Trade Show Shenanigans

A Year Without Vegas: Reports, Rumors, and Rumblings heard from Jewelry Week 2017

Every May for the last five years I went through the motions of preparing my mind, spirit, and feet for what was usually a week or more of schmoozing retailers, cozying up to brands, and/or fighting off the occasional handsy old-timer who thought he was above the law because of his name or status in the jewelry industry. And every year I would return from said week exhausted and oftentimes broken, looking for whatever it was I needed to replenish my drive and rebuild my faith in the career decision I made more than two decades ago; a decision I still don’t regret despite its twists, turns, and occasional turmoil.

This year, however, was quite different. For this year, the closest I came to the Venetian was spending time with actual Venetians in the City of Canals in the country of my ancestors; but that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear about Vegas. I certainly heard a whole lot about Vegas, so while this may not be a “Tales from the Strip” in the traditional sense, I’ve decided to call it “Whispers from the West,” as this year seemed to be a kinder, gentler experience for many, many people.

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“Give me your take on this year’s Vegas in five words or less… GO!”

That was the text I sent out to nearly fifty folks in my contacts list, post Vegas shows, in order to get a generalized feel of how the show went for them. This group included store owners, retail salespeople, designers, wholesalers, members of the media, and PR and marketing professionals whom I’ve known for some time and who rarely, if ever, miss a Las Vegas Jewelry Week. Here is just a sampling of the responses I received:

“Change or be changed.” – Sam Jansen, MBM Diamonds

“Quiet yet productive; always fun.” – Shannon Smith Waters, Hale’s Jewelers

“Groundhog Day with some surprises.” – Michael O’Connor, Celebrity Stylist

“Cautious optimism.” – Alexis Padis, Padis Jewelry

“I did not go.” – Ben Simon, Windsor Jewelers

And yet if I had to combine all the declarations in one pot and call it a meal, I’d probably name it Forge Ahead Soup. The overall vibe I received as a non-attendee was a concoction of zeal and hope created from a base of uniformity with a dash of uncertainty thrown in. “It seemed like there was less foot traffic and fewer buyers but the buyers in attendance were focused and wrote orders,” said one attendee who didn’t wish to be named. “Low traffic/high yield” said another, and one relatively new designer I reached out to said that she had experienced her most successful trade show to date. I also had a well-known retailer come back to me with two variations that he said fit the five words or less suggestion: “no one was buying diamonds,” although there were “price points for today’s economy,” which despite his usually fearful outlook, he accepted as a positive.

Other statements made by a handful of industry veterans I spoke with had to do with the designs on display. While the artistic and often complex level of jewelry creations seems to have reached an all-time high, some retailers are concerned that their buyers aren’t ready for inventive fine jewelry that may not translate well to either their younger buyers who have smaller budgets, or to their conservative customers who may not understand the artistry/price ratio. “There are so many gorgeous designs out there right now,” said one retailer I contacted who has a store in the south, “however, I always have to ask myself… ‘is it sellable? Can my team sell this?’”

But, Las Vegas Jewelry Week isn’t just for new jewelry and gemstone buyers, manufacturers, and sellers, thanks to the focus that has been paid to watches by both the COUTURE show and JCK in the last couple of years. And while Swiss watch exports saw a slight decline (-1.1%) in May in the United States, according to a report by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH, on average, the industry has seen a worldwide increase in their numbers. This year shows a 9% growth from May of 2016. That is good news for brands and boutiques alike, and with more and more companies pulling out of Baselworld for a variety of reasons, those folks running the watch shows in Vegas may have unknowingly found themselves with an opportunity unlike any our industry has been familiar with in the past.

With all this being said, and with all that I learned and heard about the business side of Jewelry Week in Sin City this year, there was and still is the feeling that something was missing.

Oh, that’s right…

Me.

Here are five more words to sum up Vegas according to John Carter of Jack Lewis Jewelers:

“No Palumbo equals no fun.”

That’s not to say that I didn’t do my fair share of drinking during my plethora of visits to wineries across Italy, but come on, we all know that sipping a pour from a two-hundred-dollar bottle of Super Tuscan in the cellar of a 300-year-old winery doesn’t come with quite the same excitement stigma as slamming a shot of whiskey you accepted from someone you may or may not have known, at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of Eye Candy’s dance floor while sweating through your Spanx, now does it? And while both are experiences that – combined – will eventually make up the story of my life (as written by a yet-to-be-discovered, best-selling murder-mystery novelist… you’ll see), it is times like the latter situation that make for the most interesting stories in the end.

Here – in no particular order – are some of the events and occurrences that either happened during past Jewelry Weeks, or that may have happened at this one, which made my missing out all the more difficult:

  • High-fiving Chaka Khan during her performance of “I’m Every Woman”
  • Duck-facing with WJA Awards for Excellence Nominee, Wendy Brandes
  • Hating Michael Schechter
  • Running a 5K for charity, past prostitutes at 6:00 a.m. on Las Vegas Boulevard
  • Spending way too much money on the shittiest martini I’ve ever had
  • Eating M&M’s for lunch and knowing that’s the only nutrition I’ll get all day
  • #TallGirlClub
  • Being recognized as either “that blogger” or “that blogger who throws alcohol to the crowd during speaking engagements”
  • A concert in a pool
  • Any night with any member of the Asscher family
  • Liking Michael Schechter again
  • Struggling to get proper lighting for watch shots
  • #OriginalVegasGems
  • Taking a full glass of Scotch into the cab and knowing no one would have a problem with that
  • The Oris Party
  • Glow-in-the-dark phallic symbols
  • Bobby’s Burger Palace
  • Visiting my AGTA FAM (looking at you, Bindra clan)
  • Partying with my AGS YTH FAM
  • Hanging out with my WJA FAM
  • Having dinner with my actual FAM FAM (because my Uncle lives in Vegas)
  • Seventeen-dollar Starbucks cappuccinos
  • Sharks, and I’m not talking about the ones at Mandalay Bay
  • Singing frogs, dancing fountains, gambling celebrities
  • Wondering if my feet can make it another four days

Here’s hoping that those of you I haven’t spoken with who did attend Jewelry Week this year had a wonderfully successful show, in whatever way that means and whichever way that occurred.

Let’s hear it for cautious optimism.

Let’s hear it for forging ahead.

Let’s hear it for watches and jewelry.

Let’s hear it… for Las Vegas.

 

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Retailer Experiences

The Holiday Throwdown: Why We Should All Take a Page out of Provident Jewelry’s Book

Now that I write full time I don’t find myself in jewelry stores as often as I once did. Occasionally I will visit the shops of my friends if I’m in the cities they’re located in but unless I’ve been invited to attend an event or I’ve been hired to speak about the different topics I know about, I don’t often wander into places unless there’s a reason.

Thankfully, there were several reasons to be at Provident Jewelry in Jupiter, Florida this month.

Back during the WatchTime New York show I had a moment with MB&F’s Phil Ogle where I started picking his brain about a few different stores he works with. Provident, to me, seemed unlike many of the retailers I’d visited in the past. The company was not a family jeweler but rather a joint effort between several guys – young guys, too – and yet they seemed to have their finger on the pulse of what the southern part of Florida was shopping for. They carried big-name jewelry brands but also independent watch brands. They were catering to Baby Boomers and Generation X, yet thinking and marketing like Generation Y. And when the shit hit the fan for every aspect of the jewelry industry in 2008 and 2009, Provident seemed to be thriving and expanding; a notion nearly unheard of during the recession. So, I wanted to see for myself what this place was all about. I’m happy to say that I finally got my chance.

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When I received the telephone call from Nick Linca – one of the owners and well-known faces of Provident’s Jupiter, Florida location – I was sitting on a bench under a set of stairs at the infamous Watergate Hotel in Washington in between sessions at the New York Times conference on the future of the luxury industry.

