Russell Simmons to Keynote JCK Las Vegas

JCK Las Vegas 2008 will kick off May 30 at 8:30 a.m. with a keynote presentation from hip hop mogul and philanthropist Russell Simmons.

USA Today recently named Russell Simmons one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years,” calling him a hip-hop pioneer for his groundbreaking vision that has influenced music, fashion, finance, television, and film, as well as the face of modern philanthropy.

Simmons, along with Kimora Lee Simmons and Scott H. Rauch, founded the Simmons Jewelry Co. in 2004, and in 2006 went to South Africa and Botswana to see how diamonds were positively affecting the lives of Africans. He then created the non-profit organization, Diamond Empowerment Fund (D.E.F.), to help Africa, sensitize the diamond industry to the plight of Africans and to raise funds for educational empowerment initiatives in African nations where diamonds are a natural resource. In an effort to support D.E.F.’s mission, Simmons Jewelry Co. created the Green Initiative Collection of jewelry and its “Green Bracelet”—which is giving back to Africa.

“We have a phenomenal line up of keynotes speakers, and are thrilled to welcome Russell Simmons to JCK,” said Dave Bonaparte, group vice president, JCK Events. “We know that JCK attendees look forward to the keynote presentations, and we know that Russell Simmons will provide a great start to the show followed by industry gurus Martin Rapaport, Peggy Jo Donahue, and Shane Decker who will each provide the retailers with a great insight into the marketplace.”

On May 31, Jewelers of America will host an Executive Roundtable Discussion: “Retailer-Supplier Relationships: Changing Expectations,” that will start at 8:30 a.m. Panelists will include Michael Rae, chief executive officer, Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices and John Hall, Rio Tinto Diamonds. The moderator will be Peggy Jo Donahue, JA director of Public Affairs. In today’s marketplace, retailers expect suppliers to achieve higher ethical, social, and environmental standards because of issues like conflict diamonds, “dirty gold” and “blood rubies.” Panelists, which include suppliers and retailers, will discuss how the growing responsible practices movement in the jewelry industry is affecting retailer-supplier relationships. Panelists will also discuss potential risks and benefits.

During an afternoon luncheon keynote address May 31, Shane Decker of Ex-SELL-Ence will present “Where Have All the Stores Gone?” Decker will discuss the reality of jewelry retail storefronts closing their doors today. He will coach retailers how to make changes in the way they do business to prevent this from happening to them.

On June 2 at 8:00 a.m., Martin Rapaport will present the “State of the Diamond Industry.” Rapaport will provide a fresh, energetic and provocative insight  on global trends from sourcing to marketing to growing a business. This breakfast keynote will be followed by the Bankers Conference and Fair Trade Jewelry Conference. All events are open to all show participants on a first come first serve basis.

“This year’s annual Rapaport Breakfast and Conference is especially important as the diamond and jewelry industry confronts volatile market conditions and the globalization of demand,” said Martin Rapaport. “We will share valuable information and analysis that will help firms compete and prosper. We are pleased to present our third annual Fair Trade Jewelry Conference which will promote industry action that will improve the lives of millions of artisanal diggers, who are among the poorest people in the world.”

Prior to the opening keynote presentation, JCK Las Vegas event will kick off with a two day extensive conference program on May 28 and May 29 at The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. The conference program will offer over 35 complimentary educational conference sessions presented by some of the industry’s most revered experts. The education program will feature eight tracks covering Hot Topics and Trends; JCK Style: Where Fashion Meets Jewelry; Business; Diamonds; Gemstones and Pearls; eBusiness; Jewelers Notebook: Practical Advice for Jewelers; and J-Biz: Jewelers of America Industry Insights.