JCK magazine is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year! To commemorate that milestone, we’re talking to 150 veteran jewelry professionals in 2019 for a feature series meant to distill the voices of some of the industry’s most enduring and successful professionals.
We can’t print every interview in its entirety in the magazine—so we’ve been posting full interviews here on JCKonline.com every Thursday.
This week we hear from Barbara Palumbo, industry writer, podcaster, and founder of the What’s on Her Wrist blog and Instagram feed.
JCK: How long have you been in the jewelry industry, and how has it changed since you joined?
Barbara Palumbo: Well, I have technically been a full-time member of the jewelry industry in some form or another for half of my life. I started 23 years ago as a runner for Steven Singer Jewelers on Philadelphia’s famed Jewelers’ Row—and I just celebrated my 46th birthday. Writing that just now actually put a lump in my throat. Half my life. I’ve been here for half my life. That sounds crazy saying it out loud.
In terms of the industry changing, obviously when I started there was no such thing as buying diamonds or jewelry on the internet. In fact, I remember the exact moment—which happened about three years after I started—that a customer came in holding a GIA certified diamond that they’d bought on BlueNile.com.
The customer wanted to have it verified by a gemologist to guarantee that the diamond matched what he purchased online, and when I tell you it was blowing everyone’s mind in the store, I mean it.
When the guy left after he was told that it checked out, we kind of all stood around looking at one another saying, “Who on earth would spend that kind of money on a diamond without seeing it first? That’s insane!” Little did we know Blue Nile would eventually become what it did, although it certainly seems like the tide is turning again and that consumers are putting their faith back into reputable retailers. But it also seems like diamonds are becoming less sought after for engagement rings, so that’s definitely another change to which I have a front row seat.
What’s your experience with JCK magazine?
Well, funny you should ask! I think I’ll go back to my first ever experience with JCK magazine, which was not as a reader, but rather as someone who was hired to model for images they used in their press kit and on mailers back in the year 2000.
This is not a lie. I’d done modeling in my late teens and early twenties, and the photographer who was doing the shoot knew me because she had taken my picture on occasion. So, she asked if I’d be interested in doing it, since I also knew about jewelry. At the time, JCK was headquartered in King of Prussia, Pa.—about a 30-minute drive outside of Philly—which made it easy for their team and me to work together.
But it was that experience that lead me to be an avid reader of the publication and eventually to my becoming friendly with many of the magazine’s editors and sales associates. And, thankfully, I’m still friends with some of those people today.
What has JCK magazine meant to you?
It’s meant different things to me over the years, because I’ve worked in so many different roles in this industry over the years. When I was a sales rep on the road lugging $2 million in jewelry across the country, I’d seek out articles about crimes or heists. When I was a buyer for a successful retail store, I’d read the trend pieces. When I was an executive with an internet company, I’d look for the tech-related articles, but I think that’s the beauty of the magazine. No matter what a person does in the industry, there is something for them to read. And knowing that it started all those years ago in my home city means a lot, too. JCK may be headquartered in New York City now, but for me, it will always be Philly at heart.
What was your first impression of JCK magazine, and how has it changed over the years?
I think the first thing that stood out for me with regard to the magazine was the cover. That’s what everyone sees first, and I don’t ever remember a JCK cover not looking colorful and current. Obviously, the size of the book has changed over the years, both in diameter and in width (print ad sales are most certainly harder to come by these days), and, of course, editors and contributors come and go, but overall, the soul of the publication has remained, and that’s likely why it’s still around.
As a writer, I understand fully what it means when something has soul. When I read articles by anyone in this industry that are little more than glorified press releases telling me nothing special, I cringe. I’ve had editors over the years who wrote that way, and ones who tried to make me write that way, too. But I’d refuse, because while a heart provides the body with life, it’s the soul that provides it with meaning. And I’m really happy to see that, even after 150 years, JCK still has its soul.
Top: Barbara Palumbo (photo courtesy of Barbara Palumbo)
Catch up on all of JCK‘s 150th interviews:
Roger Dery, gem cutter and cofounder of Gem Legacy
Joanne Teichman, managing director of Ylang 23
Todd Reed, founder and designer of Todd Reed
Jonathan Goldman, CEO of Frederick Goldman
Brian Gavin, diamond cutter and diamond jewelry retailer
Cecilia Gardner, former president and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee and general counsel and director of the United States Kimberley Process Authority
Sarin Bachmann, event vice president of the JCK, Luxury, and Swiss Watch shows for Reed Jewelry Group
Dave Bonaparte, president and CEO of Jewelers of America
Ettagale Blauer, former JCK New York editor
Lee Siegelson, rare and collectible jewelry dealer and expert
Tamara and Amir Goldfiner, cofounders of Rahaminov Diamonds
Dallas Prince, founder of Dallas Prince Designs
Esther Fortunoff, president of Fortunoff Fine Jewelry
Terry Burman, former Signet chairman
Brandee Dallow, president and founder of Fine Girl Luxury Brand Building & Communications
Tom Chatham, CEO of Chatham Created Gems & Diamonds
Tom Heyman, partner, Oscar Heyman & Brothers
Duvall O’Steen, jewelry publicist, Luxury Brand Group
Pat Henneberry, founder and president of the Jewelry Coach
Marty Hurwitz, CEO of MVI Marketing
Hank B. Siegel, president of Hamilton Jewelers
Erica Courtney, jewelry designer
Robert Weldon, director of GIA’s Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center
Stuart Robertson, vice president of Gemworld
Bill Furman, longtime JCK magazine ad sales manager
Kathryn Kimmel, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of GIA
Katie Kinsella Murphy, owner of Kinney + Kinsella
Frank Dallahan, publisher, The Retailer Jeweler
Jen Cullen Williams, managing director of Luxury Brand Group
Sally Morrison, chief marketing officer of Lightbox
Susan M. Jacques, president and CEO of GIA
Marie Helene Morrow, president of Reinhold Jewelers
Jenny Luker, U.S. president of Platinum Guild International
Beth Gerstein, co-CEO of Brilliant Earth
Russell Shor, GIA senior industry analyst
Walter McTeigue, cofounder of McTeigue & McClelland
Caryl Capeci, president of Hearts On Fire
Eddie LeVian, CEO of Le Vian
Peggy Jo Donahue, freelance writer and former JCK editor-in-chief
Rebecca Moskal, jewelry marketing veteran
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