How This All Got Started

The Awesomeness of Thirty, Part 2: This Industry Is FLIPPING RAD!

Way back on August 9th of last year I published my first full-length blog post right here on Adornmentality. “The Awesomeness of Thirty” was my second published post but the first to disseminate my comedic and sometimes over-the-top style of writing. Once it was live it felt like an accurate way to show the blogosphere that I had arrived and planned on staying. Today, on the one-year anniversary of the day that Adornmentality was launched, I give to you my thirtieth published post.


The “City”

The City, to me, is as familiar as it is strange. It represents lotteries won as much as it does deaths in the family. Its tunnels are vacuums sucking me into its temptations. Its bridges, outstretched arms letting me know that it will hold me when I need it to. Its high-rises remind me of both its strength and its vulnerability as they glow proudly in the dawn, yet weep silently in the dusk. The City, is my home away from my home away from home. It’s the taller, prettier, more interesting sister of my native Philadelphia, and it has brought me more joy, pain, ecstasy, and heartache than one should ever be allowed to feel in a lifetime.


Ear Climbers by Mrs. T at Luxe Intelligence

The City is where I and many others get into trouble. The City, to quote the song “Sea of Love” by The National, is where “Trouble will find me…” and it does, and it has, and it likely will again, but this time the City was nothing more than a platonic friend who asked me out for coffee so that they could talk shit about politics and discuss the latest earring trend being seen on red carpets everywhere. I decided I’d sneak a flask full of bourbon into the coffee shop on 43rd because let’s face it, what’s a little gossip without a little booze, yeah? Yet as I expected, the City brought their own, only theirs was a Macallan 18, in a thermos the size of a fire extinguisher.

I love you, City. I’m so happy to be in you. I don’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now. 



Andrea Hansen in the background. Mrs. T. Caviar Rings up front

If you haven’t had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with WJA President Andrea Hansen in her LUXEIntelligence showroom on West 45th, you’re missing out on the kind of experience that stays with you long after the buzz from the bottle of Chardonnay that the two of you killed while there has worn off. This is how I spent the first few hours of my Saturday in New York. So many jewels to gawk at/rings to try on/questions to ask/answers to ponder/grams to Insta. She’s a gift to our industry, this woman, like many before her and many beside. And if you’re a designer looking to publicize your brand, I suggest making LUXE your first stop as you consider your investments.

New York Jewelry Market Week is nothing like Vegas. That’s not to say that shenanigans weren’t or aren’t had. New York is the Mecca of the U.S. jewelry industry and every year thousands of buyers flock to the two major summer shows (JA-NY held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and JCK Luxury Prive held this year at the Waldorf Astoria) in the hopes of getting their holiday orders in before it’s too late (What are you waiting for, people??? I’VE GOT MOUTHS TO FEED!). Also held the same week are some major industry events, including the AGS Circle of Distinction Dinner, and the long awaited and always anticipated, WJA Awards for Excellence Gala.

Last year’s post, “The Awesomeness of Thirty,” largely focused on the Women’s Jewelry Association’s 30th birthday that was celebrated grandly at the Awards for Excellence event. This year’s gala marked the WJA’s 31st year, yet the event was no less spectacular and not without surprise. Gala chair Natalie Humphrey of Forevermark blew the eventually uproarious crowd away with her live (hear that, Lana del Fake? LIVE. As in, ‘not pre-recorded for studio audiences’) piano-accompanied rendition of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Not to be outdone, Platinum Guild president Huw Daniel led an all-male striptease act (a-la “Magic Mike”) that included guest appearances by Darwin Copeman, Kevin Reilly, and a surprisingly – shall we say, (ahem) gifted – Matthew Tratner.



(I threw that last part in to see if you were paying attention. Clearly no one stripped while at the event. I cannot speak for what Mr. Copeman does in his spare time, however. I’m just sayin’. I’m pretty sure I saw him pay for his drinks in damp one dollar bills.)


Half of the #VegasGems seated at the GUMUCHIAN table

The 2014 Awards for Excellence winners included Heather Moore, Michelle Graff, Chana Regev, Kim Adams, Cathy Calhoun, Amy Jackson, Jennifer Peck, Desiree Hanson, Rosanna Doherty, and Fran Pennella. The Lifetime Achievement Award, (in case you’ve been living in a swan’s nest and this is the only industry blog you read) was given to the AGS’s Ruth Batson, and the Ben Kaiser Award was given to Jewelers of America President and CEO, Dave Bonaparte. Richline (not to be confused with Richemont or Rich People Who Only Wear Brands By Richemont) received the Corporate Award, just to prove, yet again, that Corporations are indeed people. Wait… what?

