As I embarked on my journey from Amsterdam to Las Vegas on May 31, 2023, I couldn't help but feel the excitement building up. The anticipation of attending the JCK Las Vegas, North America's most significant and brightest jewelry show, was palpable. Little did I know that this experience would be transformative, filled with valuable lessons and unforgettable moments.
Highlighting the lessons learned
Upon arriving in Las Vegas, the vibrant city immediately overwhelmed me, its towering buildings and dazzling lights creating an awe-inspiring atmosphere. However, navigating this sprawling metropolis soon revealed the challenge of gauging distances and the amount of walking required. Thankfully, I had the pleasure of staying at the Palazzo, conveniently located in the same building as the JCK show, the Venetian. The spaciousness of my hotel room left a lasting impression, despite the less-than-ideal view of a tower bearing the name of a former US president. Nevertheless, its architectural beauty couldn't be denied.
Stepping out of my hotel room on June 1 with my broken foot supported by a walker (because why not stand out?), I descended in the elevator, a rush of adrenaline and a touch of queasiness accompanying the rapid descent of 38 floors. Stepping into the bustling world of sensory overload, I passed by slot machines, lively music, and individuals trying their luck at the gambling tables. Venturing further, I caught glimpses of enticing restaurants, juice bars, and even an antique Venetian gondola. And then, on my left, the Venetian Expo came into view, a beacon of excitement.
Finding my way to the Press Room, my starting point for any show, I collected my badge and greeted my peers and the PR team of Jen Cullen Williams. Little did I know what to expect, as it was my first time in Vegas and at this show. My initial day was dedicated to exploring LUXURY, the premier destination offering a more opulent experience.
Stepping into the realm of the American high-end jewelry world, the first lesson unfolded before my eyes: diamonds. Countless booths dazzled with diamond jewelry, showcasing vast collections adorned with an abundance of these precious stones. As a European, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of diamond-based jewelry. However, this was my first impression, and I knew my perception would evolve.
The second lesson quickly followed as I approached a booth. Even before reaching it, the attentive individuals manning the booth would already notice me, ready to engage in the conversation when I drew near. Their open friendliness, genuine interest, and warm smiles made me feel welcomed and excited. "Let the show begin!" I thought, introducing myself as a jewelry blogger and writer.
To my surprise, rather than showing disappointment at my non-buyer status, they expressed enthusiasm that a blogger/writer was interested in their jewelry. It was a delightful revelation highlighting the American approach to engagement and marketing. In Europe, we could learn a great deal from this showmanship, where every passerby is an opportunity for connection and potential word-of-mouth marketing. I considered this my third lesson :-)
I was honored to attend the evening Diamonds Do Good award celebrations, courtesy of LeVian. This event showcased the natural diamond industry's commendable efforts in positively impacting people and the planet.
Notably, De Beers received THE GOOD AWARD, recognizing their commitment to creating lasting positive change in the communities where natural diamonds are found. Other notable recipients included Rosy Blue, awarded the VISIONARY AWARD for incorporating social, environmental, economic, and ethical factors into their strategic decision-making. Messika received the NEXT GEN AWARD, and Lorraine West was honored with the INSPIRATION AWARD for her remarkable talent, perseverance, and achievements in the diamond and jewelry industry.
Witnessing these inspiring endeavors reaffirmed my belief in the jewelry world's capacity to make a difference.
While appreciating the awards, my mind couldn't help but wander, yearning to witness firsthand the projects supported by De Beers. I was intrigued by their collaboration with National Geographic to protect the Okavango Delta and their contribution of two million dollars to the Kelp Blue organization. It sparked a desire to visit these projects with my veterinarian husband and experience the positive impact on the natural environment and its inhabitants. It also sparked reflection on the role of companies in effecting change while maintaining profitability, as the line between genuine commitment and greenwashing can sometimes blur. Curiosity drove me to approach the De Beers booth, inviting them to contact me and further discuss their initiatives.
Day 2, June 2, marked the opening of JCK and Gem, propelling me into a world of grandeur and awe. Coming from a small nation like the Netherlands, I couldn't help but be mesmerized by the sheer size of the American market. The vibrant music at the entrance set the stage for a joyous atmosphere as staff members danced, fueling the visitors' excitement.
As I entered the showgrounds, I was greeted by smiles, bustling booths showcasing their merchandise, and an overall atmosphere of enthusiasm. My day was filled with productive meetings facilitated by the power of LinkedIn, enabling me to connect with industry professionals and explore potential collaborations.
I also had the pleasure of attending talks by esteemed experts, witnessing firsthand the genuine interest and enthusiasm of both visitors and exhibitors. These engaging discussions were a testament to the value of knowledge-sharing and the eagerness of participants to expand their understanding of the industry.
A delightful press dinner awaited in the evening, hosted at Villa Azur within the same hotel. Indulging in delectable cuisine, I savored the opportunity to connect with fellow professionals and deepen the bonds forged during this remarkable event.
On Day 3, I decided to explore the competing show, COUTURE, held at the Wynn Hotel. Although the rationale behind hosting two simultaneous shows remained unknown to me, the twenty-minute walk in the scorching Vegas heat posed challenges for buyers and journalists alike.
Nonetheless, I remained committed to fully immersing myself in the JCK and Luxury experience, dedicating another day to discovery, observation, and fruitful meetings. In the evening, a small group of wonderful women and I embarked on an enchanting adventure to Treasure Island's Cirque de Soleil show. The magical performance left me in awe, with goosebumps and a renewed appreciation for the power of entertainment.
Day 4 of the JCK jewelry show brought me to the highly anticipated Rapaport breakfast. As I received the invitation, I couldn't help but recall the recent Netflix show NOTHING LASTS FOREVER featuring this renowned event.
