Just Another Week in Paradise (NV)

April showers bring May… tradeshows. And June tradeshows. The ones that take place in a desert city mirage, full of glittering monoliths and towering representations of fairy tales and larger-than-life fantasies. Food, drink, and sparkling gems at every turn battle for dominance with late nights and long walks down streets that glow with neon promise.

In other words, fifteen-plus-hour days in heels with ceaseless talking, extensive walking (83782 steps), desperate hunger and thirst, exhaustion, dehydration, pain, stress, and general desert malaise. We call it Jewelry Week.

This year was a good one, all things considered, both for the business I was there to represent and for my own interests. I feel extreme gratitude for my show team, who collectively practiced their best “patience faces,” brought their dress-up clothes, and tolerated my singing and dancing at the Margaritaville table.

Additionally, I was honored to attend this year’s #VegasGems evening out — a dinner table full of some of the coolest, most intelligent, interesting, and influential women out there. Just listening to your stories was a pleasure, and I wish we’d had so much more time so I could continue soaking in your fabulousness and learning from the very best.

Oh, and I discovered that running a 5K up and down the strip at 5:30am is a little different from walking it, no matter how hard you train or how much water you drink. Time doesn’t fly quite as fast without conversations about broadway musicals. Who knew?

But as always, surrounding myself with the people and things of the jewelry world gives me a refreshment and renewed sense of purpose. If nothing else, this show brings me back to my center. When I manage to take a brief tour around the other halls of the show, greeting the folks I’ve come to know and giving myself some time to absorb the atmosphere, I feel reconnected to the pulse of what I love to do.

So now it’s back to the grind: day job, studying gems in the lab, freelancing, and building that little business into something bigger.

 

Back in Time: An Evening with Vortic Watch Co.

When I first announced my transition from fine jewelry retail to 3D printing tech, the responses varied from a tentatively supportive “sounds… interesting” to something like “tech? But what about jewelry?!” and even “does that mean you’ll wear jeans and t-shirts and use words like ‘bandwidth’?” (yes, no, and yes, for the record).

The truth is, I’ve been even more involved with the jewelry industry since I took on this role, and it’s been the most amazing experience to have the privilege of meeting people like R.T. Custer, co-founder and CEO of Vortic Watch. He had the brilliant notion to take US-made, early-20th-century pocket watches that were sitting around unused and unloved, and convert them into chic, industrial wristwatches.

What does this have to do with me? Well, the original pieces he produced involved serious Solidworks CAD skills and some impressive wrangling of a little old 3D printer. R.T. and his business partner Tyler Wolfe (Vortic COO) have grown this original Kickstarter into a full-fledged business, producing custom casements and reviving an American watchmaking tradition many believed had died off in the post-industrial era.

Vortic Watch hosted a special event last weekend at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, which houses an incredible collection of historic pieces from the American Industrial Revolution. They were kind enough to invite me as both a representative of the technology used to bring these magical devices to life, and as a jewelry and watch nerd who seriously can’t stop using their design tool to play with the custom watch builder options.

There are few things that appeal to me more than a seamless integration of old-world style and modern techniques, so this company truly hits it out of the park. From their tough-but-elegant styling to the significant history behind the movements, these timepieces absolutely belong both on the wrist and in the enthusiast’s collection.

Take a look at a few highlights from the event in the slideshow below!

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A Special WJA Boston Event Recap: #DoDiamondsMatter

For jewelry industry insiders, the talk about town has been all about the hardest natural substance on earth, its various forms and uses, and (perhaps most importantly) how we can continue to talk about it and sell it to consumers. Debate rages on in public and private arenas over the disclosure of synthetics, consumer-driven pricing, the ethics of mining, and even whether or not it should remain a cornerstone of the jewelry world.

Diamonds can be rough, man.

Fortunately, while opinions on all sides abound, many of our best and brightest are willing to participate in open conversations with each other and with the consumer community. This can only be to our mutual benefit, and as a strong proponent of encouraging an educated buyer, I was thrilled to play a supporting role in bringing a diverse group of leaders to engage with the topic and each other.

