Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 4 – “Happy People Are Spendy People”

10:34 p.m., Saturday

Phone: “(Ding)”

Me: “ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

Phone: “(Ding)” …….. (silence)…………. “(Ding. Ding. Ding.)”

Me: “ZZZZzzzzzzzz………… ZZZzzzzzz………… Zzzzz…..wtf?” (muffled yelling at my phone through the pillow) “Ssstop it. Texting meeEE…… mm’SLEEPIN’….. shhhhh!!!!”

Phone: “………………………..… (silence)…………………..……………”

Me: “………… (silence)……….… (drooling)………….Zzzzzzzzzz……zzzzzzzzzzzzz………..”

Phone: “…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. (Ding.)”


If you’re staying at or anywhere near Mandalay Bay, you pretty much know that everyone in our industry is at the club in the middle of the casino floor on any and every night of the Luxury and JCK shows. If you’re an exhibitor, it’s your chance to breathe and relax. Here, that smile that you started to believe had been tattooed to your face can be replaced with genuine laughter and even a little snark, if need be. Your friends are here. Your colleagues and co-workers are here. And yeah, while you still have to be “on” just in case a retailer shows up, you know you don’t really have to be ON, on, because if you do something silly or stupid, you can always blame it on that sixth martini. However, if you’re a buyer, you just hit yourself the “sh*tfaced from alcohol” jackpot (which, by the way, will likely be the only jackpot you hit in that casino). EVERYBODY wants to buy you a drink, amigo, so sit back and relax, because you’re about to be as funny and as interesting as you’ve ever been in your life.

Speaking for myself, I look forward to blowing off a little steam every night during Jewelry Week. But on this particular night, I really just wanted to get a full night’s rest. That is, until, my evil nerd twin started texting me when I was two hours into what was going to be an AWESOME night of dreams about the bartenders at Parasol Up.

part 4 Mike in scarf

I believe the line was… “you’ll recognize me by my scarf”

There are a few people in my life who I find that no matter how mad I get at them, or how much they tick me off, I just can’t stay that way forever. Michael Schechter is one of those people. Can he be an ass? Absolutely. Does he have a filter? Rarely. But for some God forsaken reason, I *get* him, and so when it’s his texts urging me to join him at Eye Candy, I really can find no excuse to tell him “no.”

The dangerous part about Michael and me together is this: we are a different breed of geek. We’re not the wannabe “I watch Game of Thrones so that makes me a nerd” nerds (because we all know, those aren’t real nerds). And we’re not entirely the ComicCon/ DragonCon/ ShowUpInYourBestIndianaJonesCostumeCon nerds, either, though I will admit I’ve donned a super-heroine costume once or thrice in my life. We’re an amalgam of tech, high I.Q., and useless information geek combined with the smartass quick-wittedness you might find in a popular person. All of this really only means one thing to you: don’t flub if you’re in our company. Don’t slur. Don’t fall. And don’t say something dumb, because we’re never going to let you live it down, and you’re going to hate us before the night is over.

As a (now) blogger and (always) vajayjay-haver, spirits are not often far from my fist at the bar, which means that by about 11:30 p.m., I was feeling fairly, shall we say, joyous? Schechter and I had separated in order to give the world a break (you’re welcome), and I suddenly found myself in the middle of some of my favorite folks, which is where my real skill comes in: getting people together with people.  “Oh, hey Barry! How are you? Great to see you. Good show so far? Hey, have you met my friend, Michael Briant here from Atlanta? Michael, Barry lives in Atlanta, too. Barry, Michael is my security guy. He owns the Skydas Group, which is the company I wrote about in my kidnapping blog post. Y’all should get together.” … “Raymond, meet Jim O’Malley. Jim and I met at the Prestige Party yesterday. He’s a master craftsman and goldsmith. Jim, Raymond is a designer. What’s that you said, Raymond? HA! Yes, yes, he is the token Irish one, yes.”… “Hey Shannon! Get on over here! Yes, I’d love to meet your friend Rick. Oh, Rick’s a buyer for a chain in the Midwest? How interesting. OH MY GOD, RICK, THAT WAS A SUPER FUNNY JOKE! YOU’RE HILARIOUS AND HAVE FANTASTIC TIMING!!!!! Here, let me buy you drinks all night and forever.” And this goes on and on and on until I find a moment to step away and watch what is happening in front of me. Only at this particular moment, being that I was standing roughly 6’4” in the heels I was wearing, what was happening was not really in front of me but rather about twenty feet across the room: Schechter looking right at me, pretending he had glow sticks, dancing like a raver.

We have GOT to take this show on the road.

Eventually the two of us found our way over to the dance floor bar where Michael introduced me to big, huge, manly person, Sean Moore of Borsheims. Damn, bro… you tall. They must grow them differently in Omaha. Oh, and look who else is here… It’s Matthew Tratner, again! Just in time to see Schechter throw me onto the dance floor, hoping I would fall. Oh, Sketch. Sketchy, Sketchy, Sketch. You’ll never learn. I land on my feet, babycakes. I always, always land on my feet. “You’re like a cat.” Yes, Matthew. I am like a cat. Now get out of my way… there’s spraying and hissing to be done and I’m only three scotches in.

part 4 coral number and hugo boss t-shirt dress

Day and night, night and day. A coral number followed up with a Hugo Boss t-shirt dress.

As far as day two of the show goes, it was fabulous. I know I usually start these posts with a breakdown of how the show went and what I was wearing, so, here… it went really well from an orders standpoint and I was wearing a coral dress that took thirty-five minutes to get into and a half-stick of butter to get out of. Happy now? I kid about the butter, but the rest is all true. Prestige does a wonderful job of making sure that our customers are well-fed and half-lit have plenty to quench their parchedness. I mean, do YOU want to spend several thousand dollars on an empty stomach? I know I don’t, and you know the old cliché… “The way to a buyer’s heart is through their stomach”… or is it, “The way to a buyer’s wallet is through their pot-brownie-induced haze”? I seriously can’t remember. I’m terrible with old sayings. Either way, the bottom line is that people are happiest when they have food and drink, and happy people are spendy people; you can quote me on that.

With that said, Part four comes to a close. If you haven’t read parts uno, deux, and drei, then, well, you suck, frankly. I recommend catching up before I post the fifth and final part of this series, which may or may not talk about the moment Mike Asscher caught me attempting to put my leg over my head at the WJA cabana on Sunday night. No spoilers. Just sayin’…

Hope you’re having fun reading. Until next time, my lovelies.

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

Footnote:

Shortly after I originally wrote this post on Sunday, I found out that a very good industry friend of mine had suffered a massive heart attack at the age of thirty-nine. She had been hospitalized and in a medically-induced coma and I decided it was best to wait to post it until I received further news of her condition. Sadly, today, at 2:53 p.m., Stephanie Harris left this world, and a void in the hearts of all who knew her.

My first job in the industry was working with Steph. As was my third, and eventually, we’d work together again years later at a nightclub bartending for extra cash. She was a great friend, a smart woman, an incredibly hard worker, and the world’s best laugher. She was funny, beautiful, unafraid of consequence, and filled with life. And she was proud of what I was doing, which is why I decided today – on the day of her death – to keep doing it.

