’m a nerd.”

Co-worker Don: “No argument here.”

 

9:05 a.m.

((RRRRrrrring))

Co-worker Don (picking up phone again): “A&K. (silence for ten seconds) you’re fucking kidding me! OH MY GOD. YOU’RE KIDDING ME! (Now pulling the phone away from his ear to address my boss and me)… She said she just watched a big jet fly into the second tower. Just now. ON TELEVISION!”

Me: (speechless, frozen, and completely in shock): “That’s no accident. We’re being attacked.”

 ***********

Sansom Street is the main strip in Philadelphia’s jewelry district and I worked in a place dead smack in the center of it. But Sansom Street was also in the heart of the city’s historical district. Independence Hall was a block east. The Liberty Bell was only feet away. The birthplace of our nation was in my peripheral vision and my mind started racing as to what would be attacked next.

Not even an hour later this is what else we knew: The Pentagon had been crashed into and the South Tower (the second of the two to be hit) had completely imploded, killing all inside.

This… this is war.” I thought to myself as I tried to continue working while listening to the radio for any updates we honestly were fearful of getting. We didn’t have smart phones yet. And cell signals were so overloaded that radio, of all things, was the only way we could keep up to date. My then husband (and now ex-husband) came crashing through the doors of our jewelry shop shortly after ten, sweaty and covered in paint, with a familiar angry look on his face. “Why are you still here? Why are they keeping you here? You’re in center city and there are still missing planes. I’m taking you home right now.”

But I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I knew that everyone was leaving Center City. Everybody, even my mother who worked at a bakery just ten blocks from where I was had packed up their stuff once the second tower had been hit. But my bosses were older Armenian men and they weren’t afraid of Philly being a target, and so they kept the shop open, and there is where I stayed until finally, around 2:00, they realized no one was left on the street to come in.

I didn’t know where to go. I was afraid of going home and sitting in front of my television and watching what I had only been hearing up to that point. Death affects me. Brutal deaths, however, well, they haunt me. I’ve never been a person who can watch a video of someone dying. I even turn away at the exact point on the Zapruder film when the bullet reaches Kennedy’s head. I feel like I’m violating the rights of the now deceased to watch on television how they died. It seems too personal to be broadcast for audiences of people. And I wasn’t quite ready to see the devastation for myself. Not right then. Not just yet.

I got into my car, and started to drive. I first drove around a desolate Philadelphia. I drove to the house I grew up in from age 10 until 18. I drove past my beloved high school, and my favorite cheesesteak shop, and my best friend’s mom’s house near where I would play stick ball with my brothers. I drove to the usually bustling Italian Market and listened to the silence that only a crisp, late-summer’s day could bring. I drove to Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River, parked, and looked across to the state of New Jersey, wondering if, like I, they were feeling a pain and confusion beyond their wildest imagination. And then, I drove to the church I was married in, and I walked through the open doors, and I sat in an empty pew.

That, is when I cried.

Catholicism comes with a guilt that only most Jewish people can relate to. I sat in church, guilty of not having stepped foot into it since the day I was married almost two-years prior. I felt the guilt that I was there to ask for something; to request something of a higher power that I had not paid attention to other than to call his name is angry situations. I felt the guilt, but it didn’t stop me. I fell to my knees and let loose a wail. I cried for every child who would never see their parent again. I begged the Lord to make it stop – to cease whatever attack was potentially about to happen. I cried hard, and plenty, and I pleaded until I had nothing else left. And that’s when I felt I was ready to go home.

 *********** 911a

Seeing the jets crash into each tower replayed over and over and over on my television was surreal. I couldn’t get a hold of any of my New York friends and had no idea if they were safe or not. But the thing that got to me – the thing that, without hyperbole, CHANGED MY LIFE – was the coverage of the people who were searching for their loved ones. It was, by all accounts, the papers. Papers and flyers with “missing” at the top. Families crying, holding paper signs in the September night with brothers’ and sisters’ faces emblazoned across them. “Please. Please call this number if you’ve seen my son, Michael. Michael, please call us. We can’t get hold of you and we’re worried. Please, son. We love you.” I can still hear them in my head. I heard them over and over on the night of September 11th as I sat alone in a bath tub trying to wash away the day’s memories.

I sat, and I thought, and I contemplated, and I cried, and I hurt, and I wondered, and I eventually decided…

I wanted a divorce.

