Trade Show Shenanigans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cautious optimism.” – Alexis Padis, Padis Jewelry

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, that’s right…

Me.

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

“No Palumbo equals no fun.”

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

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

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

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

Let’s hear it for cautious optimism.

Let’s hear it for forging ahead.

Let’s hear it for watches and jewelry.

Let’s hear it… for Las Vegas.

 

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Trade Show Shenanigans

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

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

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

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

Flint lapel pin by Marion Fillancq

Flint lapel pin by Marion Fillancq

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

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

Sarah Cavender flower brooch

Sarah Cavender flower brooch

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

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

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

Daniel Espinosa dressed me up

Daniel Espinosa dressed me up

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

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

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

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

It reads (translated into English):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIJ meaning bijou, or, jewel

OR meaning gold

H representing horlogerie, or, watchmaking

CA meaning cadeaux, or, gifts

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

Thanks, as always, for reading. À bientôt.

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART FIVE: Le Gemmes de Vegas Trois/Raising the Bar (Which Was Closed)

What night in Vegas am I on? Friday? Friday. Yeah, I think Friday.

For the last three years, a group of women with some connection to the written word has gathered in Vegas for what we call our annual #VegasGems get together. Our organizer, from moment one, has always been designer and blogger, Shamila Jiwa, and this year was no exception. Shamila came up with the idea that instead of starving ourselves in front of an animated, oversized reptile like we’d done the two years prior, we should instead sit down and do this thing called “aet.” No wait, “e-e-t” I think it’s spelled. Wait, maybe it’s “e-a-t.” Yeah, EAT. That looks right. It’s a foreign concept to most of us during Jewelry Week so we all agreed to try it out both out of curiosity and in the spirit of adventure seeking. And boy, oh boy, what a treat!

#VegasGems Take Jaleo! Photo by Brittany Siminitz

#VegasGems Take Jaleo! Photo by Brittany Siminitz

Little by little we arrived at our destination, skipping this year’s COUTURE awards in order to keep the tradition going. Shamila had made reservations at JALEO at the Cosmopolitan and assured us we’d have the best seat in the house.

I could continue this story by doing a roll call of names of those who are part of our Vegas Gems group, but this year, after the years of having shared many experiences with these women individually, I’m going to give you a breakdown of who they are, as well as who they are to me, starting at the top, with my mentor-in-chief.

Peggy Jo Donohue – Yes, her résumé in the jewelry industry and in the writing world is long and impressive, but it’s who she is when she’s not broken down on paper that’s special to each of us in attendance. There is no greater cheerleader of your life than Peggy Jo Donohue, but there’s also no better person to sit your ass down and make you take a long, deep breath. Many a ledge has been avoided in my life because of her, and with a new gig on the horizon, it was fascinating to be seated alongside PJD for a large part of the night. Cheers, my friend!

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I’ve lost count of how many of these we have now

Wendy Brandes – Writer turned designer (yet still a writer) turned duckface maker, Wendy Brandes, adds a unique layer of fabulousness to our group gatherings. Always dressed in something remarkable, up to and including her beautiful jewels, Wendy’s stories of rap concerts, famous people, kinky couples, and Paul McCartney have us transfixed in amazement and green with envy. When she gets going, it’s as if someone mentioned “bomb” on an airplane, as in, no one makes a sound, clenching their butt cheeks, waiting for the bass to drop. I adore you, WB. May we never not duckface together ever.

Brittany Siminitz – If Paul Rudd’s ANT MAN suit was real, and I could find it, steal it, and make this JCK Marketplace Manager wear that shit, I would. I would make her put it on and shrink herself so that she could climb into my pocket or my wallet or my lipstick holder and be with me all day long, every day. Then I’d make her life size again whenever I needed my Brittany fix. It’s a dream, but what is life without dreams, right? Brittany is truly an underrated yet extremely gifted writer, but beyond that she’s genuine, and positive, and a joy to be around. PLUS, it was her birthday, so, double awesomeness.

Shamila Jiwa – OHHHHHHHHHH, how I LOOOOOOVE me some Shamila Jiwa! Shamila is so tiny that she doesn’t need Paul Rudd’s Ant Man suit to slip into my pocket, but she did claim that it was a little tight in there, prompting me to go paleo ever since. Shamila is a talented jewelry designer, wonderful writer, hilarious storyteller, and all around awesome human being. I also recently got to spend some time with her, one-on-one, during her summer trip to Atlanta, which is hard to do in Vegas even when you’re out on VG night. Shamila, thanks so much for eternally being the organizer of this. Love you to bits!

Cheryl Kremkow – I’ve always been in awe of Cheryl Kremkow’s ability to spot a pair of earrings or a necklace from a mile away and know who the designer was immediately. Ever follow her live tweets at red carpet events? You should. It’s mesmerizing. Cheryl is inspiring and even more importantly, she’s greatly experienced in the written jewelry word and so when she speaks, I listen, and when she writes, I read. She’s a blessing to every jewelry blogger who exists right now, and her support of me and what I do is so very much appreciated. Thank you, CK. Muah muah muah.

Erika Winters – This one, oh I could just smoosh her face, it’s so damn pretty. Erika has genuinely found her calling as a jewelry designer and we #Gems could not be prouder of her. Her gorgeous engagement ring and wedding band lines and the even more beautiful images of each that she takes herself have a social media following all on their own. She still writes on her blog which can be found on her website and still manages to tackle other genres in the creative world, daily. To me, however, she’s simply my good friend who I’d be happy for regardless of what she was doing. And I’m very happy, Erika. Extremely.

