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

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

Click the link in the tweet here:

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade Show Shenanigans

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

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

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


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

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

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


First beer since last year… nothing finer.

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

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

For one thing, I remember meeting so many people.

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

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


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

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

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

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


Man, maybe you jewelry people are on to something.

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

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

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


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


Images taken by Sean Murphy. @murphyphoto on Instagram.

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was from David Rocha.

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

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

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

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

Wait, where did this pocket square come from?

Friday, January 9th: The GEM Awards

It’s snowing. Rad.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gem Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Stephen Webster: Damn, you fine.

Carolyn Murphy: DAYUM girl. You finer.

Haley Henning: You are flawless.

Terry Chandler: Enough with the slit comments.

Fran Pennella: No one wears fringe like you do.

Beth Bernstein: So nice to meet you!

Bill Farmer: You complete me.

Cameraman: Thanks, bro. You know what for.

Uber driver: YOU HAD MINTS!

Wendy Brandes: That bitch.

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

Dave Bonaparte: Give Amanda a raise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“PEGGY JO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: “Do you have Oban?”

Male server: “Yes ma’am. We do.”

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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.


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!


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…”


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.