If you’re like most jewelers, a year simply isn’t a year without a trip to JCK Las Vegas. That’s a testament to the show’s unrivaled position on the jewelry calendar, as well as a reflection of the ritualistic way most attendees approach the event.
We asked 10 veterans to recall their first and best memories of JCK Las Vegas. They remarked on the scorching heat of the Nevada desert, the massiveness of the show, the decadent meals, the late-night gambling, and, almost always, the blisters—for if one thing unites our respondents, it is their collective history of bad decision-making with regard to footwear. (Hey, we’ve all made that mistake.)
Their stories reminded us that nothing beats the value of gathering with your peers, colleagues, friends, and competitors as you embark on presumably the single most important shopping trip of the year.
On that note, a few gentle reminders: Familiarize yourself with the layout before you hit the floor (see “Show Smarts” for our navigation tips); drink plenty of water; and whatever you do, leave your high heels at home..
Store: Ben Bridge Jeweler, various locations
Years attending JCK: 20
What I remember about my first JCK show: That it was hot as it could be there. We stayed farther away from the Strip, and I remember walking to the show in suit and tie and thinking, This is not a smart thing. I was melting. Now we stay at Mandalay Bay.
My best JCK show experience: The Jewelers for Children Facets of Hope dinner is always my favorite event. Over the years we’ve raised $38 million for children’s charities.
What I’m on the hunt for this year: We’re always looking for new things—items that will appeal to our customers. There are great challenges now with the price of gold and commodities making it more difficult to maintain price points.
My advice to new showgoers: Wear comfortable shoes.
Store: Diamond Vault, Monroe, La.
Years attending JCK: 4
What I remember about my first JCK show: I was used to going to a show in Atlanta that had maybe 200 to 300 vendors. So this was overwhelming. It represented all the countries of the world. It was a lot to take in.
My best JCK show experience: Last year I had been looking for a fleur-de-lis pendant on a chain to sell for under $110. It’s Louisiana’s state flower and the symbol for the New Orleans Saints, so it’s a big deal around here. Since gold prices had gone up, I couldn’t find it for the right price. So I literally walked in circles for two hours trying to find this one guy’s booth that I thought would have it. Then an Indian vendor approached me, gave me some water, and we started talking about what I needed. He made some phone calls, and within 30 minutes I was ordering 50 fleur-de-lis pieces for the right price.
What I’m on the hunt for this year: We just started carrying Simon G, so I’m interested in going to the booth and seeing the whole line—they’re introducing new product at the show exclusively. And the company has a private concert for its customers only every year.
What I’m looking forward to: This is the first year we’ve been invited to LUXURY. I tried to go last year, but it was like trying to get into the White House. I’m excited to see what it’s all about.
My advice to new showgoers: Make appointments with everyone you want to see at least two months out. And space your appointments at least two hours apart, without scheduling anything the first three to four hours on the first day. That morning you should just get your map and figure out where your vendors are.
My favorite Las Vegas ritual: Every year I meet up with friends from Boise, Idaho, on the first night.
How I cool down: Last year we went to the Minus5 Ice Lounge at Mandalay Bay one night, where everything’s made of ice—including your glass. They give you a jacket and gloves. It’s pretty wild.
“Wear comfortable shoes” is a JCK Las Vegas mantra.
|Mandalay Bay’s Minus5 Ice Lounge|
Dean Scott Agius
Store: Edgardo Jewelers, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Years attending JCK: 20
Dean Scott Agius
What I remember about my first JCK show: It was a huge opportunity to see all the lines. If you’re looking for something new, you can really shop all the vendors.
My best JCK show experience: We used to buy the merchandise in cash and take it with us. I guess we didn’t worry about security. I remember my father and mother buying tons of gold chain and walking out with it in a briefcase.
What I’m on the hunt for this year: We’re not sure. We go to GBC Jewelry, Edward Mirell, and other vendors. But it’s been so tough these last few years, there’s been no rhyme or reason to anything. Right now we’re still selling high-end stuff—$2,500 diamond rings, earrings.