“So, Barbara, Phil and I were talking, and I’d like for you to come out and visit us during our holiday events next week. We love what you do and I read your writing religiously. Plus, you’re well respected by a lot of people we know and work with, so I think it would be fun to have you here. Max will be here and the SVP of Chanel, as well as a lot of other people you’ll want to meet. We’ll fly you down and put you up. What do you think?”

I mean, how do I say no to that? I get the opportunity to visit one of the stores I’ve virtually watched grow over the years, get to spend some time around one of my favorite watchmakers in the world (#maxcrusheveryday), and get two days and nights in eighty-degree weather in December. Um, yes please!

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Nick and Max. They get it.

As mentioned in my piece over on WhatsOnHerWrist.com, when I arrived at the Jupiter location, I found Nick deep in conversation with the aforementioned Phil and the one-and-only Max Büsser. Lara Pansolli – Provident’s head of Marketing – showed me around the store and gave me a little background on what to expect over the next couple of days.

“Tonight will be an intimate event; only about sixty people (though it’s starting to look closer to eighty) and it will be comfortable for the customers who aren’t into large crowds. Tomorrow night, however…”

“What happens tomorrow night?”

“Oh, just you wait and see. Tomorrow night’s going to be crazy. I mean it, too.”

As I perused the showroom I found my jaw lagging behind me and scraping the floor from time to time. Not only did I notice jewelry from luxury brands Chopard, Crevoshay, Gucci, and Buddha Mama, but their timepiece selection was sublime, and for all the right reasons. Nick, himself, made clear to me that the watch part of their business was based as much on personal preferences as it was on what profits the retailer could turn because of it. They only put in watch brands that they feel a personal connection to and they must believe in the story of the brand or else it doesn’t work. This is probably why they do so well with names like MB&F and Arnold & Son watches, and why they welcomed the designs of Fiona Krüger into their world recently. But what’s just as important as the story the brand tells is the story that the store tells, which I got to know more about when I sat down for about an hour with Nick and one of his partners, Seth Berman, inside the Jupiter store’s “Dream Factory” cigar lounge.

20161207_204653Adornmentality: “This room is incredible. I mean it. I’ve never seen anything like it. Do people really smoke in here? It doesn’t even smell a little bit like cigars.”

Nick Linca: “Oh yeah, they smoke in here, all right, but it’s a negative air pressure room, so you’re not going to smell anything unless someone lights up in front of you.”

Adornmentality: “So, why would you put something like this in a jewelry store?”

Nick Linca: “Because men hate to shop, and they really hate going to jewelry stores, so while their wives or girlfriends are looking around or trying things on or making a wish list, they get to come back here and get away for a little while. They can get a drink at the bar (pointing toward the fully-stocked marble wet bar directly outside of the Dream Factory), come in here, and have a nice cigar. It’s part of the experience. It’s part of why our customers always come back; because they know they’re important to us.”

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Nick and me in the Dream Factory

The cigar lounge’s impressiveness doesn’t stop at its walls of dark wood, massive flat-screen television (which at the time [to my glee] was looping a video of Max Büsser [sigh]), and negative air pressure ventilation, either. It also contains dozens of cedar-lined cigar lockers which are given to customers who spend $250,000 per year or more. Now, you might think to yourself, “Really? That’s all they get? A cigar box?” But no, that’s not all they get, because as mentioned above, it’s not just about the cigars, or the watches, or the bar, or the jewelry… it’s about the whole experience, and the experience that goes along with that small cedar box is really quite mammoth.

Dream Factory members (meaning those who get a key to one of those sought-after wooden cubes) get to take part in Provident Jewelry’s “First Thursday,” which means that on the first Thursday of every month, members and a guest might be part of, say, a Poker Night. Only instead of your second cousin Louis pouring Wild Turkey and Pepsi into red solo cups while Little Petey Shoepeddler tries to count cards before Johnny Knuckles beats the crap out of him, you get a fully-catered, top-shelf experience that might just include the World Series of Poker champion. Or maybe it’s Polo Night with three members of the International Polo Club, or Italian Night with Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and gorgeous Italian men and women pouring hundred-dollar bottles of Antinori Tignanello. My point is, this is part of what the “box” gets you, and you get it every… damned… month. But on top of that very cool and special member perk (as well as a few others), in my mind the most notable experience for members is the one that gives back to the community.

Every cigar lounge key holder, one night per year, can have full access to the Provident Jewelry Jupiter store – and all of its amenities – to throw an event that will raise money for the charity of their choice. Provident will supply the member with a one carat loose diamond for which they can sell raffle tickets. Each person who buys a ticket receives a diamond-looking gem. There could be 99 of those gems (CZs or diamond simulants) but only one will be an actual diamond, which Provident will verify when the winner is chosen. This, to me, above all of the marble, or fine wood, or big names, or nice scotch, was the most impressive thing about this company. They give back, and they give back big league (I threw that one in for you, Nick). They know their customers, they like their customers, and they know that success means very little unless one helps those less fortunate than oneself. They had my adoration before I ever stepped foot into their store, but now they had my complete and utter respect.

Nick also gave me a bit of the company’s backstory as well as a little of his own. Provident was originally a small store, started in West Palm Beach by a man in the diamond and jewelry biz by the name of Art Samuels. In 1999 after bringing his son, Rob, into the family business, Rob reached out to a salesman he knew by the name of Scott Diament and together they eventually bought most of Art’s final shares of the business. With more stores on the horizon (they opened a second store in Naples on Florida’s 20161208_200331west coast and a store in Jupiter which eventually became their flagship location), Scott reached out to his cousin – Seth Berman – to try to solicit him to come on board as a partner. Seth had been in Colorado finishing school and had never considered getting into the jewelry business, but after trying it out for a few months he realized how much he was meant for it, and so he came on board and attained his Graduate Gemologist degree from the G.I.A. through their long-distance education courses. Then, Nick – through connections, experience (eighteen years working for one of the most recognizable jewelry companies in the United States), a keen sense of what it takes to sell anything (forget the ketchup popsicle/white suit cliché, I’m talking dude could probably sell an $80,000 watch to a blind guy), and a little bit of luck – was hired as a salesman but was then quickly offered a partnership in the company. Add on Geoffrey Fear, who currently runs Provident’s newest location in Wellington, and you’ve got yourself the recipe for a lifelong friendly partnership and a successful business model.

All in, as of today, Provident has seven stores in south Florida: West Palm Beach, Palm Beach (Worth Avenue), two locations in Naples, Ft. Myers, Jupiter, and now Wellington. They’ve had tough times (a major robbery in 2011 nearly wiped them out) but overall they’ve come out on top. In telling me about their robbery, Nick was clear that the brands who stood by the company in those struggling times are now the brands that they’ve devoted themselves to, and many of those brands showed a strong presence at one or both of Provident’s holiday parties.

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Top shelf

I headed back to the hotel to change into the first of two LBDs I’d packed for the night’s festivities. For the more subdued party I chose a dress by A.B.S. that was sheer at the waist and back accompanied by Ralph Lauren anklet heels. When I arrived back at the store it was as if an entire metamorphosis had occurred in the ninety minutes I’d been gone. There were floral arrangements the size of Fiats and a harp the size of said floral arrangements. That marble bar I spoke of earlier? It was stacked with bottles of Dom Perignon and Perfect Vodka, but for my first drink I decided to go with a subtle Japanese whisky… neat.

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With Olivier of Chanel

It was great to see some familiar faces like those of Eric Frank with Bell & Ross, and my friend Samir Shah with Arnold & Son and Angelus watches. But it was also pretty rad getting to meet a few other major players in the watch and jewelry industry. Folks like Olivier Stip, SVP of Chanel Fine Jewelry and Watches, as well as Markus Döttling of Döttling, which makes luxury high end safes and watch winders. On the timepiece side, representatives were there from Louis Moinet, Corum, and Emmanuel Bouchet, and Carl F. Bucherer’s North American President, Ron Stoll, was also in attendance. For me, of course, it was a joy just to get to spend some time around Maximilian Büsser on his only visit to the U.S. this year. And his presence at this event, from what I gathered, is part of the draw for Provident’s customers.

