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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#jewelrypeople

The Luxury of (a good) Time: What One Woman Did with her New York Minute

“Time/He’s waiting in the wings/He speaks of senseless things/His script is you and me boys”

Time by David Bowie

The aircraft was eerily quiet on this trip in from Atlanta. No babies babbling. No toddlers whining. No tourists yapping. The peace I was feeling as I stared out over the Brooklyn Bridge before raising my eyes upward to catch a seconds-long glimpse of the Empire State was greatly needed and grandly appreciated. The silence beckoned me into my own conscience; a place I had been avoiding over the last day or two. Yet once there, and settled in, I heard them – all of them – the voices of the darkened past reminding the voices of the brightly lit future to tell the voices of the confused, frightened, and insecure present that all was going to be okay. That things would be fine and that they had nothing to fear. And as the conversations dwindled, the aircraft shook, the rubber burned, and the wing flaps raised.

Wheels down, New York City. Wheels down, deep thoughts. There are people to see and places to be, and heaven knows I don’t have much time.

“I look at my watch it say 9:25/and I think ‘Oh God I’m still alive’/We should be on by now/We should be on by now/La la la la la la la la”

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Day One

(texting)

Friend: “How goes the drive?”

Me: “Cinco minutos.”

Friend: “Okay, heading down.”

Me: “Bring a gun with you. (Pause.) Never mind. I’ll just go ahead and have that heart attack.”

Friend: “No, wait, I want to have one with you.”

If you’ve ever taken an Uber in Manhattan and the drive lasts longer than forty minutes, you can sympathize with the above textversation, I’m sure.

I hadn’t seen this particular person in, well, what felt like EVER, so I was happy that they agreed to a mid-workday scotch with me before I had to head off into the social sunset of GEM Awards weekend. We hit a local bar near their place of work and settled our asses onto the two corner barstools. The building seemed old and the space had that good veteran pub feel to it; lots of wood, tile floors, and several bottles of brown-hued alcohol. I opted for an Oban 14, neat, because I promised my friend Dave Bindra I’d have an Oban 18, but frankly I just couldn’t afford to. Sorry Dave. Everyone has to settle for something other than what they really want once in a while. C’est la vie, amigo. C’est. La. Vie.

The conversation and company left me with a warm, comfortable feeling about how the rest of the trip was going to go. Or maybe it was the Oban. Could have been, but that’s cool, too, because the bottom line is, scotch is great. And once my (hiccup) drinking partner left to head back to the office I stuck around for a quick pinot noir with my new best friend, Millennial Bartender.

MB: “So why do you know so much about sports?”

Me: “Brothers. And, lots of Trivial Pursuit growing up. And I met my husband on a game show.”

MB: “I don’t believe it. That’s not true. Picture, or it isn’t true.”

Me: (scrolling through phone) (scrolling) (now scrolling through Instagram) “Ah, here’s one. See?”

MB: (Looking, in disbelief) “I don’t even know what to say right now. Are you serious?”

Me: “Yup. He’s hot, too. And we made pretty redheaded babies. Oh, and I just got this email an hour ago from Royal Caribbean (showing him email) asking if he and I want to star in their South American cruise ads next month.”

MB: (Looking at me, disgustingly) “You see now… you’re the reason why people hate us white people.”

It’s *so* going to be an awesome day.

“Goddamn, you’re looking old/You’ll freeze and catch a cold/’Cause you’ve left your coat behind/Take your time”

After the painfully long Uber back to my heartbreakingly dismal Marriott Courtyard, I freshened up, packed a purse with NYC essentials (metro card, mints, ID, mace, extra socks) and quickly headed back out to a meetup of jewelry industry women put together by the great connector herself, Liz Kantner.

We arrived at Winnie’s on west 38th one by one. Some of the industry’s most talented designers, marketing directors, and editors had assembled to shoot the shit in a relaxed environment, as we knew that there would be no possibility of in-depth conversation at either the GEM Awards or the 24K gala. I was thrilled to see Cleo of Jane Taylor Jewelry (whom I owe like fifty apologies to – she knows why), Malak of Zaiken, Rebecca of Communique LA, Marla Aaron, Delphine Leymarie, Jennifer Heebner, and Michelle Graff. Thankfully, I would also see three of these women at the following morning’s whiskey breakfast, because my liver and I have a love/hate relationship.