Maybe not that day, as that would have been a cold, heartless thing to bring up after all of the traumatic events, but I knew, right then, that I wasn’t going to live a life that I didn’t want to live any more. I wanted to travel, and my ex-husband didn’t. I wanted to wait to have kids and he wanted them now. I wanted to live my life and make my own memories and he was not along for my ride. And so in that bath I decided to change my outcome. I wasn’t going to let my life slip away in some cold, soulless shop in the only city I had ever lived in. I was going to start over. I was going to travel, and eat fine food and see fine art, and make fine, fine love without the pressure of having children when I wasn’t ready to have them. If there was a silver lining to 9/11 for me it was my realization that life can be taken away at any given moment, which allowed me to take my life back and create more valuable moments to leave behind should I die. I didn’t want to die never having seen the Mona Lisa, or Michelangelo’s David. I refused to be buried without having sipped French wine in France or Belgian beer in Belgium. And so I followed through on my decision, and I’m happy to say that thirteen years later, it was the right one.

***********

I will never forget the events surrounding September 11, 2001. I will never forget my first flight afterward, or my first trip back to Ground Zero three months later. I will always remember the look on my son’s face when I took him to the memorial two years ago as he touched his tiny fingers to fading letters in Todd Beamer’s name. I am, like you, forever changed as a person. But I am, also like you, forever proud of being American.

May the souls of those lost be at peace and may the hearts of those left behind break ever-so-slightly less today. We all remember 9/11.

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Red Carpet Radness

Not Much More than Bore and Snore: My 2014 Emmys Red Carpet Recap

The Emmys are long over, and the verdicts are definitely in: too many red gowns, too many white gowns, too few fabulous jewels, too many wins for Modern Family. But hey, other than that they were great! (Sarcasm.)

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Who here wants to Polka? Suddenly I’m hungry for Kielbasa.

Re: fashion – Whose idea was it to make the Emmy’s look like the Polish flag? Since when was Poland ever fashionable? It gets crazy cold there. Loads of snow and kielbasa, plus hats, coats, and scarves, which is not usually what I think of when I think “awards season.” And while I adore the color red – seriously, it’s been my absolute favorite color since before Pantone existed – somewhere I felt like some new style council co-sponsored by Crayola, Coca-Cola, and Lucifer, himself, must have gotten all of the stylists together and promised them a lifetime supply of colored pencils and freedom from eternal damnation if they dressed their clients in the crimson hue. I mean, I, unlike most, get it. The color is attention-commanding. It screams of power and of sensuality. It beckons the eyes of those present to stare longingly and wantonly at the person brave enough to don the color in such a public forum. Like I said, I get it, but there is such a thing as overdoing it, and on this particular red carpet, it felt evilly overdone.

EMMYpost3Yet, almost as if the Archangel Raphael (as in, celebrity stylist Karen Raphael) saw what Beelzebub was planning, he decided to swoop in from his perch on catholicmatch.com’s website to give that little devil a run for his money by shrouding the good wives (though ironically enough, she was cloaked in black) in the absence of color… white. Oh, the punny headlines, they were a plenty. My friend and #emmyjewelry event tweeter, Michael Schechter, quipped, “Looking forward to groaning at ‘Celebs Say I Do To White’ headlines…” and man, was he on the money.

Variety Magazine: “Emmy Fashion: Red, White, and Safe All Over”

T.V. Guide: “Emmys Fashions: White Hot Looks”

LA Times: “White Outfits on the Red Carpet”

TheDressDown.com: “2014 Emmys: All White, All White, All White!” (I will at least give this one a point for creativity.)

(Shaking head) Who writes this crap?

If I were one of the dozens of actresses dressed in either red or white at this event I’d have canned my stylist via text message back stage, that’s how pissed I would have been. “I can’t believe you put me in white, Phillipe! This is what I pay you to do, for fuck’s sake! You get major cash to make me stand out and now I’m a photo grid on People.com, in between Robin Wright’s backless pantsuit and Sofia Vergara’s pantyless backside. I CAN’T COMPETE WITH THAT! Were you deceased when you dressed me?? Guess what? I’m Donald Trump. And guess what else? You’re fired.”

Clearly it would have been a really long text. I’d say several “dings” worth.

