I’m just recovering from the three-day whirlwind that is MJSA Expo New York, the annual trade show for jewelry makers and designers. It was a joy to see so many of you there, as well as the suppliers exhibiting various tools, equipment, and services, like my friends at Rio Grande! It’s hard to capture in a single blog post what makes Expo so very special, but I’m going to try! As director of public affairs for MJSA, I handle a lot of the publicity and reporting on the show, and it was really fun to spend three days posting to social networks about all that was going on.

So here are my top nine reasons why Expo was such fun:

Reason 9: Expo Is a “Living Classroom”

As one attendee, goldsmith Wayne Werner of Havre de Grace, Maryland, said, “Expo represents the meeting of contemporary technology and creativity. It’s a good place to gain insights on new techniques.”

Wow, I loved that living classroom image! Wayne told me he felt that way on the show floor as well as during the seminars MJSA offered – because of all the new things he saw! Here’s a packed room watching jewelry maker Joel McFadden of JMD Jewelry show various finishing and polishing techniques.

 

Reason 8: Small- to Medium-Sized Shops Are Joining Larger Manufacturers in Investing in New Technology!  

MJSA Expo is our biggest equipment-based show, and I know that a lot of manufacturers attend,” said Patrick Sage, who is product manager for equipment and tools at Rio Grande. But the big manufacturers were not the only ones buying this year. Many small-to medium-sized shops were there, too. It’s nice to see that these smaller jewelry makers are in a place that they can spend some money on good products to move their businesses forward. Here’s a shot at Rio’s Expo booth.

 

Reason 7: It Was a “Morale Boost for the Industry”

I heard this terrific insight from another attendee. Expo New York was bubbling with activity, with a 10 percent increase in both exhibitors AND attendees! Those extra crowds made folks feel like the Great Recession was finally receding. “Our booth was busy from start to finish—in fact, it was so unexpectedly busy that we ran out of promotional materials mid-day on Sunday!” said Zsombor Antal of Best Cast in River Edge, New Jersey, which offers CAD/CAM and casting subcontracting services to the increasing number of jewelers who want to offer customizing options to their clients.

 


Reason 6:  Many New Faces Were There!

Nothing gives a show energy more than seeing the next generation of jewelry makers and designers getting all excited about our great industry. Gem dealers Simon and Laurie Watt of Mayer & Watt in Maysville, Kentucky, were delighted with this aspect of Expo. “It’s a great thing to see so many young people joining the business,” said Laurie, with Simon noting that although they may not be making larger purchases now, “we’re building relationships for the future.”  Here’s MJSA Journal Editor in Chief Tina Snyder presenting a Future of Design MJSA Vision Award to Ariel Alexandrou of University of Kansas for her terrific Pods ring. Read more about Ariel Alexandrou’s ring.

 

Reason 5:  Familiar Faces Were There, Too!

MJSA was honored to also welcome a number of distinguished and well-known jewelry makers and designers to speak at Expo, during our seminar program. Here are designers Alex Woo and Robin Haley, along with Killian Rieder, the creator of Chamilia Beads; and Gloria Maccaroni from Gurhan, on one panel!

One of their best tips? If you’re selling wholesale, send a “look box” to key retailers with a selection of your line –so they can “look and feel” –outside of a pressure-filled trade show situation.

 

 

Reason 4: Awesome Bench Demonstrations!

MJSA at the Bench Live presented two sessions with Ann Cahoon of Flying Marquis Studio revealing tips from the forthcoming MJSA Press book, Secret Shop Weapons.

I was particularly struck by Ann’s advice on safety for jewelers at the bench—among her “secret shop weapons” are regulation safety glasses for her work, and an apron with an automatic break-away release function, in case she should get part of her apron string caught up in one of her machines!

 

Reason 3: Great Advice on Building a Better Website!

Rio Grande’s own Eugene Brill, who works so hard on the Rio website as marketing manager, graciously agreed to moderate a panel on which he and several other experts, demonstrated what makes a good website tick.

Best advice? Visitors to a website go to top left of site first, so make sure your site tells: Who You Are, What You Do, and Your Contact info!  Also, make sure the buttons on your site convey “calls to action” (like “Buy This”)– especially if you are selling to consumers. Here are panel-members Eugene Brill, Michael Schechter from Honora, and Kathy Maurella from Greenwich Jewelers looking up at an audience member’s website, which they’re critiquing live with an on-screen Internet connection.

 

Reason 2: The LIVE Finale of the Future of Design Contest!

The Future of Design Contest was developed by the Jeweler’s Resource Bureau and StrategyWerx. The contest allowed three finalists to deliver 10-minute presentations before a live Expo audience and the Future of Design judges, after which they fielded questions from both groups.

The Future of Design, which will be an annual contest, evaluates jewelry designers’ all-important business strategy skills—as well as their design talent. Designer Bree Richey was voted the winner and received a prize package of business services and promotional opportunities worth $250,000. Here’s Bree with her business manager AND proud mother, Marlene Richey.

And finally, the number one reason why MJSA Expo was fun:

We Are an Industry that Gives Back—Especially to Our Veterans.

On Monday evening at the MJSA Board of Directors Cocktail Reception, we applauded the official launch of the Jewelers for Veterans Foundation, with a mission and plans to help locate jobs in the industry for returning veterans. To learn more about this wonderful new group, click through to its new website: Jewelers for Veterans and contact the group if you have ideas for jobs. Pictured here are the board members of Jewelers for Veterans, many of whom represent companies that have already pledged job support.

So that’s it – my Expo favorites list! Were any of you there? If so, let me know what you like best—or what MJSA could do better! I’m here to listen. Or you can visit the MJSA website, to learn more or leave comments!