Monica Stephenson – The recent WJA award winner for Excellence in Editorial Media should probably get her own table next year so that the multitude of fans who will want her autograph will have a place to sit. It’s okay. We know what’s up. We’ll just yell the jokes across the room to her and have the champagne brought over on the back of That Kid From Ritani. She’ll still have fun. We promise. All kidding aside, I am so very proud of this woman who I love with the wholeness of my heart and I’m thrilled I got to spend so much time with her this year on a week that is usually sporadic and batshit crazy. I bow down, OH QUEEN! May you reign in this industry for years and years to come!

So, now that you know a bit more about each Vegas Gem (other than me, since, my life is obviously an open book) I will go ahead and get into the night a little, cool? Cool.

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Omi Gems Party. NAT!!

We were at dinner FOR-EV-ER. I mean it, I’m pretty sure we were into our third or maybe fourth hour and sixth bottle of wine by the time Jen Heebner and Tanya Dukes arrived (which, by-the-way, brought the *awesome writer* vibe to “danger zone” levels).

We shared glorious latin-inspired tapas and sank a good amount of wine, all while giggling like University of Alabama sorority girls and bitching about what is wrong with our industry. We talked gems and sex and food and travel and sex and wine and mining and sex. Or maybe that was just me talking about sex. Or maybe I was only thinking about it but wasn’t really talking about it. I can’t really remember because wine. I do reminder talking about wine. Or I guess I could have just been drinking it while thinking about it. Wine that is. And sex.

I’m thirsty all of a sudden.

OH, I do recall that I finally got to spend some real time with Jessica Neiwert, however. And I had no idea that Charlie Herner of The Rephinery was her boyfriend, so, total bonus! This a JEWELRY POWER COUPLE, yo! Seriously, keep these two names on your radar and watch them become something magical in this world. I’m betting my next three paychecks on that happening, that’s how confident I am that it will. (Shoutout to Erika’s husband Peter, too!)

As the night was winding down (to Jennifer Dawes, we’re so sorry we missed your gathering!) we realized that several of us had been invited to the OMI GEMS birthday party at The Wynn. We gathered our things and headed through the Cosmo toward the exit, with our fearless long-legged leader clearing a path for the rest of us to follow.

I loathe the Cosmopolitan. It’s like amateur night in that place. Everything one can hate about Vegas is usually walking stumbling drunkenly through the corridors of that godforsaken casino. As our large group tried our best to form a double-file line toward the exit, a cumulus-cloud-sized gathering of gentlemen idiots holding beer bottles and wearing baseball caps headed in our direction. One particularly beefy guy, not paying attention as he was oogling the breasts that were headed up the escalator, slammed full force into my left shoulder, knocking me off balance, as I exclaimed, “OW! Are you serious, dude?”

His beer muscles kicked in, of course, because knocking a woman over is *totally* when they should…

“YEAH, I’M F*CKING SERIOUS, ARE YOU??”

But before the twenty-two-year-old Philly girl living inside of me was able to cock her fist back and land it on his disgusting face, two hands grabbed by shoulders, moved me out of the way, and yelled “Yeah, we’re serious too, asshole!” To which he replied by walking away.

Look, there’s only one other person I know who’s crazy enough to welcome confrontation, but I’m not going to say who that woman is. I’ll only state that her name may or may not rhyme with Shmeggy Flo Clonoughugh, but I can’t say for certain.

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A picture of a picture of us piled into the limo

After seeing that the cab line was as long as the guy who knocked me down’s monthly phone sex charges, Monica disappeared for a moment only to return with a big, black… limo. (Gotcha!) Half of us piled in (and on one another) and we headed toward to Wynn hoping we could arrive at the Omi party in time to celebrate with even more awesome jewelry industry people.

The event was nearly over when we walked in, but we were still able to chill out with Natalie, Niveet, Mando, and many other folks who had been invited to one of the week’s best parties. It was a great way to end our annual group dinner and before long, I called it a night and headed up to my room.

Thanks, my crew, for such a memorable evening. And we really missed you Jessica and Katrina! I look forward to this every year and hope it never stops.

Next up, the last leg of the journey.

Until…

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART FOUR: D.E.F. Jam in the Desert, aka, Barbara Gets Punk’d

(Yes, yes… I’m still talking about Vegas.)

There is an OZ-like curtain in certain parts of the industry that I was unaware of until this last year. Sometimes it seems, not just to me but many others, like there are the big cities – the Meccas – and then, there’s everywhere else. Sometimes it feels like the truth about tough topics is pushed under the rug as to not offend/not piss off/not shine the spotlight on the players who pay the big bills, or have the big names, or run the big ads. Sometimes, against their own interest, women don’t stand up for women (aka – “mean girl club”). And sometimes, someone such as I – naively, maybe – comes along, and calls out these issues, and calls out the politics or the bullshit for what it is, yet in turn occasionally finds themself outside of some imaginary circle of trust.

Writing about Vegas post-Vegas has been tough for me. Not because I haven’t had things to say or stories to tell (I always have things to say and stories to tell) but because my heart just wasn’t into it, which is why it has taken this long. Remember finding out about Santa Claus? Well, I feel like this year exposed him, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and leprechauns all on the same day, and that left me both indignant and disheartened about the field I’ve been in for nearly two decades, that is, until a few weeks ago…

A simple conversation with a respected colleague and friend can often change how you view something in the long term. When I mentioned that I was going to be stepping back from writing the blog for a while, my statement was met with the following demand:

“Don’t you f*cking dare. Don’t you dare go away because if you do, you’ve lost. Don’t you dare let what’s been going on forever get to you. You are a voice – a voice that people didn’t expect and probably one they weren’t ready for. If change is going to happen, you’re going to make it happen, so don’t you dare walk away. Get out there and write.”