As usual, my ladies – the #VegasGems – were representin’ at the event with every one as gorgeous as the next. Also representin’ were my boobs, but that’s for another blog post, entirely. I spent a large part of the evening hootin’ and a hollerin’ from my table for my favorite nominees which eventually enticed Jeff Post to lean over from his table to remind me that I wasn’t at a Flyers game. Sorry err’body. I blame the pinot grigio.

Left to right: Yours Truly, designer Wendy Brandes, and A4E nominee Monica Stephenson of Idazzle.

Left to right: Yours Truly, designer Wendy Brandes, and A4E nominee Monica Stephenson of Idazzle.

This year’s massive dessert spread and after-party were sponsored by the consumer-facing, uber-popular World Gold Council initiative, LoveGold. (***EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS POST IS NOT SPONSORED BY LOVEGOLD. HOWEVER, MATTHEW TRATNER DID GIVE ME TEN BUCKS TO ALLUDE TO HIS ANATOMIC GIFTEDNESS. I REPEAT: LOVEGOLD HAS NOT SPONSORED THIS POST IN ANY WAY. FYI THAT TEN DOLLAR BILL WAS ALSO SORT OF DAMP***) At this time of night there’d been more champagne passed around than a Kardashian in a frat house so everybody was having themselves a fabulously lovegoldelicious time. One particularly fun part of this event the last couple of years has been Rio Tinto’s “Diamonds With a Story” photo booth which by this late hour had a line longer than the Starbucks inside Javits at 8:50 a.m.

The WJA A4E gala is my favorite jewelry industry event of the year for several reasons. Mainly, I get to spend time with women I adore and network among some of the biggest names in the biz. I’ve never felt as if I wasn’t among peers at this event… I’d even go so far as to say that I feel even more as if I am among family. Ever have someone tell you something positive that was so unexpected you actually felt a shift in your life take place where you stood? That happened to me at A4E. Someone pulled me aside and said “You’re like the Dorothy Parker of jewelry. Keep going. Make your mark.” And I haven’t been able to will the moment out of my skull. Nor can I stop laughing at Mrs. Parker’s famous quote when asked to use “horticulture” in a sentence…

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

Man, I would have loved to have hung out with her. Maybe because I see similarities between us. Maybe, if Dorothy Parker lived today, and wrote a blog, and was who she was back then, now, she’d have celebrated her one-year anniversary in the way that I suggested I wanted to celebrate mine… by letting everyone who has ever read it flip her a big’ ole middle finger. So many innuendos. So many hidden meanings. And so much of her personality in this one, simple, inappropriate gesture.

You gals (and guys)… y’all are something else, I’ll tell you that. Thanks for taking part in my little #birdsforwords experiment and for letting me enter your lives over these last twelve months. Let’s keep this thing going, yeah? And lastly, let’s take a look at the #birdsforwords that are now and forever part of the internets.

Smooches. On to the next year!

How This All Got Started

“A Bucket of Steam”: Proving Your Worth in the World of Jewels – Part 2

After three years of being a runner, I felt it was time for me to move on to something more substantial in the jewelry industry. The line you just read was a blatant lie. After three years of being a runner, errand girl, yes-(wo)man, verbal punching bag, script editor, gopher, hustler, and sometimes butt of the joke, I quit my first job in the industry without a damned idea of what I’d be doing next. Thankfully, I was in a relationship where I could take a few months off and not be financially affected, so that I could think about where I’d like to be and hope to heaven wherever that place was needed someone with my skill set. But let’s be honest here… what exactly were my skills? Well, I knew how jewelry was made, for one. Being a runner allowed me to learn the ins and outs of the craft, so, I had that going for me. But what I didn’t have was a college degree, so if I wanted to work anywhere in this trade that didn’t involve selling ninety-nine dollar U through Z color, SI9 clarity “diamond” studs at a kiosk in the mall the rest of my life, I needed to get a little crafty, and show just how well I could sell by technically selling something that didn’t yet even exist …

…myself, in future form.


I have only genetics to thank for what I looked like at twenty-seven years old. I stood about 5’10” with broad shoulders and a slight frame. An Italian father gave me my dark hair, warm skin, and a generally bad attitude. A German mother gave me my gray eyes, height, and a belief that you will go as far only as hard as you are willing to work. Everything else, however, was gained from my life’s experiences, and everything I ever had, I mostly got with just a little luck.

veronicalakeIn early 2000, I was asked to do a photo shoot for a major jewelry trade publication out of King of Prussia, PA. I had done some modeling over the years but never took it seriously enough to consider as a career, so I obliged, knowing it would give my folks something else to add to the scrap book. Four girls took part in this shoot and at just a few years shy of thirty, I was, hands down, the eldest of the group. The magazine was Jewelers Circular Keystone, and the shoot was for their media kit to be released later in the year. When it came out, a friend of mine in the trade brought me a few copies so that I could keep a couple and give one to my parents. Inside the folder were several 5 x 7 cards, each emblazoned with a different model’s face. There I was, in black and white; hair all Jessica Rabbit-like, looking like an old movie star. It was cool. It’s still cool when I think about it, but I never knew just how handy that card would come in until the day I applied for a position with the most well-known jewelry designer in the Philadelphia area.


