MJSA Expo, the longest-running trade show dedicated to jewelry making and design, turned 50 this year, but its focus was on the future. For three days, starting on Sunday, March 11, several thousand attendees packed its aisles at the Javits Center to see the newest tools, technologies, supplies, and services—from high-tech casting machines, 3-D printers, and diamond scanners to the latest fashions in gems and beads. (Opening day was especially busy: "It didn’t stop until shutting-down time,” said Shawn Albert, trade show and product manager at Stuller Inc. in Lafayette, Louisiana.)
“The people here really have a passion for good equipment,” remarked another exhibitor, Wyatt Frei of Oakland, California-based Otto Frei. His comment could be expanded to jewelry making in general. MJSA Expo has been compared in the past to a "playground" for jewelers of all types, from established manufacturers to up-and-coming designers. Expo enables them to touch, test, and inspect the offerings on display: to run a finger over a model and to loupe it, to inspect the intricate details of a machine’s assembly, to feel the heft and grip of a pair of pliers before buying.
That ability to physically examine items, combined with the expertise available from Expo’s vendors and educators, leads many buyers to return year after year. For example, Rachel Bertoni, owner of Bertoni Gallery in Sugar Loaf, New York, said she loves the affordable photo light box that she bought at last year’s show, and this year she returned to look for a compact lapidary machine. “I didn’t find what I needed online and wanted to talk with the experts,” she explained.
Exhibitors also appreciate the opportunity to present their products and services firsthand, and show buyers how they can use them to bring their ideas into practice. “Expo gives us an opportunity to see our customers, vendors, and colleagues in one forum, and to show our entire line of products—it’s our once-a-year showroom," said Norma Galoski, director of new product development at LeachGarner in Attleboro, Massachusetts.
Her sentiments were echoed by Rahul Roy, service and applications engineer at EnvisionTEC in Dearborn, Michigan, a supplier of 3-D printers and related materials. "Expo allows us to show people our technology," he said. "Many are still unfamiliar with 3-D printing; they’re still using hand-carved waxes, not realizing that this innovation is within their price point.”
Exhibitors weren’t the only ones providing instruction to the attendees, however. This year, a special section was dedicated to At the Bench Live, one of MJSA’s most popular programs. Custom jeweler Joel McFadden, a longtime Expo presenter (and the first to be designated a "Mentor Jeweler" by MJSA’s Council of Custom Jewelers), led sessions on a variety of bench techniques throughout Sunday and Monday. Between sessions, he was available for individual instruction and questions (a second bench was set up next to his so visitors could practice techniques).
Other experts available to dispense guidance included Matthew Perosi, principal of the Sapphire Collaborative, a website developer and internet authority; Andrea Hill, owner of the Hill Management Group consultancy and MJSA’s Designer Advocate; and Marlene Richey, consultant and author of the MJSA Press book Profiting by Design: A Jewelry Maker’s Guide to Business Success. Perosi had a constant stream of guests at the new Photography & Social Media Demo Booth, where he provided guidance on how to take effective photos and videos of products and then use them on social media sites.
Hill and Richey offered advice, answered questions, and provided camaraderie at the Designer Collaborative Corner, another new Expo feature that proved a hit with attendees. Therese Crowe, owner of Therese Crowe Design Ltd. in Chicago, was among those who sought out consultation at the corner because, as she put it, “I’ve been in the business forever and needed to get my head out of the sand.” After a consultation with Hill about possible business practices, Crowe made plans “to use her services to shape up my ship.”
Perosi and Hill also contributed to Expo’s seminar program—Perosi instructed the audience on how to enter e-commerce, and Hill delivered a presentation that explained omnichannel marketing and digital communication. Among the other presenters:
• Harold Dupuy, vice president of strategic analysis at Stuller, delivered a statistic-filled session showing various industry trends, addressing both competitive challenges and opportunities for increased sales.
• Award-winning jeweler Annie Koenig talked about "Sparking the Creative Fire" and creating the optimum energy level for sustained creativity.
• Scott Bradford, a member of the tech team at Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico, compared traditional casting techniques with digital methods, examining the costs and benefits of each.
• Dan Pharr, the president of Pharr Valuation Inc. in Richmond, Virginia, shared his experience in accounting, finance, and business valuation to guide attendees on such as issues as family succession, estate taxes, buy/sell agreements, and other matters related to exiting a business.
• Educator and jewelry artist Nanz Aalund, author of the new MJSA Press book A Jeweler’s Guide to Apprenticeships, presented a session on how to customize workforce training to create measurable, attainable goals. Rachel Bertoni was among those who attended this seminar, which she said helped her to home in on successful shop practices.
As it has since 2016, MJSA Expo co-located with the JA New York jewelry show, which has expanded the show’s audience to include more retailers and custom jewelers offering design, fabrication, and repair services. Sheri Ihde, manager of industry relations and trade shows with Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group, appreciated the value the two concurrently running shows offered, saying it gave vendors "more opportunity to see potential customers.”
The 2019 MJSA Expo will take place March 10-12 at the Javits Center. For updates, visit MJSAExpo.com, where you can also view the MJSA Expo 2018 Look Book featuring premier products and services from many of this year’s exhibitors.