I dedicate all of the posts in this series to my dear, dear friend who loved a good joke better than anything else in life. If there truly is a heaven, I imagine that it is similar to a big casino bar in the sky. I hope you’re there drinking a martini, reading, and laughing along with me. And I hope you know just how much I’m going to miss you here on earth.

In memory of Stephanie Ann Harris: July 28th, 1975 – June 17th, 2014

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 3 – The Vegas Gems Ride Again

Voice Recording: “This is your wakeup call for Friday, May 30th, 2014. To receive a call in fifteen minutes, press the….(click).”

Five hours sleep. Could be worse. Oh, G-d, it’s only the first day. It will definitely be worse before this week is over. My apologies, liver. Please just know I never meant to hurt you. Or you, skin. Or even you, feet. Just chalk it up as something we have to do for the greater good. I promise that when we’re in our seventies, sprawled out on the beach somewhere in Sicily, you won’t remember any of this. Probably because I’ll have dementia at that point, but regardless, that’s my promise to you. No need to get into specifics. So, whatya say? Let’s get up and get going, shall we? Let’s show Sin City just how it’s done…


Mirror selfie with my Carmen Marc Valvo batwing dress

Mirror selfie with my Carmen Marc Valvo batwing dress

Day 1 was a special day. For one, it was the first day of the JCK show, which meant that it was my first Vegas show with GUMUCHIAN, and we got to introduce to the world the new “B” Collection that I spoke about in my pre-show post about who and what to see. I was stoked as heck about this line, namely because the idea behind it is to do something good; to help the environment. “Jewels with a cause” someone dubbed it to me, recently. I liked the sound of that, and I was ready to play my part.

Clad in a black Carmen Marc Valvo dress with sleeves that I referred to as “bat wings” throughout the day, I left my room an hour before I needed to be at the booth so that I could check out the “Mimosas and Manicures” Platinum Guild event going on at the press lounge (See?? I told you we get to do the cool stuff!). I was greeted by Communique’s Rebecca Moskal who exclaimed as I arrived… “We’ve got our first blogger, everyone!” which of course made me as giddy as a twelve-year-old (circa 1985) getting to meet Robbie Rosa from Menudo. I snapped pictures of the platinum product on display and chatted with my much taller friend, Amanda Gizzi, about how I hate it when she walks into the room.

Me: “I mean, do you really have to be in the same places I am? I’ve got so much game until you walk in. You and Monica Stephenson both p*ss me off. It’s weird not being the tallest woman in the group.”

Amanda: “Ha! I know. And it’s not like I wear flats, either.”

Amanda and me right before the killing

Amanda and me right before the killing

Me: “Thanks for the reminder, Amanda. Here… (taking a sharp, metal nail file from the manicure table) go ahead and shove this right into my heart, will you?”

After dying briefly from multiple stab wounds to the chest and being revived by the paramedics, it was time for me to make my way to the Prestige pavilion, but not without first walking through the Plumb Club to say hello to my colleagues at Honora Pearls.

If you’ve never had a reason to visit the Plumb Club, you’re lucky. No offense, JCK Events, but that’s the most f**ked up layout I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing in all of my years of show attendance.  Why are booths 800 and 100 on the same row? Who thought that quadrants with rows travelling at both forty-five and ninety-degree angles, with the occasional north to south and east to west rows thrown in, was a good idea? It’s like if Barney the Dinosaur decided to open his own theme park consisting of one big corn maze and no rides. I needed a show floor map just to find the station that handed out the show floor maps. It was a living, breathing, purple conundrum, and after ten minutes of circling what I found out was the same row three times, I gave up on finding my friends and figured I would just run into those drunk bastards fine gentlemen later that evening at the hotel bar.

Ray Somebody from "The Voice"

Ray Somebody from “The Voice”

The first day of the show was a great success, and being located near the Starbucks meant that everyone who wanted a legal pick-me-up came into my line of sight. Not only did I get to speak with some of my favorite retailers, but many of my editor/writer/blogger friends also stopped by to say hello. A highlight for me was getting to chat with INDESIGN magazine EIC, Trace Shelton, and being humbled by his compliments on my writing style.

The show came to a close with the Prestige cocktail party topped off with a mini-concert by none other than mega-superstar singer, Ray Boudreaux. (I’m sorry. I’m forty-one and apparently live in a paper bag. WHO?????????) Allegedly, this is the kid who was the runner-up on last season’s reality singing show, The Voice. I have no idea because I don’t watch crap T.V. singing shows. I only watch award-winning television dramas, like American Idol. Side note: YOU WERE ROBBED, JENA (pronounced “Gina”) IRENE! And with that, I was off to celebrate the SECOND special part of the day, which entailed “getting the old gang back together.”


Designer, blogger, and #CatInTheBowl owner, Wendy Brandes, describes our little gal group as such: “The Vegas Gems are wimmin I know through social media, including designers, journalists, bloggers, sales reps, buyers — anyone who has anything to do with jewelry is welcome.”

Dynasty Gems - no caption needed other than that

Dynasty Gems – no caption needed other than that

Last year, we had our first ever #VegasGems get together – a term that started as a hashtag but quickly became so much more. Since then, our gathering has sparked spin-offs such as blog posts, YouTube videos, and one now fairly infamous work of Photoshop depicting the Gems as characters on Dynasty (by yours truly, thank you.) The thing about us is that we give one another support, in whatever ways we can, and however often it’s needed. Got a new design? You can guarantee that your Gems are the first to tweet about or include it in a blog. Written a post about your documentary experience in the gem mines of Africa? Consider it spread like wildfire on Facebook. We have realized – whether because of our age, sex, or experience – that we are not alone in this industry. That as women, we need our sisters, and being the Lone Wolf may get you to the top of the mountain swiftly, but once there, it won’t protect you from the pack of coyotes creeping up behind you. We are all different, and all talented, and we all love us some sparkly jewels, stiff drinks, intense conversation, and above all… good laughs. Example:

Me: (taking out my Samsung Galaxy Note phone) “Okay, Katrina and Erika, get together for a picture…”

Katrina Kelly: “Holy hell, what kind of phone is that? That thing is HUGE.”

Photo grid of the #VegasGems in various position. Oh, and chips.

Photo grid of the #VegasGems in various positions. Oh, and chips.

Me: (Looking at Monica Stephenson, who is trying not to laugh because she’s already heard me utter this line once today) Why, thank you. Yes. Yes it is. It’s to compensate for my incredibly tiny vajayjay.

See what I mean? You get a bunch of women together, throw in a margarita or six, and it all comes down to vajayjay talk, no matter what the original subject matter. What’s that, Peggy Jo Donohue? You and Cheryl Kremkow are discussing the security of the TRTL 30×6 jewelry safes? You know, once I considered putting a combination lock on my very own vajayjay.