And so, I am.

Today’s post will cover a single night in Sin City – Thursday night. It was the night of the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s “Diamonds in the Sky” event, and I promise you that this recap will be light and airy and fun. There’s no need to think that I’m going to change the world through this entry, but know in the back of your mind that I want to. I want to see change, so I will try my damnedest to be that change. In the interim, however, I give you part four

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After the success of the “Power of Blogging” panel, I was about as high as the state of Colorado, which these days, as you know, is pretty f*cking high. The “Diamonds In the Sky” event was a highlight for me during last year’s Jewelry Week and I was looking forward to being *properly* dressed this time (if you don’t know what I mean, read this post from last year’s event to get yourself caught up).

Once back in my room I fixed my makeup, threw my hair up, and donned a Salmon-colored floor length gown that was summery, flowy, and feminine. I felt… girly… which is not an adjective I use to describe myself often, but what the hell, right? May as well go all in since last year I wore a knee-length dress and felt out of place because everyone was dressed formally. However, as I approached the ballroom at the Four Seasons I noticed that most of the female attendees were in cocktail length dresses and skirts… with some even wearing pants. I had to rub my eyes and do a double-take. What…. the HELL… is going on here? Is this some cruel joke the entire industry is playing on me? Is Ashton Kutcher going to pop out from behind some elegant Vegas drapery and tell me I’m being PUNK’d? THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING. Last year I was underdressed and this year, I’m overdressed?? For the love of jeebus, can I just catch a break?!? Of course I can’t. This is me we’re talking about. Thankfully there was no line at the bar so I went right in and ordered a scotch. A quick scan of the room put Monica, Danielle, Liz Kanter, Amanda Gizzi, and Natalie Bos in my sights, so off I went to talk jewelry and blogs.

DITS DEF1

Bern and me on our way to the prom. (Photo courtesy of the Diamond Empowerment Fund)

Everyone looked so glamourous. There were diamond hair clips and gorgeous statement necklaces (including the GUMUCHIAN Cascade necklace I was wearing), and Monica had on a fabulous ring by Payal Shah of L’Dezen. Diamonds weren’t just doing good so far at this event, they were doing freaking GREAT, and were well represented among the blogger community in particular.

We did our usual catching up with our industry favorites (Craig Danforth, Michelle Graff, Jen Cullen Williams, and The Asschers) and I was also able to have some serious conversations with folks like Dr. Ben Chavis, and the AGS’ Ruth Batson. This is an event I really looked forward to as I remembered just how wonderful last year’s dinner was (I mean, what event isn’t awesome where you get to high five Chaka Khan as she sings “I’m Every Woman”?). But this year’s entertainment was going to be Kelly Rowland – one third of the nineties megagirlgroup, “Destiny’s Child” and multi-platinum solo recording artist. And yo, I knew all of that without even looking her up on Wiki! Holla! (Did I spell that correctly?)

DITS DEF2

Pixie, Dipsh*t, and The International Man of Mystery

I was fortunate enough to be seated between Diamond Council of America president, Terry Chandler, and WJA Executive Director and pixie-cut-wearer extraordinaire, Bernadette Mack. When Terry saw that we were being served a type of wine that I don’t drink, he jumped in and ordered a bottle of my favorite for the table. I can see why Cindy and he have such a fantastic relationship. Way to be accommodating, Terry! Terry also, though, for some reason, thought his Facebook account had come to life that night as he found that poking me in the left arm over and over and over and over was more than amusing. Oh, Terry… you’re so lucky I like you, because if I didn’t, I would have taken you out at the knees and dropped your ass.

So many wonderful things happened during this year’s Diamonds in the Sky Gala, but for me, because I’m who I am, the part where super-hot Olympic swimmer Roland Schoeman was auctioned off was extraordinary. I tried bidding, but, you know… I’m too much woman for him to have handled and once he met me he’d never want to leave my bed side, which would make swimming really difficult, and, well, the world needs him, so, I allowed myself to be outbid. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Kelly in The Crowd

Kelly Rowland singing to Dr. Ben. (Photo courtesy of the Diamond Empowerment Fund)

After the food, fun, speeches, success stories, and songs were all over, a multitude of us decided to gather at our regular stomping grounds for an after-party…

That’s right, kids… you’ve waited long enough… time to talk about EYE CANDY.

I’ve been accused of namedropping during this series in the past and to those accusers I say, go f*ck yourselves, because for the most part, when I mention a name in one of these posts, people get excited to know that they’re part of the fun. So in the spirit of namedropping, let me be the first to say that it was great seeing you Brandee, Fran, Anna, Alexis, Denise, Mike, Lita, Chris, Bob, Tim, Henry, Ulysses, Bethany, Cher, and Madonna! Yeah. I went there. Madge knows what’s up. (Pssst…. Madge… call me.)

The party got a little outrageous which was a sure sign it was time for me to go. On my way out, a friend handed a different friend to me for me to get them into a cab, and I obliged because that’s what you do when you’re in the desert with your jewelry family.

Thanks for being patient while I got into my groove again. I still have to write about this year’s #VegasGems gathering and will likely close out the series with a sixth and final post after that. Then, we’ll talk New York, the WJA Awards for Excellence, the 24K Club SEUS event, and my #FiftyWomenofJewelry compilation.

There’s much to say, and I’m grateful that plenty of you are still putting your listening ears on.

