By Michelle Graff

New York--Members of the jewelry industry have descended upon a sweltering New York City for the annual run of late July events, including the antique show at the Metropolitan Pavilion and JA New York Summer.

The JA New York show opened Sunday at the Javits center, with 10 designers lining the New Designer Gallery and a slate of education sessions taking place throughout the day.

Sessions on social media, led by Dave Kerpen of Likeable Local, and millennials, led by Ben Smithee, were among the most well-attended seminars of the day.

Smithee’s talk centered on the myths surrounding millennials and the overriding message of his talk was this: Millennials aren’t dissimilar from the generations of consumers who came before them.

“Are millennials really that different?” he asked at the conclusion of the session. “We’re not. It’s really (that) consumerism is changing, it’s really the environment of business is changing.”

The millennial generation, which grew up with technology at their fingertips, is so large and well-connected online that their coming of age has brought about an overall shift in how people of all ages shop.

“Don’t think of it as a group of people, think of it as a mental change … that your business has to change with,” he said. “So we’re having the wrong discussion … about millennials and generations and the next generation of consumers. We should be having a conversation about the evolutionary shift in business and how we can affect that in our industry.”

This year, the JA New York Summer show is taking place against a backdrop of global economic and political uncertainty, underscored by a highly contentious presidential election in the United States.

At the Jewelers of America booth there are life-size cut-outs of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and the association is inviting attendees to take a photo with the candidate of their choice. As of mid-day, JA employees reported that support was split pretty much down the middle.

Global uncertainty, such as that surrounding the emotional U.S. election, and unexpected events, like June’s Brexit vote, can shake up consumer confidence and cause precious metal prices to spike.

But Dave Siminski of United Precious Metals said when it comes to events like an election or a terrorist attack, there’s always an immediate, sharp uptick in metal prices but they usually settle within a few days.

“It’s almost like watching a heart monitor; you’ll have a blip and then (it) will come back down,” he said at his booth on Sunday afternoon.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2016, Siminski said that the price of gold has been climbing steadily all year, and he expects that to continue, with the yellow finishing the year at $1,375. Stuller’s Tammy Kidder, who was a visitor in the United Precious Metals booth, had a slightly lower prediction, $1,300 an ounce.

Siminski and Kidder both see silver continuing to rise as well, hitting about $22 an ounce, while platinum is expected to finish the year around $1,100 an ounce.

The jewelry industry events continue today in New York, with the WJA Awards for Excellence at the Hammerstein Ballroom, the announcement of the winners of the AGTA Spectrum Awards, and, on Tuesday, the American Gem Society’s annual Circle of Distinction dinner.

JA New York Summer continues through Tuesday at the Javits Center.

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