At the reception following the panel, I managed to wander around with my camera in one hand and glass of something bubbly in the other, and eavesdropped listened to the general chatter. The mood was festive and light (for a Wednesday), but the conversations were anything but frivolous: at every turn, I heard both industry veterans and uninitiated consumers alike deep in dialogue about everything from the overwhelming presence of the modern brilliant cut diamond (“but macles and rose cuts are making a comeback!”) to a debate over the merits of carrying both natural and synthetic diamonds in a retail store (“do we show them side-by-side, or separate them in the showcase?”).

This is what we need — this open communication, migrating from large-scale public forums to discrete tête-à-têtes and back again, is what will preserve the jewel industry’s reputation and push the development of new and engaging design, sales, and other initiatives from the back room to the billboard. Without frank conversations about disclosure, environmental impact, sourcing, selling, and every other fact of this business, there won’t be product to sell or consumer to buy. 

So I encourage everyone reading this to (sorry) get engaged. Yes, that’s right: engage with your colleagues, your employees, your friends. Spark the conversation, and direct it toward topics and points of interest that require knowledge you don’t already have. Learn something. Ask a question, get a little uncomfortable, and test out those new ideas.

Oh, and tell me how it goes. Report back, check in, and share what you learned with the rest of us. We mine precious things to bring them to light, and information is the most precious resource of all.

 


The following experts comprised our WJA Boston panel discussion, a little something we called Do Diamonds Matter? Rhetorical question for some, perhaps, but each panelist responded in an incredibly thoughtful and insightful way:

Raquel Alonso-Perez, Ph.D., FGA, Curator, Mineralogical & Geological Museum
Alan Bronstein, President Natural Color Diamond Assoc (NCDIA)
Brandee Dallow, WJA International Board President
Alan Hart, FGA, CDA, CEO Gemological Assoc of Great Britain, London
Adonis Pouroulis, Chairman Petra Diamonds, London
Gary Roskin, G.G.(GIA) FGA, Exec Dir, International Colored Gemstones Association, New York
Jennifer Schloss, Physics Ph.D. Candidate, Physics, Harvard University, MIT (Dual)
Panel Moderator: Emily Stoehrer„ Ph.D. Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator of Jewelry, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Stack it Up: The #Armparty

It’s been some time since I last wrote a post about my personal collection, and I have some recent acquisitions that deserve a little time in the sun. To be clear, these are pieces I own and wear and adore, and were all created by members of the industry whom I’m proud to call dear friends and colleagues. I link only because I love.

For a long time, bracelets were my least favorite accessory. Not because I didn’t like them — in fact, I love them — but they rarely ever loved me back. Call it #skinnygirlproblems, but stock sized bangles are always too big, chains and links are too long, and cuffs just won’t close up enough to stay put. So for a while, I simply gave up on the idea of a wrist stack, and went on to collect other things.

Enter: the medical ID bracelet. Oh, this hated but necessary piece of stainless steel (ugh, I know) that now accompanies me wherever I go. Once my doctor and family convinced me to wear it, I started to realize that I couldn’t let it just sit there, seated alone in miserably glory. If nothing else, I needed something to distract myself and others from the atrocity.

Fortunately for me, an extremely talented and thoughtful jeweler named Irene was near at hand. I first commissioned a custom rose gold bangle, hammered to a perfect texture and sized just for me. This piece accompanies me almost everywhere, as does its beautiful cousin on my mother’s wrist. Shortly thereafter, I asked my colleague and friend if she would help me create my own hammered argentium silver cuff. Some hilarious mishaps and serious hammering, clanging, swearing, polishing, and finishing later, I gratefully completed the first and only wearable in my collection.

Next in line is a bangle from my travels, purchased in Jackson Hole, WY on an anniversary trip. I spent far longer than necessary chatting with Bri, a young industry newcomer who patiently listened to me drone on about jewelry until I finally decided on a two-tone gold traveling bead Snake River hammered bangle, custom made by a talented goldsmith on site.

And finally, the most recent addition is a pure and shining contrast to my mostly textured stack. My silver slip-on bangle bracelet nestles with the rest as though it were made for stacking — which it definitely is, and makes the most charming chiming sound any time it’s gently kissed by its golden brethren. I’ve had this piece on my wrist since the moment it arrived, and I’m overwhelmingly grateful to designers like Alexis who are so mindful of creating for all shapes and sizes.