My advice to new showgoers: It’s so overwhelmingly large, you need to know exactly what you’re looking for. I like to get the JCK magazine ahead of time and prioritize the people I have to see. Then I have a list of people I want to see at the end, and if I have time, I’ll go.
My favorite Las Vegas ritual: We used to go to Stefano’s in the Golden Nugget, but it’s closed now. We still try to go to the MGM Grand, because it’s one of my favorite spots. I gamble a little.… My wife will tell you I gamble too much.
The most money I ever won: I’m a roulette person, and once I started with $35 and within hours left with $6,500. My dad was a huge gambler. The night before the show, my mom would say to him, “Give me that cash in your pocket.” He’d say, “What do you think I am, a little kid?”
Store: Dalzell & Co. Fine & Antique Jewelry, Crystal Lake, Ill.
Years attending JCK: 20
What I remember about my first JCK show: I remember being down in the basement sweating with all the poor guys who were down there with no air-conditioning. Back then the downstairs was the new-designers section.
My best JCK show experience: I remember specifically hanging out at Mark Patterson’s booth down in the basement. We were both sweating because it was so hot. We still do business with him today.
What I’m on the hunt for this year: Probably more silver jewelry and more semi-mounts, paying attention to different price points in semi-mounts especially.
My advice to new showgoers: Plan on going for more than a day. It’s too big to do it in one day. And plan ahead for your budget. Be careful that you don’t buy things you don’t need or that won’t sell.
My favorite Las Vegas ritual: I love to go to the Wynn Las Vegas. It’s beautiful and they have restaurants there that are great. At the Plaza Hotel & Casino and at New York–New York they used to have dueling piano bars where two piano players play at the same time. I could watch that for hours.
How I combat the heat: Stay inside.
Store: Fletcher Smith’s Jewelers, Conway, Ark.
Years attending JCK: 17
What I remember about my first JCK show: I was amazed at the number of vendors. The first trip out there, we just wandered. Then we figured out you have to plan and navigate.
What I’m on the hunt for this year: A new ladies’ watch line that has fashion and function. So many lines are fashion-focused, but then in a few years you don’t want to wear it. And of course it has to have a price point between $300 and $400.
My advice to new showgoers: Allow yourself the proper time. You can’t go out and do it in two days. Book three days, minimum. You need to attend appointments on two of those days, then you need to wander for one day to find new things. Wandering can be very important.
My favorite Las Vegas ritual: We always go shopping. I don’t take my husband just for that reason. And if we can schedule enough time, we always try to make it to the pool. But we’ll say no to the pool to get in more shopping.
My Vegas mantra: There is so much good food in Las Vegas, so if you’re going to scrimp on your meals, just don’t go. Let yourself have a good time and eat well.
Store: K-Jon’s Fine Jewelers, Atascadero, Calif.
Years attending JCK: 9
What I remember about my first JCK show: The first year I went, we all went to a showcase evening that was so much fun. The vendors showed huge diamond pieces. I remember being blown away by the beauty. It took my breath away.
My best JCK show experience: I remember walking through the showroom floor and someone said, “Pam from K-Jon’s!” It turned out he was a rep with Parade, and he had seen my badge and knew K-Jon’s owner, Stan. We still work with Parade.
What I’m on the hunt for this year: We’ll be doing a lot of getting ready for Christmas. We’re always looking for something that’s going to stand out…something different.
My advice to new showgoers: Take your time, wear comfortable shoes, and go with a plan.
My favorite Las Vegas ritual: We always head down to the [Fashion Show] mall, and then we get together with a group of people we know and have fun with for dinner. And we always save a day for the pool.
Where I like to go out: Eyecandy [lounge] in Mandalay is a great place to hang out and talk and dance.
Store: Coffrin Jewelers, Sarasota, Fla.