Three months had gone by without a single call for a job. I had faxed (yes, F-A-X-E-D), mailed, and physically brought in my resume to every major jewelry retailer near where I lived with no luck. I didn’t technically do sales in my previous job, didn’t finish college, and frankly, looked like crap on paper, so I started to get really nervous and when I get nervous, my brain starts exploding.

Did I make a mistake by leaving my last job?

Should I just go back to school?

Is this even the industry for me?

What’s the meaning of life?

Did my parents adopt me?

Will Luke and Laura ever get back together?

See what I mean? Crazy-talk was taking over, until that one day I decided to take the subway up to Center City and do a walk-about in Rittenhouse Square. That is when I saw “The Store.”

I had noticed its name before. I knew it had something to do with jewelry, and I knew it wasn’t for people like me; you know, broke people. This place was a place I was unfamiliar with. The main-liners shopped here: the people from Yardley, and Merion, and Bryn Mawr. Occasionally I would come across their ads in a Philadelphia magazine that I picked up in my dentist’s office or purchased if I had a few extra bucks in my pocket. This name wasn’t just a name synonymous with Philly itself… it was, by all respects… a brand, and so I let my curiosity get the best of me, and walked my under-dressed body through the elegantly decorated doors.

Welcome to LAGOS,” said a voice behind the counter.

I belong here,” replied my brain to itself. And so, it got to working. What can I do to get myself noticed? What can I do to get myself in?


Google was still in its early stages in the year 2000. “Googling” a brand like LAGOS didn’t bring a ton of results, but what it did bring was the address and telephone number of its corporate headquarters in North Philly. One thing that I did know about the brand from the trade shows I was allowed to attend with my previous employer was that their show booth was big, and secluded, and that their sales team was intimidatingly beautiful. “This…” I thought… “This could be my *in*” and this is where those 5 x 7, Vanessa Redgrave-esque media kit cards would come in handy.

I borrowed a career-style pencil skirt from my sister-in-law and wore my most conservative button-downed shirt. I straightened my hair, wore a touch of makeup, and tried my absolute best to de-South-Philly my speaking voice. In my hand was a manila envelope containing a crisp, newly printed version of my resume on a medium weight card stock, and a well-written cover letter explaining in minimal words what I was looking for and what I would be able to bring to the table. Attached to the back was my JCK headshot card, in the hope that whoever was in charge of hiring would at least give me a second thought based on my appearance. It was a long shot, but I didn’t have a choice. If my looks could even partially get me in, then I knew my abilities would keep me in, but my past experiences on their own would have never been enough. I had no choice but to pull out all the stops.


The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers



“Hi, is this Barbara Ann?”

“Yes. This is Barbara.” (Cringing at the fact that I even included the “Ann” part on my resume. So effing stupid. So. Freaking. DUMB.)

“Hi, this is Marcia with Lagos. We received your resume and wanted to know if we could set up a time that works for you to come in for an interview.”

And in my mind, with a smile on my face that could have melted the Antarctic, the song continued…

 Then there were those that made me feel good
But never as good as I’m feeling right now
Baby you’re the only one that’s ever known how
To make me wanna live like I wanna live now
I said yeah yeah (yeah yeah) yeah yeah yeah yeah the waiting… is the hardest part…

To be continued…

How This All Got Started

“A Bucket of Steam”: Proving Your Worth in the World of Jewels – Part 1

The premise of this blog as stated in its first post is to give a voice to the jewelry industry, its people, and its pieces. Too many faces at too many trade shows walk the temporarily carpeted floors in silence. Too many works of art sit behind slabs of rented glass needing desperately to sing their song; to tell their tale. Today’s tale starts with a twenty-three year old novice who opened the “Help Wanted” section of a newspaper looking for a job; who then answered an ad for an entry-level “runner” position at a tiny shop in the oldest established diamond district in the United States.

Today’s tale is the beginning of my own tale. Throughout the life of this blog I’ll share more about who I am and how I got to where I am, but for today I thought it best to start where all things do: Day One.