As you can see, I’m a dedicated adherent to the MaN club: Metals are Neutrals! Mix them, match them (or don’t), wear them together or feature them singly. They’re a social bunch, those shiny metals, able to play well with others or travel solo as the mood strikes.

It might still be sweater weather here in New England, but I’m daydreaming of warmer temps and shorter sleeves so I can continue to show off (and build on) the glittering group in my #armparty.

 

 

Under the Tucson Sun: Show Recap

Sunshine. 70 degrees. Palm trees mixed with cacti of all shapes and sizes. Fruit on the trees, vivid sunsets. Sounds like a vacation to this hardy New Englander.

Between wine and tequila tastings, evening stargazing, and too much guacamole, there was also this show called JCK Tucson.

This was my first time exhibiting at the lovely JW Starr Marriott Resort, and I enjoyed the smaller size and slower pace of this show compared to many of the larger ones. I actually had time for lengthy conversations with clients, which allowed me to really soak in their perspectives on everything from CAD/CAM integration and technology adoption to social media, synthetic diamonds, custom design, transparent sourcing, and the future of the global industry.

Subjects near and dear to my little heart.

Tradeshows are a great opportunity to take an industry’s temperature, and they provide a snapshot of both the financial and more personal sides of the business. In this case, I felt a general sense of positivity: things might not be the best they’ve ever been, but they’re not the worst and might be getting a little better. Many clients have taken the last few years of heavy industry closures and market uncertainty as a sign that they need to carefully consider and execute a plan for long-term sustainability. Many have concluded that adopting the right set of new technologies and breaking old, bad habits will serve them well in the immediate future — a clear sign of hope, and at least a tiny drop of faith in the industry to keep pushing forward.

This was the first show where my newly-acquired technical knowledge was equally as appreciated as my jewelry insight. Perhaps it’s due to some of the confidence bred of reaching a work milestone, but I felt significantly more comfortable discussing the inner workings of design, sourcing, production, and manufacturing along with the usual business content. Everyone, it seemed to me, is looking for efficiency in their process and a road map for reaching the next wave of buyers.

Maybe it was all that vitamin D after so many months without, but I’m feeling the groove right along with these intelligent and innovative thinkers. If every show could bring these feelings, I call that a true sign of success.

One Kick to Win it: Goal Line

This time last year, I wrote down a short list of goals for 2016 and beyond. I had never done so publicly before, but this is a personal habit I’ve long maintained in place of making resolutions. At the halfway point, I paused to do an assessment, and was surprised to note how much progress I’d made in so short a time.

To say that I exceeded my own expectations might sound like hubris, but in fact I’ve somehow managed to humble myself even further because of it. I’m proud to have accomplished so many of the things I set out to do, but even in doing so, I’ve been able to realize how important the long view can be — my goals are never truly reached, they’re extended and transformed and pushed and dragged, forcing me to adapt and change and grow.

But I’ve been struggling to come up with a well-articulated list this time around. Perhaps it’s due to the past year, where part of my personal growth has been in acknowledging and embracing just how much more growing I need to do. I know I’d like to get down to the business of my career development and really kicking some major tail in 2017 and beyond. It’s also pretty clear that I need to prioritize sustaining and nurturing the relationships and friendships I’ve been establishing, so as not to let all that excellent drinking time socializing go to waste.

So, let’s see what I end up with:

1. Build and strengthen my network
I’m nobody and nowhere without the people I meet along the way, and there’s always room for more on this train. I’m surrounded by fascinating people, and there are few things I enjoy more than turning strangers into friends.

2. Lift up and lean in
I’d like to think I’ve had a positive impact on the people around me, and that at least a few people have found value in knowing me. But I know I can continue to do more for the people — particularly women! — in my life and my industry to help them with their own ambitions. A rising tide lifts all boats.