But I will admit that even with the commonality of fashion color trends, there were some definite standouts. My favorites in white were OITNB’s Laverne Cox wearing Marc Bouwer with Fred Leighton jewelry (more on those jewels coming up), and Angela Bassett (she’s 56, y’all!) in a long-sleeved Elisabetta Franchi wrap dress with gold accents and jewels by David Yurman. In red(ish), I adored Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Carolina Herrera with Lorraine Schwartz jewelry even though I was disappointed in her for forgetting who designed her clutch. She’s usually the one I depend on for those things. (Gives disapproving look.)

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A few (a very few) of the pieces that stood out at the 2014 Emmys

Re: jewelry – Whether you loved or hated the jewels on the carpet there is one thing we can all agree on… there weren’t a lot of them. Or, better yet, there weren’t a lot of them with umph. Or there weren’t a lot that stood out. Or many that were made by those who weren’t the usual suspects. Don’t get me wrong, I thank Deity every awards show for the likes of Fred Leighton, Chopard, Neil Lane, and Lorraine Schwartz, for sometimes, it seems that without them we would have no bling to gawk at, at all. And I know, I know, the jewelry often… no, always… takes a back seat to the dress and in reality there’s only a small percentage of us in this business who scream for today’s Liz Taylor of the jewelry world. Sadly, we didn’t get her on this red carpet, but I’m optimistic that we may see her in the near future.

So what did we see Monday night? Well, we saw yellow gold in many forms, which I’m sure made several people in this industry very wealthy happy. We saw it take the form of a Fred Leighton salamander on the back of Kristin Wiig, as well as an Ana Khouri tiara in Michelle Dockery’s hair. We saw it plentifully donning Christina Hendricks’ ears, wrists, and fingers via designer Neil Lane, and we saw it by Lorraine Schwartz surrounding gorgeously classic canary yellow diamonds on Lucy Liu. We also saw several platinum pieces like the fabulous ninety-five carat Chopard diamond necklace on Kate Walsh (though it would have stood out more on a lower-cut gown) as well as on Laverne Cox in the form of Fred Leighton diamond earrings, bracelet, and Art Deco brooches sewn into her dress. Other stars wearing platinum were “Pregnant” Panettiere, “Matthew Was Supposed To Remember Who Designed My Dress” Alves, and “I Can’t Pronounce Anyone’s Name Tonight” Stefani, which is the perfect segue into my next category…

Re: mispronunciations/forgetting who designed your free wearables – Robin Givhan wrote a fantastic article for the Washington Post last week titled “Pushing Products on Emmys Red Carpet” that put into perspective this specific topic. “Monday night, the poor, overwhelmed stars of the small screen were finding it impossible to remember all the names of the brands that gave or lent them their one-night wardrobe of fancy stuff,” she quipped, and continued with, “Model Camila Alves could not remember who designed her white, embroidered gown. And when husband Matthew McConaughey, wearing a lapis-blue tuxedo by Dolce & Gabbana, whispered the name in her ear, he only managed to remember half of it and mispronounced the half he did recall. Something with a ‘Z’, he gamely offered. Poor Zuhair Murad was sitting in his atelier weeping.”

If you were following the jewelry industry hierarchy at the hashtag #emmyjewelry last Monday evening, then you already know how these acts of “forgetfulness” bother the hell out of me. Am I supposed to have empathy for those WHOSE JOB IT IS TO MEMORIZE LINES FOR A LIVING when they just happen to… oops… not know who provided them with everything they’re wearing? And I’m sorry, but seriously, are they really forgetting or do they just not give a rat’s ass? If the Dalai Lama gave them a brooch to wear at the Emmys and someone from E! asked about said brooch (though, having someone from E! ask about the jewelry would be far-fetched, in and of itself) are we really to believe that they’d “forget” that it was from the Dalai Lama? No. I don’t believe that for a second. I believe that they’d scream it into the microphone because they would CARE enough to *remember*… and that really is where I have a problem. Big houses like Fred Leighton and Chopard have so much revenue that it’s not a huge burden on them to cloak celebrities in hundreds of carats of diamonds, yet a lot of celebrities walking the various red carpets can afford to pay for the jewelry they’re wearing, but they don’t have to. And so when a lesser-known designer comes along who has put their heart and soul (and money!) into making jewelry (or a gown, or a clutch) spectacular enough to appear in such an elaborate spotlight, it is, in my opinion, the duty of the celebrity to care enough to know the name or brand of the designer who was kind enough to dress them, in every format that dressing occurs. Yes, it gives exposure to the designer and yes, that means that it does work both ways, but let’s face it, who do you think is really coming out on top here?