Years attending JCK: 20
What I remember about my first JCK show: It was big. We’re just a single store, and I went with my husband and was overwhelmed. Now the show is all broken up, but back then they had a designer’s section that was great. You got to see what was really out there all around.
What I’m on the hunt for this year: This year our mission is to go see our vendors and see what they have in other categories. If we don’t feel they have what we’re missing, we’ll look for vendors who can fill that vacancy.
My advice to new showgoers: Walk through the entire show first to get a feel for what’s out there. When you walk through, things start standing out; you see what the trends are and what might be coming in terms of new design. If you stay in your own little store, you only see what your vendors bring to you.
My favorite Las Vegas ritual: I usually go to the shops and malls in town. When you’re home, you don’t get to go out a lot. It helps to see what customers are really buying—not just in jewelry.
What I don’t do in Vegas: I don’t gamble in Vegas. I gamble every day. My money’s too hard to make.
Store: Saslow’s (Henebry’s Jewelers/Saslow’s Jewelers), Greensboro, N.C.
Years attending JCK: 20
What I remember about my first JCK show: I remember that it was so cool walking across the Desert Inn golf course to get to the Sands. It fit right in with what you expect of Vegas. Yes, the show is overwhelming, but it has to be—otherwise it would be overshadowed by everything in Vegas.
My best JCK show experience: We used to do business with a company called Gold and Diamond Merchants, and they had incredible parties with world-class entertainment and food in small venues for their customers. Everyone from Lionel Richie to Tom Jones to the Beach Boys performed.
What I’m on the hunt for this year: Really strong bridal designs and low-end or inexpensive items that are strong sellers.
My advice to new showgoers: Study the layout of the Mandalay Bay floor. Plan appointments so you can see vendors in the same area and not have to walk up and down stairs a million times.
My favorite Las Vegas ritual: Every Monday night of the show I have a steak at an Irish pub, Nine Fine Irishmen, in New York–New York. They have killer steaks, and you have a lot of people from Great Britain hanging out. It’s really legit.
Store: Chrisrial & Co. Fine Jewelry, Keene and Portsmouth, N.H.
Years attending JCK: 9
What I remember about my first JCK show: Besides it being overwhelming, I remember feeling like there was something for everyone. Our two stores are very different from one another. JCK is wonderful for us to attend because it’s all there. I have my high-end luxury lines, but I can also look at fun accessories that are price-point driven.
My best JCK show experience: My first LUXURY show. It was such a wonderful experience because all of my designer lines were right there. It’s organized and convenient.
What I’m on the hunt for this year: We have a lot of our designer brands that we’re really sticking with because they’re wonderful to us: Roberto Coin, Chad Allison, and Michele Watches.
My advice for new showgoers: Look through the materials to get a feel for what you want to see, and then make appointments to sit down with people. Those really good [vendors] you’re wondering about may not be able to see you. I made some of my LUXURY appointments back in March.
My favorite Las Vegas ritual: I always like to try a new restaurant. When you’re at the show, you often eat for convenience, so it’s great to have one meal that’s for fun. This year we’re looking at some of the new steakhouses.
Store: Stroud Jewelers, Salt Lake City
Years attending JCK: 5
What I remember about my first JCK show: Saying to myself, “Jeez, next time I really need to come prepared.”
My best JCK show experience: I once hooked up with this sales rep who took me to his friends and said, “This is a guy I want you to meet.” That was awesome, and gave me the opportunity to really have fun with people.
What I’m on the hunt for this year: I always like seeing what’s new. Diamonds and bridal is what I typically look for.
My advice to new showgoers: You can either be engulfed in the show or be outside it and overwhelmed.
My favorite Las Vegas ritual: Eating at Roy Yamaguchi’s restaurant, Roy’s, is a must every time I go to Vegas.
Insider tip: You can find out what your competitors are buying at the show. I ask vendors who else in Salt Lake is buying. Now I know I do have exclusives of certain collections.