The clock struck eight which meant it was time for all of my organs and me to leave for my 8:30 p.m. dinner plans down in the East Village. The weather in New York oddly was warmer than it was in Atlanta, so I put the back window down and stared, blurrily (because I’m too vain to wear my glasses) at the sporadic lights beaming from Stuyvesant Town. I felt… alone. Probably the most alone I had felt in a while. The week had presented me with some not-so-unexpected life turns, and this was the first real moment I had to think about what I was going to do.

I looked up at the big, old, brick towers before me. They reminded me so much of my home. Home, meaning Philly… where as a child I survived the unspeakable; where as a young adult female I made it through the unimaginable. But in my loneliness I concluded that I was as tall as these towers, and as hard as their exterior; that I wore my age as well as they, and that I was in no way ready to be torn down. There was life in me – beautiful life – just as Stuyvesant contains beautiful lives within its walls. I smiled at the lights as I thought of the artists and writers who call the towers home, and I grinned even more widely when I thought of the artist and writer living inside of me. My loneliness turned to rejuvenation which in turn became determination, and for the rest of my ride I thought about how nice it was going to be to have dinner with one of my oldest and most loyal jewelry friends.

The ceiling of Pylos is covered in terracotta pots. The restaurant is small, dark, and cozy, and it’s as legitimately Greek as any place I’ve ever eaten. To be there with one of my closest confidants and biggest supporters was uplifting. We ate wonderful fish and shared a 2008 Megas Oenos Skouras before heading off to our individual temporary housing for the night. I mean, I had a big morning planned, so there was no way I was going to stay out late getting drunk if I had to get up early in the morning to get drunk. Which is the perfect segue into…

Day Two

snapseed-03Who knew whiskey at breakfast would be so popular? I mean, seriously?! It was a hit! Props to *THE* Ben Smithee for recommending Pershing Square as the place we’d be able to get a scotch on the rocks at 9:30 a.m. All in, we were a group of ten, and what a group of ten we were. Still recovering from a stint at the Boom Boom Room the night before were the aforementioned Smithee, accompanied by his partner at LUXE Intelligence and fellow Aries badass, Dallas Selsey. Seated on my immediate right was the infamous Rick Bannerot (YAY, RICK! WE FINALLY MEET!). And going around the table we had our three gals from the previous evening – Rebecca “can I get a DD up in heyaa?” Moskal; Delphine “WAIT. Let me take a ‘Delphie’” Leymarie; and Marla “I follow the rules and look good doing it” Aaron. There was my friend Jackie Cohen of Timeless/My Story; my wonderfully wonderful Peggy Jo Donahue; and last but not least, (because you can’t have a scotch at breakfast unless you have an official Scottish person at your table) the recently hitched Maeve Gillis of MaeVona. Ho. Leeeee. Shit, y’all. This was one killer whiskey (or whisky – for Maeve the Scot) drinkin’ crowd. And these folks ordered properly, too. The bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey flowed as freely as my swear word usage on this here blog.

Somehow I wound up at the male end of the table. (What exactly makes a table have a male end and a female end? Is one end pointy and stubborn and the other concave and naggy?) I’m not really surprised about it because my life is one big Boy Scout outing these days. But once the brown liquid consumption began, things started getting a little… shall we say… politically incorrect?

“I’m amazed that we wound up with two straight guys with this group of women.”

“You mean three.”

“Oh. Crap. Sorry.”

———-

“So this girl says to me, ‘You’re a really sexy Asian.’”

“Hmm. Funny. I don’t usually like Asians but…”

“Wow, that’s a really racist thing to say.”

“NO!!! NO, YOU DIDN’T LET ME FINISH!!! I MEANT FROM A LOOKS STANDPOINT, THEY’RE NOT USUALLY MY TYPE, BUT I WAS GOING TO SAY…”

“I mean, seriously? You actually just said you didn’t like Asians. I’m going to tweet that.”

“NO! Please don’t. I was going to end my statement with ‘BUT YEAH, DUDE, YOU’RE A PRETTY SEXY ASIAN.”

“You’re dead, woman. No going back. You realize that, right?”