While a harpist softly played holiday music, a professional ballerina – complete in toe shoes, tutu, and tiara – held a tray of lrg_dsc02007crystal flutes filled with fine Champagne as people mingled about wearing their finest jewels and most holiday-party appropriate attire. Outside, valets parked several cars that likely cost more than my house, but inside there was no discussion of wealth and no discussion of politics. It was an elegant affair filled with people who seemed to get one another, and who also seem to understand luxury in its truest form. It was joyous, yet subdued, and it was an honor to have been invited.

Then, of course, came Thursday night’s party. Man, what a difference a day makes.

I am not using hyperbole when I say that this was the largest number of people I have even seen piled into a jewelry store at one time, by a landslide. HUNDREDS. I mean it… there were literally hundreds of guests at this event which was held both inside the store and in the store’s lrg_dsc02101parking lot (which had been converted into a second bar and table area). Caterers were running around like hamsters on wheels. Valets were tossing keys over one another’s heads. There were blondes in black dresses and Baby Boomers in four-figure duds and everyone – EVERYONE – was laughing and eating and drinking and dancing. Wait? Did I just type, dancing? YES, YOU JUST READ THAT I TYPED THAT PEOPLE WERE DANCING. “Why were they dancing?” You say? Because Provident hired the baddest-ass DJ/Electric Violinist in all of South Florida, Timothee Lovelock, and because he pretty much single-handedly turned Provident’s back room into “da club.” It was insanity, Lara was right, and by the time the doors closed for the evening, everyone – including yours truly – was exhausted.

Nick took a small group of us out for some late night grub and one last drink on the water before we were all to go our separate ways the following morning. Samir was there, as was Gustavo with Corum, and my new buddy Matteo (#whyareyoustrokingmyarm) sat on my left. Phil Ogle showed up too, only he brought along some friends: namely, his left and right biceps (feel free to tease Phil about this, guys). We took one final breather, inhaled the last drop of Champagne, and toasted what was surely two successful and hopefully profitable holiday events.

Provident Jewelry, I applaud you. You have shown me what a jewelry store is capable of and how something as simple as a 20161208_200346positive attitude can save and even catapult your business. You gave new meaning to the word “experience” for me and I hope that retailers who read this piece will take away with them that this is what success is all about: giving the customer more than just a good product or even great service, namely, something they’ll store in their memories for many years to come.

Nick, I get you. Not in every way, but in the ways that matter. You and I understand that fun can change things; it can change mindsets, and business, and what some believe should always be the norm. I think we’ll be friends for a long time after this. Thanks so much for having me and I hope we get to do it again real soon.

To Seth, Rob, Scott, and Geoff, I wish you all much luck and success in your future. To Lara and Ashton, thank you for your hospitality and for dressing me in the finest of jewels every night.

Thanks for reading not just today but all year long, and Merry Christmas, everybody. May 2017 bring bright, shiny experiences for us all!

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Uncategorized

From Nasty Women to Bad Hombres: Holiday Gifts for the Politically Passionate On Your List

Sooo, uhhhhh, yeah.

I’ll admit it; I had to rewrite some of this year’s holiday gift guide to coincide with the election outcome. I’ll admit that I expected to have an undertone in this piece that would poke fun at the experience of the 2016 electoral process as well as celebrate the smashing of that final glass ceiling. I had the jewels all picked out and the stories to go along with them, and it was fun and light and cheeky and very, very Barbara. But then, November 8th happened and the light immediately fell dark. The fun no longer seemed believable, at least, at the time. And I struggled with feeling anything other than worry, anger, and a lot of sadness.

Those emotions were real not just for me but for millions of others, and if you’re reading this and you’re having those feelings still, don’t let anyone tell you can’t or you shouldn’t. We fight for so much in this country and we love us some God-given freedom, but what many out there refuse to accept is that freedom also means that we’re free to feel, free to mourn, and free to write. And while the journalism of yore is dying off and being replaced by people like me (bloggers), and people not like me (people who *think* they’re bloggers), right now, we still have the 1st Amendment covering Freedom of the Press. So for today I’m going to use that right, as well as the right to free speech, and I’m going to pen my yearly holiday gift guide in the manner in which you’re used to it being presented – through satire. I hope it brings you some laughter, gets you thinking, and hell, maybe even offends you a little. After all, if we don’t experience these emotions, then how are we to know that we’re still alive?

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For Your Tan-Skinned Pharmacist, Maria

plukka-ramses-ii-18k-gold-diamond-spike-ringSure, Maria was born here in the United States to a Portuguese mother and a Peruvian father, and sure, her parents became U.S. citizens even before she was ever conceived, but that doesn’t mean Maria hasn’t experienced her fair share of difficulties pertaining to the treatment she’s gotten this election cycle (particularly by that one a**hole customer who has waited for her twice after work and who keeps asking her for a chimichanga when he picks up his monthly prescriptions of Propecia and Viagra [um, throw rocks/live in glass houses much, dude? I don’t think baldness and floppiness are the only reasons you can’t get a date, bruh]), which is why there is no better gift for the lovely Maria than something to protect herself with. Something that says, “Hey, hombre, if you come anywhere near me again I will make your face look like Marty Castillo from Miami Vice.” Something like Plukka’s 18K rose gold, sterling silver, and diamond “Ramses II” ring should do the trick. It’s spikey, yet stylish, and can also be used to flatten the tires on creepy guy’s pickup if… you know… a situation called for it.

For Your Jesus-Loving Aunt Betty

aunt-betty-links-of-londonGod bless your sweet Aunt Betty. I mean it, too. If peach cobbler, gummy bears, and a baby seal could take human form while simultaneously driving a yellow Ford Focus and singing G-rated show tunes, your Aunt Betty would be the result. Even though she voted differently than you, Aunt Betty never once called either candidate a terrible name, nor did she spread fake news or blatant lies about those running for office. She had her reasons for voting how she did and honestly, how could you be mad at her for that? I mean you could, but look at her. You can’t be mad. You just can’t. She smells like toffee. She sends you balloons on your birthday. And she’s a darn proud hand-knitted-American-flag-sweater-wearing American, which is why this Stars and Stripes covered sterling silver apple charm by Links of London will be a gift she’ll cherish forever. Can’t you just see her adding it to the empty link between Winnie the Pooh and the New Testament charm (complete with a verse from 2 Corinthians!) on her bracelet? She’ll show it off to all her friends on bingo night, even if she does refer to you as her “liberal niece, but not like a ‘Rachel Maddow’ liberal.” Bless her heart.

For Ken, Your Confused Step-Brother

Ken has serious identity issues but because you really like your step-dad, you don’t have the heart to tell him that to his face. You’ve ridden in the car with Ken when he’s gone off on rants about how we don’t need any help from the government right gp-1966-the-mapbefore he hit a pot hole and started screaming that the city needed to “fix that sh*t.” You’ve witnessed Ken wearing a “Don’t Tread On Me” t-shirt as he planted marijuana seeds in his backyard while belting out Indigo Girls’ tunes. And if all of that wasn’t enough to prove that Ken is a living, breathing, walking oxymoron, Ken goes and votes for Gary Johnson. Dafuq, Ken? I’d almost rather you penciled in “Dick Cheney’s Man-Sized Safe” as your choice of candidate. So, since Ken isn’t sure about much of anything other than he’s sure he’d rather live here than in one of those “socialist countries,” methinks something that could show Ken the world might be in order this holiday.