I have an idea, or rather, a suggestion for the talented (and not-so-talented… I’m looking at you, Mrs. Rossdale) folks in the entertainment industry that could potentially help them not look so awkward, and frankly, so entitled, on the red carpets of the future: write your providers down on a piece of paper, a la an acceptance speech. Take a tiny yellow Post-it note and simply scribe…

Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti (so fab)

Dress: Helmut Lang (a personal fave)

Jewels: Irene Neuwirth (we want to see more!)

Clutch: Insert Clutch Maker Here (I really don’t know many)

The television world and we fickle bloggers will be thrilled that you cared enough to give CORRECTLY PRONOUNCED shout-outs to those who rightfully deserved them and chances are you’ll become our new heroine/hero. And yeah, we know that you don’t *have* to impress us, or anyone for that matter, but there’s a point where you must ask yourself what the appropriate thing to do would be, and this small gesture would potentially make you look golden to the masses, and everyone will feel better in the long run, believe me.

So, that’s what I’ve got for you, loves. On a sad note but completely related, I am heartbroken to hear about Joan Rivers’ medical situation and have so many fond comedic memories of her from my childhood into my adulthood. Funny, beautiful women seem to be few and far between in Hollywood, and those who can make fun of themselves seem to be even scarcer. The world never knew the likes of Joan Rivers and likely never will again, so I will end this post with some of my favorite and fitting quotes from The Funny Lady, herself:

“I’m in nobody’s circle; I’ve always been an outsider.”

“I think anyone who’s perfectly happy isn’t particularly funny.”

“I was smart enough to go through any door that opened.”

“I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive. Things are happening.”

And of course…

“I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.”

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Uncategorized

Because I Can: Today’s Favored Jewels as Told Through 1980’s Daytime Soap Opera Titles

Raise your fingerless neon glove if you’re a child of the eighties.

Remember that first week of summer vacation after 7th grade? When your stay-at-home dad took on an actual hobby that left you alone with the television from 1:00 p.m. until 3? Remember curling up on the mint-green loveseat with your can of Aqua Net and Hello Kitty blanket praying to heaven that the day’s episode would include a scene or several with Roman Brady? Remember thinking to yourself… “If I ever have a son, I’m totally naming him Roman, and I don’t care what my husband says about it!”?

Well, I do. And yeah, that kid-naming thing happened. So today I decided I’d showcase some of my favorite jewelry out there right now by categorizing them under 1980’s Soap Opera names. Don’t thank me yet; there’ll be plenty of time at the end, unless of course my cousin who is actually my half-stepbrother returns from the dead to avenge our godmother’s untimely death in that terrible corn-husking accident. YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE!

AS THE WORLD TURNS

As The World (and Ricardo Basta's earrings) Turns

As The World (and Ricardo Basta’s earrings) Turns

Swirl Party Platinum and Diamond Earrings

Swirl Party Platinum and Diamond Earrings… they TURN!

For those who don’t know, the adored and beloved Julianne Moore got her start playing two characters on this here Opera du Soap. She played Frannie Hughes – a wealthy Oakdale socialite who flunked out of Yale yet also studied at Oxford (an obvious slacker) – as well as playing Frannie’s nerdier half-sister (and cousin! I swear to gawd. I am not making this shit up) Sabrina, who Frannie eventually moves to Haiti with so that they may volunteer there after the massive earthquake toppled the country.

All of this plot spinning makes me long achingly for these Ricardo Basta platinum and diamond “Swirl Party” dangle earrings that turn on the wearer (see what I’m doing here?). Created with briolette and rose cut black diamonds as well as 550 high-quality round brilliant cut white diamonds, these stunning earrings would have looked marvelous on Frannie on that night she attended the symphony with Seth Snyder before they were engaged (which Frannie then broke off because Sabrina tricked Seth into sleeping with her, thinking it was her doppelganger half-sister/cousin. WHORE!).

ALL MY CHILDREN

Erica Kane was a real Mutha...