Okay, for those considering leaving this blog, probably never to return, I promise that I won’t discuss the “V” word any more. Sometimes I get carried away at the fact that I’m my own boss on this publication and take liberties I probably shouldn’t.

 

………………………..(silence)………………………..

 

 

Vajayjay.

 

 

The #VegasGems are growing!

The #VegasGems are growing!

After being serenaded by the world’s largest stalker-frog at Parasol Down, the Gems and I broke off into groups and discussed everything from camera lenses to #leaningin to the magnificence of the craftsmanship of the many pieces we had all feasted our eyes on that day. Shamila Jiwa and Monica were in deep discussion while Wendy, Katrina, and Erika Winters were looking at Wendy’s new Taxi Cab Maneater ring. I, however, was transfixed by the talk being had between the two group mentors – Cheryl and Peggy Jo. I couldn’t pull myself away. To listen to these women who have been, and frankly still are, where I can only aspire to be one day in terms of respect and admiration, discuss where this industry is headed, I was filled with pride. Pride at being a woman. Pride at being a writer. And pride, knowing that I was just as much a part of their life story as they were of mine. I really do love all of these ladies, and want nothing for them but success and happiness.

I was sad that two of our Gems were missing that night – Jessica Cohen, and the birthday girl, Brittany Siminitz, who was at dinner with her JCK family. But as the night lingered on, I excused myself from the group and headed back to Mandalay Bay to try to see Britt before turning in. Luckily, that magical place we all wind up – Eye Candy – didn’t let me down. There I found Brittany and the JCK/TMG crew, including Jen Heebner, Andrew Hanelly, Britt’s husband Jesse, and my FAVORITE person in the world to annoy…. JCK Senior Editor, Rob Bates.

In my mind, Rob Bates hates me. Does he hate me? Probably not. Does he strongly dislike me? I really have no idea, but it’s fun to think that he does because it makes me do outrageous things to try to get on his nerves. First, I have a *Rob Bates dance* that I do, which is similar to a Roger Rabbit combined with a Cabbage Patch, but all the while I’m singing his name super loudly over and over and over, in the most asinine of ways. “Rooooooob BAAAATES. ROB BAAAAAAATES! Rob Bates. Rob Bates. ROBBBBBBBBBBBBBYYYYYYYY BAAAAAAAAATES.” And all he ever does… I SWEAR TO GOD, and I think it’s why I continue to torture this poor man… is look at me briefly with this confused expression before shaking his head and looking in the other direction. I. Freaking. LOVE his reaction. My goal is to get this guy to just break down and laugh at me… JUST ONCE… and until that days comes, he can consider himself Bates-Bait forevermore.

Raymond Hak said to me on Facebook after our return… “You seriously have too much fun in Vegas, Barb. You should be made to pay some sort of ‘Fun Tax’ or something,” and he was absolutely right. I don’t gamble. I didn’t shop. I don’t get super drunk. But what I do do, is laugh. And man, I did a lot of that in Vegas, which you can read more about in parts one and two of this series, and of course, parts four and five, coming soon.

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 2 – Russell Simmons and The Book of More Men

One can learn so much from taxi drivers. Often enough they are folks who have lived for years in the cities they travel. They know history, and back roads, and the best places to find some decently priced Thai food. They’re hardworking and no bullsh*t, and I’m the passenger who, like it or not, usually strikes up a conversation with them.

Me: “Mandalay Bay Convention Center, please.”

Disgruntled Cabbie: “You here for da Jewelry Convention?”

Me: “Oh, heavens no. I’m currently writing an erotic coffee table book about the country’s most promiscuous convention attendees. I’m calling it… ‘The Book of More Men: A Lady’s Guide to Multiple Partners at Trade Shows’ and, well, I need to do a little *research* if you (giggles) know what I’m saying…”

Disgruntled Cabbie: “…………………………………………………((crickets))…………………………………………….….”

Me: (clears throat) “Yes, actually. Yes. I’m here for the jewelry convention.”

Disgruntled Cabbie: “Okay, so what you want to do is tell whoevah is drivin’ da cab to not take the strip if you’re gonna be goin’ back and forph between da Wynn and da Mandalay, ya got it? Tell ‘em to take Industrial. Dey gotta take Industrial or else you’re gonna get stuck, ya got it?”

Me: “Okay. I Got it.”

Us: ((silence for a good four minutes))

Me: “So, um, where’s the best place to get cheap Thai food around here?”

DC: “Okay. Here we go, Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Good luck wit dat coffee house thingy. Swipe your card. Have a good show.”

Me: “That’s what I thought.”


When I got to the newly renovated Prestige pavilion, our team was hard at work. The booth, thanks to Jodi, Myriam, and Tatiana, was already looking splendid. Our new West Coast AE, Chris, arrived shortly after I did and we continued to work like busy little bees (pun intended) until the cases were set up and the line was prepared. The countdown to JCK 2014 was officially on, and I had a big event to get to and forty-five minutes to prepare.

Prior to my arrival in Vegas I had received an email from Rio Tinto’s North American VP of Marketing, Brandee Dallow. Brandee asked if I was available to attend the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s “Diamonds in the Sky – Las Vegas” gala at the Four Seasons on Thursday evening, as she would like me to come as the guest of Rio Tinto. After reluctantly clearing my schedule which had been previously filled with “nothing” from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., followed by “boredom” from 7:45 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., I graciously accepted the invitation and then danced around my bedroom like I’d just found out that my real parents were Kennedys.

With short notice and an emptyish wallet, I opted to pack and ultimately wear a tea-length Donna Ricco red halter dress that had been hanging in my closet, unworn, for a year. With ten minutes gone and no time for a disco nap, I did my best impersonation of a refreshed woman who had taken a shower, before heading down the elevator to walk the smoke-filled casino path from THEHotel to the Four Seasons, praying, all the while, that my both my deodorant and my eyelids would hold up.

I had two invitations with me. The first was for the actual event, and the second was a private pre-event for guests of Rio Tinto as well as VIPs. This was cool. I figured I could get there and settle myself in first. You know… relax, make friends. Do what I was comfortable doing… networking. That is, until I started to get closer to the ballroom, and realized that everyone in front of me was either in a tuxedo or a ball gown. Ummmmm, what did I miss here? I’m underdressed! WTF!? I’m NEVER underdressed. Holy crap holy crap holy crap. I can’t turn back now, there are people behind me. People I know! They’ve already seen me. Holy crap, uh, okay. Keep calm. OH, there’s a guy. He looks nice. He’s middle-aged. He’s in a tux, but he seems real. OKAY. HE MADE EYE CONTACT WITH ME. Okay. Okay. I have no choice now. I’ll talk to him. Here I go. I’m going over to this nice man now. Walking over. Here I go. Almost there. Aaaaaaaannnnnnd, speak.

Me: “HI!!!” (That was way too loud, nutcase.) “I mean, hello. Hi. Could you tell me where I need to go for this (shoving what is now a slightly wrinkled laser jet printed invitation into his hand), please?”

part2 dress

Dress by Donna Ricco. Photo by PHOJOPHOTO.

Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman: (smiling. Because OF COURSE HE IS) “Yes, yes, no problem. Just follow those folks right there, and then make the left. The VIP room is the first door.”

Me: (a little more calmly) “Okay. Thanks very much. Thank you. I’m a little nervous.”

Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman: “It’s all good. You’re fine. You’re just fine. Don’t be nervous. Have a good time.”

Me: (Walking away) “Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

(Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk…..walk………walk……walk more slowly…..slowly……. stop…. turn around….. walk back…… walk back…. walk back, walk… back, walk back, walk back, walk back, walk back, walk back… back to the Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman.)

Me: (Whispering) “Hi. Me again. Um… how do I look? Do you think I’m underdressed?”

Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman: (Whispering back) “Not in the least. You look fabulous. Go enjoy.”

And with those words I felt completely at ease in my skin, until, of course, I made the left turn where I was supposed to and almost walked into rap icon and media mogul, Russell Simmons. This… this is going to be a long night. I knew I should have taken a shower.


The room was small and filled wall-to-wall with men. Men in tuxes. Men in suits. American men. African men. Asian men. Indian men. Men of all shapes and sizes, and very few women. I usually like it when I stand out, but the bright red dress and heels I was wearing made me a 6’3” crimson-colored distraction. There was a bit of an E.F. Hutton moment when I first entered the room, and man, I have never felt so out of place in my life. I scoured the pack looking for even the slightest hint of a familiar face, but nothing. I had nothing. So I found a table in the center of the room next to a woman who was clearly a photographer. I felt like I’d be safe there for a moment, at least long enough for me to text to my husband that I almost ran over Russell Simmons.

(texting)

“Babe….. I… wish…. you…. were…. here…. right…… now…. I…. feel…. so…. intimidated…… oh…. and…. Russell…. Simmons….. is….. here….. in…… a…. tux…. why….. did…. you…. let…. me…. wear….. that…. red…. dress…… I…. knew….. I….. should…… have…. gone……. with……”

(interrupted by sudden pain)

Woman Who Stepped On My Foot: “Oh, I’m so sorry. Are you all right?”

Me: “Oh, no, I’m fine. It’s fine. I have big feet. It happens all the time.”

(back to texting)

“…… okay……. Jaime……. King…… just… stepped…. on… my…. foot…. and…….. it…. hurts…. but…. she… apologized…. to….. me…… who…..the…..ef…. am…. I…. right… now……???”

As I finished my text I noticed that the photographer was staring at me, probably because I was the only idiot rude enough to be on my telephone, texting.

Me: “Sorry. I know this is rude. I just was texting my husband to tell him that I’m in the same room with Russell Simmons. You know. A little star struck, I guess.”

Uncle Russ and me. Photo by Patty Long.

Uncle Russ and me. Photo by Patty Long.

Photographer: “I’m not star struck. You want to text your husband a picture of you with Russell?”

And before I had the chance to even respond, she called him over and said “take a picture with this young lady so she can send it to her husband.” Russell graciously obliged, nodded, and carried on with his Simmonsly duties.

Photographer: “Who else you want a picture with? Did you meet Dr. Ben? Dr. Benjamin Chavis, former Executive Director of the NAACP and prominent civil rights leader? Here, let me get him for you. (Calling across the room,) Dr. Ben! Dr. Ben! Come meet this young lady…”

And walking in my direction was none other than the kind-faced Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman who I had naively asked earlier if I had been underdressed. I was ashamed of myself that I didn’t recognize the man in front of me, but he, because of the type of person he is, didn’t let it bother him. We spoke for a few minutes until he was whisked away to do more important things, and that’s when I decided it was time to mingle amongst the non-VIP’s, as I didn’t think my heart could handle any more.

Craig and number five of his nine tuxedos

Craig and number five of his nine tuxedos

Billy Furman! OH, THANK G-D, that’s Billy Furman! I have never been so happy to see that tiny man in my life. And there’s Mark Smelzer, and Diane Warga-Arias, and, oh, there’s Andrea Hanson, again. And my good buddy, Craig Selimotic Danforth, in a tuxedo, of course… I’m pretty sure he wears them to bed. He must own like nine of them or something. There’s Natalie Bos, I recognize her, and Matthew Tratner, m’kay, that’s cool. AMANDA GIZZI!! She looks gorgeous. Okay, whew, now I feel at home. My people are here. I can breathe once more. Man, I needed these faces. I am thrilled out of my mind to see these faces.

part2 table

Table 17, courtesy of Rio Tinto

By the time I had set my sights on Brandee it was almost time to be formally seated. Since Rio Tinto was one of the three main sponsors of the event, their table was fairly close to the stage. As I walked past many of my friends and colleagues to get to table 17, I could hear Bob Uecker’s voice ringing in my head…

“Oh. I must be in the front rowwww…”

I’ll be honest… it made me laugh to myself. And after one or four scotches, I was feelingly final like I was (hiccup) relaxing down.

Seated to my right was Ben Lewis, Rio Tinto’s Antwerp-based Customer Accounts Manager, and I’m pretty sure that he was strategically put there for my enjoyment because he and I had a buh-last all night. Across from me sat JCK’s Victoria Gomelsky (whaddup, Vic!) as well as Melissa Bernardo, and of course, the lovely Ms. Dallow was seated to my left. The event itself consisted of an awards ceremony wherein the Global Diamond Industry Achievement Award was presented to H.E. President Ian Khama and the Government of the Republic of Botswana. It also had a live auction and concert by none other than Grammy Award-winning artist, Chaka Kahn. The event – the first of its kind on U.S. soil – raised over one million dollars and will benefit the “Diamonds Do Good” mission.

It was an evening that I won’t soon forget, and I am ever grateful to my hosts, Rio Tinto, for allowing me to represent the blogger community at their table. More about Rio Tinto’s “Oculus Rift” technology introduced at JCK will be talked about in an upcoming post, but for right now, I’m going to keep the people stories going before I get into the brand and product posts down the road.

And with this post as well as yesterday’s, the stories of day 1 in Las Vegas come to an end. I ate. I danced. I high-fived Chaka Kahn. I mingled with super models and rubbed elbows with heads of state. I took selfies, met dignitaries, and wore beautiful jewelry by the wonderful GUMUCHIAN. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it, and my wish is for you to stick around longer so that you can see where the rest of the week took me.

Until then…

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 1 – The Beginning

The great Lewis Carol wrote a line uttered by the King in Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland that read simply this:

“Begin at the beginning… and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

I started and halted writing my first of what might turn out to be several post-Las Vegas blog entries more than once this week. There was so much going on in my brain; so many stories to elaborately tell, yet I couldn’t figure out a way to get the ball rolling in the tone that these pieces deserved. That is, until my four-year old daughter chose Alice in Wonderland as her bedtime movie… then, I knew what had to be done. I needed only to begin where Lewis Carol had suggested was the best place to do so…

the beginning.


Me: “Are you sure there are no window seats available?”

Delta agent: “No ma’am. The flight has been overbooked. You can fly standby on the next flight to Vegas if you really can’t sit in the middle seat, or if you’d prefer, you could…”

Me: (interruptingly) “No. That’s fine. I’ll just take the middle and hope to Jeebus the person next to me gets caught in traffic.”