Until…

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART THREE: The Element of Surprise

Weeks before my fellow writers and I were to participate in JCK’s “Power of Blogging” panel as part of their JCK Talks education sessions, I started to think about what would make a good presentation. As it was somewhat explained to us, this wasn’t to be the sort of panel where you get up in front of the crowd (if you were lucky enough to have a crowd attend) and *tell* them how to blog. Rather, we were told to explain to those in attendance what worked for us as successful bloggers. The only issue with that as I saw it was that we only had four minutes to speak, so I knew that I needed to not only get my points across, but that I also needed to make those points impactful. And how does one make a presentation impactful in merely four minutes? Well, my friends, one does so by using The Element of Surprise…

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DAY ONE, COUTURE:

Quoting (paraphrasing, actually) my friend and fellow writer, Andrew Hanelly during a recent conversation about how beautiful everyone is at the COUTURE show:

I felt like a vagrant when I got there last year.”

Andrew was missed this time around during Vegas week but his statement rang as true as ever. The reality is, I often felt like my game was strong when I was exhibiting down at JCK. In other words, I could walk on the show floor – all 6+ feet of me in heels – and eyes would follow; heads would turn. But at COUTURE? I may as well have been taking out the garbage… and by “garbage” I mean ¾ of the kale salad/no dressing left of the “lunch” that was smelled eaten by the ridiculously svelte, model-esque sales associate working for Ivanka Trump.

Everyone at COUTURE is stunning. Let me explain further…

The old dudes are stunning: They possibly hail from Italy or other fabulous European countries so their loafers are made of the softest Italian leather and their pocket squares are Gucci, or Prada, or Valentino.

The young dudes are stunning: They’ve got handsome beards with cool long hair or white-boy afros and their metrosexuality puts Brad Pitt and his fedoras to shame.

The older women are stunning: They speak French/Turkish/Spanish/Russian, and with an unassuming grace they kiss you on both cheeks and reek of a sexuality untamed by age.

The younger women are stunning: Because youth, because Crossfit, because kale, because yoga, because fashion, because hats, because winged eyeliner, because boobies.

Team Gumuchian in front of our Sew Sketchy panels. L to R, Chris, Jodi, Myriam, Me, Tatiana

Team Gumuchian in front of our Sew Sketchy panels. L to R, Chris, Jodi, Myriam, Me, Tatiana

But let’s face it, folks… doesn’t jewelry just make everyone a little prettier? And what lovelier jewelry is curated in one place than the lines that exhibit at the COUTURE jewelry show, right?

With a pride beyond what you could ever imagine, I stepped up to the GUMUCHIAN booth and stared in awe. GUMUCHIAN had partnered with Instagram sensation, Sew Sketchy, and the end result was a magically chic world combining beautiful product images, a ridiculously tall supermodel, and hilariously-written catch phrases. It was colorful, whimsical, and powerful, and I expected nothing less from the women who run the company I work for.

One of the highlights for me of showing at Couture was that I’d being doing so alongside people and designers who are very dear to my heart. For one, Vicente Agor would be showing at Salon 137 along with five other Contemporary Jewelry Design Group designers. Vicente and his husband (that’s right, his HUSBAND! THANK YOU, SCOTUS!!) Michael really came through for me (along with the AWESOME, PATIENT, and PROFESSIONAL Andrea Hill) when it came to getting my logo in order for the banners that were to grace the room at the Power of Blogging panel. There are no two finer humans on this planet and I absolutely LOVED them the second I met them (that’s for you, Vicente!). Also showing at Couture for the first time were the RAD women of Buddha Mama, whom I met in NY in January after an introduction by Michelle Orman, and who have been super warm to me since.

One of the best feelings I’ve experienced in this industry is when I meet people who are genuinely their own people; those who don’t follow a crowd, or a clique, or a trend. I’m an acquired taste, and I know that about myself, so I appreciate it when people like (or, even dislike) me based on their own experiences with me. I welcome everyone to judge me by determining in their mind how they think I’ve interacted with them, and I promise those people in return that I will treat them how I feel they’ve treated me. In this regard I can honestly say that there are several COUTURE vendors who have welcomed me and accepted me with open arms. People like Zoe Chicco, and Victor Veylan, and Todd Reed, and Paula Crevoshay, and Jennifer Dawes, and Julie Romanenko, and the gals at Jane Taylor, and Erica Courtney, and the folks at Omi Prive, and Jade Trau, and Margery Hirschey and… well, the list goes on. Thanks, you guys. Thanks for making me feel welcomed at Couture, and being interested in what I’m doing on this blog in terms of its honesty and sincerity. It means a lot. A whole lot more than you could ever imagine.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, shall we? It’s time to discuss, The Panel….

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DAY ONE, “THE POWER OF BLOGGING” PANEL, JCK TALKS

Picture taken from @idazzle's Instagram account

Picture taken from @idazzle’s Instagram account

It was my absolute honor to be included in a blogger group containing Monica Stephenson (Idazzle.com), Danielle Miele (GemGossip.com), and Katerina Perez (KaterinaPerez.com). JCK could not have picked four more diverse and different bloggers than we four, and I felt honored to sit alongside the three of them on our “Power of Blogging” panel, moderated by Diane Warga-Arias, who was in charge of running JCK’s education programs.

My boss, Myriam, has given me an unbelievable amount of support as it pertains to my blog. She knows that I don’t make money from it and that I do it as a hobby in my spare time, but still, I was nervous to ask her if I could leave for HOURS so that I could do this *thing* at the other end of the strip that would pull me away from my paying job. But Myriam is nothing short of amazing… she welcomed the opportunity and wished me only the best of luck and for that, I cannot thank her enough. It really is a privilege to work for this woman.

