By Hannah Connorton
New York--For anyone who has opened a newspaper, magazine or web page relating to consumerism, retail or marketing within the past year, it should come as no surprise that many businesses today are focused on-- perhaps even obsessed with--capturing the millennial shopper.

Barbara Palumbo, author of the jewelry industry-centric blog AdornmentalityIt’s with good reason, though. The majority of Generation Y is at the early adult stage of life: getting married, buying homes and making decisions with disposable income.

While there’s been plenty of negativity surrounding millennials, who have been referred to as entitled, self-absorbed and narcissistic, among other descriptors, there still are those who see hope and a bright future in the generation.

Among them is Barbara Palumbo, the director of business development in the South for jewelry brand Gumuchian and author of the jewelry industry-centric blog, Adornmentality.

In late August, she announced a new project on the Adornmentality Instagram account--the next of her “InstaSeries”--called the 50 Millennials of Jewelry, which has been accompanied by the eponymous hashtag #50MillennialsofJewelry.

Once a day for the past 50 days, Palumbo has featured a millennial employed in the jewelry industry, from retailers and designers, to marketers and journalists, to bloggers and social media mavens and all bauble-related positions in between. She paired these features with facts and statistics about the generation gathered from various sources including Time magazine, the Pew Research Center, and reports from the White House and Bank of America.

Palumbo is scheduled to post her final millennial today. Before that, she took the time to talk with National Jeweler about her inspiration for the series, her goal in introducing these 50 individuals to the greater industry and if she thinks, after all this, that Generation Y is really that different.

National Jeweler: What inspired you to highlight 50 millennials who work in the jewelry industry?
Barbara Palumbo: The answer here likely boils down to a “who” rather than a “what,” I think. I’m fortunate in that I get to travel for a living, which allows me more opportunities to be around industry people than most, and many of those I meet are young, determined, hardworking individuals.

This past April, as a member of the Gumuchian team, I attended my first American Gem Society Conclave in New Orleans. It was there that I witnessed the passion and camaraderie of the AGS Young Titleholders, which reminded me so much of my friends and me when we first started in jewelry.

Unfortunately, when I entered the industry we didn’t have social media, so mentors and support systems were harder to come by. But I see and have experienced firsthand how vital a person’s support can be, especially when it comes from someone you admire. I am enamored by so many of these young jewelers, as well as by the marketing professionals, bloggers, editors, designers and entrepreneurs I’ve mentioned in the series thus far. They inspire me to strive to be a better example for them, and they’re doing some wondrous things in our world.

NJ: How did you choose the millennials you featured?
BP: I had been compiling a mental list of sorts over the past few months. During the last Instagram series I did--which highlighted 50 powerful women in the jewelry industry--I received an extraordinary amount of positive feedback from young women like Alexis Padis, the director of operations at Steve Padis Jewelry in San Francisco. Alexis was really the first person I thought of focusing on when I knew I wanted to do a series on millennials. She’s bright and she’s unafraid. She’s confident but not cocky. And she knows more about the jewelry industry than many of the seasoned veterans out there.

I looked for people like her when I started my research, and I found more than my fill in each of the genders. Many of those mentioned are people I know personally or have met along my travels, but some are strangers to me, though not strangers to those whose opinions I trust, which is why I also included a few recommendations made to me by my colleagues.

NJ: Do you have a goal in featuring this series?
BP: Yes, my goal is to move all of the millennials to a private island in the Caribbean where I shall reign as their queen until the end of my days. Ha!

Actually, what I set out to do was quite simple: give this industry something positive to look forward to while recognizing the efforts of those highlighted. Unfortunately for all of us, it’s a tough time to be a jeweler. Road warriors are struggling, the diamond industry is freaking out a little, the economy has seen better days, and the consumer is spending less on luxury items like jewelry. These young professionals are the future of the industry. They have fresh ideas, they think outside of the box, and they have accreditations to back up their knowledge. Let’s all just take a deep breath and chill out about the future, in other words, because these 50 people and the many others in the business who are like them will do just fine.

NJ: Would you say that, so far, you’re accomplishing that goal?
BP: Yeah, I think it feels that way. I know millennials get a bad rap at times and that there is a plethora of information suggesting they’re the “me” generation and that society is doomed, but in our industry I’d say that’s far from the case. These young people are capable and empowered. The other generations need to focus less on how many times a millennial picks up their phone and more on what they’re accomplishing when they do.  

NJ: What has the feedback been like?
BP: I haven’t made one person outwardly angry with me thus far, so, I’d say the feedback has been pretty positive! Honestly, though, it really has been. I was 23 when I started in the jewelry industry and I can’t express to you how much I could have used a pat on the back or a “you’re doing a great job” every once in a while from a person more experienced than I. Hopefully these little virtual hugs going out to the millennials on this list are reminders to them of just how important my generation thinks their generation is. Oh, and Hannah, you’re doing a great job.

NJ: Other than having someone to take over, why are millennials important to the fine jewelry industry?
BP: Because we don’t just need them in the future; we need their way of thinking now. We have all read about and seen the results of the positivity of social media in terms of advertising and name recognition, have we not? Who do you think is largely responsible for that? Plus, 74 percent of millennials are unmarried right now, which means a huge portion of that percentage will tie the knot in the upcoming years, and they’re going to want to buy their bridal jewelry from someone they can relate to, as well as someone they feel they can trust.

Millennials have been proven to buy from other millennials, even if it’s an online sale. They also tend to read reviews, blogs and forums first before making any major purchases. All of these statistics directly affect the jewelry industry. Young bloggers, editors and marketing directors write what young consumers read. Young salespeople, store owners or gemologists sell what young consumers buy. Their presence in our industry in every genre of fine jewelry is as important now as it will be twenty years from now.

NJ: Do you think that millennials have more similarities to people in Gen X and even the baby boomers than the general media would lead us to believe?
BP: I think badmouthing millennials is a hot thing to do in media right now, frankly, because it results in clicks, and unfortunately that will often drive advertising. Do I think millennials are similar to Gen X or baby boomers? I don’t. But I also don’t want them to be. Boomers would argue that millennials don’t work as hard, and millennials would argue that boomers didn’t work as smart. Gen Xers, on the other hand, worked perfectly perfect and are awesomely perfect and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Gen Xer.

What I personally think about millennials and their future can only be hypothesized based on the ones I’ve come in contact with in the industry, and that is this: It is my belief that if true positive change is going to happen, and if we’re going to survive as a critical part of the luxury and fashion worlds, we’re going to have to put our faith in them. My suggestion is to get in the line no matter how long it looks from the back, pick the front car when you get up there, keep your arms and legs in the vehicle at all times, and, with your eyes wide open, enjoy the ride while it lasts.

When it’s all over with you’ll say it was the right call. Trust me.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.