Holiday Help: The Time is Now

If the frosty mornings and hearty food cravings haven’t set in quite yet in your area, they will soon: it’s officially the holidays! For jewelers, this time of year brings busy store days and long nights full of hopeful shoppers, many of whom are just beginning their quest for the perfect gift.

This is also the height of engagement season, with a reported 40% of engagement rings purchased (and given) between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. As family and friends travel in an effort to gather for seasonal celebrations, it’s no wonder this is a popular time to think about forming new families and lasting bonds. (I won’t even mention the influence of cuffing season, but we all know it’s there).

What does this mean for folks looking for beautiful, meaningful jewelry? In a word, timing.

On the one hand, this is an excellent opportunity to engage your trusted independent jeweler in a conversation about your needs, as he or she will likely be carrying the largest total stocked merchandise of the year in anticipation of holiday sales. Business will be brisk and the best items will sell quickly, so don’t count on that perfect piece sitting in the case long enough for you to regret it as it makes someone else’s day. But if he or she says “I have just the thing!” it’s probably because right now (and perhaps only right now), that’s actually true.

If your ideal jewel can only be created through the custom design process, your approach should be a little different. Many jewelers with on-site bench workers and designers can meet special deadlines with enough notice, but the custom process can rarely be rushed. As the Big Three** approach, early birds will see their orders filled while late starters must scramble or settle — and neither are good options when you’re considering a major expenditure for a very important purchase.

So while I advise all of my clients to think carefully and plan accordingly all year round, this becomes especially important during this festive, fete-filled season. Do not wait until the last possible moment to begin your hunt for the perfect treasure, and your jeweler will certainly thank you.

Have a burning question or special request? Submit now for inclusion in an upcoming post!


**Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day/Eve. Yes, I’m well aware that many more holidays are celebrated during this time, but these are the primary US dates (and closures!) to keep in mind when planning a special moment.

Brief Baubles: Jewelry & the Sharing Economy

Millennial. Startup. “Uber of X.” Viral. Cord Cutter. Experiential. Influencer. Gamification. Hacking.

Today’s colloquialisms provide a unique challenge for content producers, forcing us to navigate a tightrope strung high over a cavernous hole of hashtags, hits, and SEO-driven buzzwords. It sure does grate on you, after a while.

So please grin and bear it as I throw another one out for your consideration: the sharing economy. Defined by others as “collaborative consumption” in direct opposition to Veblen’s original “conspicuous consumption,” the concept applies to anything you make use of but do not own. Big-ticket items like cars and houses were the first aboard this bandwagon, and predictably other 1status items have followed suit.

The latest to join the game is the jewelry and watch world, following in the footsteps of successful concepts like Rent the Runway for designer clothing and BagBorroworSteal for, you guessed it, high-end pocketbooks. These companies allow their clients to order items online to be shipped to their homes, worn for a limited time, and shipped straight back. Talk about fast fashion.

The obvious issues do come up from time to time: theft, accidental destruction, genuine loss. But rental-based organizations often forge strong relationships with the designers they carry, and many offer or require various premiums that amount to insurance for just these situations.

I have been asked on more than one occasion my opinion of this type of consumerism, mainly in regards to its impact on the future of the luxury industry as defined by its success with younger generations. My response may surprise you, though certainly not my mother, whose special designer duds I’ve been trying to steal borrow for years: I’m all for it.

Taken in the short term, it’s true that renting and returning merchandise offers little gain for luxury sellers who are strapped for cash and customers. But by allowing these online (read: no overhead) entities to handle the logistics for them, both major and emerging designers can build a larger following based on exposure and experience. It’s this magical combination that gains the trust of today’s HENRYs, and will turn them into more education (and therefore more satisfied) purchasers later on.

Try it, then buy it… when you can afford it. Or when you love it and don’t want to return it because you have to have it for yourself (or for someone else).

A number of luxury accessory companies have entered this new market. I was most impressed by a startup called Eleven James, as they currently focus solely on mid to high-level timepieces. Watches are not a fading fad as some might claim, but their role in our daily lives has shifted from necessary time-telling device to pure fashion (or status) statement. Eleven James capitalizes on this concept, and provides a concierge experience with multiple tiers that aim to match a range of budgets and tastes.

