Why I “Conclave”: One Jewelry Writer’s Reasons for Attending the Industry Event of the Year

The first American Gem Society Conclave I ever attended was in 2015 in the great city of New Orleans, Louisiana. At the time, I wasn’t a full-time writer, but being there was one of the reasons I wanted to become one.

Conclave was unlike any industry conference to which I’d been. It was low-maintenance. Low stress. I didn’t feel the need (as a then-salesperson) to “work”. In other words, I felt strangely as if the retailers and I were on even ground. I had no product to sell, which took the pressure off me, and they had no product to buy, taking the pressure off them. We were equals. Colleagues. Friends, even. Friends who sat side-by-side in educational classes and drank single-malt scotch together at nightly events. Friends who compared notes, pondered the future of our industry, and shared various success stories. It was clear to me in 2015 that Conclave was special, and that now that I’d caught the bug, it would be hard as heck to get rid of it.

The following year, Conclave was held in Washington D.C. and it was the first one I would attend as a newly-minted full-time writer as I was invited by the AGS. This was also the first year the event would have Joel Zeff as its emcee and if I didn’t think I was sold the year before, I knew then and there the organization would need a crow bar to get rid of me. 2016 was also the first year I took part in the Young Titleholders Trivia Night after being asked by then-Conclave Chair John Carter to be a part of his team. We took first place at that event, beating the smack-talking “Team Josh”, and a jewelry industry “rivalry for the ages” was forged.

In 2017, Hollywood was Conclave’s temporary home, and its speakers were some of the best to date. Jay Leno headlined, causing a bit of a stir with his humor, and The Queen – Cathy Calhoun – clutched her pearls (and by “pearls” I mean “hundreds of thousands in diamonds”) when it was announced that she’d be the recipient of that year’s Robert M. Shipley Award. Hollywood’s Conclave gave us moments like “Mary Poppins”, zipper shirt tucks, Dave & Buster’s engagements, and a throwback Scott Berg with straightened hair (an image I’ll never be able to unsee), but it was also the first Conclave in which I was a speaker, and with an attendance that spilled out into the hallway (largely due to people wanting free drinks), it was one I won’t soon forget.

Flash forward to this week – 2018 – and the grand ol’ city of Nashville, Tennessee. This year’s Conclave was attended by over 700 people from all over the United States, Canada, and beyond, and it was just as enlightening, entertaining, and educational as it has always been. But before I bullet point some of my favorite memories, happenings, and lines from this week, I just want to thank the extraordinary team at the American Gem Society as well as the Conclave committee and their new chair, Alexis Padis, for doing what you do so well: bringing together the best and brightest lights in the business and providing them an opportunity to share their knowledge so that our industry thrives together as a unit.

Now, here are some of my favorite 2018 AGS Conclave moments that you may or may not understand, but trust me, if you don’t now, you likely will at some point in the future:

  • “Day Bubbles”
  • Bill Farmer and toilet paper – honestly, just don’t ask
  • Realizing that John Carter’s table etiquette is better than mine and that I’m not the only person who noticed
  • The beautiful tribute to Herb Bridge
  • Dave Bindra’s colored stone class making me almost weep in amazement
  • “What’s a hashtag?”
  • Fake-driving a car to Asheville from Nashville while feeling angry, happy, sad, and petrified all in a matter of two-and-a-half minutes
  • Steak for lunch. (Because Susan paid)
  • Fried chicken and country music date night with Danielle Miele and John Carter
  • Marie Osmond’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
  • Meredith Schlessinger’s idea of what a nail gun sounds like
  • Forevermark’s promise to promote gender equality in their organization
  • FINALLY getting a shout out by Joel Zeff during the AGS breakfast (but unfortunately not being in attendance to hear it)
  • Sarah Nanasi Russell receiving the YTH of the Year Award
  • Anna Samsonova and Gina Hawkins receiving the Guild Award on behalf of the Seattle Chapter
  • Being given “The Big Room” for my breakout session and almost filling it. Almost.
  • The comfortability of Ben Smithee’s mattress and why clarity in a sentence matters
  • Doug Hucker’s “pants split” story during the mentor session
  • The visuals that went along with Doug Hucker’s “pants split” story during the mentor session
  • Seeing Doug Hucker receive the Robert M. Shipley award even after he shared the “pants split” story during the mentor session
  • Leos and Libras and Love (OH MY!)
  • Alexis, Denise, Marc, Byron, Josh, Dave, Ben, Anna, Sarah, Jeremy, Hannah, Lisa, Megan, Jordan, and all of you millennials who keep me feeling young and relevant… I genuinely adore you all
  • Dickel’s whiskey
  • “You can’t superglue that one back together”
  • Being schooled on my choice to wear seersucker and being okay with that because #northerner
  • Oddly shaped potatoes
  • AC/DC with Joel, John, and Scott
  • Finally meeting and spending time with Alan Hart of Gem-A
  • Watching my good friend, John Carter, become president of the American Gem Society

If you do not attend the AGS Conclave or you are not a member of the American Gem Society, I highly recommend looking into becoming the latter so that you’re able to take part in this experience. It is an important event in our industry, but most importantly, it’s inclusive. There are no cliques here at Conclave; no egos and no hierarchy. Those attending come together in unity to discuss how to best protect and preserve our beloved industry through ethical practices and modern methods.

Again, thank you to the AGS for accepting me as a speaker, and thank you to my friends and colleagues for making it one more Conclave to remember. Hope to see all of you in Seattle next year.




6 thoughts on “Why I “Conclave”: One Jewelry Writer’s Reasons for Attending the Industry Event of the Year

  1. Stephen says:

    I wish I could have been there to see you stirring up the south by wearing seersucker before Memorial Day. Don’t they know you can do anything?

  2. Nashville was my first Conclave and also the first time I felt like I found my place in this world. Thank you for writing this and giving me a reminder of why #ICRAVECONCLAVE!

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