“Yup. My career is over.”

———–

“Did you know he’s part of that pedophile program thing?”

“WILL YOU STOP SAYING IT’S FOR PEDOPHILES! IT’S CALLED BIG BROTHERS/BIG SISTERS. I’M A BIG BROTHER, YOU DOPE!”

“Whatever.” 

While I wished desperately that “Whiskey Breakfast” could have lasted forever (and props to Josh with Kretchmer for showing up at the tail end), I had “Beer Lunch” to get ready for and needed to find some ice to put on the part of my liver that I had cut out with a coffee spoon so that I could spare it from being tainted. Goodness knows I’d need it by the evening.

Off I went in my chariot of yellow and black to the same bar I met Michael Schechter at just three-hundred-and-sixty-five days earlier. I walked in to find our table the same, our server the same, and my dread the same. Man, I hate beer. I haaaaaaaate beer. But I write this off as my yearly charitable donation and I suck it up for the good of our friendship. Plus, keep in mind that last year’s beer lunch coined the term, “layer of penis,” so who knows what goodness would come out of this year’s, right? 

Mikey was late because he has no respect for his elders but that’s okay; I’ve learned to accept him for who he is, which is also why I wasn’t surprised about his excitement at their newest beer on draft called, “More Cowbell.”

“I can only drink a Hefeweizen.”

“You should go for a porter.”

“Nah. Can’t. Too chewy.”

“What about an IPA?”

“I don’t do hops.”

“You’re the worst.”

“Thank you. The hatred is mutual.”

For as masculine as I can be at times, there are moments when I look at myself and think, “Christ, Barbara… stop being so goddamned prissy.” I mean, here I was trying tastes of different beers so that I could make sure I had something that wouldn’t offend my palate the way Gwen Stefani’s voice offends people who are able to carry a tune. And for what? One beer? Once per year? Grow a pair, woman! Toughen up and drink a brew! And why are you ordering the salmon, for God’s sake? Get a burger! And pick up that blood! (Anyone?)

I couldn’t make it through half of my drink, which naturally made my lunch companion shake his head in both disgust and silent glory.

At the end of the meal, I’m sorry to say that no anatomy layers were mentioned, nor was a phrase coined for the year, nor did I ever get that burger. But I’m really looking forward to next year’s, Michael. And thanks again for lunch; always a blast, especially when you pay.

I headed back to the hotel knowing that I needed a good solid three hours to get ready. Yes, that’s what I need. I have a lot of hair, require a plethora of makeup, and use a buttload of “equipment” to get myself into those gowns, and all of those things demand time. Sensing a theme, here? Congratulations. You have a pulse. Now let’s get down to the main reason I made this trip in the first place…

GEM AWARDS 2016

I remember the 2015 GEM Awards as clearly as I remember my middle name. The images of Monica and me getting naked dressed in our hotel room, and of the camaraderie of #PowerTable48 are still wonderfully loud and vivid and in my brain. I was sad to hear that The Daz wouldn’t be making the trip this year but I was determined to make my fellow Vegas Gems and her proud by leaving an impression. That impression started in a small vintage clothier in Atlanta, which is where I found my gown.

snapseed-01Recently I joked on Instagram that I own about thirteen floor-length gowns that I really can’t wear again because I don them around the same damned people in the jewelry industry. This dress was a definite one-time-only wear, and that’s okay, because it served its purpose. It was part Daisy Buchanan, part Alexis Carrington, and part Katniss Everdeen with a touch of Maleficent thrown in for good measure. And thanks to that SEXY ASIAN, Ben Smithee, I had the perfect earrings and ring to match, courtesy of designer Katerina Maxine, and the kind folks at LUXE Intelligence. My shoes and bag were sequins as well, and my makeup smoky and sparkly with a pale lip to contrast the dark eyes. As a last minute decision I went with a tightly pulled back knot for my hair which allowed my jewels to take center stage, because let’s face it, this is the GEM Awards, after all.

My partners in glamour as we entered the gates were the lovely Jennifer Heebner, who was dripping in Tara pearls and opera length gloves; the stunning Michelle Peranteau, who was gorgeous in a full-length black gown and diamond Baume et Mercier watch; and the exquisite Bernadette Mack, who wore a variety of jewels by Alex Soldier and Rina Limor.