Delta agent: (snickers) “Well, it is Atlanta. I say your chances are pretty good.” 


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A Room with a View – The Strip from THEHotel

I have no urge to make movies. I mean, I know people who make movies and these are some talented folks (side note: go see Dan Schechter’s “Life of Crime” out in theatres on August 29th), but I doubt it’s a skill I could possess. However, if I were ever to consider writing a screenplay, I’m pretty sure I would make it about the various gates in airports around the country temporarily housing those en route to Las Vegas. It would be written as a series of individual short stories with the characters arriving at McCarran roughly all around the same time. There would be Joe – the childless, three-time divorcee heading out to meet his elementary school buddies and their dads for a weekend filled with strippers and scotch. And Alan – the post-middle-age/pre-elderly gentleman carrying multiple containers of freshly-made Georgia cornbread in the hope of selling his wares to a now booming restaurant city. There’d be Karla – a tanned and toned unnaturally tall blond woman who was in my jewelry security class back in January, and there’d be Anita – the suburban “best girlfriend” mom chaperoning her daughter, Chelsea, and Chelsea’s three cohorts who are all headed to Vegas to celebrate their 21st birthdays. But these characters wouldn’t even scratch the surface, because the flights to Vegas contain the most magnificent walks of life. From transvestites to retirees, my Boeing 757 was like a dollar store can of tuna. Meaning, if you cracked that sucker open, sure, you’re bound to get some actual tuna, but you and I both know that there’s a bunch of other stuff in there that shouldn’t be, and neither one of us is going to try to figure out what that stuff is.

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Segment of Andrew Hanelly’s presentation on content marketing

Finding myself sandwiched between Joe the TTD (three-time divorcee) and Alan the CCC (cornbread container carrier) for the duration of the four-and-a-half hour flight, I thought it would be a good idea to try to get some work done. To my surprise I had a message from Andrew Hanelly, SVP Strategy at McMurry/TMG, asking if he could feature Adornmentality in his JCK seminar on content marketing done right in the jewelry industry.

Andrew: “I’d also love a quote on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to jewelry marketing. Have anything provocative?”

Me: “I can give you a quote but in terms of ‘provocative’ I’m still on the plane to Vegas. I’ll need three hours and three martinis.”

Andrew used this very blog in his section on how evoking emotion and telling stories helps build your audience. The slide consisted of my logo and a screen shot of the piece “How to Not Get Kidnapped” because that title alone is what grabbed hold of most readers. To date, it’s my most clicked-on post, as I explained to Andrew via email from the air. To know my blog would be used as an example was a proud moment for me. That, combined with the genuinely nice conversations I had with my seatmates, as well as a landing that would have earned our pilot a gold medal in the Aerial Olympics, gave me the warm and fuzzies about what the next five days was going to be like.

I had finally arrived in Las Vegas. I was ready. I was determined. I was prepared. But mostly…

I was still martini-less. Bartender!


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Yours truly avec badges. Photo courtesy of Robyn Hawk.

The GUMUCHIAN product wasn’t arriving until 2 p.m., so I specifically took the early flight in order to try to squeeze in an hour or two at the COUTURE show before heading off into the JCK sunset. If you’re an exhibitor you know that we rarely see the sunlight. Jewelry Week is a whirlwind no matter which end of the buying process you’re on, but for me, for the first time, I was also registered as a member of the press. Yup. A MEMBER OF THE PRESS. Me. The thought made me giddy. Don’t believe me? Then check out this photo that Robyn Hawk of The Daily Jewel snapped of me in the press room, clad in badges. I was like a sixteen-year-old who just bought beer with a fake I.D. and got away with it. Look at my face! I don’t exactly know what I thought being in the press room meant other than it was a room I could never get into prior to this trip, but dammit, I was excited to get in there! I could meet up with my friends and mortal enemies fellow jewelry bloggers and we could discuss the current trends or the posterior of that handsome kid from Ritani privately without worrying about some petty little “designer” or “celebrity” hearing us. WE ARE PRESS! WE ARE THE ELITE! WE GET SWAG, B*TCHES! BRING ME MY SWAG!

((WHACK!))

(That was the sound of my conscience snapping me back to reality via a slap across my overly-smiling and pathetically happy face.)

Okay, (ahem) so, back to my experiences…

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The Wynn Casino – heading to COUTURE

I was a Couture show virgin. In all of my years (eighteen!) in this business I had never stepped foot into any other Vegas show besides JCK. But like my earlier post explained, I was over-the-top happy about getting to see what the show was all about and getting to visit with some of my favorite designers. And who do I run into the moment I arrive? None other than the incomparable celebrity style expert, Michael O’Connor, and the incorrigible celebrity aisle expert, Craig Selimotic Danforth. What a perfect way to start this experience. Here stood two incredibly handsome, smiling gentlemen willing to direct me as to where to go, and next to those guys, were my friends Michael and Craig. We kissed. We hugged. We sang Kumbaya. It was weird, and nice, then I realized the clock was ticking, so I left. Off to the Latour/Lafite ballrooms!

Look everybody! It’s WJA president, Andrea Hanson! And there’s adorably pregnant designer Zoë Chicco! Oh, hey Josette from Mark Patterson Jewelry! And OH MY GOD, THAT’S ACTUALLY LYDIA COURTEILLE!! Wait, what? I get to shake your hand and tell you in my worst French imaginable how much your work inspires me and how I love it, or, at least, that’s what I thought I said but maybe I actually told you that my favorite meal is wagons, I don’t really know? I could die. I could just lie down, right here, right on top of Vicente Agor’s cases, right now, and just… freaking… die. WHY DID NO ONE WARN ME OF THE AWESOMENESS OF COUTURE? I blame you, Michelle Orman. You and your “under-the-radar” Couture Musings. You really need to be out there a little more and stop keeping this show such a g-damned secret.

So right after picking up the pieces of my exploded head, I thought it best to rest my feet and quench my thirst with a visit to the Press Lounge, which sadly, I found empty of humans, but filled with other goodies. By “lounge,” of course, I mean “stage”… and by “goodies,” of course, I mean “comfy pillows and power strips.” I will admit it was a little strange to be sitting on a stage in a ballroom while everyone wondered who the heck I was and why I was up there by myself. But, hey, this is Couture, and they do things differently here, and that wedgie didn’t need picking anyway, am I right? If anything it gave some definition to my buttocks, so… up side!

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“The Humble Man” in the flesh, Atelier Minyon salon at Couture

Before leaving to head back to Mandalay Bay, I had the privilege of spending some time with Alp Sagnak of Atelier Minyon and meeting his lovely wife. And yes, I did get to wear “The Humble Man” just as I had hoped, while running into a few fellow jewelry bloggers in the process. I was also fortunate enough to see the CJDG crew including Vicente Agor and the talented Malak Atut from Zaiken Jewelry, and, on my way out, even bumped into my minutes-younger friend, Mark Mazzarese. As far as experiences go, it was a short one at Couture, but it was filled to the brim with both sustenance and joy.

