"Attendance was excellent, and people were in a spending mood."
That’s how Dave Siminski described the atmosphere of the 2019 MJSA Expo, the industry’s longest-running show dedicated to professional excellence in jewelry making and design.
Siminski, the vice president of sales and marketing at United Precious Metal Refining in Alden, New York, was among the many exhibitors at this year’s show, which ran March 10-12 at New York City’s Javits Center. Over the course of those three days, more than 3,000 buyers crowded the aisles searching for not just the latest equipment, supplies and services for jewelry making and design, but also business solutions.
"People really wanted to talk about how to improve their businesses," said Andrea Hill, MJSA’s designer advocate and president of the Hill Management Group, which provides strategic consulting and marketing services to small and mid-size companies.
Throughout the show, Hill engaged buyers in numerous conversations, many of which took place at the MJSA Designer Collaborative booth (where she and art/business consultant Marlene Richey offered free advice). She found that attendees "wanted to know how to reduce costs without reducing quality, and how to invest wisely, even if they were concerned about cash flow."
"In past years I think all of us who attended shows heard a lot of moaning and groaning about how tough things were," Hill said, "and this wasn’t a ’moaning and groaning’ show. It was positive and solution oriented."
As it’s done for the past four years, Expo ran simultaneously with the JA New York retail show. In fact, the two shows were closer than ever, in a new space separated by only a short walkway. And that proximity seemed to make a difference.
"Being connected to the JA show—truly connected—was a big help," said Shawn Albert, the trade show/product manager at Stuller Inc. in Lafayette, Louisiana. "We got a good mix of both [MJSA and JA] customers.... We probably wrote 20 percent more business than we did last year."
Not only did the JA attendees head onto the Expo floor, but so did the manufacturers and designers exhibiting at the retail show. For all of them, the lure was simple, as Siminski aptly summarized: Expo, he said, "is the toy store, offering everything from software and services to tools and gemstones. And everyone wants to come see the toys."
And, of course, they want to play with the toys. And that’s exactly what Expo’s attendees did over the course of three days. Whether louping a 3-D printed model or examining a casting tree, testing the grip of a handpiece or graver, or just sorting through the myriad gemstone choices, Expo attendees were able to touch, test, and inspect every item on display, and to see them in action.
Jonathan Young, CEO of Orion Welders in Payson, Utah, discovered this firsthand. His company used Expo to introduce the Dado laser welder, a benchtop unit priced below $4,000, and he found people "lined up" to test it.
"We had all three Dado welders going often," he said. "The traffic was amazing—it was steady from opening to close. We didn’t even have time for a quick break, even though we had two full-time staff."
Expo attendees were also able to learn how to best use those tools and supplies—as well as improve their businesses— thanks to the expertise offered by this year’s seminar presenters. The educational program opened on the first day with a panel discussion, "Where Does Custom Design Go from Here?" Presented by members of the MJSA Council of Custom Jewelers, which guides MJSA’s efforts to advance the art and creation of custom jewelry, the session focused on the various models of today’s custom businesses, from traditional retail stores to virtual shops.
Several members of the council came back the next day to present a series of "Jeweler’s Bench" sessions. The council’s chairman, Lee Krombholz, and its director, Joel McFadden, demonstrated various stone-setting techniques, while a third council member, Gary Dawson, delivered a session on computer-assisted design and 3-D printing.
Other seminars included:
• “What’s New in Responsible Sourcing,” a panel discussion led by Andrea Hill and featuring some of the industry’s leading advocates for the responsible sourcing of diamonds, precious metals, and colored gemstones. The panelists included Mark Hanna, CMO of the Richline Group; Susan Wheeler, founder of the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference; Stewart Grice, vice president of mill/refining with Hoover & Strong; Brandee Dallow, North America consultant for the Responsible Jewellery Council; and Patricia Syvrud, manager of the University of Delaware Minerals, Materials, & Society program.
• “You’ve Lost That Handcrafted Feeling: Heart and Soul in a CAD World,” a session in which Scott Bradford of the Rio Grande Tech Team explored how designers can employ the latest CAD/CAM technologies while still maintaining their creative spirit.
• “The Importance of Freehand Jewelry Design,” a hands-on lecture delivered by Rémy Rotenier, a classically trained designer renowned for his mastery of the freehand style. (One attendee, upon leaving the session, was overheard saying enthusiastically, "I need more, I need more!")
• “Platinum Casting: Methods, Alloys, and the Role of Design,” in which Teresa Fryé of TechForm Advanced Casting offered advice on how to achieve successful, predictable castings.
• "Celebrating the American Jewelry Design Movement," an overview of the last 40 years in contemporary U.S. jewelry design, presented by Marlene Richey.
• "CAD, CAM, & Casting: Celebrating Best Practices, Debunking Myths, and Achieving Cleaner Castings through Chemistry," a session in which J. Tyler Teague of Proto Products and JETT Research explored the chemistry between resin models and production molds, as well as how to engineer a CAD design for production.
• "Tracking Your Digital Advertising," in which Matthew Perosi of the Sapphire Collaborative demonstrated strategies to invest wisely and gain maximum value from digital advertising efforts.
The sessions were recorded, and many will soon be available on the MJSAExpo.org website.
The 2020 MJSA Expo will take place March 15-17, again at the Javits Center. For updates, visit MJSAExpo.org.