(Full disclosure: the AGTA GemFair hosted me to attend and cover their show and others in The Collective as well as COUTURE, but this blog post is not a paid post)
The last time I stepped foot in Las Vegas I was four years younger, three pounds heavier, and my hair was a lot less gray. In “jewelry industry” years, four years is the equivalent of a lifetime. Sales reps can change companies thrice in that time frame. Retail doors can open and close, and industry superstars can rise and fall. Remember when you started high school and you barely had facial hair but by the time you graduated you looked like the guy on the Brawny paper towels package? Yeah. High school is four years long too, and just like in high school, with each year that passes there is growth, change, and a whole lot of learning we didn’t even realize we needed.
Thanks to my hosts, the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), I found myself back in a very changed Vegas for a very changed Jewelry Market Week this year. For one thing, there was a new show in town. Or rather, there were three shows (two existing and one new) under one new show roof (the Las Vegas Convention Center) which together became a new entity dubbed, The Collective. The Collective was made up of the AGTA GemFair Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry and Watch Show, and PREMIER, and offered its guests a single badge which would allow them to visit all three shows. Also being offered was the opportunity to catch Shuttles to and from COUTURE. In terms of the AGTA show, those who registered as a buyer online could also sign up for UBER codes to use to and from other buying locations, and with hotels such as the Wynn and the Venetian being on the same end of the Strip, buyers and media could navigate their experiences much more easily this year.
I spent my first full day exploring the AGTA GemFair and visiting with brands such as B&B Fine Gems (a personal favorite) and ASBA Pearls (also a fave) before venturing off to meet with dealers I wasn’t as familiar with such as Sparkles and Colors. Eventually I was joined by my great friend Alan Hart, the CEO of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, who helped me understand a little more about what exactly I was looking at in terms of the intricacies of minerals and gems. At the Sparkles and Colors booth, Alan and I swooned over silky Kashmir sapphires before geeking out over minerals by The Arkenstone Ltd. He proved to be someone to have handy when I had questions about the emeralds I saw at the GEM 2000 booth or about the various specimens I coveted from Dufty Weiss Opals. But on top of the extraordinary gems, jewels, minerals, and rocks being showcased, there were additional benefits to being there. A buyer could swing by to watch the outrageously talented Angie Crabtree paint one of her fabulous colored gemstone artistic creations and then head off to get a chair massage before entering to win a huge amount of money with which to spend on the show floor. For those who were in the market to purchase colored gems while in Vegas, the AGTA GemFair offered jackpots of the attainable kind and then some.
My next three days were filled with day-long visits to COUTURE, COUTUREtime, the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry and Watch Show, and PREMIER; all shows which are under the Emerald Expositions umbrella. My goal was simple: visit brands whose designers use colored gems in their creations, learn more about how and why they use them, and give those brands some social media love. And while that may seem like a simple task when it came time to find jewelry brands, watches proved to be a little more difficult. But thanks to watch companies like Corum, Parmigiani, and the extraordinary Dior, I was able to get my hands on some really special colored stone timepieces that would make the gemstone lover in all of us swoon.
My final show day led me back to AGTA in order to do one last show run. This time, I focused on some of the lesser-known brands who maybe don’t get as much social media love (or even have a social media page). It was on this day that I learned more about Jade by Nikolai (who had the coolest booth at the show) and Artrade Precious (who had the most awesome South Sea pearl skulls). Had it not been for my trip to Vegas this year, I wouldn’t have known about these companies even existing.
I want to thank to AGTA for not only flying me out and putting me up, but for allowing me to discover their world – a world I was somewhat unfamiliar with – in my own way. Never once did this organization do anything but let me be myself. They trusted my work and my coverage and were quick to say how very happy they were with what I did. As a writer in this industry, I value that more than anything. It means so much to me when someone puts their faith in my skillset and my decades-long experience, then hands me the keys to the car and tells me they’ll see me when they see me.
The AGTA took a gamble on me in Las Vegas, and I’m happy to know that gamble (seemingly) paid off.