3. Get thee to a new country
More travel, please! For business, for pleasure, or my personal favorite, combining the two. There is surely no better way to learn about yourself than when trying to explain the US election process to an Australian linguistics professor on his way to a conference in Germany (true story) or the in-field fly rule in French to a Swiss businessman en route to Spain (also true story).

4. Play a complete round of golf
I/we can totally do this. Right, mom?

5. Finish. My. GG.
I know, I said that last year. It’s one of the few things I didn’t manage to accomplish in 2016, but I did make excellent progress. This is the year.

6. Find my balance
Like many of you, the tussle between work and life can start to make me feel as frayed as the cat’s favorite mouse toy. So in the process of finding myself, my voice, and my calling, I think it’s only fair I also seek out that ineffable happy place, the center of gravity on the high wire we walk when confronted with dueling demands for our time and energy. Someone toss me a balance pole?

I have a lot to anticipate in the coming months, and I can only hope to meet it all with grace, good humor, and the fervent believe that the energy you put in is the energy you get out.

Wishing one and all good times and great karma in 2017. Please feel free to share your own goals in the comments — we can all use a little inspiration!

 

 

 

#Pantone and the Color Bubble

It’s that time of year once again: Pantone, the arbiter of all things color, has announced their pick for the 2017 Color of the Year. Say hello to Greenery:

pantone-color-of-the-year-lee-eiseman-quote
Image from Pantone press release

Referring to the shade as “nature’s neutral,” Pantone has obviously decided to highlight a color that plays to the middle of the road, inciting very little in the way of strong opinions and offensive to essentially no one.

It’s a safe color. It’s pretty, in an I-don’t-want-to-admit-I-hate-peridot kind of way. It’s lush, verdant, and full of springlike innocence. It looks good with pink. Legions of Lilly Pulitzer ladies* will rejoice.

But is it what we want? Is it even what we need?

I’ll be honest, I was hoping for something a bit more… bold. After last year’s double-pastel campaign, I felt reasonably certain that the next choice would be something I could sink my teeth into. Some pizzaz, some pop, something worthy of a coming year that’s sure to be full of fireworks. Perhaps, dare I say it, a color that would signify the rising swell of strong emotions in the hearts of millions, encouraging us to keep fighting the good fight.

How disappointing.

Now there is something to be said for the nice concepts that Greenery is intended to represent; as an active environmentalist, I certainly can’t argue with the purported message. But according to Pantone, the Color of the Year is supposed to provide

“A symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.”

Calming, soothing, spa-like green is decidedly not the mood I’m sensing, at least here in the US and in most of the EU. So, what comforting little bubble is Pantone living in? How do they, as a company and collective body, manage to find a hue so incredibly inoffensive that it actually becomes even more of a statement in its own banality?

The tree of the fashion industry, with its many branches — jewelry, accessories, couture, high and low fashion, etc. — might be in full leaf, but I don’t think that needs to be taken quite to literally. Maybe this color will grow on me, and may bring about some interesting interpretations when blocked with bold black and white, or warmed up with some shiny yellow gold. For now, it feels like a good excuse to take a nap.

Whatever they’re doing to reach that level of Zen, I wouldn’t mind borrowing a dose or two. I might need it this year.

 

*I confess to wearing a bit of Lilly now and again, but c’mon people. If you don’t live in Hawaii or Key West, how is this color relevant for more than 2 months of the year?

Working Through It

I was not what you’d call a sporty child.

Other than some halfhearted attempts at tennis and a little time in the marching band, dancing with Boston Ballet was my physical torture of choice. And torture it was — injuries were frequent, soreness a constant companion, and my feet have never recovered from those bloody, broken years of toe balancing.

But if there’s one good lesson to be learned in tolerating physical pain for a reason, it’s this: perseverance. When the going gets tough, the tough gets a pen and paper, makes a lot of lists, devises a plan, and relentlessly pursues every item until (a) the plan succeeds or (b) a better one comes along.

My years as a ballerina (and actor, and musician) also imparted the gift of competitiveness — as an only child, this wasn’t something I’d likely develop independently. While I certainly did compete for solos, orchestra chairs, leading roles, and the occasional bragging rights, I found that artistic competition is centered far more on being better than yourself than your closest competitor.

