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AGS Conclave wrapped up in Seattle earlier this month and plans to head to Denver next year.
I recently returned from my first American Gem Society Conclave, and now I’m here to write my first blog.

I joined National Jeweler’s editorial team this January, covering breaking news and financials of the large public jewelry companies, like Signet and Tiffany.

I am taking my background in business journalism—covering Wall Street and market trends—and my previous experience working in New York’s Diamond District providing customer service and combining them for this job.

If I’ve learned one thing in my short time here, it’s that I have quite a lot to learn, which is the reason I packed my bags and headed west to Seattle earlier this month.

So, without further ado, here are four takeaways from an industry newbie’s first Conclave.

1. It’s a close-knit community.

I made my way to the registration desk Monday morning to pick up my entry badge. An AGS employee greeted me with a smile and took down my information, printing out my badge and slapping a bright, white sticker on the bottom.

It read “NEWCOMER,” clear as day in shiny gold lettering.

I spotted a fair number of white badges during my time in Seattle at Conclave, but I got the sense that most of the people attending had been coming to Conclave for quite a while.

Rarely did I make it down a hallway or through the lobby without walking around groups of what seemed like old friends, excitedly chit-chatting about what’s gone on since last they met.

The newcomer badge was a wonderful icebreaker when I stopped to chat between sessions or in the elevator. It was encouraging to hear how many years people have been attending Conclave.

While the education sessions were interesting and diverse, I imagine what brings people back year after year is the sense of community.

Here I was halfway across the country in a new city in a new industry and I was made to feel right at home.

So if you stopped to say hello or made space for me at your breakfast table, it was noticed and appreciated.

2. Adapting to change is a slow but necessary process.

A change isn’t coming; it is already here.

Throughout my time at Conclave, I met with so many wonderful people with so much experience and talent to share with the industry.

However, as I sat through sessions and listened in on discussions, I sensed a lot of hesitancy to change, especially in terms of technology and social media, and I worried that all that love and knowledge might be in danger of fading away in the coming years.

I wouldn’t advise everyone to put their inventory on blockchain or start opening pop-up shops left and right, but an openness to change is a step in the right direction.

I sat in on a session led by Jennifer Shaheen, president of Technology Therapy Group, which provides marketing and tech expertise to retailers, and she was quick to offer a helping hand to jewelers in attendance.

During her session, she went over how artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality were changing the retail landscape and outlined ways storeowners could utilize technology to improve the shopping experience and collect useful data along the way.

If you’re looking to educate yourself on retail technology or make better use of your data, Shaheen would be the person for the job.

3. There is still some confusion about the revised FTC Jewelry Guides.

I attended a session on the revised Jewelry Guides, presented by Tiffany Stevens and Sara Yood of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee.

I was a bit confused as to why the session would be held in April when the revised guidelines were made public in July, but after sitting in on this session I came to see why continual education is needed.

As a relative newcomer to the jewelry world, I thought I’d be alone in my confusion when Stevens and Yood went into the nitty-gritty details of the revised guidelines, but there were a lot of hands up during the Q&A portion.

If you need a refresher, you can take a peek at our stories about the changes to the Jewelry Guides as they pertain to lab-grown diamonds as well as other topics including pearls and metals.

If you have compliance questions, you might want to give JVC a call.

4. Have confidence in your product.

It was clear to me from the start at National Jeweler that lab-grown diamonds have really shaken up the industry.

In a lot of what I've read so far and heard at Conclave, I feel like lab-grown diamonds are being positioned as akin to the bogeyman, lurking around the corner poised to snatch away all natural diamond customers with deceitful advertising.

But at the end of a session on diamond market trends, Rapaport Senior Analyst and News Editor Avi Krawitz said something that stuck with me.

He advised attendees to vouch for their product, highlighting what makes a natural diamond unique, and focus less on the perceived threat of lab-grown diamonds.

I can’t speak for my entire generation but, for me, the natural formation of a diamond, and any gemstone really, is the most fascinating and unique thing about it.

It’s incredible to think that this stone on my finger is the result of carbon molecules coming together over billions of years deep in the earth. Then, human innovation found a way to unearth that stone and transform it into portable art, allowing me to carry a piece of that story around with me every day.

Sold.

In closing, I am grateful for this new experience and the industry’s warm welcome. I look forward to seeing you all again soon!

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