If you came to the end of this first segment expecting tons of pictures of fancy product and cool new designs with carat weights and back stories, then I hope your disappointment isn’t too grand. This series is about my stories from the trip. They’ll be about the connections and the events and the people who were a part of my five days in Sin City. But each segment will be told in a way that you will likely not have read before… and on that promise, you can bet. It is Vegas, after all…

Next segment… the first days at JCK!

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Jewelry Week in Sin City: Who You Should See, Part 3 – JCK

Sing it with me, y’all…

Bright light city gonna set my soul / Gonna set my soul on fire / Got a whole lot of money that’s ready to burn / So get those stakes up higher / There’s a thousand pretty women waitin’ out there / And they’re all livin’ devil may care / And I’m just the devil with love to spare / Vivaaaaa Las Vegas, Vivaaaaa Las Vegas

Are you there yet? Are you sober? Didn’t think so. M’kay, then I promise to make this as short as possible ‘cause lawd knows you seriously don’t have time to read some silly old blog post when you’ve only gone two-thirds of the way through Tacori’s booth and you’ve been there nine hours already.

The JCK show has begun! And by that I mean Luxury and Elite Enclave have begun and all of the other parts of JCK will begin likely after this post goes live. For the three of you who are “Vegas Virgins” (bit of an oxymoron there) those “other parts” consist of various mini-sections such as Plumb Club, The Design Center, the Prestige Promenade, VICENZAORO, and more. You already know that the timepiece show, Swiss Watch, is part of JCK because you read about who to see there in part 1 of this series, and I KNOW that you know that the COUTURE show is going on simultaneously down at the Wynn because my view count on that post was through the roof, but today I’m going to tell you a little bit more about a couple of designers whom I think you should see at the JCK shows, whether you’d like me to, or not.

How I wish that there were more / Than the twenty-four hours in the day / ‘Cause even if there were forty more / I wouldn’t sleep a minute away / Oh, there’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel / A fortune won and lost on ev’ry deal / All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel / Vivaaaaa Las Vegas, Vivaaaaa Las Vegas

ELITE ENCLAVE at LUXURY

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Brilliant collection by Jack Vartanian

I sometimes dream about Jack Vartanian’s jewelry. This is not a lie. In the last six months I’ve had two dreams – completely different from one another – yet in both I was wearing a substantial Jack Vartanian piece. In one I was working the red carpet for the E Network alongside Ryan Seacrest and at a certain point I absolutely lost my sh*t because he didn’t ask Zoe Saldana about her necklace. I mean, I was swearing and screaming and then I took a swing at him with this huge Jack Vartanian “Brilliant” collection ring on my finger which left this massive outline of a pear-shaped diamond across his forehead. Shortly thereafter I was carried away yelling “you’re no Casey Kasem!” by circa 1985 Richard Dawson and circa 1979 Bob Barker who were dressed as security guards from the movie “Mall Cop.” Totally weird, man. I must have had Thai food for dinner that night or something. It was crazy.

Yeah… so… anyway… what was I talking about? OH, THE RING!

I totally dig this new Brilliant collection of his which seems like a simple idea but it’s done tastefully and with the coolness that only Jack Vartanian knows. Big, oversized facet outlines of round brilliant and pear-shaped diamonds in necklace and in ring form. Cool, fun stuff that your customers will go nuts for. Go see them at booth LUXEE3, and tell them Ryan Seacrest sent you.

DESIGN CENTER

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“Power” unisex bracelet by Elena Kriegner

I had the honor of spending Oscar night with Elena Kriegner where she passionately described to me what she does and the type of jewelry she makes. This is someone who’s not in it for anything other than the creativity of it, and when you meet someone with that type of mindset, you can’t help but be left with a good impression.

Elena’s designs are sleek and modern as well as being affordable and convertible. They’re sculptures, paintings, and sonnets represented through rings, pendants, and bracelets. They’re feminine and masculine. They’re casual and formal. They’re everything you want your jewelry to be if you are the type of person who believes that the world would stop spinning if we removed the arts from it. Elena is that type of person, and if you have yet to meet her in the unrealistically-toned flesh, you should make it a point to do so.

My faves are her South Sea Pearl collection rings which are made of interchangeable parts and contain an undrilled pearl which can be removed/replaced. Also noteworthy: her unisex collection, Power, which will likely intrigue those who are technologically-minded. Meet Elena at booth S10720. Tell her that Ryan Seacrest sent you.

BRIDAL

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Oval engagement ring, “Stronsay” by MaeVona

Most stores need bridal, right? I mean, for lots and lots o’ jewelers, bridal pays your bills. It’s your bread and butter, and without it, you’re losing a massive portion of a customer base that’s obsessed with all things marriage related. If couples put half of the effort into their marriage that they put into planning their weddings, I think we’d see a lot fewer divorces, am I right, people?

(CROWD GOES WILD)

With that said, if you’re not already on board with super cool Scotland-born Maeve Gillies of MaeVona, then grab one of those casino scooters and slowly (and painfully) (for everyone else) make your way over to her booth without running over a small child or my feet in the process. Once there, feast your eyes on what the future of bridal is going to look like: more color; more creativity; more femininity. The age of the halo is dying thanks to an economy that’s coming back, and Maeve and her team have created pieces that are guaranteed to sell out before one can say “Kim Kardashian is divorcing again.” So scoot on over to booth S10125, and tell her Kanyim Kimye sent you. Oh, and Ryan Seacrest. Always Ryan Seacrest.

PRESTIGE

Many of you have probably wondered when I was going to use this – my personal blog – as an opportunity to talk about the company I’ve been working for since February. Well, wonder no longer, my dears, because there is no better time than the present.

I had been a long-time admirer of the brand GUMUCHIAN. I had watched their growth from afar and ogled longingly at their stunning designs often staring up at me from the pages of my favorite magazines. Never did I think I’d be part of their team. Never did I believe I’d make a good brand ambassador for them. But it turns out that I really didn’t need to believe in me, because as long as Myriam Gumuchian did (and, well, Michael Schechter) it was written in the stars that we’d wind up together.

To say I am proud to work for a company run completely by women would be an extreme understatement. There’s a liveliness to this crew, and a drive that comes from a deeper place, emotionally. It’s empowering to know that my opinions are heard and that the table is round when it comes to decisions. We all have a say. We all play our parts. And in most of the other companies I worked for, that wasn’t the case.

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Gold pendant from the new GUMUCHIAN “B” collection

When it came time to launch the new apis-inspired collection, “B,” I was included on every email, from the naming of the collection, to the charity we selected, to how and when to launch. This was truly a group effort with the concept and design being Patricia Gumuchian’s, to Myriam’s idea of donating a portion of the proceeds to a pro-bee charity. Emails went back and forth from Germany, Antwerp, New York, and where I am in Georgia, and when I tell you that you will be BLOWN AWAY at how gorgeous these pieces are in person, I’m not being hyperbolic in the least. I was floored. And you will “B” too. Trust me.

