#thisispearl Nov. 2021 - Page 13

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Strong First Impressions of the Hard Rock Summit

If first impressions are everything, then the inaugural Hard Rock Summit can be considered a show with great promise. The premiere event, which took place in Denver, Colo., Sept. 16–21, featured two venues—Evolution for minerals and fossils at the Colorado Convention Center, and Sparkle & Joy for fine gemstones and jewelry at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. Upwards of 200 vendors were present across both affairs, which consumers (save for an American Gem Trade Association or AGTA section at Sparkle & Joy) and trade could attend.

Evolution was rich in vendors of gem specimens. A person walking around in a dinosaur suit added some whimsy for kids, while special exhibits, like the famous rhodochrosite specimens—the Alma Queen, the Alma King, and the Alma Rose—were a boon for rockhounds. The rhodochrosites were on view together for the first time thanks to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, the Rice Northwest Rock and Mineral Museum, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, which permitted their simultaneous display. Panel discussions, too—including several on different origins of fluorite—were abundant.

At Sparkle & Joy, two sections of the show ensured that consumers could walk freely to browse and shop while AGTA dealers looking for trade-only business were separated in their own ballroom. Traffic was light, but that didn’t deflate the spirits of dealers, virtually all of whom saw a future for the show. Why? First, the timing: it’s months apart from AGTA GemFair Tucson and the traditional, non-pandemic calendar dates of Las Vegas trade shows. Second, the location: Denver is a well-known destination for the Denver Gem & Mineral Show, which took place in the convention center alongside Evolution. Finally, there’s the ongoing difficulty of doing business in Hong Kong, still reeling from Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Exhibitors like Manos Phoundoulakis of Gems of Note and the jewelry ambassador for the show brought one-of-a-kind jewels like the Colombian Dream, a no-oil emerald exceeding 31 carats, and low expectations. Still, his firm was busy. “We were hoping to connect with some new retailers and locate rare items for clients,”

he says. Plus, he’s confident that some high-end gem specimen shoppers also collect rare jewels. “There can be cross pollination,” he adds.

Expectations were exceeded for Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House, whose jewelry designer clientele snapped up geometric cuts of ethically sourced sapphires and other stones. “This show has a good possibility to grow,” he explains.

Jeremy Chalchinsky of ColorSource Gems agrees, noting that while traffic was slow, he’ll exhibit again. It’s a similar story for Matthew Hopkins of Hopkins Opal and John Bradshaw and Kimberly Collins of the eponymous gem firms. Says Collins, “There are many people who don’t go to the Las Vegas shows, so this one could be a good fall fill-in event.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Farnsworth of Parlé Gems picked up five new accounts. “Two were good stores that were local,” he observes.

Summit co-founder Christopher Keilmann, CEO of Munich–based Gemworld, with more than 300 international exhibitors and 30,000 visitors—consumers and trade—has ample experience with these sorts of events.

“We need a new kind of trust with end consumers to explain how valuable and rare gems and jewelry are,” he said in a private interview at the show. “We do not have a mass-made product, so we need to explain that more and more to consumers. Big jewelry manufacturers don’t use fairs anymore to promote, they use their own communication channels to stay in touch with consumers directly. Retailers and smaller dealers need to push back on manufacturers building their own brand awareness by getting together and sharing budgets as promoters. We need to be an event, not just a sales platform. People want to be inspired.”

And were it not for travel bans from some countries to the U.S., the number of exhibitors would have been even greater—as much as 40%. Many German stone dealers were among the missing; Hard Rock management rolled over their booth investments to 2022.

Dates for next year are Sept. 8–11 at the Colorado Convention Center. They do not conflict with the fall Jewellery & Gem World Hong Kong, which is slated to take place Sept. 14–18, 2022.