Back in 2014, esteemed Swiss watch manufacturer, Girard-Perregaux, introduced three limited edition watches with Cloisonné enamel dials to add to their 1966 series, one of which was named, “The Map.” For reasons obvious to Ken, he’s really going to love you for getting him this gift and won’t believe how much you spent on him this year, especially since he only got you a bottle of Dewar’s. For reasons obvious to you, it was worth the money to know that Ken will now and forever wear a watch that he doesn’t even realize contains the city of Aleppo. Feel the Bern, Kenny. Feel it for a long time, pal.

For Clover, Your Vegan Liberal Arts Major Daughter

For the record, we all know that you didn’t name your daughter, “Clover Windsong” at birth. We know that it took you almost the entirety of your pregnancy to come up with a name you felt could benefit her in her life; one that would sound strong rather than delicate. One that brought about the feelings of both grace and confidence in her as it fell from her lips when she introduced utedecker_ring_2_shapes_goldherself to her peers and/or Chris Hemsworth, who you were sure would be her husband one day. You felt that “Catherine” was indeed that name, and that it would be one she’d thank you for after hearing it over the sound system as she received her doctorate in biophysics and her masters in environmental law.

Yeeaah, no. Sorry, ma. Not the case.

Clover voted for Jill Stein for President. So rather than get into how silently disgusted you are in that little morsel or how depressed you are over her legal name change, choice of boyfriend, CHOICE OF SCHOOL, CHOICE OF CAREER PATH, CHOICE OF CAT BREED, HAIR COLOR, PIERCING LOCATIONS, AND MANY, MANY OTHER THINGS, you know that these are likely just things that kids go through, right? I mean, you were young once, weren’t you? And tongue tattoos are all the rage right now. But just because you haven’t voiced your disappointment in Dandelion – sorry, sorry – I mean, in “Clover” (I get my weeds mixed up), doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel your disappointment, so how about you pick up something you know she’ll love this season.

This Ute Decker Double Ring made with sand-textured, fair trade, ethically sourced 18K yellow gold would make for a very thoughtful gift for your girl, but if you really want to watch Clover turn Crimson, have it engraved with “To: Catherine, Love: Ma” on the inside, and when she reads that out loud on the first morning of Hanukkah, turn to her and say, “gotcha!”

For Your Recently Converted Cousin Lisa

You remember Lisa, Right? Lisa… the cousin who apparently converted to Buddhism on November 9th when she began tenderly calling for the country to come together, get along with one another, accept the election results, and unite under one flag, because, you know, we all should love our country as much as we love our freedom to vote. THAT Lisa. Oh! Wait, you haven’t met that Lisa yet, have you? Oh, RIIIIIIIIGHT! You only remember the “old” Lisa who as recently as November 7th had a Facebook profile picture depicting a dreadlocked Senator Clinton as a character in the television series, “Orange Is the New Black,” and a tara-buddha-mama2cover photo stating simply, “GUNS ARE FUN” written in red, white, and blood. But silly you, that was the Lisa of yesterminute! Today’s Lisa carries her 38 Master semi-automatic Smith & Wesson (5” barrel) in a gentler and kinder fashion. She’s now spending her days trying to calm the liberal’s “aggressively” peaceful protests and “violently” civil telephone calls to their local elected officials. She’s even meditating every morning to the soothing sounds of Dr. Ben Carson’s voice reciting the poems of Francis Scott Key. Mmmmmm… dreamy. And with her newfound interest in a peaceful transition of power (a term, by the way, which she referred to merely weeks ago as a p***y-filled transition of power), she might want to start taking this Buddhist thing to the next level, which is where you and Grandma Nora come in.

See, what Lisa doesn’t know is that Granny made you executor of her Last Will and Testament. And now that Granny sees just how much Lisa is benefitting from her suddenly Buddhist mentality, the two of you decided that instead of giving Lisa Granny’s beach house in Tybee Island, Grandma Nora would sell the house, split a large portion of the proceeds up into donations for the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, and Planned Parenthood, and then with what was left, purchase the MOST gorgeous diamond and emerald “Tara” necklace by Miami-based luxury jewelry designer, Buddha Mama as something Lisa would treasure forever and wear during those moments of clarity that have unexpectedly found their way into her heart – and Facebook newsfeed.

For Tom, Your Republican Business Partner

Well, what can anybody say to Tom other than his guy won, and your gal lost, right? Tom exercised his right to vote and he did so secretly, which you’ll admit, probably pisses you off a little. Tom never told you how he was voting. He never put a bumper sticker on his car, never brought up Megyn Kelly at the water cooler, and never once trashed Hillary. Tom’s vote came as an utter shock shinola-ramblerto you and the only reason you even know which way he voted was because when you stumbled into the office at 1:00 in the afternoon on the day after the election, still a little drunk and wearing yesterday’s socks (and probably underwear if you were even wearing any), Tom looked fresh as a daisy and offered to get you a cup of coffee. That… that was when you knew.

“Et tu, Tom?” said you.

“I felt like we needed a change.” said Tom.

And with that punch in the gut you realized why the results of this election came as such a surprise to you: because Tom and you genuinely like one another. You went to college together, and while the khaki pants, conservative haircut, and Range Rover hinted to Tom’s political preference, you never wanted to ask, because it never really mattered. You’re an atheist and Tom’s a Christian. Did that ever matter in business? No. Did it ever matter when you were out partying or seeing a live band? No. And so that was the kicker. You were appalled by the actions of some of those Trump supporters but never in a million years thought Tom could be one of them because he wasn’t loud, he wasn’t rural, and he wasn’t angry, at least, on the outside. And so now it becomes a little clearer. Not all Trump supporters are bad. And not all Hillary supporters are bad. You all – we all – had to make a decision to vote one way or the other, and so with that in mind, the Christmas gift I recommend getting for Tom is the Shinola Rambler Tachymeter with red bezel and black nylon strap, because if you’re going to be a sarcastic son-of-a-b*tch this holiday season, there’s no better place to interject a 1940’s colloquialism than right here, right now, with your good ol’ buddy Tom. #ifyouknowyouknow

And finally…

For Your Grandma Nora

She’s been your champion since you could remember. Even when your mom would tell you to “sit like a lady” and not play in the dirt, Grandma Nora would let you do the complete opposite. She was the first person to give you a cigarette when you were fifteen only to tell you immediately after you nearly choked to death that you should never smoke again (and you didn’t). She’d let you hang out an hour later than you were supposed to when you spent those occasional weekends at her Upper East Side apartment.

She taught you how to make a proper martini, how to appropriately apply winged eyeliner, and what to say to a man to make him feel like he was the only man who ever existed. She could handle her men, that Granny of yours. She’d been married thrice and heaven knows how many hearts she broke before, during, and after those ceremonies. She fought for women’s rights when it was unheard of to do so, she burned bras on the boardwalk during the Miss America pageant, and she marched in protest more times than she could remember. But her one wish – the wish she had since her sorority days – was to see a woman become President before she ventured on into her next exciting life.

Close, Grandma Nora. How very close you came to being granted the only wish you ever truly had.

And while her wish may not come to fruition now, Granny still has most of her memory, most of her health, and most of her bad habits, which is why there is no better gift for you to give to her this Christmas than a “NASTY” necklace by jewelry designer, feminist, and proud New Yorker, Wendy Brandes. Not only does Granny deserve to be called, “nasty,” but her feeble ass might just run out and get a tattoo to match. DO NOT DARE HER.

That’s it for this year’s gift guide, y’all. Thanks for reading and I hope there was enough here to offend everyone. OH I KID! NO, YOU SHUT UP!

I welcome any and all comments below but do ask that you keep a respectful tone.

Happy Holidays, and God bless us, EVERYONE!