“So, that’s pretty much what you’ll be doing. I’ll have Billy take you around on the street and introduce you to everybody at the shops we use. You’ll mostly be visiting the casters, setters, and polishers, but you’ll need to meet Lisa – our wax carver – since you’ll see her from time to time, too. Don’t let Lisa scare you. She’s mean looking and her shop smells like an ashtray that a dog took a crap in but she’s the best wax person on the street, so, learn to like her. Actually, scratch that. You can hate her all you want, just make sure she doesn’t hate you. You’ll also want to meet the guys up at the Lapidary. Christ, Steve’s going to flip when he takes a look at you. He likes your type. No worries about him liking you; pretty sure that’s covered already. Oh, you’ll also need to get to know the appraisers. We use two different appraisal houses – Shannon and Dave. Shannon’s nice and she’s real sweet. She and Bubby like to smoke a doob from time to time. She’s cool. Dave’s office is pretty strict, though. They think they’re above the GIA. Buncha stuck-up a-holes if you ask me. But I’m not judging. We need them, so, be nice. There’s also the pearl stringer (Margie), Chuck the Diamond Cutter, the Armenian guys over at A&K, and let’s see… who else… OH, the Metal Market crew, for chains and charms and stuff. Billy will remember who else to take you to. Think you’ll remember all that?”

“Nope. But I will. At some point.”

“Good. I like your honesty. Now, first thing’s first. Remember I showed you where the steamer was?”


“Go step on the pedal and see if it’s heated up yet.”

Excitedly, and curiously, I walked over to the rather large, dangerous looking box next to Benny the Jeweler’s bench and did as I was told: I stepped with all my might.


I stepped again, this time holding my foot down on the pedal as if I were O.J. Simpson, circa 1994.

A tiny bit of spit-like water spewed from the cappuccino-looking nozzle for roughly 1.6 seconds. It was followed up by another familiar sound.


I could feel my manager Lance’s eyes on my now bright red and sweaty face.

“Did you break it?”

“NO! I did what you said! You said go and st…”

“Move over, let me try,” said a frustrated Lance, lifting a lever and then stepping with all his might on the same polishing dust-covered, black foot pedal.

Nothing. Still. As nothing as you could possibly get.

“Crap. Okay. It’s out of steam. One second.”

Lance stepped into the small, dark, back room and returned not a blink-of-an-eye later with a roughly two-gallon galvanized bucket that I believe would have made a kick-ass sand castle.

“Take this. Go to the 740 building on Sansom Street and take the elevator to the second floor. Ask Larry the Polisher if you can borrow a bucket of steam because our steamer’s out. Tell him you’ll replace it when we get more. If he tries to give you a bill, tell him to call me. Larry’s a cheap little sh*t.”

With a look on his face about as stoic as my brother’s when he told me he enlisted in the military, Lance extended his arm – bucket attached – willing me to take it and go about completing my first ever task in the jewelry business. To his dismay, I never moved. Without so much as looking at the object between us I stared in his eyes and met his intensity with my own.

“Lance. I may look like I do, which probably means you’re not going to take me seriously, at least for a while, but I’m not an idiot. I don’t know who you hired in the past or who has held this position before me, but if you think I don’t know that you’re trying to make an a-hole out of me, you’re wrong. Frankly, you can take the bucket and stick it up your…”

“SHE PASSED! Guys, we got a live one! She passed the bucket test! Welcome aboard, kid. Don’t think you’re so special. We do it to everyone. Just be glad I didn’t hear you finish your sentence.”


Philadelphia’s Jeweler’s Row

And with a roar of cheers and laughter from the gemologists, bench jewelers, and salesmen whom I would soon call my lifelong friends and colleagues, I was welcomed into the world of diamonds, metals, gems, and jewels. It was on that day back in 1996 that I felt that I had found my home. The joy I experienced in my first few years as a young runner remains unmatched, to this day. I learned so much about what I would eventually choose as my lifelong career. I got to sit with stinky Lisa and watch her carve a Dachshund’s head out of a block of wax for a pendant that a woman wanted to wear after her dog passed away. I hung out with the guys from the chain place at happy hour after work and laughed with the not-so-stuck-up appraisers from Dave’s while we kicked back lemon drops and played doo-wop on the juke. I watched some friends move upward and onward in the business, and watched others struggle with the ever-changing economy. I was knocked over by a man running from an undercover police officer after he did a smash-and-grab at one end of the street only to see one of the store’s competitors tackle the thief to the ground at the other end. I saw people go to jail for dishonesty. I saw people come out of jail after serving their sentences for tax evasion. I listened to the stories and I learned the highs and lows, and I took what I considered vital and valuable and eventually, moved on from the Diamond District into the world of designer jewelry, which is where the next part of this series will take place.

I hope you enjoyed this tiny glimpse into my professional life. I don’t have an “about me” section on this blog because I’ve struggled in the past with giving a seven sentence synopsis of who I am and why I’m writing. I so much prefer to space it out with stories like these. It’s much sparklier that way, don’t you agree?

If you have an interesting story about how you got your start in the jewelry business, I’d love to hear it. Email me at to be potentially featured in an upcoming post.