The way to “win” in the performance world is to distinguish yourself from the pack, offering a tiny spark of something other (rather than simply better) than what the people around you might have. The only way to accomplish this is to become immersed in your own inner process — the artistic soul, if you’ll forgive the expression — and nurture it until it rises up and overtakes the performer entirely.

Working as I have been, with one foot in a technical and business world and the other in pursuit of a degree, has given me somewhat of an inner dichotomy. Until quite recently, the two pursuits have been behaving like lines of counterpoint: always opposing, occasionally harmonizing, but never resolving.

But lately some new ideas have been making their voices heard, which has begun to round out the chorus, paint the backdrop, and perhaps set the scene for an interesting new act. Consider this a teaser trailer, a preview before the opening night. I’m working through things and working up to… something.

I’ll let you know how rehearsals go, and hopefully will set a date for the out-of-town trial very soon. Until then, tell me this: where does your own inner spark come from?  I’d love to hear about it.

Media Moment: Girls and Pearls

Particular. Meticulous. Finicky. Fussy. Picky. Persnickety. I’m difficult to please, okay?

I suppose it makes me a good gemologist and jeweler — detail-oriented, and all — but high standards often lead to high expectations, which can sometimes lead to… disappointment.

But I’ve learned to manage those expectations over the years, especially mitigating my hopes for anything related to industry media, PR, or advertising. This is not to say that we don’t have some superlative examples of journalism around, but it’s the cheesy crap from big box retailers that has become the common diner-coffee-consumption we anticipate every holiday season.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I saw this article, discussing Mikimoto’s new approach to their iconic jewel (not to mention a top-ten jewelry standard): pearls. Please take a moment to peruse the short piece, and definitely watch the ad, which will air only on social media.

While many of us in the fashion world wouldn’t exactly call “wear your pearls with your leather pencil skirt” a groundbreaking idea, the ad itself resonates because of its tone and underlying message. Pearls can be sexy, pearls can be mysterious, pearls can be worn outside the boardroom or your sister’s wedding.

My perfectionist self finds plenty of faults with the add, primarily the missed opportunity to show off the fantastically cool clasps available in today’s market. But nonetheless, I rarely see a jewelry-specific spot that gets the tone so absolutely dead on — it’s almost hard to believe that it comes from so unexpected a source, but I’m not complaining.

What did you think of the ad? And more importantly, how did that model get perfectly-winged eyeliner without the apparent use of a mirror?

 

 

 

 

Civilian Shopper 

If the temperatures quoted by my local weather lady are correct, it’s beginning to feel a lot like autumn (by day), and winter is peeking out in the evening hours.

This has always been my favorite time of year, as a New Englander who feels at her very best when wrapped in multiple layers of cashmere or fleece, sipping hot cider and daydreaming about holiday decor.

But for most of my working life, the holidays have meant a serious uptick in stress levels and a calendar with very little room on it for all the fun events that seem to pop up when the mercury dips below 40. Working in a retail environment means longer hours, more consecutive days, and a generally pervasive feeling of not enough time. Latkes on a weeknight? Christmas party on a Saturday? You want me to join your choir and sing when? Don’t make me laugh. 

But this year, for the first time in forever, I won’t be working on Black Friday. I can go to Holiday Pops — a family tradition for well over 20 years — on a weekend. And I can smile with angelic patience and goodwill while participating in enthusiastic consumerism, tinny Musaq blending with the incessant of beeping of snowplows as background accompaniment.

Poetic descriptions aside, I will miss certain things about holiday retail — namely, the looks on my clients’ faces when they discover the perfect gift, that glow of happiness at finding a shiny new treasure to present to a friend or loved one. Those are the moments that got me through the season; I’m sure for many jewelers, they’re the main reason we stay open late, buy the expensive wrapping paper, and hand-deliver diamond rings at midnight.

So retailers, I promise not to mess up that perfectly- folded table of sweaters, ask you to “check again” for my size, or complain that the music’s too loud and temperature is too hot and line was too long and the box is the wrong color and the holidays are just sooo exhausting, y’know ? 

Now it’s just about time to dust off the family recipes, write up my Nice list, and start enjoying the season.