When I showed up at Mandalay Bay, I found Monica and Roger Dery going over some things for their upcoming African excursion. Roger explained that he’d be at the panel, so naturally, I handed him an “I read Adornmentality because fun” pin that I had made for the event. Oh, I’m sorry, do you not know about those yet? Well, you will soon enough.

When I finally got to the room that the panel would be in (after walking for what felt like a year and a half) I met up with Danielle, Katerina, and Diane’s assistant, who was prepping us on how everything was going to go, and how she would tell us how much time we had left to speak during our presentations. After Monica showed up and the four of us were hooked up to our microphones (hello? Is this thing on??) I informed the girls that I had a bag that contained several mini bottles of scotch and asked if any one of them wanted to do a quick shot with me to calm their nerves…

Monica: “I probably shouldn’t.”

Katerina: “I don’t drink.”

Danielle: “I’m in.”

Me: “(Glug, glug, glug.)”

My darling, talented friend Erika and me. Photo credit: Erika Winters and Peter Walberg.

My darling, talented friend Erika and me. Photo credit: Erika Winters and Peter Walberg.

OH MY GAWD THE ROOM IS STARTING TO FILL UP. And by “fill up” I mean my friend Jay Mednikow is here. Thank heavens. That means that there’s one for my team so even if I f*ck up royally, I can count on Jay to give me applause. I hope. But frankly, it didn’t stop there…

So many of my pals, colleagues, and readers came out to support the blogging community. Andrea Hanson, Amanda Gizzi, Helena Krodel, Marylouise Lugosch, Rebecca Moskal, Jennifer Heebner, Erika Winters (as well as her husband, Peter), Amy Rosevare, Robyn Hawk, and Peggy Jo Donahue just to name a few. Oh, and our fellow #VegasGem Cheryl Kremkow LITERALLY got off of a plane and came right to the panel! Now’s THAT’S some SUPPORT! When the four of us were finally asked to step onto the stage after a short introduction by the lovely Mark Smelzer, we looked out at the crowd and were pretty amazed. It was standing room only, and that, my friends, was a damn good feeling. Nerve-wracking, but good. And the feeling only got better.

Diane started with an introduction and spoke about the importance of blogging as it pertains to our industry. Once she introduced the first blogger, however, the room became immersed in hearing our stories. Monica was the primary speaker, followed by yours truly, and then came Danielle, with Katerina being the last of the four of us.

The beginnings of a prop - I think I nailed it, save the AGS 1 cut grade.

The beginnings of a prop – I think I nailed it, save the AGS 1 cut grade.

When people have asked me how the panel went, I’ve answered the same way each and every time: “I feel like the four of us spoke in a manner that was reflective of how we write our blogs. Monica spoke about how she writes with stats and facts backing her up, in the diplomatic fashion and Zen-like vibe that Monica is known for. Danielle spoke largely of her love of jewelry and yet still managed to make the crowd laugh with a story about how she was no longer with the guy who helped give her the idea to start blogging in the first place. Katerina spoke of the world of high jewellery, and why details and professional imagery are so important when she blogs. And I, of course, gave a batshit crazy presentation that started with a prop and ended with me throwing mini bottles of single-malt scotch out to members of the audience.” I mean, could all four of those have gone more perfectly? I think not. I think not.

barbara-IMG_0809

I believe, in this picture, I’m thanking my Uncle Steve for attending. Thank you to Matthew Perosi for the photo.

When it was time for me to speak, I stood up, grabbed the diamond-plot-shaped-prop I created (out of foam board and electrical tape… because, you know, I’m a mom…) and put a bag of buttons and bottles on the podium. The ONLY thing I had practiced for my entire presentation was my opening line. I decided I would wing everything else as I didn’t want to have to look down at notes or read from a card. I stood, taking center stage in a red dress and, as Danielle described it… hair that was pageant worthy, and introduced myself to the roughly 150 people who had taken the time to come see us.

“Hi guys! I’m Barbara Palumbo, and I’m the blogger that Rob Bates warned you about.”

From the @rachelbostonjewellery Instagram account. Loved her caption on this!

From the @rachelbostonjewellery Instagram account. Loved her caption on this!

This, thankfully, made this audience laugh, whether they knew what I was referencing or not. However, I continued by telling the crowd the backstory of that opening line…

“If you attended the AGS conclave you know that Rob Bates, while speaking of the president’s party during his monologue, told the crowd that it was New Orleans and that they could get crazy and wear masks and have fun. Then he said, ‘Just don’t do anything that will land you in Barbara Palumbo’s blog’ and he was right, because I’m telling you right now: If you’re out tonight and you see me somewhere at some bar, I suggest you start your conversation like this, ‘Hey! Barbara! Off the record…’ because if you don’t, whatever you say is landing in my blog, okay?”

I then went on to explain how I started blogging in the first place and that I had formerly written pieces for BlogHer.com and had been offered full-time paid writing gigs at other popular blogging sites but had turned those offers down because, “who needs money?”

Once the backstory was established, and through the use of six different colored papers fastened to my foam board diamond prop, I began telling the crowd about what has worked for me, with each paper containing a different word or phrase:

Honesty

Humor

Bravery

Humility

Diplomacy

The Element of Surprise

From the Instagram account of jewelry designer Geoffrey Scott. He calls me the "loud and funny one"

From the Instagram account of jewelry designer Geoffrey Scott. He calls me the “loud and funny one”

Every topic was accompanied by a short explanation as to how they’ve worked, or why, until I got to the word, “Diplomacy” which was followed by silence, since, let’s face it, has diplomacy ever really worked for me? Yeah, no. Never has. Not in my blog. Likely never will, either.

