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Trade Show News
Takeaways From the 2021 AGS Conclave
A live 2021 American Gem Society (AGS) Conclave event, held in Dallas Sept. 12–14, was warmly welcomed by the industry after the 2020 Conclave was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year’s affair saw three keynote speakers, Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno; tech CEO and author Josh Linkner; and Amelia Rose Earhart, one of the youngest women to fly a single-engine plane around the world. Among the industry speakers were Sheahan Stephen of Sheahan Stephen Sapphires Inc., Tiffany Stevens and Sara Yood of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, Hayley Henning of Greenland Ruby, Roger and Ginger Dery of Roger Dery Gem Design, and yours truly, Jennifer Heebner of CPAA.
Highlights of select talks are below.
Transparency in the Jewelry Supply Chain
Stephen weighed in on the importance of funding the right sources in gem-producing countries like Sri Lanka, where he has spent a decade building relationships and trust with sapphire miners and dealers. All his efforts aim to create a more transparent supply chain where he can empower local miners to earn fair wages while responsibly sourcing sapphires. “It’s important to put funds in the right hands to build foundations in developing countries and support positive initiatives,” Stephen explains. Downsides of not doing so mean greater chances for synthetics to enter the supply chain—“As much as 80% enter at the mining level,” he adds—and a diminished ability to source stones in an ethical manner, which is of growing importance to consumers.
“There aren’t a lot of laws around sustainability and traceability,” notes Stevens. “You have to look at your vendor agreements and tighten them up.”
KISS: Keep It (Color) Simple & Sell
The Derys have vast experience with mine-to-market gemstones from East Africa, knowing that color sells well, especially when accompanied by origin stories. The Derys, including daughter Rachel Dery Merisheki, RS, often participate in in-store events to better tell the tales of who mined their gemstones and the good the stones do—including providing steady sources of income—in source countries. They encouraged attendees to ask vendors for stories to share at the retail level to better engage with clients and to let them know that the gems have a positive
Ginger and Roger Dery and Rachel Dery-Merisheki
impact in communities worldwide.
They also encouraged attendees to wear colored stones more often and have ample selections of them in store to excite customers about the category. “Many times, people are certain they don’t like something but then they see a particular color and fall in love with it,” explained Roger.
Mine to Design
Henning, meanwhile, engaged with a panel of jewelry designers—Erica Courtney, Lika Behar, and Victor Velyan, all of eponymous firms—to reinforce the power of storytelling with gems. Courtney instructs sales associates to talk to clients about her as a gem hunter, someone who frequently travels the globe to secure the choicest stones. “We’re selling stories,” she explains. In one in-store event, Courtney was able to gently direct a customer away from a $35,000 moonstone jewel to the purchase of a $150,000 spinel item. “Her son lived in the place where the spinel was sourced,” she says.
Velyan had a serendipitous sale, too, while in Greenland touring the Greenland ruby mine. “I sold a ruby ring within 15 minutes of a post on Instagram while I was in Greenland, simply because I was there,” he recollected. “People love romantic stories, and I was visiting a ruby deposit that was 2–3 billion years old.”
Opening Keynote Address with Apolo Ohno
The retired American short track speed skating champion, an eight-time Winter Olympics medalist, was present to share his insights into developing a performance mindset. Ohno talked about performing at high levels, the potential his father saw in him from a young age, his early trials and successes, and later in his sports career having to reinvent himself and his winning processes to compete. Reverse-engineering steps to success became a mantra for him to evolve, as the sport had done when it came time for him to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, his third Olympic bid.
“I started to deconstruct my entire life—my food, training, and a coach came to live with me,” he explained. “I trained insane amounts, but I had zero regrets. Every time you hear that voice inside you that says I don’t know if you can reinvent yourself, there’s another voice saying you can and will adapt. Competition is important, but the real race is internal.”