The 2017 MJSA Expo may have been cut short by one day, thanks to a looming blizzard, but that didn’t stop the show’s attendees from getting the full "Expo experience."
The industry’s longest-running show dedicated to professional jewelry making and design, MJSA Expo had been scheduled to run for three days starting on Sunday, March 12, at the Javits Center in New York City. But a forecast of up to two feet of snow for Tuesday eventually forced Gov. Andrea Cuomo to declare a state of emergency, effectively ending the show after two days.
But buyers made the most of that shortened time: They talked at length with leading trade suppliers and contractors, packed the expert seminar sessions, and inspected and tested everything from 3-D printers and diamond testers (suitable even for synthetics) to trending gems and sustainable materials. The result?
"The Expo was truly inspiring," sums up one buyer, Meg Carter, a jewelry designer from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She attended the show with her husband, Jon, in the hope of finding "ways to improve our business." The Expo, she says, "gave us the opportunity to see the latest technology and tools to be able to plan for the future." Thanks to what they learned at the show, they’ve begun rearranging their studio to accommodate more tools and equipment that will lead to efficiencies.
"It also inspired us to evaluate our entire jewelry line... There’s no doubt that attending has changed our business and future for the better," she adds.
Presented annually by MJSA, the U.S. trade association dedicated to professional excellence in jewelry making and design, the Expo typically draws a range of buyers—from executives and engineers at high-profile manufacturers (such as Tiffany & Company and David Yurman) to designers at the beginning of their careers. Expo’s continued co-location with the JA New York and LUEUR jewelry shows has only expanded that audience to include more retailers and custom jewelers who offer design, fabrication, and repair services.
Those buyers find what has been described as a "playground" for anyone involved in making jewelry, with plenty of opportunities to test and handle the tools, equipment, and supplies on display. Trista E. Bonnett, the owner of Vryth Designs in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is emblematic of many attendees: She attended Expo to look for casting and 3-D printing machines, but she first wanted "to play with them to see if it’s something I want to invest in." MJSA Expo enabled her to do just that.
To help expand such opportunities for "play," this year’s show introduced a Tool Testing Station that featured hand and tabletop tools from various exhibitors. As the name implies, attendees could handle each tool and put it through its paces. ("I’m like a kid in a toy store," said one attendee as he moved throughout the station.) Oklahoma City–based Pepe Tools was among the exhibitors that participated, and company representative David Aizenman describes the station as one of the show’s "most exciting changes this year."
"I came to check on the Tool Testing Station every two to three hours," he says. "No matter what time I came to look, there were users enjoying our products." Aizenman adds that Pepe had an "outstanding show," and credits the testing station will adding to its sales.
MJSA Expo also featured a full program of seminars, which kicked off on Sunday with a panel discussion about recent developments in lab-grown diamonds. Moderated by Andrea Hill, owner of Chicago-based Hill Management Group, the session focused on the sales and marketing opportunities offered by synthetics, as well as industry concerns about disclosure and consumer trust as lab-grown stones become increasingly difficult to identify. The panelists included David Bouffard, vice president of corporate affairs at Akron, Ohio–based Signet Jewelers; Cecilia Gardner, former president of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee; Ronnie Vanderlinden, president of the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association of America; Dr. Wuyi Wang, director of research and development for the Gemological Institute of America; and Don Palmieri, president of Gem Certification & Assurance Lab Inc. and chairman of Gemprint Corp., both in New York City.
Hill also moderated "Doing Good: Sourcing Metals and Gemstones Responsibly," which focused on the "why" and "how" of sustainable jewelry design and manufacturing, a topic that continues to gain interest throughout the industry.
"I used to buy stones based on cost, but that’s no longer the case; knowing where my materials come from is more important to me," says Bonnett, who sat in on the session and says the seminar program as among the most "interesting and inspiring parts" of Expo. The panel featured Toby Pomeroy, a Corvallis, Oregon–based designer who specializes in sustainable fine jewelry; Mark Hanna, chief marketing officer of the Berkshire Hathaway–owned Richline Group; Peter Calvert, executive director of Ethical Metalsmiths; and Larry Bock, sales manager of Hoover and Strong in North Chesterfield, Virginia.
Other educational sessions included:
• "Don’t Blink: The Latest Best Practices for Online Marketing," in which Hill, Matthew Perosi of the Sapphire Collaborative in Totowa, New Jersey, and Lake Giles of Thinkspace Jeweler in Portland, Oregon, addressed some of the current practices for generating (and organizing) sales leads online.
• "Casting Crisp 3-D Printed Patterns," in which metalsmith/designer Jim Binnion of James Binnion Metal Arts in Bellingham, Washington, detailed a process to fully harden 3-D printed models made of acrylic photopolymers.
• "Personal Best: Achieving Excellence in Custom Design," in which Lee Krombholz of Krombholz Jewelers in Cincinnati and Klaus Kutter of A Jour Jewelry in Bristol, Rhode Island, discussed everything from communicating with clients to differentiating custom jewelers from other retailers. Both Krombholz and Kutter are members of MJSA’s newly formed Council of Custom Jewelers, and as part of their presentation they described the council’s recommendations for defining "custom design" to customers.
• MJSA’s signature At the Bench Live, with Joel McFadden of Joel McFadden Designs in Red Bank, New Jersey, demonstrating finishing tricks and techniques to a standing-room only crowd.
The Expo also introduced this year a "Demo Corner," in which Perosi and Sapphire Collaborative co-owner George Blair demonstrated digital photography techniques, and metalsmith Wayne Werner demonstrated techniques for flush setting, satin finishing, and collecting precious metal scrap and dust.
Although the show ended a bit early, it will live on at MJSAExpo.org, where an MJSA Expo Look Book features premier products and services from many of this year’s exhibitors.
The 2018 Expo has been scheduled for March 11-13 at the Javits Center. For updates, go to MJSAExpo.org, or call 1-800-444-MJSA (6572).