By the time I reached “The Element of Surprise” I was roughly forty seconds over my four-minute mark (thank you so much to Matthew Perosi, who sent me some fantastic pictures that he took, as well as the audio of my presentation which allowed me to see just how long I ran). So Diane, thinking I was finished, started her wrap-up. But I, knowing that the best part was yet to come, said loudly “wait a second, I’m not done” and started throwing buttons and bottles of scotch out to the audience, who responded with an eruption of laughter, hoots, and applause. I then thanked the crowd, bowed, and took my seat, feeling satisfied and spent.

After everyone spoke and the Q&A from the audience was over, we were able to do a quick meet and greet in front of our banners before being ushered out into the hallway to continue answering questions anyone may have had. This was a defining moment of the entire experience, I felt, because we were all now able to breathe, relax, and meet some of the faces who had been merely likes, clicks, shares, or tweets before this very moment. It’s humbling to hear someone you have never met say to you “I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I just wish you would post more” or “you crack me the hell up” or even “wow, you really are as tall as you say you are.” It’s humbling, for sure, but man, it’s super effing rad, too.

Another big thank you to Matthew Perosi for capturing this picture of the five women involved in the panel. Left to right, Diane, Monica, Me, Danielle, and Katerina

Another big thank you to Matthew Perosi for capturing this picture of the five women involved in the panel. Left to right, Diane, Monica, Me, Danielle, and Katerina

So, a BIG thank you to JCK for having me as well as an apology to them for running a little over my four minutes. A HUGE merci to those who came out to hear us and to the folks who introduced themselves; it was my pleasure to share a piece of myself with you in person. And lastly, to my fellow bloggesses – my Bloggerati, if you will – you guys were fantastic and I hope we get to take this show on the road someday.

The next series of posts will include stories from the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s “Diamonds in the Sky” gala as well as this year’s “Rocks the Beach” experience (spoiler alert: I walk on water).

Until…

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#jewelrypeople, Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART TWO (b): The Password is “Miami”

Him: (Flustered) “You can’t wear that shirt.”

Me: “WHAT?? Why not? I’m not on the show floor. Myriam said I could even wear midriffs as long as it wasn’t during show hours.”

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Matty and me. I wore the shirt.

Him: (Looking down at my… um… *shirt*) “You just… (now, blushing) you can’t wear that.”

Me: “Hey, after two kids, I’m proud of these suckers (no pun intended). I’m wearing it.”

The above conversation was between my co-worker, Chris, and me, right before we stepped out for the evening on the first night we arrived in Vegas. Let me give you a little back story on him and us, though…

Chris is my twenty-four-year-old colleague, friend, accessory, and sometimes confidant. Over the last year we’ve worked together, we’ve developed a fantastic relationship. Mind you, I’m eighteen years his senior, so it’s sometimes like an “older aunt to younger step-nephew” relationship, but he’s a funny guy and he’s new to the industry, so he’s not jaded like so many seasoned salesmen I know.

I can pretty much guarantee that on any given night I’m going to get a text from Chris with a picture of him at the pool, or him on a golf course, or him with a hot woman, or him saying “I just made a $50,000 sale!” or him exclaiming “NEW YORK IN FIVE WEEKS, BABBBBYYYYYYYY…. YEAHHHHHHH!” Never once am I annoyed, or disappointed, or bothered. I like Chris in my life. He keeps me young, but if I’m being completely honest, he’s not the only one of his kind who does.

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Christopher and I headed to Parasol Up to grab a drink before I was to head out for a “gals only” dinner at Giada De Laurentiis’ new restaurant at the Cromwell. A quick visit to Parasol Down to check out the scenery led to a run-in with Neiman Marcus’ Larry Pelzel, as well as my personal faves, the beautiful and personable Lita and Mike Asscher.

“You really do know everybody,” Chris said to me, and as I turned and winked at him I said… “My love, you have *no* idea…”

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Handsome Sam. Where’s your wallet?

As we hopped the escalator to head back up, we saw the frighteningly gorgeous Sam Jansen (it’s true; I’m actually afraid of him, he’s so damned good looking) while also running into beautiful Rebecca Boyajian, who coincidentally, was part of the group of women I’d be joining for dinner. The four of us grabbed a spot at the bar and ordered our drinks – two Proseccos for the ladies, and two whatevers for the gentlemen (I don’t really pay attention when men speak. Sorry. It’s the “manly” side of me.) What I did realize, however, was that the bartender thought we were a bunch of dipshit millennials (clearly the guy didn’t spot my grays) and tried charging us SEVENTY DOLLARS for the Proseccos. Dude… this is when I gained a whole new respect for Chris Matty. Before I could open my mouth, Chris went BATSHIT on the asshole man for clearly trying to take advantage of us, so as I went to take my first sip of bubbly, the bartender literally took the glass out of my mouth.

Good times.

Once the four of us finished our spirits (and Sam realized he had misplaced his wallet… OOPS!) Rebecca and I headed off in a cab to join our WJA sisters for dinner.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by our host, Brandee, and took our place at a fittingly round table with a fabulous view of the Strip. Brandee almost immediately turned to me and said: “You realize you’re not allowed to blog about any of the conversations that happen here tonight, right?” To which I replied, “I can only make that promise if you and everyone here says that whatever they say is ‘off the record.’”

