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So it finally happened. After many years of anticipation, I debuted my collection at a trade show. I wish I could have done it sooner, but many emerging designers can relate. The cost of building inventory is intimidating, as are the show costs, marketing costs and the time commitment involved in preparing for such an event.

Jackie-Stone-articleJacqueline Stone is the chief creative officer of her company, Salt + Stone, working primarily with private clients to build custom engagement rings and wedding bands.
The JA New York Summer show was always my planned collection launch, as I considered the late Cindy Edelstein a mentor and a friend. She is the one who lit a fire under my butt when I asked her for a vendor contact list last year.

“Why haven’t you done a trade show yet, Jackie?” she inquired. “I’m not ready,” was my reply. “You’ll never be ready. You’re an artist!” She really did understand jewelry designers to our core, didn’t she?

When Cindy suddenly passed away in January, my dreams of trade show glory were quickly put on a shelf. The thought of forging ahead without her was too painful.

Fast-forward to a fateful business trip to Denver in May. I was checking out the area for my big studio move out West. I had agreed to meet the magical Liz Kantner at Metalmark, an amazing fine jewelry shop located in High Plains curated by renowned artist Samantha Louise and her business partner, Kellie Lemmel.

I soon discovered that Emerald Expositions, the company that owns the JA New York shows, had recruited Liz to curate the New Designer Gallery, which had been Cindy’s staple. I immediately applauded the geniuses who recognized Ms. Kantner’s unyielding love and support of new talent. I shyly inquired if space was still open. She had one slot left. It was kismet!

Show prep proved to be daunting. I ended up spending thousands of dollars more than I could have ever imagined (I could probably own a small house at this point), but then a miracle happened. A dear friend dropped me a check with the words “I believe” in the memo line. And my father, who is a huge supporter of paving your own way, sat me down for a meeting of the minds over a fancy meal in Manhattan. He had watched my journey over the past 10 years and saw me pour every ounce of my soul into my little company. He decided to help me as well.

After the emotion subsided, I got to work. I kept Cindy’s advice close to my heart: “All that matters is that you feel proud of the work that you stand behind at the show. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s never going to be perfect, but you have to start somewhere.” She had helped me figure out what would make me stand out in a sea of noise. My exploration of the evolution of love needed an aesthetic heartbeat and I chose one that I knew would make her proud: stones custom cut by lapidaries all over the United States.

 
The mint quartz mermaid tail was a huge hit and the bloggers couldn’t get enough of the rhomboid-cut cabochons. The stackable gumdrop rings had everyone dreaming of candy.

Cindy told me that my first show was an opportunity to network and that no one would buy anything. Imagine my shock and delight when, halfway into the first day, I placed an order with the amazing David Shaw of David Shaw Diamonds. He was taken with my ocean collection and we had a meeting of the minds. If I could sell it to my private clients with absolutely no marketing, it would be a slam dunk in his showroom. He was kind enough to invite me out to Dallas for a trunk show for the holidays. I can’t wait!
“All that matters is that you feel proud of the work that you stand behind at the show. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s never going to be perfect, but you have to start somewhere.” -- Cindy Edelstein, to Jackie Stone
I also had one of my dreams come true after I placed an order with the thoughtful Tara Silberberg of The Clay Pot. I cried tears of joy in the cab ride home. Not only do I get to add an awesome Brooklyn shop as my stockist, but her store was on my top 10 list. Cindy challenged us all to create a list of our dream team and to go after them with all we have.

For me, the Clay Pot easily made the cut due to their continued commitment to supporting designers like me for over 40 years. These are the types of relationships I hope to build over time. It’s not just about business--as we all know we are in the industry of love.

I must applaud Liz Kantner and the entire JA New York team for putting on an absolutely incredible show. JA New York has gotten a bad rap over the past few years, but I believe it’s truly rediscovered its voice. The New Designer Gallery was absolutely stunning and we each had our own booth. We were slammed most days with traffic from awesome buyers and press galore. A huge thank you goes out to Third Coast Gems, A Thousand Facets, Diamond Doodles, iDazzle and Gem Obsessed, who stopped by each and every booth to say hello.

We were also lucky enough to have Jennifer Gandia from Greenwich Street Jewelers stop by as well as Sia Maravelias from Quadrum Gallery. It’s so wonderful to see these industry heavyweights take the time to support new talent. I know I was extremely grateful to have their review of my line, the good and the bad. Their guidance meant a lot.

Cindy would be extremely proud.

Overall the show was amazing, but I think I provide the most value to the new designers who are reading this and ready to take the trade-show plunge by sharing my list of things I forgot to bring.

Here is my list of items that didn’t make it to me with JA New York, though I was lucky enough to be surrounded by thoughtful designers who were open to sharing. I know I wouldn’t have gotten through this without them.
-- Business cards
-- Order forms (thank you Alexandra Gunn for saving the day!)
-- Tape
-- Scissors
-- Props for your case
-- Comfy shoes
-- Love for your booth neighbors
-- A positive attitude, open mind and open heart
-- A way to decompress; I’m currently obsessed with paint-by-sticker, which I picked up at Michael’s

P.S. Designers, how did YOU fund your first collection? Please leave comments below, as I think financing your business is an important topic for us to explore.

Jacqueline Stone has a background in finance, marketing, advertising, product development, fine jewelry manufacturing, design and sourcing. She currently is the chief creative officer of her company, Salt + Stone, working primarily with private clients to build custom engagement rings and wedding bands. Stone can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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