This year’s awards were the first to officially focus on watches, nominating Cartier, Piaget, and Roger Dubuis in the category of Watch Design. Cartier took the prize with its North American President and CEO, Mercedes Abramo, accepting. The Media Excellence category showcased the talents of Rachel Garrahan, Kyle Anderson, and Rob Bates, with ROBYYYYYYYYYYY BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATES taking the award despite Kyle’s awesome hair and Instagram following. (By the way, Rob, if you’re reading this… I called it.) And the Jewelry Design Award went to Temple St. Clair (which was presented by Stephen Webster who is seriously in the wrong business. The man is a comedic genius and needs to get his own reality T.V. show. THIS IS NOT A LIE. He’d make millions) who was nominated alongside Sevan Bicakci and Chopard’s Caroline Scheufele.

But the man of the hour (pun totally intended) was WatchTime Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Joe Thompson, who received his Lifetime Achievement Award to a glorious standing ovation. A highlight for me was when I introduced myself to Joe and said “So many people I respect and emulate have spoken so highly of you.” To which he replied, “And I have heard many, many wonderful things about you.”

Clearly he thought I was Hayley Henning.

snapseed-04And speaking of Hayley Henning, let’s give a huge round of applause to the South African red carpet hostess with the mostesss, shall we? That Hayley. Is she not glamour incarnate? My favorite part was when she interviewed her boyfriend as if they were strangers. Freaking adorbs, both of them. Oh, and yet again, MAJOR props to the incomparable Amanda Gizzi and the entire Jewelers of America team as well as Promo House for putting together another spectacular program. Well done, my friend. Well done indeed.

It was fantastic seeing so many familiar faces. Our table (#PowerTable41… we moved UP!) comprised Bern Mack, Peggy Jo Donahue and her bib, Hannah Connorton (a personal fave), Sexy Ben Smithee and his date, Magen Pastor, then came DUCKFACE MISTRESS Wendy Brandes (who dazzled yet again in red velvet), my longtime industry buddy Jay Mednikow, Marla Aaron and her swoon-worthy glasses and Dries Van Noten dress, and, of course, yours truly in all my Dynasty glory.

I was also able to finally meet, face-to-face, the Zeus and Hera of horological journalism, Jack Forster and Roberta Naas, while also sharing hellos with the likes of Marion Fasel and Maria Canale – two of my #50womenofjewelry. But there was one moment for me that happened, that I had not expected and that I won’t soon forget, and that was during a conversation with the AGS’ Ruth Batson. We were discussing Conclave, the present, as well as the immediate future, and when the topic of my blog came up, she looked me in the eyes and said, “What you write is good… keep on writing, because people are reading. People are listening. We are all listening.” And a wave of emotion came over me (and is again as I type the words right now) as I fought back tears so as not to destroy an hour’s worth of makeup application. Thank you, Ms. Batson. I promise you, and whoever is listening… I’m not going to stop.

After a few final pictures on the step and repeat with my Shelby Ruth, the party started to dissipate, and for the second year in a row, our crew headed over to Whiskey Blue where we found our fellow pretzel sisters in the form of Brandee Dallow, Des Hanson, Fran Pennella, Shelly Schulz, Kristie Nicolosi, and many, many others. Since Bern and I had agreed to run three miles through Central park the following morning, I slipped out at about 12:30 a.m. and grabbed a cab back to my hotel.

It was truly an evening worth attending, and I look forward to doing it again next year, deity willing.

“Breaking up is hard, but keeping dark is hateful/I had so many dreams/I had so many breakthroughs/But you, my love, were kind/ but love has left you dreamless”

Day Three 

(Text received at 5:08 a.m.)

Her: “I cannot make it running.”