Flont is another newcomer, providing temporary access to a swath of designer jewels. A recent news release from Rapaport’s Diamond.Net says:

“Flont, which offers a jewelry-renting service, has raised $5 million from investors to grow its inventory and staff and help fund an expansion into the Chinese market.
The company describes itself as a pioneer of the “Jewelry as a Service” model, in which it lets consumers wear jewelry for a fee for a fixed period, or take out membership for unlimited rental.”

So that pair of Bvlgari earrings you can’t currently afford, but would go perfectly with your cocktail dress at that wedding this weekend? Rent them. Want to wear a diamond necklace that’s the real deal for your wedding? (Do I even have to say it?) Hello, something borrowed.

“’Borrowing incredible jewelry, and experiencing it first-hand, is the best way to discover brands and designers, while developing a lifelong affinity,’ said Cormac Kinney, founder and CEO of Flont, in a statement last week.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Readers, what do you think? Would you rent a watch of piece of otherwise unattainable jewelry, either for a special occasion or just because you could? And equally importantly, would it influence a future decision to buy it (or something like it)?

Palatable Palettes

The color obsession continues! We’ve looked at color once or twice before, and it seemed to me I’m long overdue for another glance. Autumn has arrived* and with it a change in popular tones, from the cool brights of summer to the warmer jewel tones of calendar-perfect New England fall foliage.

The crystal-ball-wielding wizards at Pantone told the world what we’d be wearing (and decorating with, and even eating) this fall:

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 10.22.17 AM
Image credit: Pantone

Well hello, familiar faces. That Millennial Pink and Blue look an awful lot like 2016’s co-colors of the year, Quartz and Serenity. Both pastels are certainly the least seasonal of the bunch, but their popularity can’t be denied.

My personal wardrobe tends to favor tones similar to the blueish-green Shaded Spruce, cold oceanic Navy Peony (what? navy peonies?), and the ever reliable Neutral Gray. But recently, thanks in part to some recent exposure to a delectable suite of fire opal and Imperial topaz, I’ve been contemplating rich and flamelike palette that includes Autumn Maple and Tawny Port, with a little Butterum for good measure. I blame my seasonal affinity for foods in those colors. Mmmmm, caramel…

Alas, for me, Grenadine is too garish and Golden Lime too sallow. Blame it on the blonde.

Taken as a whole, the palette seems incoherent and vaguely messy, with little harmony or pleasant relationship between colors. It’s almost as though each swatch was selected by one person as a fall favorite, and the whole lot was jumbled together with no regard for complementary hues. Individually the shades are lovely; collectively they’re a distraction.

Keep your eyes open for more examples of these colors as we head deeper into the season. Right now I think it’s time to bake another apple cake and get those cider & sea salt caramels wrapped up. Beef stew, anyone?

 

*It’s September folks, and I’ve already gone apple picking. The best season has begun, and I’m not sorry.

The Independents — A Love Letter

You’ve seen their sign, maybe their billboard on your daily commute. Maybe you’ve wandered by their storefront, pausing to peek at the pretty displays and wondering what else could be inside. It’s even possible you’ve stood in line at the grocery store behind their owner, your spouse has played golf or hosted book club with them, or your children have played baseball with their kids.

I’m talking about your friendly neighborhood independent jeweler, and the family that is very much a part of your local community.

With one store location or maybe a handful, these businesses have built their lives and livelihoods by treating you with courtesy and respect, running a shop that puts quality and the customer first. Unlike the revolving door and high-volume sales at the national chains, the familiar faces at an independent jewelry store keep all eyes focused on what the client needs and wants.

They might open a little early for an emergency watch battery change, or stay open past closing so you can pick up that special gift after a long day of work. They’ll send you a note to remind you of an upcoming birthday or anniversary — and they’ve kept a list of exactly what that special someone has been eyeing. Need it hand delivered, gift-wrapped, totally secret, even one-of-a-kind? They can do that, too.

With the ability to source colored gems, diamonds, designer brands, and specialty items from around the world, independent jewelers can and will go the extra mile. Many also staff talented bench jewelers and designers, who will take your dreams and translate them into beautifully crafted reality. Repairs big and small, sizings up or down, a new chain or watch strap: these gals and guys have seen and done it all, and they’ll happily do it for you.

An educated and dedicated team will be present for your most precious life events — you can’t be just a number when they know you by name! Independent jewelers love to share their knowledge, and they know that an educated consumer is a confident and happy client.

So the next time you find yourself in need of a gift, planning a special life celebration, or feel the desire for a beautiful, wearable work of art in your life, remember your neighbors. They’re ready to serve you, and they’re right around the corner — where they’ve always been.

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!