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Uncategorized

What It’s Sometimes Like to be a Woman in the Jewelry Industry: One Person’s Story

When I wrote my anniversary post back in August I talked about some of the lessons I’d learned while blogging for three years as well as some of the goals I still wanted to accomplish as a writer. One of the things I mentioned learning was that “sexual harassment in the workplace still exists and should be discussed more openly in our industry” and one of the things I said I wanted to accomplish still was, “taking on tough topics” which I intend to do in this very piece.

For the record, this is not meant to be a political post. This is not meant to sway you one way or the other as it pertains to for whom you should vote, not that you could be swayed at this point, anyway. It’s simply to put out in the open what exactly it feels like to be talked down to, mansplained to, mentally abused, sexually harassed, or even worse, sexually assaulted in the workplace; in our workplace… our tight-knit community of jewelry people who come from all walks of life. And I have read and seen and heard too many arguments about what doesn’t constitute as assault as well as too many instances where someone didn’t believe the woman (or person) making the claims. This is what prompted me to write this post. This has been a work in progress and it is something that has been sitting on my desktop for several months. Now, however, is as good a time as any to tell these few disturbing tales.

beating-a-rug-2Let it be clear: I can’t speak for every woman. I absolutely don’t believe what has happened to me has happened to everyone, but these instances have happened to at least one and so it’s likely the case that they have happened to some. But as far as this post goes, this is strictly about my experiences over the last two decades. No names will be named. No stores or brands or designers or sales managers will be at risk, and I’m not even using specific dates, but these are stories that aren’t often told yet desperately need to be, and heaven knows I’ve never walked away from a topic that others may try to sweep under the rug. In fact, today, right now, consider the rug lifted, taken out back, beaten with a broom, cleared of all the dust, and sold at a yard sale. The rug is gone now. It’s time to refinish the floors. It’s time we see our own reflections in them. And it’s time we’re happy with what we see.

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

A Jewelry Trade Show, This Year

I had just gotten off the plane and headed directly to see some of my friends who were showing their designs at one of the major industry trade shows. After about an hour or so I saw a male jewelry personality whom I have a decent relationship with and have known for many years. He was visiting a friend’s salon and when I approached them both they greeted me with smiling faces and open arms. “Let’s all get a picture!” said my friend, who handed her phone to another one of the vendors in the room. “You get in the middle,” she said to me, “you’re the tallest.” It’s not an uncommon request so I cheerily stepped between her and the gentleman to my left. As we stood steadily posing for the third of many shots being snapped, with our arms wrapped around one another and smiling our jewel-induced grins, I felt the man’s right hand reach between my legs and his fingers push into my genitalia. I immediately jumped back and he turned to me, smiling. I nearly vomited on the spot. This was a man known by so many important people in our business. His name is synonymous with the jewelry industry and I knew that there would be no way anyone would believe me if I reported what he did. Or rather, they might believe me because of his underground reputation as a creepy guy, but they likely still wouldn’t do anything about it because of who he was.

I knew that if I reported him to security I could kiss my future in this business goodbye. I knew that it would be his word against mine and so, like so many times before, and like so many women before me, I kept my mouth shut and tried my best not to think about it.

A Jewelry Trade Show, Some Years Ago

Male Sales Manager (showing me an Instagram picture of some female CrossFitter): “If you had tits like her you’d be making a lot more sales.”

Various Times on Social Media in the Year Two-Thousand and Fourteen

In the same way that a woman’s clothing choice doesn’t give a man an excuse to rape her, a woman’s selfies or beach vacation bikini pictures or post-marathon shots shouldn’t give a man the right to make crude or lude comments either publicly or privately. Nor does it give a man the right to view her profile on her social media pages (uh, hello, we can see you doing it on LinkedIn) several times per day, day in and day out, for months at a time. This happened to me with two different men in the same year, and even after blocking both of them, they individually changed their screen names (more than once!) and tried following me again until I finally reported one of them for harassment and contacted the other one’s superior at their job. Two different middle-aged divorced men whom I barely knew each sending me squeamishly inappropriate messages. Fun stuff, this being a girl thing.

Somewhere in the U.S. in the Last Decade

Male Store Owner: “Who’d you vote for?”

Me (writing up sales proposal): “I’m sorry?”

Male Store Owner (now glaring at me with disdain): “I’ll bet you voted for Obama.”

Me: “Sir, I’m not supposed to discuss politics with clients. I could lose my job.”

Male Store Owner: “That response alone proves to me you voted for him. I don’t know what would have been worse; having him in office or the bitch.”

Me (doing all I could to keep calm and continue writing): “Sir, please… I really…”

Male Store Owner: “Come to think of it, I think Obama is Clinton’s bitch.”

To say that I was fighting back tears would be a grave understatement. But they weren’t tears of sadness; they were angry tears. I sat there, typing on my laptop, looking down at the keys so as to not make eye contact with this man as he continued to talk at me knowing that there wasn’t a damned thing I could say back to him. If I wanted the sale, I needed to keep my mouth shut while he tortured me and while he knew he was torturing me. And at the end of the day, the proposal was back-burnered. He claimed he didn’t have the money to commit. He put me through mental hell for nothing, but it wasn’t anything I wasn’t already used to.

When I was Sales Director for a Major Internet Retailer in Atlanta, Early Two Thousands

We had just hired a new bench jeweler; a “good ole boy” from Georgia with tons of bench experience but not a ton of etiquette as it pertained to how he spoke to women. Having grown up with two older brothers and having worked around men my entire adult life I was used to the innuendos, the off-color jokes, and the inappropriate comments, and while I never took them lightly, I learned to drown them out, until, of course, I felt that a line had been crossed.

I was in the jeweler’s room, cleaning a customer’s ring while he was setting a center stone for a different client. The cleaning process usually takes several minutes as the rings needs to be soaked in the Ultrasonic cleaner before being steamed and brushed – which he knew – and so I assume that’s why he made an attempt at small talk.

Him: “So, what part of town you live in?”

Me: “Oh, well, we’re close to Midtown.” (I didn’t know him well enough to want to give him an exact area so I made my answer as vague as possible.)

Him: “Oh yeah? You in the gay neighborhood? I’ll bet they love you there.”

Me: “No, we’re not. We’re about a mile away from there.”

Him: “There any good restaurants where you’re at? I wanna get down there soon.”

Me: (Now, honestly trying to be helpful) “Oh, totally! Lots. We love Manuel’s Tavern. Oh, and Pura Vida. Great, great tapas. Great food.”

Him: “They got manly food at Pura Vida or is it just them tapas?”

Me: “Oh, they have lots of different foods there. They’re Latin-inspired so they specialize in meats.”

Him: “Oh, you like meat, do you? You eat a lot of meat?”

Me (unsure of whether or not he was being serious): “Uh, I eat steak, yeah.”

Him (stopping his work, turning his chair toward me and looking at me in what can only be described as *that way*): “So you like your meat, huh? You like good meat? You like it thick? How do you like your thick meat?”

I felt my skin crawl. I was genuinely afraid that this was the type of guy who would wait for me in the parking lot after work. I’d been there before. I’d been in those situations. I would not allow myself to be put at risk again. I was older, smarter, and stronger than I had been in the past, and so I took the appropriate steps to make sure I wasn’t harmed, including telling my then boyfriend who was twice the guy’s size and likely twice as crazy.

It was the first time I’d ever reported someone for blatant sexual harassment, and kudos to the guys I worked for at the time; they took it very seriously, and Creepy McJewelerstein was gone shortly thereafter.

These are not the only stories I have, sadly. There are others; many others. I realize that some people out there might be unhappy with the language or content in this piece, but for every person who thinks it inappropriate to share what I just did, there is a woman who is nodding her head because she’s been there, or worse, she is STILL there. Those are the women I’m speaking to right now. If it’s you, or you, or you, then listen up now… you stay the course, and whatever you do, don’t forget these words:

warrior-princessYOU ARE NOT ALONE.

YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT.