Brandee (without skipping a beat): “Off the record.”

Des: “Off the record.”

Fran: “Off the record.”

Monica: “Off the record.”

Rebecca: “Off the record.”

Kristie: “Off the record.”

Me: (In my mind) “Y’all suuuuuuuuuck so badly.”

So, that’s pretty much all I can share about the dinner. Can you believe how stupid I am? I gave them the out and they took it and I can’t share a damn thing. I hate me.

OH! I will say this, though, since it’s super important to the rest of the story. As the dinner was ending, Brandee went ahead and checked her phone and said, “Okay, so, we’re going to a speakeasy now, is that cool with everybody?”

For me, she may as well have said, “Hey, I’ve got these five trash bags filled with hundred dollar bills, chocolate, and naked pictures of Paul Rudd that I don’t know what to do with. Can you help me by taking some of them?”

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The Speakeasy.

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Brunettes for days. Photo courtesy of Jen Cullen Williams.

As we waited for taxis to arrive, I began a texting frenzy to a couple of my twenty-something male cohorts to try to get them to meet up with us there.

“Okay, so, a bunch of my middle-aged smokin’ hot friends and I are headed to a burlesque venue called ‘1923’ at the back of Mandalay Bay. It would be nice if we had some eye candy for a change.”

“No, we’re not going to Eye Candy.”

“Yes, I know that’s also at Mandalay Bay.”

“Christ, do you want to go or not?”

“Okay, it’s called ‘1923’ and when you get there, the password is ‘Miami.’”

“Yes, you need a password.”

“Yes, I’m dead serious.”

“Yes, I know you love Vegas.”

“It’s burlesque, not a strip club.”

“You really need to get out more, man.”

And so it was that as our group walked up to the bar and gave the doorman our password, a bookshelf became a hidden passageway into a dimly-lit room with go-go dancers and hipster bartenders. There were people everywhere – three deep at the bar, yet whose was the scruffily-bearded, English face I saw first in the crowd?

“BABS IS HERE!”

Voila. Instant eye candy. Thank you, oh, thank you, you wonderful speakeasy gods.

What… a… CROWD! The jewelry industry’s best and brightest apparently all got the memo – or at least, got the password. Amanda Gizzi, and Jen Cullen Williams, and MY FRIENDS FROM HALE’S and Danny Chandler, too! Lecil and the Henderson crew were there, as was Ron Saltiel, and, no surprise, Raymond Hak. There were beautiful performers (that brunette?! Wowsa.) and the drinks were free as long as you tipped your servers. I felt like I had died and gone to single-malt-scotch heaven, down to when my eyes caught Lucking and Chris Matty doing the bump for a small audience of women.

I FREAKING love this job.

After a couple of brown liquors and an inappropriate offer or two from a handful of overly excited patrons, I decided it was time to get my arse in a car and head back up the Strip to the Wynn. I slipped out of the side door and headed for an exit, walking past the Eye Candy bar and hesitating for a split second on whether or not I should peek in… “Naaaaah. Nothing could make this night any better” I thought, so off I went into the neon madness, with not much more than the next day’s events on my mind.

Tune in to Part THREE to check out how the opening day of the COUTURE show went and what really went on at the “Power of Blogging” panel! (Spoiler alert: no one was maimed but blood was definitely spilled.)

 

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#jewelrypeople, Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART ONE: “She Came In Like a Wrecking Ball”

The time has come, y’all…

I toyed around with several different titles for the first post in this year’s “TFtS” series, and thought I had narrowed it down to the following:

“Tales from the Strip, 2015: Speakeasies, Speeches, and Everything In Between”

“Tales from the Strip, 2015: How to Throw Scotch and Sharp Objects At Innocent People”

“Tales from the Strip, 2015: The Devil Wears Whitestrips”

Then, my friend Jen Cullen Williams, without realizing it, gave me the perfect title, because goddammit, it’s true… “She Came In Like a Wrecking Ball”… and of course, she was referring to me.

For those who may not know, I’m a bit of a mess. Well, not always… I mean, even with my crappy upbringing on the streets of inner-city Philly, and my newfound reputation as an industry “troublemaker” and “controversial blogger” (I mean, really???), I can promise you that I likely still have better table manners and more decorum than even the darlingest of industry darlings out there. But, there is the fact that when I walk into a room, everyone is aware of it – usually because I’ve knocked over a plant with a loud crash – which is precisely where Jen’s “Wrecking Ball” reference comes from.

My Vegas experience started long before I ever stepped foot on that Delta jetliner heading west. I spent weeks scheduling appointments with my Gumuchian customers as well as preparing a presentation for the JCK Talks blogger panel I was asked to take part in. But I was excited for all of it – every bit. This was to be my first time ever as a COUTURE exhibitor, as well as my first experience taking part on a panel during Jewelry Week. I was stoked, and even though I was informed that “several people questioned” my place on the blogger panel prior to it ever occurring, I was confident, prepared, and determined to make the people in attendance remember who Adornmentality was (if they didn’t already know) and, for all the right reasons. Indeed, my friends… I Came In Like a Wrecking Ball… and I’m not ashamed to admit it. More on how the panel went will be written about in an upcoming tale.

Vegas Shoes

#VegasShoes, or, as I call it, the reason my luggage broke.