Expecting a discussion centered on lab-grown diamonds versus natural diamonds, I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Rapaport's opening remarks. He expressed his disagreement with lab-grown diamonds while respecting the people behind them, emphasizing that it's a matter of business and not personal.
The breakfast itself was a captivating experience. The room was packed with fully engaged attendees in Mr. Rapaport's presentation. As someone who views the jewelry industry as a whole, without a specific preference for diamonds, it struck me as peculiar to hear people equate diamonds with jewelry. While diamonds are beloved gemstones, there is equal beauty in various other gemstones out there. Mr. Rapaport's thought-provoking question formed the crux of the discussion: How can diamonds support independent jewelry retailers?
Aleah Arundale from Jewelers Helping Jewelers, David Kelly from the Natural Diamond Council, and Sam Indelicato from RDI Diamonds shared their perspectives on stage. Aleah passionately asserted that consumers rely on jewelers to guide them toward the right piece of jewelry, preferably one with a natural diamond. However, Sam Indelicato disagreed, reasoning that clients are now more informed than ever before. They conduct extensive online research, read peer reviews, and arrive at the store well-prepared, having made their decisions.
Among the panelists, I found Mr. Kelly to possess a calm and comprehensive understanding of the industry and customer preferences. Dismissing lab-grown diamond jewelry or constantly fixating on the natural diamond industry's feelings seemed futile. Lab-grown diamonds are here to stay, and moving forward and thriving independently is crucial. While listening to the panel, these were my personal reflections.
While Aleah staunchly opposed lab-grown diamonds, there was a noticeable generation gap in her views compared to those of the younger Sam Indelicato.
The diamond industry acknowledges the challenges faced by smaller jewelry retailers. However, the solutions to assist them remained unclear to me. Small businesses form the backbone of societies and the industry. They often bring forth innovative ideas and play integral roles in their local communities. Large companies, with their own unique strengths, cannot fulfill that role. Nonetheless, it's not the diamond industry's responsibility, nor do they possess the solution, to save or support small retailers, jewelry designers, or manufacturers. But I applaud the angle and Rapaport for addressing the issue.
Mr. Rapaport's closing argument was somewhat uncomfortable as he suggested that jewelers should not take themselves seriously if they sell "bling," implying that they might as well sell Swarovski if they offer lab-grown diamonds. The ongoing debate between lab-grown and natural diamonds is growing tiresome. The crucial focus should be on providing comprehensive information to clients. Let's avoid greenwashing or fraud, ensuring transparency about sourcing, origin, and ethical practices of both types of diamonds in jewelry. While this may seem simplistic, the discussion has become repetitive, so let's move on.
Nevertheless, it's important to emphasize that respect, active listening, and understanding different perspectives are paramount. Dismissing others solely due to differing opinions serves no purpose. Personally, I find immense value in learning from individuals with diverse points of view. So, despite labeling the discussion as "old," I approach it with an open mind, eager to listen, gain insights, and broaden my understanding.
Oh, what a day this fourth day has been at JCK Las Vegas! I've been roaming the floors, immersing myself in a sea of stunning gemstones, exploring vibrant brands, and engaging in delightful conversations with the incredible people who grace this show. From the show floor to my lunch with Instagram superstar Tracey Ellison (+million followers), every moment has been filled with inspiration and gratitude.
One thing that has struck me is the increasing number of talented women in our industry. I've had the pleasure of speaking with courageous female entrepreneurs who are just starting their journeys, and let me tell you, their energy and vision are simply awe-inspiring. These conversations have left me feeling inspired, as have the interactions with my fellow female peers, like the fantastic jewelry photographer from Poland, Katarzyna, and her sister Agata, an influential voice in the industry known as "Blingsis." Their unique visions, dreams, and achievements have carved out remarkable niches, and their authentic kindness shines through every encounter. And who could forget the intelligent and business-savvy Tracey, also known as "The Diamondsgirl"? Conversations with her are always joyful, filled with laughter and remarkable insights. And to all my peers, thank you for your friendship, continuous inspiration, and endless fun!
One of the most heartwarming experiences I've had at this show is the genuine recognition and appreciation from exhibitors and visitors alike. So many people approached me, expressing their compliments and even wanting to take pictures together. It's an incredible feeling to know that my blog and presence on LinkedIn have reached and resonated with so many. I was even recognized by a fellow passenger on the plane back home!
And then there was the unforgettable LeVian catwalk show, hosted by Avril Graham, the esteemed editor of Harper's Bazaar. The event exuded grace and elegance with a touch of magic. But what truly stood out was how LeVian celebrated its clients. Yes, they showcased their magnificent jewelry and brand, but they went above and beyond to celebrate their clients. As the models gracefully strutted down the catwalk, the first client adorned with their stunning jewelry made her appearance. At that moment, the atmosphere shifted, and the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. And it didn't stop there. As each client took the spotlight, the energy in the room escalated, with everyone on their feet, clapping, cheering, and genuinely celebrating. I couldn't help but join in the exhilaration, feeling the contagious joy sweep through the audience. LeVian reminded us of our industry's essence – celebrating and making our clients feel truly special. It's a lesson we should never forget.
As my last day at JCK Las Vegas approached, I ventured out with Katarzyna, Agata, and Pablo Perez to explore the enchantment of old Vegas. Reflecting on the entire experience, I am overwhelmed with gratitude, brimming with new ideas and inspiration, and cherishing a treasure trove of memories with the amazing people of the jewelry industry. If you ever have the opportunity, please attend JCK Las Vegas. Trust me; it will be an awe-inspiring adventure you will never forget.
A very big thanks to JCK for inviting me to their beautiful event. Thanks to all those who have helped my journey to this show possible and wonderful.
JCK LAS VEGAS IS BACK in 2024!