YOU ARE NOT A COMMODITY.

YOU ARE NOT AN OBJECT.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STAY QUIET.

YOU DO NOT NEED TO FEEL SHAME.

YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK.

BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, YOU ARE STRONGER THAN THEY THINK.

The times, my friends, they are indeed a changin’, but unless we talk about the issues and start the uncomfortable discussions, it will take a lot longer for that change to happen.

Peace out, share your stories (even anonymously) below, and as always…

#vagpower

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Petals, Pavement, Paper, and Plastic: BIJORHCA Paris Brings Beauty Back to Basics

Paris, France is otherworldly. Think about it; if you’ve never been there, it’s as foreign to you as a trip to one of Jupiter’s moons though thankfully not quite as cold, (at least in September). Known as the “City of Light,” Paris isn’t just a place on a map, but rather a genre; an attitude, an emotion, even. Feeling Parisian means one is serious about work but curious about life. It means one dresses the part of a runway model but makes love with the ferocity of an untamed beast. It means deliberate kisses on both cheeks, ice in your 2 o’clock glass of rosé, and never, ever wearing flip flops in public. Paris isn’t easy for the rest of the world to figure out nor does it wish to be, which is why the surprises that Paris presents us with are ones we mortals value, learn from, and not soon forget. And the BIJORHCA jewelry show was the perfect paradigm of the city’s glorious yet unexpected delights.

After landing at Charles De Gaulle airport and going through what felt like a year’s long line at customs, I was greeted by fellow American jewelry blogger Matthew Perosi, who graciously accompanied me on the shuttle bus to Porte de Versailles expo center – Paris’ largest – in the 15th arrondissement. BIJORHCA selected one blogger from the United States to send to the September show but they got a Buy One/Get One deal as Matthew lives in Bordeaux six months out of the year and decided he’d take the train over to Paris to accompany me for a few days. Upon our arrival we were met by Pauline Royer (our contact for the show) as well as Show Director, Aude Leperre, and Artistic Director, Richard Martin, all of who were impeccably dressed, stunningly kind, and gorgeously French. This is not the surprise I spoke of earlier.

Matthew and I settled ourselves into the press room so that I could get an espresso or six (I can’t sleep on planes) and so we could come up with a game plan for how best to tackle the show in the amount of time we had over our three days. Prior to my friend Jen Heebner telling me about BIJORHCA last year I was frankly unfamiliar with it, as I largely write about jewelry found in traditional jewelry stores or high-end boutiques. Fashion and contemporary jewelry just wasn’t much on my radar leading up to this year when I started a new InstaSeries, #50DesignersofJewelry. Researching designers for the social media series (which I was waiting to complete until after this trade show in case you were following along and wondering what happened) developed and grew my interest as it pertained to the creativity of contemporary jewelry designers, and I assumed that being at BIJORHCA was only going to enlighten me more. Now that all is said and done, however, I have to admit that “enlighten” isn’t severe enough a word. Let’s just say I had a complete and utter rebirth regarding what I feel about the jewelry industry now; about where it needs to go, and how open-minded it has to get if it wants to survive for generations to come.

Flint lapel pin by Marion Fillancq

Flint lapel pin by Marion Fillancq

The first booth I visited belonged to French designer Marion Fillancq, who started designing jewelry by using crushed mirrored glass, before venturing into her current designs which are made using prehistoric methods. Her pieces often contain uncommon center stones such as flint, and her metal of choice is brass coated in gold or silver. But the thing that grabbed me most was her tag line: “Brut & Chic.” If that mantra alone doesn’t make your ears perk up, I’m not sure what will.

Marion’s designs set the tone for what was to come in terms of nontraditional materials and everyday elements we would soon discover. Spanish design house Testone creates organic masterpieces in the form of brooches and pendants, by overlaying leaves and plants found in the wooded areas of Spain with a variety of non-precious and precious metals. French jeweler Le Côté de Guermantes (meaning, “time regained” [and also a novel by Marcel Proust]) makes necklaces and other items out of bronze and the pages of old, worn books; some in French but some also in English like the ”Pride and Prejudice” piece I nearly purchased for myself. Dutch designer Parsifal forms brightly-colored poppy flowers into lapel pins by immortalizing them with a clear coat of resin (and displaying them brilliantly in a rainbow pattern), and the husband and wife team of Christian and Malene Storm of Danish company Dansk Smykkekunst go out of their way to create affordable and fashionable jewellery and accessories by using a base material of copper overlaid in 14K gold, 925 silver, rhodium, or hematite. But the other important thing to know about Dansk Smykkekunst’s designs (as well as many others I saw) is their attentiveness to sustainability and green processes as well as their desire to keep their products as chemically free as possible. This is what many European and South American countries do that the United States struggles with, at least for now. Fairmined gold, ethically-sourced gemstones, and sustainable materials are going to be talked about and used more and more in the very near future and the companies who are already on board are going to reap the benefits of being the early game changers.

Sarah Cavender flower brooch

Sarah Cavender flower brooch

While the majority of the brands exhibiting at BIJORHCA were from Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa, there were also a handful of American designers showing their wares and having successful shows. I accidentally stumbled upon Sarah Cavender’s booth as I was leaving the press lounge and saw what I believed to be a necklace created out of some sort of fabric. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I went to touch the piece and it didn’t move. I was astonished to find out that it was made of brass mesh screening – a material that Sarah treats and folds into flowers, bugs, and other earthly shapes. Her degree from Philadelphia’s College of Art (where she majored in sculpture) had allowed Sarah to experiment with brass, bronze, and other metal wires until she developed a unique process working screen into various nature-inspired representations. Her creations consist of not just jewelry, but of belts and handbags as well. Her work was some of the most extraordinary I’ve seen in all my years working with metalsmiths and I look forward to watching how her brand grows.

Also from the States was Texas designer Claudia Fajardo, whose designs are brightly hued and border on a Native American vibe. Claudia uses glass beads and gemstones for color and contrasts them with hammered and satin finishes on her metals.

I noticed that acrylics like Lucite or Plexiglas played a huge role at this year’s BIJORHCA show, showing up in the form of everything from bangle bracelets to whimsical brooches to clutch purses. And while the artistry was awe-inspiring (and occasionally giggle-inducing), I couldn’t help but think back to that scene from The Graduate where Mr. McGuire tells Benjamin that he wants him to think about one word… just one word: “Plastics.” Companies like Jean Marie Poinot from France and Aramez out of Brazil are making playful acrylic accessories in the spirit used by a master metalsmith and it was clear that buyers were taking their work seriously, because both of their booths were flanked by onlookers.

Daniel Espinosa dressed me up

Daniel Espinosa dressed me up

On a fun note (and I use the word “note” with all puns intended), it was a real treat to meet Allouche Ingrid, head designer at French jewellery brand Sing A Song, which makes men’s and women’s jewelry out of guitar strings and other parts of musical instruments (bonus points for their booth refrigerator which was a converted rock-n-roll stage speaker). Also glee-inducing were the designs of UBU Paris which played with elements such as buffalo horn, tin, resin, and enamel to create oversized baubles and eye-catching adornments. Spanish design house Ceraselle brought change to the table (literally) with convertible leather and button necklaces in colors brighter than Lady Gaga’s wig collection, and French designer Mere Guy utilizes hand-painted pasta… yes, I said PASTA… in their earring, pin, and pendant designs. The level of creativity in both materials and formats used was remarkable in my opinion, and even something as simple as a ribbon bracelet imprinted with fun sayings (like those we saw from the brand Lucky Team) stood out to me simply because it wasn’t something I was used to seeing. There were also a few brands using a process that would mold crushed or powdered gems (such as turquoise and pearl) mixed with resin or polymer into dramatic, vibrant “stones” that they then used in a variety of jewels. Uno de 50 was one such brand using this process, and Daniel Espinosa was another. In fact I felt that Daniel’s jewelry came across as brave and bold in more than one way. His use of a bronze base with 22K gold overlay allows his pieces to be affordable but in no way do they lack fine craftsmanship or detail. His collections draw inspiration from his Latin roots and religious beliefs and his creativity flows as freely as the forms many of his items take.