So put on your fancy shoes and your wine-drinking face and visit us over in PRESTIGE, booth #P-23. Come see Myriam, and Patricia, and Tatiana, and Chris, and Cynthia, and little old me… I’m Barbara. Tell us what you think about “B” and the other magnificent collections we have. We’d love to see you there.

And if you mention to me that Ryan Seacrest sent you, I will give you a big, wet, kiss on the cheek.

I’m gonna keep on the run / I’m gonna have me some fun / If it costs me my very last dime / If I wind up broke up well / I’ll always remember that / I had a swingin’ time / I’m gonna give it ev’rything I’ve got / Lady luck please let the dice stay hot / Let me shout a seven with ev’ry shot / Vivaaaaa Las Vegas, Vivaaaaa Las Vegas, Vivaaa, Vivaaaa, Las VegAAAAAAAAS!

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Jewelry Week in Sin City: Who You Should See, Part 2 – COUTURE

The Couture Show is a bit of a mystery to me. Not in the truest sense of the cliché or because I don’t understand what’s unique about it, but more because I’ve only ever worked the JCK shows in Las Vegas and so I don’t usually get to see how the “other side” lives. That is, until this year. For the first time I am registered as a member of the press for both jewelry shows, and while I won’t have a ton of time to spend on the beautifully carpeted floors in the Wynn while chatting it up with some of the most respected high-end retailers this world has ever known, I will make it a personal goal to make sure I get by to visit the salons of the following designers and artists because frankly, I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t.

Of course there are the folks who every blogger, editor, and writer wants to see for obvious reasons: the Irene Neuwirths; the Heather Moores; the Temple St. Clairs; and the Brumanis. Talented designers making wearable, one-of-a-kind pieces who also happen to be very cool people when it all comes down to it. But then, there are the few who fly under the radar, like your Shaun Leanes and your Ileana Makris. Those folks are also who I get super excited about visiting, and I think you would too if you did a little research on them. So with that, here is my “go-to” list for whom else I’d like to see and whom you should be seeing at this year’s Couture show in Las Vegas:

LYDIA COURTEILLE

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Lydia Courteille Parisian Skyline Tiara

To finally be able to hold a Lydia Courteille piece in my hand might be my own personal equivalent to what it would be like for a Christian to hold the chains of St. Peter. I am enamored by the woman’s work and spirit and I am blown away by all of what makes her unique to our world. She is a biochemist and a graduate gemologist. She’s an antiquarian and a traveler, and all of these sides of her add to her ideas and serve as a base from which her masterpieces grow.

With a celebrity client list longer than the number of six-syllable words in my vocabulary, Madam Courteille has found a significant following in the art, music, entertainment, and fashion worlds. Sofia Coppola, Mick Jagger, and Kate Moss are just a few of the heavy-hitters who’ve been spotted adorning her extraordinarily imaginative designs.

The pieces I’d like most to see are the exquisite Armour ring from the Crusades collection, the Paris Skyline Tiara from the Cabinet of Curiosities, and pretty much everything from Gardens of Xochimilco. And if you happen to be able to get an appointment to see her works in their entirety, by all means, please share your experience, as I’m sure it will be an experience like none other you will have while in Las Vegas.

ATELIER MINYON

They had me at bat jewelry.

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Atelier Minyon’s ‘Humble Man’

As a child of all things Goth, the jewelry of Atelier Minyon speaks to me in a different way than most. I think of it as rebellious fashion, and to this gal right here, rebellion reeks of sex appeal. In 2008, when many designers started using silver in their lines for financial reasons due to the economy’s collapse, Turkish designer Alp Sagnak opened his flagship store in SoHo and used silver to tell an alternate story.  As I see it, his pieces take the industrial feel of the capital city of his homeland combined with the beauty of its picturesque views and Hellenistic ruins, but these wearable works of art also come alive with all that’s known to be vibrant, wild, and romantic about his country. He uses metals from opposite ends of the spectrum – pure 24K gold, and common oxidized silver (which to me, represents the diversity of Turkey) – then he embellishes these pieces with various gemstones and colors of diamonds, adding a modernization to the designs while still giving props to an otherwise ancient craft. If we could take the noun magnificence and turn it into a piece of jewelry, I guarantee you it would come from the hands of Alp Sagnak and be proudly on display at Atelier Minyon.

The pendant I’d like most to see, touch, examine, and even wear at COUTURE would have to be The Humble Man. Redefining the term “statement piece,” the pendant comprises oxidized silver, 24 carat gold, and .87 carats in white, yellow, and champagne diamonds. But it’s the design itself that most intrigues me. If I had seen an image of this piece in some coffee table art book sans diamonds, I’d likely have thought it an Auguste Rodin sculpture. It is truly a masterpiece that one can wear around one’s neck, and I’m positive it will be a highlight on every attendee’s itinerary.

VICENTE AGOR

Okay, so, maybe I have an ulterior motive for wanting to visit booth 137. Maybe his likeability is a draw, as well as his sense of humor, oh, and the fact that he and I were likely separated at birth. But that doesn’t mean that his designs don’t pull me in. They do. And they’ll pull you in as well, if you make the time to see them.

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‘Moroccan Garden’ earring by Vicente Agor

Using recycled materials is still rare in the jewelry-making world, yet Vicente creates every piece in his West Coast headquarters with them. Drawing inspiration from nature, family, architecture, and landmarks, Vicente’s works represent different degrees of the female psyche, and yet all are distinctly feminine and even sensual in their own right. Plus, any man who lists his mother as one of his muses gets five stars in my book, hands down.

Pieces I’d love to get my hands on would have to be his 18K yellow gold Large Scroll Earring from the Moroccan Garden collection, the cinema-inspired Siren Ring from the Swell collection, and the fun and flirty Friendship Bracelets from his collection, Palais Bulles. I may even forgive him for listing Gwyneth Paltrow as one of his muses, if I like what I see. 😉

FERNANDO JORGE

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Fernando Jorge ‘Cheeky’ Ring

Brazilian born Fernando Jorge’s creations are just plain cool. They’re not forty-six karat gold earrings embellished with three-hundred gemstones cascading in waterfall form down the back to the buttocks. They don’t represent the struggles of mankind or the torment of the human soul or the mystery of the Holy Trinity. They’re just wearable, beautiful, everyday pieces of jewelry, which is sometimes all a woman needs in her life.

With collection names like Adonis, Cheeky, and Swallow (don’t go there), it’s clear that Jorge treats his designs with the same lightheartedness that he’d like the wearer to feel while adorning them. There’s a real market for the sleek and sublime, and Senhor Jorge is cornering that market in an affordable and readily available way.

So there you have it. With 322 exhibitors showing at Couture, trust me when I say it was terribly difficult to pick just four, but the last thing I wanted to do was to give you a novel to read in your likely already drunken Vegas haze.

Check out the final post in my Vegas preview coming soon. Next up… all things JCK!

