Some 700 retailers and wholesalers descended on the Washington, D.C., area for the American Gem Society’s 2016 Conclave—what the group’s executive director Ruth Batson calls “the largest turnout we have seen in a decade.”
“There was a lot of energy,” she says of the annual education and networking event. “The spirit was very positive. I think everyone was very optimistic, and wanting to learn as much as they could about the new business landscape.”
Given the proximity to the nation’s capital as well as the election year, there was a heavy political bent to this year’s proceedings, held April 13–16 at the Hyatt Arlington in Arlington, Va. The kickoff speaker, who received raves for his plainspoken presentation, was former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.
Powell lamented the current divisive environment in Washington, but advised attendees: “Don’t expect Superman or Superwoman to be inaugurated in January 2017. What we have to rely on is the super people of America—you, me, others around the country. Because it’s only the super people of America that will fix some of the structural problems that we have.”
He also shared some personal stories, reminiscing about the simple gold band he bought his wife. “Sorry guys, you didn’t get anything out of me that time,” he joked.
The retired four-star general called leadership “the ability to satisfy each other’s needs.” Added Powell: “It’s saying hello to every human being in your organization. If you reach out to them, it’s empowering them by taking care of them.”
Keynote speaker Shawn Achor, a proponent of positive thinking, spoke about happiness, which he called “the joy you feel moving toward your potential.
“Happiness is an individual choice,” he said. “What we have found scientifically is that happiness can actually be a choice even when life is very difficult. Optimism is a daily spiritual practice, and when we do it, we can transform this world.”
This Conclave marked a milestone: Batson is stepping down as executive director in 2017. This was her last Conclave as AGS’ sole head. Batson received the Robert M. Shipley Award, the group’s highest award, at the annual luncheon. Batson said she was humbled to receive an award named after the AGS founder: “I am surrounded by his words and his vision.”
“Ruth lives and breathes the American Gem Society,” said Shipley Award committee chairman Ronnie Cox. “She has worked hard to serve its members and to fulfill the society’s mission of consumer protection, business ethics, and ongoing gemological education.”
At the presentation, Batson became emotional when she received the pin worn by Sallie Morton, the first female Shipley Award winner.
Also at Conclave, AGS named Scott Berg, market president of Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry in Baton Rouge, La., president of its board of directors. John Carter, CEO of Jack Lewis Jewelers in Bloomington, Ill., was voted president-elect.
The next Conclave will be April 5–8 in Los Angeles.
And the Winners Are…
Also honored at this year’s American Gem Society Conclave in Washington, D.C.:
John J. Kennedy, Ives, Stanley Jewelers Gemologist’s Laura Stanley, and Bartholomew
• Marc Nanasi received the Young Titleholder Award for his exemplary service to the Young Titleholder Committee and to AGS.
• Marc Altman received the Sallie Morton Award for his extraordinary contributions to the AGS Guilds.
• The St. Louis Guild received the Guild of the Year Award.
• FBI special agents Jay Bartholomew and Eric Ives received the John J. Kennedy Award for law enforcement professionals who go above and beyond to help the jewelry industry. —RB
Top: Conclave kickoff speaker Colin Powell; inset: a scene from the President’s Party
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