For now, let’s take this experience all the way back to the beginning, shall we? And by beginning, I mean the shoes. If you’re a reader, friend, or fan, you know that I’m referencing the #VegasShoes hashtag that had everyone from Peggy Jo Donahue (and her black Reebok sneakers) to John Carter (and his three pairs of man shoes) instagramming what type of footwear (and how many of them) they’d be transporting to Sin City. As for me, I went with fourteen pairs of heels and one pair of flats because I don’t intend on being able to walk without a cane past the age of forty-six. Am I an idiot? Naturally. But I’m a tall idiot with killer calves and tight buttocks and I intend on living in the present, so, whatevs.

Now, the downside to packing the left half of the shoe department from Neiman Marcus in my luggage is the cost. Meaning, I stepped up to curbside check-in, put my bag on the scale, and had to perform CPR on the Skycap because he had heart failure after laughing so hard. Don’t worry, he was totally hot and it was worth it. I mean, don’t worry, he survived after multiple attempts. (Did I actually type that first part? I meant to think it.) Thankfully, I’m a professional packer, so I pack an extra bag in my bag, allowing me to remove the *several* extra pounds and to walk away, fee and carry-on bag free. GoooooooOOOoooooOOOOo Medallion Miles!

Corn Porn

Corn Porn? WTF, Hartsfield-Jackson?

At the gate, just past the phallic-looking and clearly excited corn sculpture, I ran into my wonderful friend Rachel Jackson from The Knot. Rach helped me with a quote for that day’s Fifty Women of Jewelry pick, which just happened to be our colleague, the uber-talented Erica Courtney. Rach is my homegirl. We’re about the same age (I’m older [weeping on my keys] by a few years) but we’re both of Italian descent and totally get one another when it comes to how we deal with morons people and why we don’t put up with the bullshit that this industry can sometimes dish out. Rach had a first-class ticket (because, have you met her? I mean, obvs) and I, naturally, was seated back in crap class. But because she’s Rach, and because she’s the raddest of rads, she smuggled food to me. I mean, we’re Italian. Smuggling food is a national pastime. Ever been to an Italian baby shower? Yeah, you should totally hire security to check our EXTREMELY OVERSIZED handbags at those things… in them there are definitely about two dozen mini cannoli and a pair of fancy salt and pepper shakers that we swiped from the restaurant. We Italians stick together, too. (TAKE NOTE OF THAT, READERS. THERE ARE LOTS OF US.) (But please don’t take that as threatening.) (Not true… I have to say that for legal reasons, but you should definitely take it as threatening.) (P.S. I’m in the mafia.) (P.P.S. That’s not true. Or is it?) Where in the f*ck am I going with this story? OH! THE PLANE, BOSS! THE PLANE!

After an uneventful flight and getting my bags in a timely manner, I walked outside of McCrappen McCarran airport and through the cigarette-smoke-filled haze to the taxi stand line, which, without exaggeration, already had about four or five trillion people in it (I counted). As I moved around the cattle chute with my seventy-pound bag of shoes in tow, I saw a plethora of familiar faces that I was sure I’d likely see again at some point, yet as I nevertheless went to say hello to one of them in particular, I noticed that my bag suddenly became much, much, MUCH lighter.

I was afraid to turn around as I was sure that whatever had just occurred was going to cost me even more money than I had already spent on this trip that hadn’t technically begun yet. And, naturally, I was correct. The weight of the bag – the BRAND NEW Samsonite Bag, mind you – had caused the body of it to pull away from its handle, smashing it to the ground while making the retractable handle itself snap off, sending the springs flying into Las Vegas oblivion. “She came in like a wrrrrrrecking baaaaaall… “

And all I could think was, “for the love of big baby Jesus, please… please don’t tell me that the week is starting off this way…”

But it did, and frankly, that’s cool, because that was probably the worst thing that happened all week.

because fun

People love me so much it hurts, just ask Roger Dery who bled because of this pin I gave to him.

The cab ride to the Wynn was amazing. Whoa, wait… HAVE YOU EVER HEARD THAT SENTENCE UTTERED IN YOUR LIFE? The cab ride was amazing, Barbara?? Seriously? What the hell could make a cab ride amazing? It’s a CAB RIDE! The driver would have to have had flying squirrels in batman suits jump out of the glove compartment and give me a back massage and pedicure in order for me to describe it that way, right? I mean, you know me, and I don’t just give “amazing” away for anything. It has to be truly special. But, in reality, it really was. My driver’s name was Jorge, and he was so kind and empathetic and left me with such a good feeling about how the rest of the week was going to go. Jorge had lived in Vegas for over twenty years after moving there from Mexico City. He shared these detailed stories with me about how the city is changing every day and about how this week was going to be “my week”… and that the broken luggage would be the worst part. He said, “Vegas is your best friend, Miss. I promise you. It’s going to be there for you this week. This is a little bump. You’re going to have the week of your life. Trust Jorge. I am never wrong. I know my Vegas. You’re going to shine this week. Look at you. You’re shining now, Miss. You’re as bright as the strip at night. You’re a diamond. Trust Jorge. A diamond.”

While what Jorge said was likely a ploy to get a good tip (and he got one), I felt it in my bones. The man called me a diamond, for Pietro’s sake. He had no idea what business I was in. It was a sign! This was going to be the best Vegas week yet, from a professional and personal standpoint, and I could feel that he would be spot on. If you’re out there, Jorge, and you’re reading this, yo soy un diamante! Estás en lo correcto, Jorge! YO SOY UN DIAMANTE!

I’ll end this first tale there as it will serve as a good start to how the rest of the tales will go.

Tune in to the next installment to read about the first night in Vegas, which may or may not feature a bunch of middle-aged women, kissing Michael O’Connor and practically getting him pregnant, a speakeasy, a burlesque show, and “that kid from Ritani…”

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