A couple of other standout jewelry designers I found exhibiting at the show were Brazil’s Léia Sgro and Greece’s AposTolos. Sgro hails from South America but has lived in London, Vienna, Boston, Tokyo, Madrid, and Rome, among other cities. Her designs are not just nature inspired, but also nature created, as she uses wood, leaves, and plants alongside precious metals and Brazilian-mined stones to form her wearable yet very feminine jewels. Apostolos Kleitsiotis draws his design inspiration from the sea and uses age-old Hellenic jewelry making traditions, precious metals, and gems to sculpt contemporary masterpieces worthy of Amphitrite, herself.

But the jewelry design house that affected me most out of all those that I visited had to be Portugal’s Mariadovale. Sisters Alexandrina, Sandra, and Júlia Saraiva each plays a role in the designs their company creates, and the thought process that goes into every one of their collections goes beyond whether or not their pieces are going to sell, and into the realm of wanting the wearer to understand the depth, meaning, and sometimes satire of their creations. In other words, these are not your grandmother’s jewels, so don’t expect rubies, pearls, or platinum. These are your granddaughter’s jewels; jewels for the future, so expect concrete, a story, and an entirely different type of worth. Not quite sure I mean by this? Then let’s look at a segment of the company’s bio from their website. It states, “Each piece of work is designed and produced having a classical approach where forms, themes, and trials are deconstructed and evolve against the concept itself. The concept is the core of each collection, approaching each strand and its respective conceptual unfolding. The motto of the collections appears based on values, feelings and experiences, and aims to call attention not only to daily problems but also to more profound levels of perception like enhancing a satirical view and focusing on dubious content of dogmatic truths – wishing to socially provoke others by those who are wearing each piece of Mariadovale work.” Like I said… not your grandmother’s jewels and not even your grandmother’s jeweler, and for that I’m quite grateful.

The design team at Mariadovale opened my eyes like never before. Their use of concrete (fittingly enough in their collection called, “Concrete”), stone, and metal as a representation of how our lives are bound by the cities in which we live nearly brought me to tears, but the meaning got even deeper when they showed me how the concrete is rough on one side, representing struggle, and yet smooth on another, representing ease; much like the struggles in our everyday lives, and yet both sides seemed to create something beautiful and unique. But it was their “Stone” collection that genuinely shook me to my core as the collection stemmed from words, and as you can tell by the 2,000+ of them in this blog post, words are where I live. When I asked Mariadovale’s marketing director about the collection, he returned my question with a question… “Have you ever heard of Fernando Pessoa? He was Portugal’s most famous poet. He wrote a poem called, ‘Stones in Life’ and it pretty much sums up what this collection is about.”

It reads (translated into English):

To be happy is to recognize that life is worth living, even with all its challenges, misunderstandings, and its periods of crisis.

To be happy is to stop being the victim of problems and being the author of your own story.

To cross deserts outside of yourself, and to find the oasis inside your soul.

To thank God for each morning for the miracle of life.

To be happy is not to be afraid of your own emotions. It is knowing how to speak about yourself.

To have the courage to listen to a “no.” To have the strength to receive a criticism, even when unjust.

Stones in the road? I save every single one, one day I´ll build a castle.

I would like to thank those responsible for selecting me to attend this season’s BIJORHCA Paris show. Not just for their help, their kindness, their welcome, and a really nice hotel room, but also for enlightening me and for broadening my horizons in a way I never thought possible.

To the brands mentioned above and all others I visited during my three-day excursion, thank you for taking the time to educate me and I wish you all much success in your futures. I truly hope we do meet again someday.

I will end this lengthy post by sharing something that I wasn’t aware of until my arrival at the show: BIJORHCA is actually an acronym.

BIJ meaning bijou, or, jewel

OR meaning gold

H representing horlogerie, or, watchmaking

CA meaning cadeaux, or, gifts

And while I touched on the jewels, gold, and potential gifts in this piece, I will be talking about the watchmaking I saw and watch brands I sat down with in a post coming soon over on my watch blog, WhatsOnHerWrist.com.

Thanks, as always, for reading. À bientôt.

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The Rule of Three: Celebrating (Through Swear Words) Adornmentality’s Third Blogiversary

My junior year of high school – year three – was both my favorite year as well as one of my hardest. It was the one time I had ever not aced a subject – Physics – and while only failing one semester, it crushed, scared, and disappointed me, but even more importantly, it woke me up. It was also the year I broke free of the nerd label by going from ugly duckling to… well… bleached blonde guidette swan, I guess. And finally, it was the year I lost my virginity, though I don’t ever consider that situation as being good or bad, it just sort of exists, though if I could turn back the clock, I think I would have waited just a little longer and for someone who gave a flying wang about my well-being.

I think, however, it was my teachers that I remember most about that year of high school. Ms. Anna Votta, my political science and sociology teacher and one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, paid for me to attend my prom because my folks were too strapped to buy tickets for me to go. “You deserve to go to your prom” I remember her saying. It was an act that changed how I viewed the world. And Mr. Sandy Apa, whom I still call my very good friend, I recall his making calculus exciting because he taught it from a place of humor and laughter. And the wonderful Mrs. Jennifer Hack, who was as eloquent as she was gorgeous, had convinced me that my extremely high grades in English class would serve me well throughout my life, no matter where I lived or where I came from, and that I should keep writing poetry and expressing the pains of my upbringing through the written word, which she said, was my gift.

I don’t believe I’ve thought about my junior year much since I left it behind. It’s nice to ponder it now as I reflect on the first three years of this blog’s life. I owe a lot of who I am, what I am, and how I write to those who shaped me during those critical years of high school, and for that I’m ever grateful to the people who make up the pieces of my personal puzzle – as hard as it sometimes is to figure out – and as lost as some of the pieces have been over the years.

Having said this, however, it’s time to have a celebration. Adornmentality is now three years old, and there’s a little looking back and a lot of looking forward to do.

*********

Conclave has come and gone and Vegas has come and gone and New York has come and gone and you’ve barely heard a peep out of me. No “Tales From the Strip” series highlighting the usual shenanigans (yet). No feedback or comments about my unsolicited nomination for a WJA Award for Excellence (but thank you to whoever nominated me! HUGE honor!) No talk of summer baubles, trends of the moment, or which Pantone colors will reign come 2017. No, my friends, I’ve been quiet for a while, but mostly just because I’ve had a plate as full of itself as Donald J. Drumpf. But thanks to my editor – aka – the man who impregnated me with redheaded babies (twice!), I was reminded that on August 8th, Adornmentality turned three.

So… what have I learned over the last three years of this blog’s life? Well, plenty. Let me elaborate.

3year1I learned, most importantly, that no matter how few posts I publish per week/month/year, people understand that I won’t half-ass my work, and they’ll wait to see what I have to say because they know that I say it thoroughly and with heart and/or facts to back up my opinion.

I learned that Millennials in the jewelry industry are smart, dedicated, and hardworking, and that they don’t deserve the lazy labels often applied to them by people who need someone/something to blame because those people can’t figure out a way to stay current or successful in their businesses.

I learned that politics still rule this industry, sadly, and that if you’re not warming up to the “right people” it could really screw up your advantages. I learned it, but that doesn’t mean I live it. To hell with politics. To hell with the old way of thinking. To hell with complacency. I’m in this to change the game, give voice to the voiceless, and bring awareness to the things we think about but don’t dare discuss. If those ideas makes me an outsider, so be it. Two of my favorite quotes about writing freely come from Salman Rushdie. He said, “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” And also, “What one writer can make in the solitude of one room is something no power can easily destroy.”