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Jewelry Week in Sin City: Who You Should See, Part 1 – SWISS WATCH

For those of you who only recognize the word “Basel” as the misspelling of an herb that goes wonderfully between a slice of beefsteak tomato and fresh mozzarella, there is, thankfully, a show called “Swiss Watch.” I like to refer to it as the Poor Man’s BaselWorld, where you find yourself potentially running into celebrities such as Orlando Bloom, only, because it’s Vegas, he’s wearing swim trunks and a tall blond instead of a three-piece Armani suit. Either way, it still counts as a good excuse to take a #stalkie, and either way, you’re still going to enjoy yourself if watches are, you know… your thing. So here’s who I recommend seeing if you’re sober lucky enough to make it up to the suites.

BALL WATCH COMPANY

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“Roman” by Ball Watch Company

Let’s face it, not a whole lot of rad things have come out of Cleveland, Ohio ((ducks)). I mean, yeah, Michael Symon is a master chef (some might even say… an “iron” one), and Halle Berry was born in Cleveland (which is pretty much awesomer than the next ten people I might mention being born there put together) but in terms of coolness, Cleveland is about as hip as a Tri-Lamb frat party in 1984.

Ball Watch Company was founded by Ohio watchmaker Webster Clay Ball after an engineer’s stopped watch had caused an 1891 collision between Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway trains in Kipton, Ohio, killing both engineers and several postal workers. Webb C. Ball is credited as the first jeweler to use time signals from the U.S. Naval Observatory shortly after Standard Time was adopted in America. The company was sold by the Ball family in the 1990’s and is now headquartered in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, but their reputation as being one of United States’ leading watch companies remains flawless.

Models of interest:

  • DeepQUEST: (because the title reminds me of my trip to Cancun in the 90’s for spring break. IT HAS TO DO WITH SNORKELING, YOU PERVS.) 43mm diameter, titanium single-block case, automatic helium release valve.
  • Big Boy: (um, what man doesn’t want a watch by this name?) 46mm diameter, anti-reflective convex sapphire crystal, stainless steel, screwed-in crown.
  • Roman: (the name of my son. Or rather, the thing that happened nine months after I experienced *DeepQUEST* with *Big Boy*.) 41mm diameter, automatic caliber, crocodile strap with stainless buckle, shock resistant to 5,000G’s.

CHARRIOL

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“St. Tropez” by Charriol

I remember 1983 like it was yesterday because of the wonderful and historical events of that year: “The A Team” premiered on NBC, Margaret Thatcher visited the Falkland Islands (awwwwkwaaaard), Hulk Hogan pinned The Iron Sheik to win the WWF title (and pandas around the world erupted in celebration… oh, wait), and French entrepreneur Philippe Charriol established Charriol – a global brand of prestigious timepieces – in Geneva, Switzerland. Yes, at ten years old, those are all things I remember for that year. I swears. For serious.

In any case, Charriol has established itself as a force to be reckoned with among the affordable Swiss watch brands that exist today. When they contacted me for an appointment to come see the line and their newest COLVMBVSTM  Cintre Convexe  collection, I was more than happy to oblige, since, I dig the name “Colvmbvs,” and honestly, even the name Columbus, because *that* Columbus was from Italy and because his *day* is a national holiday which means I get a paid day off. But even more importantly, I love the fact that Charriol is still a family-run, independent watch company, with husband, wife, daughter, and son all playing pivitol roles in the development, design, and branding of the product. I can’t wait to see what the new collection looks like, but here are some of my “must-see” picks from their existing timepieces.

Models of interest:

  • Parisii for Women: (We do so much in this life because of personal experiences, right? Don’t we choose our politicians, cities to live in, and lifestyles that way? Why not our timepieces, too? I love Paris, diamonds, and the women in my life. No further explanation needed.) 28mm diameter, mother-of-pearl dial, twelve round brilliant-cut diamonds.
  • St. Tropez: (Charriol calls this design… “delightfully feminine.”) 30mm diameter, steel cable, and a cool chain bracelet attached to the watch, giving off more of a legitimate bracelet look.
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“Caramellissima” by Swatch

SWATCH

If you’re in your forties, you know and I know that Swatch likely brings you back to fond memories of your childhood, except for that time those two girls beat you up on the bus over that fluorescent pink, limited edition Swatch guard you had covering your “Pink Betty” watch. Okay, maybe that didn’t happen to you, but it happened to me, and you get the point. Swatches were are fun, and bright, and hip, and fashionable, and affordable, and cool, and easy to wear. I’m proud to say that I still own the two that I purchased while in Switzerland for my birthday in 2003. I frankly covet this brand of watches and canNOT wait to put my eyes on what fun things they’ll be showing in Las Vegas this week.

Models of interest:

  • Caramellissima: (From the “Pastry Chefs” spring/summer 2014 collection.) This watch is an exact replica of those multi-colored candy bracelets we used to get from the tiny corner store next to elementary school on our way home. If this thing doesn’t put you in your “happy place” then you’re a cold-hearted snake and Paula Abdul will be very upset with you. I want one of these so. Freaking. Badly.
  • Olaf Hajek Limited Edition Set: (Set includes “Flowerhead” and Nature Man” watches. I mean, how do you not buy a watch designed by a guy named Olaf after all of the popularity of the Disney film, “Frozen?”) German-born painter, illustrator, and graphic designer Olaf Hajek collaborated with Swatch on these vibrant, floral-patterned watches for a Summer 2014 collection.
  • Sistem Red: (Released for Christmas 2013, the Sistem 52 collection is 100% Swiss made.) 3Hz self-winding mechanical movement, hermetically sealed, 90-hour power reserve, silicone strap. Oh, and radness. 
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“Freelancer” by Raymond Weil

RAYMOND WEIL

Thanks to our recent ten-year wedding anniversary, the name Raymond Weil will now go down in the history of my life as the first true Swiss watch brand I purchased for my husband. If anyone from Raymond Weil is reading this, know that he is absolutely enamored with his new Freelancer. I mean, he seriously loves it. Like, I found it under his pillow. Twice. And he just stares at it for hours. It’s kind of creepy, actually. Anywaaaaay, founded in 1976, this Geneva-based brand is still family-run, with Elie Bernheim now overseeing everything that his grandfather – *the* Raymond Weil – created.

Models of interest

  • Tango: (Of course I would be interested in seeing a watch named after the sexiest dance invented in the history of the world, and if you’ve never watched the movie “Tango Lesson,” I’m not sure I even want to know you.) 40mm diameter, sapphire crystal, water resistant to 100 meters, stainless steel bracelet and strap.
  • Maestro: (Because the word will always remind me of that Seinfeld episode.) 39.5mm diameter, stainless steel case with rose gold plating, 38-hour power reserve, water resistant to 50 meters.
  • Freelancer: (Duh.) 42mm diameter, 46-hour power reserve, beautiful silver dial accented by rose hands and indexes, mechanical chronograph with automatic winding.

And there you have it! My first in a whatever-I-have-time-to-write-part series about the upcoming shows in sunny Sin City! I hope you enjoyed this preview of what you will see and should see at the Swiss Watch show and I invite you to read what’s coming up next before you solidify your schedule.

Until next time. TIME. Get it?!?

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