“The door to dreams was closed/Your park was real dreamless”

I took my time getting up since I knew I had a day to myself, which is a rare gift whenever I travel anywhere. I decided some weeks back that I wanted to visit The Met and take in their European clock and watch exhibit called, “The Luxury of Time.” It had been twenty-two years since I stepped foot inside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, the last time I had been there it was with one of my best friends from high school and we got kicked out because we found one of the works in the modern art section particularly… well… “stupid” would probably be the kindest word I could use. I KNOW. I KNOW. IT’S ALL ART and art, by definition, isn’t stupid. But bloody hell, this thing was nothing more than a massive piece of canvas painted one shade of blue. I swear on all that is holy, it was one big blue rectangle. In fact, I think the name of it was actually “blue painting” or something of the like. I sh*t you not, people. This is why I struggle with understanding modern art. You know that thing sold to some dimwit for like eight-million dollars, too, don’t you? Well my friend and I were laughing uncontrollably as we thought of joke after joke about how ridiculous some of the pieces were which naturally meant that eventually we were asked to leave. I remember picking up a crushed Coke bottle near a garbage can close by and saying to my friend, “I just made this. It’s art. I should bring it back to the Met. I’ll make billions.” Oh how we laughed and laughed and laughed…

… then I grew up and realized it was probably not cool to say that I had been kicked out of The Met, which is likely the main reason why it took twenty-two years to get back.

God I hope they don’t recognize me.

snapseed-05Thankfully the art on display in the exhibit I went to see was actually something I understood – or at the very least, have been trying to understand over the last eight months or so – watches.

I won’t go into complete detail here as I intend on writing an entire piece about the exhibit on my new female-friendly watch blog called WhatsOnHerWrist.com (coming soon to a browser near you!) but I will say that it was well worth the price of admission as was the cost of the book I purchased to accompany it. If you’re in the city or plan on being so in the near future, I recommend checking it out, but you have to go soon, because it’s over on March 27th.

So… that leads me to the final leg of this trip, which we will officially dub, “The 10K Club Gathering.”

There was a crew of us who didn’t officially have seats (yet) for the 24K Club’s annual dinner and gala at the Waldorf Astoria, but we had been invited to several of the pre-parties being held in some of the suites up on the 4th floor, so we donned our gowns and tuxes, threw on our jewels and watches, and gathered at Bull & Bear to do our socializing and networking. I had invited along watch journalist Syl Tang, who writes for The Futurist and The Financial Times, because I was leaving the next day for home and had yet to meet her in person. Joining us were Smithee, Moskal, O’Connor, Cleo, Kendra, Barry with Jade Trau, Magen, Aly, and… wait for it… THAT KID FROM RITANI!! In fact, I believe it was he who came up with name for our little “island of misfit toys” group of nomads, which wound up being our running joke for the evening. Should we be the 10K Club? Or the 24 Carrot Club? Or the 42K Club? Needless to say every option turned into a hashtag.

snapseed-02I wore a gold Ralph Lauren Evening dress with a gorgeous golden South Sea pearl necklace and matching earrings by Eli Jewels, on loan to me from Mednikow Jewelers. To say the piece was a statement necklace would almost be an understatement. It was a stunning adornment combining the natural wonder of South Sea pearls with the craftsmanship of talented jewelers and topped off with several carats in bright white diamonds. I felt glorious in it, which is what I was supposed to feel in something of that caliber, and I was sad to have to give it back at the end of the night.

The evening went as perfectly as I could have asked for, and while several people texted me to say that there were no-shows at their table and that I should come up and join them, I decided I liked hanging with our crew, and opted for my spot at the bar instead. Although, I did head up to catch a song or two from Aretha Franklin when beckoned enough times by 24K members. (Oh and hey, just want to send a quick shout out to John Carter and Mary Moses-Kinney for the lovely meal picture they sent me. You guys are rad.)

Before the night was over I did some dancing, some Periscoping, and a little more Prosecco consuming. It was somewhat bittersweet there at the end for a variety of reasons, with the main reason being that New York represents so much in my life; good, bad, and otherwise.

As I watched the mist trickle down from the back seat of my cab, I recalled the many moments that I had just written about here. I recalled them, thought fondly of them, sighed deeply about them, and smiled. And that – that one act alone –is what will keep me coming back year after year after year.

New York, I love you. And I thank you for all that you are and all that you remain to be to me.

“Perhaps you’re smiling now/Smiling through this darkness/But all I had to give was the guilt for dreaming”

“We should be on by now [x5]/La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la [repeat]”

“Yeah, time!”

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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 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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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?”

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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.

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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.” 


tales - begas

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.

andrew

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!


tales - press

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…

tales - wynn

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!

tales - humble

“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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