I learned that the Swiss, on the whole, can be a fun group if you know which parts of their bodies are ticklish.

I learned that figuring shit out on your own will garner you a much better reputation than asking everyone’s opinion on every move you should make.

I learned that being an underground sensation is better than openly having your ass kissed.

I learned that the jewelry industry produces some really, REALLY tall women.

I learned that for black-tie events, I can buy floor-length designer gowns at the local “rich lady” consignment shop for the same price I would pay for a temporary gown from Rent the Runway and then RE-CONSIGN the dresses at the shop’s competition a mile away in order to get half of my money back. It’s called creativity, people. A writer’s gotta eat.

I learned that the people who attend the AGS Conclaves are overall some of the greatest people on planet Earth.

3year2I learned that if you hit someone in the face with a mini bottle of single malt scotch during a presentation they won’t complain because they now have a bottle of single malt scotch.

I learned that not working for anyone but myself means that I can say “fuck” more. FUCK. FUCKITY FUCK FUCKER FUCK FUCKWAD. I threw the “wad” part in for good measure.

I also learned that being a woman and saying “fuck” doesn’t mean you have less class. It simply means that you have more guts.

I learned that a title, while being overall worthless, still gives a person all the feels when they see it written on their business card for the first time.

I learned that no matter how good I think I am at the English language, I need my editor, and not just to kill spiders and change the oil in my car.

I learned that a Fairfield Inn by Marriott can feel like a Ritz Carlton when you’re paying your own way to be somewhere for an article you’re writing but when you’re working for someone else and have a company credit card you would never be caught dead in one.

I learned that truly creative and talented designers who are just starting out in this business need more financial breaks and fewer requests of “send it to me on memo.”

I learned that watches are for everyone no matter if you have a penis, a vagina, or both.

I learned that sexual harassment in the workplace still exists and should be discussed more openly in our industry. I also learned that I don’t stand alone in my thinking.

I learned how to polish a diamond thanks to Evert Botha.3year3

I learned that if a watch company has a name like “Ball,” the written jokes are endless. ENDLESS.

I learned that everyone wants to throw an extra “a” into my blog’s name. Once and for all, folks, it’s ADORNMENT (like a piece of jewelry) and MENTALITY (like your way of thinking) combined. ADORNMENTALITY. Not, “AdornAmentality”; I am not a Christmas blogger.

And finally, I learned that people like Brandee, Bern, Amanda, Alexis, Anna, Ben, PJD, Denise, Jason, Marc, Byron, John, Jim, Ashley, Michael, David, Jen, Jay, Sabrina, Marla, Hannah, Wendy, Jennifer, Wes, Lauren, Nicole, Britt, Rebecca, Scott, Bill, Des, Adam, Payal, Michelle, Monica, and so, so many others, are going to be the people who are the changemakers in this business. These are the people whom I want to always be surrounded by. These are the voices that may not quite be the loudest, but in my mind these are the ones that will forever be the clearest.

Now, as far as looking forward goes, here are my plans for the future of this blog.

I intend to write a combined piece about the 2016 AGS Conclave as well as what to expect at the 2017 AGS Conclave in Hollywood. This was a promise I made to Ruth Batson and I would never go back on something like that.

I also still intend on writing a Vegas recap. Unfortunately I didn’t see many of my jewelry friends in Las Vegas as I was largely covering watches during the show, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t stories to tell, moments to rehash, or spouses to get in trouble.

I intend on covering designers, taking on tough topics, and occasionally talking about life outside of jewelry.

Most importantly, however, I intend to keep this blog sponsorship free. Is my husband happy about that? Not particularly, as he knows how much money I *could* make if I were to go the route of advertorial. But there are, in my mind, some things that are sacred. You know, as my readers, that when you read this blog, you’re getting a relatively unbiased opinion. I say “relatively” because yeah, I might include the designs of people I like over the designs of people who have treated me like shit, so I guess you could call that a little biased. But you know what? Sue me. I want to always have this blog as my outlet. I want it to always be around for me to use when I want to tell a fun story or express my anger about an unjust act. I wouldn’t want my “sponsors” getting pissed or threatening to withdraw their ad dollars. That’s not what this blog is about. It’s never been what it’s been about. I get the whole advertorial thing. I get it. And I have done it and may do it again on my separate watch blog, but not here. Not here. Not now. Not ever.

On that, on this day, on this anniversary, you have my word.

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Uncategorized

#50DesignersofJewelry: A New Adornmentality InstaSeries (With a Disclaimer)

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It’s been a while since I’ve done an InstaSeries, but with Jewelry Week in Vegas behind us, I felt the time couldn’t be more appropriate, so starting tomorrow, on the @adornmentality Instagram page (as well as on the Facebook page) I will highlighting one designer per day for the next fifty days. But I have a few things to say about this series and every series henceforth before this one begins.

First thing’s first, this series is based on one person’s opinion: mine. This is neither a contest nor is it an award. It’s simply an opportunity for me to give a shout out to some smaller jewelry designers who I feel need it and deserve it, mainly because they’re doing awesome things but they’re not in Big Box retailers, and not always on everyone’s lips, minds, or fingertips.

The reason (or actually, “reasons”) I have to make the disclaimer above is because I actually caught shit from folks during my last two InstaSeries’. That’s right, I caught shit for trying to highlight fifty high-ranking women in the jewelry industry who are often overlooked, and for highlighting fifty young jewelers/designers/retailers/editors who are making a difference in our industry. People are f*cking bananas, aren’t they? Let me elaborate a little on what exactly I went through:

During #FiftyWomenofJewelry I had people pressuring me to include certain women who I needed to “pay my respects” to because they were of the hierarchy and had been around a lot longer than some of the women executives I had already highlighted had been.

After #FiftyWomenofJewelry I had people upset with me for not including a woman they “would have included” or that they “felt should have been included.” I have five words for those people if they’re reading this right now: Make Your Own G*ddamned List. Just like I did, folks! Don’t like how the system works? Create your own system. WordPress isn’t expensive. Create a domain name. Buy your website. Start your own blog, and go for it.

During #50MillennialsofJewelry – and this one was the most astonishing one yet – I had a Millennial WHO WAS ON THE LIST complain that they hadn’t been highlighted as well as some of the others on the list. Jesus Ephing Christ, people. Really?

Also during #50MillennialsofJewelry, I received messages and emails from people afterward asking why they weren’t included. For serious. Can’t make this shit up. Entitled much?

And lastly, I had some folks soliciting others who they knew were friends of mine to ask me to include them on the list. That’s not cool, people. That would be like me asking my friends to nominate me for a WJA Award or a GEM Award. There are just certain things one mustn’t do. If your work is solid enough, you’ll eventually be recognized. Take it from me… it took twenty years in this industry to get a nomination for anything. It will come. Just have patience. It will come.

So, with that being said, here is my plan for this series which really was no different than my plan in any of the others: I want the underdogs/the lesser-knowns/the one-woman or one-man operations to get some attention. This series isn’t going to include the David Yurmans of the world, (BEFORE I CATCH MORE SHIT I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST DAVID YURMAN, PEOPLE) meaning, David put his time in and caught his break, but these folks, well, they’re just not there… yet. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be, or they won’t be, which is why I’m choosing to highlight them now.

If you’re one of these designers I’ve described and I don’t include you this time around, it’s cool, okay? I’m nobody. Really. Don’t get hurt. Don’t get offended. Just know that, for me, 50 is a number that works. There are thousands of you out there and I would love to get to you all someday. If not today, maybe tomorrow. Maybe next year. Or maybe some other bloggers will take the initiative and get to you. In the interim, keep working hard, smart, and most importantly, WORK TRUE.

Peace out, people. Peace out, and read on, and stay the course, and don’t do drugs.

Layteh.

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