Erica Kane was a real Mutha…

Heather Moore Pendant with All (Someone's) Children

Heather Moore Pendant with All (Someone’s) Children

Before Sarah Michelle Gellar started slaying Vampires (which is pretty much when the uncoolness of vampires began for me. Forgive us, Anne Rice), she played Kendall Hart – the daughter of the character of the most famous actress ever to have been shunned by the Daytime Emmys (until 1999)… Susan Lucci. Lucci’s uber-infamous Erica Kane confusingly (no joke… the story line is MIND MELTING) wound up with three children of her own by the end of the series. This leads me to believe that if Erica Kane had lived among us common folk… you know, drank an occasional solo cup of gin and shopped the clearance rack at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls… she might just wear this lovely Heather Moore silver and 14K pink gold heart pendant engraved with the names of her adoring brood, “Kendall,” “Bianca,” and “Josh”… because, what else would her kids be named in 1986 on daytime TV?

THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

When I think bold and beautiful, I rightfully think of Kerri Halpern’s Madstone line of jewelry, and particularly, her Mythology collection. So when I had the idea to write this sort of quirky/throwback/pop-culture blog post, I was surprised at the tie-in I was able to find between this particular soap opera and Halpern’s goddess-like adornments. Namely, HRH Princess Theodora of Greece.

Greek Princess meets Greek Goddess on Daytime Television, no less

Greek Princess meets Greek Goddess on Daytime Television, no less

Wha?

So Bold and So Beautiful; the Persephone Ring by Madstone

So Bold and So Beautiful; the Persephone Ring by Madstone

Yeah!! Get this! In 2011, Princess Theodora debuted on The Bold and The Beautiful as Alison Montgomery, Bill Spencer’s devious assistant who was able to feed him valuable information about the Forresters! And what heinous Highness would be complete without a bauble to personify her most deviant of deeds? I say it’s the 18K yellow gold Persephone ring for you, Ms. Montgomery! IF that is indeed even your real name (face slap)! The golden carved citrine shrouded by multi-colored sapphires, fire opals, rubies and diamonds should be a welcome accessory to the hand you tend to keep so… “under.”

SANTA BARBARA

I wanted to watch this show so badly just because I was thirteen and it had my name in it, but it came on at the same time as Another World and there was just NO WAY I was going to miss out on Anne Heche playing both good and evil twin sisters (by the way when you Google “Anne Heche” the term “Anne Heche Crazy” is the first to pop up. Try it. You’re welcome.).

Santa Buttercup... errr, Barbara

Santa Buttercup… errr, Barbara. As You Wish.

Calla Gold Emerald Studs, made in Santa Barbara

Calla Gold Emerald Studs, made in Santa Barbara

Before Robin Wright was Robin Wright Penn, or, as she was even better known, Buttercup from The Princess Bride, she played one of the show’s original characters… Kelly Capwell. Poor Kelly Capwell. Poor, pretty, rich Kelly Capwell. Always in relationships with serial killers or falling in love with guys who eventually died horrible deaths. She was the “Ivory” girl though, ya know? And honestly, Robin Wright herself is not very much different looking – from the classic and demure standpoint – which is why I feel that these deco-style Asscher Cut emerald studs by Santa Barbara personal jeweler, Calla Gold, would look lovely on her today, back then, or forever. They represent Santa Barbara so very well, dontcha think?

GUIDING LIGHT

It would be only fitting to end this post with the daytime drama that started it all. Guiding Light is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running television drama in history. Stars like Jimmy Smits, Hayden Panettiere, Mira Sorvino, Billy Dee Williams, and, believe it or not… CHRISTOPHER WALKEN… (check his wiki!) all got their breaks after roles on GL.

Compass Gents Band by Meister... to Guide your husband back to the Light

Compass Gents Band by Meister… to Guide your husband back to the Light

I had two ways to go with this particular Soap Opera/Jewelry connection. I could have gone the “Light” route, however, I already used Shawish’s illuminating octopus bracelet in an earlier post and really couldn’t find another lighted piece of jewelry I loved, and so, I chose to go the “Guiding” route with this titanium and 18K rose gold gents band by Swiss and German brand, Meister, that is not only as cool as hell and fashionable in a very German way, but it also doubles as a working compass for those nights your husband claims that he can’t find his way home.

Hope this little piece of mine brightens your Friday and brings you back to a time when Luke and Laura was the only wedding you cared about caring about.

Have a rad weekend!

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