A (Good) Week in the Life

It’s been a funny week, unpredictable, but pleasantly so.

Last Tuesday, out of the blue, my old friend Jaimin called me up to say he was in L.A. for a meeting. He and his business partner, Salil Shah, of New York City–based Shah Luxury, had one night in town and drove all the way from LAX to Hollywood to tell me, over pizza, about their new diamond jewelry collection, which is making its debut next month at LUXURY in Las Vegas. See below for a sneak peek.

Carizza is the new high-end bridal line from Shah Luxury making its debut in the Elite Enclave section of the LUXURY show. Photo courtesy of Shah Luxury

On Wednesday, as I was driving home from Bikram yoga, my hair wet from the shower and face beet red from the heat, I got a text from Greg Simonian, president of Westime, one of L.A.’s best and biggest watch retailers. He and I had been in touch earlier that day so I knew that Maximilian Büsser, founder of the boutique Swiss brand MB&F, was in town for a collector event. (As it turns out, Max had been in Jakarta and decided to make a pit stop in L.A., as one does!)

“You can come to the dinner at BOA,” said Greg’s text. “It’s in 30 minutes, but you can show up late.”

I needed no arm-twisting. (BOA Steakhouse may be one of West Hollywood’s most seen-and-be-seen restaurants, but it does an amazing New York Strip). “Sure!” I replied—and rushed home to get ready. When I finally arrived at the restaurant 30 minutes late, I was the only non-employee and non-collector at the table. For a moment, I reveled in my good fortune—then I proceeded to eat myself into oblivion.

In between bites, I could see from my perch at the head of the table that all eyes were on Max as he spoke about the genesis of his avant-garde brand and the philosophical and personal journey he’d taken to make his risky idea a reality. The guys at the table (only a couple brought wives) were rapt—and as the retailer who’d put the event together, Greg, I surmised, would be the beneficiary of their interest.

They sat me at the head of the table!

The night offered me a privileged glimpse into the ways in which the nation’s most sophisticated retailers market their wares. The key takeaways: The event was intimate, stylish, and utterly authentic. (What better way to woo collectors than by introducing them to the creator of the pieces they covet in a setting marked by delicious food and drink?)

The following morning, I climbed into my car and drove three hours south to the majestic city of San Diego, so I could crash the American Gem Society Conclave at the historic Hotel del Coronado (much like the ghosts that are said to haunt the place—just ask Aashish Shah, director of membership at AGS, and his colleague Melissa, both of whom had some spooky run-ins).

In spite of the convivial atmosphere at Conclave (truly one of the best events on the jewelry calendar), I had serious business to attend to: Five colleagues and I—JCK publisher Mark Smelzer, JCK Events Group vice president Yancy Weinrich, Luxury Privé event director Desiree Hanson, industry spokeswoman Diane Warga-Arias, and consultant/manufacturer/WJAer Ann Arnold—holed ourselves up in Des’ room to sift through dozens of applications for the Luxury Retailer of the Year Award, a new competition culminating at next month’s LUXURY show. Our task was to whittle the applicants down to five finalists, which we did after a couple hours of intense debate (the white wine helped simmer things down a bit).

A room with a view of the historic (and haunted) Hotel del Coronado

The finalists we selected will be revealed during the opening breakfast keynote at LUXURY, on Tuesday, May 27, when their stories will be shared with the community. Throughout the week, retailers will be encouraged to vote for the store that best exemplifies this year’s theme, “Redefining Fine Jewelry Through Innovation.” (The idea is to spotlight stores successfully bridging the gap between high-end fine and fashion jewelry.)

(Voting will take place Tuesday, May 27, and Wednesday, May 28, and the winner will be announced on Thursday, May 29, during the Retailer Breakfast. You don’t want to miss it!)

By the time I got home on Friday afternoon, I had just enough energy to go out for Lebanese food in Hollywood’s Little Armenia neighborhood. But I promptly conked out after dinner. It had been a good week—everywhere I turned, people seemed buoyant and optimistic, with all signs suggesting that business during jewelry market week in Vegas will be vibrant and healthy—but I was done with surprises (at least for the moment!).