Personalities

Italian Exhibition Group’s Marco Carniello Weighs in on the Live VOICE Jewelry Show Happening This Week in Italy

New York City. Sept. 8, 2020. As American jewelry businesses try to reconvene—sans trade shows, given that most have postponed events until 2021—the industry in Europe is gearing up for a comeback. The Vicenza-based VOICE show, organized by the Italian Exhibition Group (IEG), which organizes Vicenzaoro, is slated to occur Sept. 12–14, 2020. This event will be the first major live jewelry trade fair of the year since the Bangkok Gems & Jewelry fair, Feb. 25–29, 2020. (VOICE will also have a digital component for those who can’t attend.) What can be expected? It’s tough to predict, but IEG’s Marco Carniello, group brand director, jewelry and fashion, talks to us about his expectations and conversations with exhibitors and attendees.

Jennifer Heebner: What are your expectations on business for VOICE?

Marco Carniello: VOICE (Vicenzaoro International Community Event) by the Italian Exhibition Group, which organizes Vicenzaoro and is one of the main trade fair operators in the industry, is launching an event to reunite the gold and jewelry sector and aims to relaunch business and export activities around the world after months of standstill. It is impossible to expect reaching business of a standard event, but with VOICE we get as close to it as the current situation allows. We are very excited to have over 350 brands and producers showcasing their products and designs at the Vicenza Expo Centre as well as B2B professionals joining us on site. And for those who may not be able to travel to Italy, a live-streaming and a buyer virtual room for business meetings will be set up.

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JH: In 2019, the September edition of the VicenzaOro fair experienced incredible growth, with a 10 percent increase in foreign trade members from 117 nations. To date, what do the registration numbers look like for VOICE attendees? What three countries will account for the bulk of visitors and why do you think this is the case?

MC: Due to the pandemic, we are expecting participants mainly from Italy and Europe (in particular from Germany, Belgium, France, and Austria) visiting the event on site. Unfortunately, we are still facing a difficult context in terms of traveling—reduced flight schedules, quarantine arrangements in some countries, and different government regulations are making it very difficult for trade members to travel to Vicenza.

This is why we have prepared a “phygital” event that, thanks to technology and digitization—a process that we had already started in IEG and on which we have pressed the accelerator in recent months—adds to the live experience at the fair for all kinds of opportunities for visibility, communication, and online meetings.

JH: Your show team has worked hard to ensure that both exhibitors and attendees will be safe during the fair. What were some of the most challenging aspects of setting up safety protocols?

MC: The event will take place guaranteeing full health protection of companies and visitors in compliance with IEG’s #SAFEBUSINESS project, providing more than 50 guidelines, from the digitalization of tickets and payments, to temperature controls, to a sanitization route. We have also chosen the GBAC STARTM program of facility accreditation to reach the international standards of hygiene for the Vicenza fairgrounds. The most challenging part of implementing this protocol was adapting continuously our procedures to a changing environment, still very uncertain, with periodically new regulations from our local and national government. But we were among the first to start a working table on this topic, and the #SAFEBUSINESS project has been a reference point and a fundamental contribution for all districts and congress centers at the international level. IEG took charge of each step, without burdening companies and visitors, who can live a safe experience at the fair simply following the diligence of the “new normal” we are all getting used to.

JH: Show communications drive home the importance of “listening to the market.” What have clients been telling you leading up to the fair? About business and their concerns, and about how VicenzaOro can help?

MC: The idea of VOICE comes precisely from listening to the companies and their willingness to resume relations with the national and international supply chain. The trade fair is a key tool for their commercial development—especially in a difficult moment like this. That is why also the World Jewelry Confederation CIBJO, together with all the main gold and jewelry industry associations, have unanimously endorsed VOICE as a support for the gold and jewelry industry’s restart in the world.

JH: Emotionality linked to the stories behind the jewelry is important for brands and sellers. Give one specific example or anecdote of how you see emotionality playing out now in the market.

MC: I would love to see people buying a piece of jewelry—of any value—at the end of this pandemic, to celebrate it being over. In the end, that is where the value of jewelry lies; it connects us to a story, to an emotion that will stay with us for life.

JH: The VOICE September show will include both offline and online experiences. How will your online experience differ, if at all, from other recent online virtual show formats?

MC: The virtual setting of VOICE includes live streaming of the events dedicated to sustainability, trends, and technological innovation across streaming platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. The most advanced broadcasting systems will ensure high-quality broadcasting viewable all over the world. Italian Exhibition Group has also developed a truly sophisticated digital platform, buyer virtual rooms for business meetings with potential suppliers, fixed through the I-MOP (IEG Meeting Omnichannel Platform). This is an area where exhibitors can connect with the buyers, with optimal lighting and connection conditions using a special digital technology that will allow them to show their products in every detail. What could differentiate us is the fact that I-MOP is a proprietary technology of IEG, consolidated and used for over 10 years for sectors such as tourism and introduced for the first time in the jewelry-goldsmith world by IEG.

For more information about VOICE, log onto its website or email Lara Hesse at l.hesse@barabino.de.


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Personalities

This Is What a Diamond Dealer’s Engagement Ring Looks Like (It’s as Spectacular as You Might Expect)

Los Angeles. Sept. 4, 2020. When the daughter of a diamantaire gets engaged, you better believe that diamond engagement ring is going to be special. So, when Melanie Goldfiner, director of business development for Rahaminov Diamonds, owned by parents Amir and Tamara Goldfiner, got engaged, the selection of the diamond for her ring was a big deal. And the size of her center stone? Equally impressive.

But let’s start with the couple before diving into details of the ring. Melanie Goldfiner met her now fiancé, Daniel, her freshman year at the University of California Los Angeles. He was a few years older and they spoke only briefly. Five years later, Goldfiner was flipping through profiles on the JSwipe app (“It’s like the Jewish Tinder,” she says) when she saw a familiar face: Daniel’s. They connected and chatted on the app, then met for drinks that led to dinner. They dated, became exclusive, and fell in love. Three years later, they discussed marriage but not details of when an engagement would occur.

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Then the pandemic hit and Rahaminov offices, like many other businesses, closed. It was during this time that Daniel, a mobile engineer, decided to propose. But before enlisting Rahaminov’s help in securing a diamond, he first called Amir and Tamara with another request: Could he have their daughter’s hand in marriage?

“My wife and I were sitting outside next to our pool when he called me at the end of March,” recollects Amir. “He said, ‘Thank you for raising such a beautiful daughter, I would like your permission to marry her.’ I started crying.”

With parental permission secured, the hunt for the stone began. While Rahaminov routinely has a large inventory of diamonds on hand, the right stone for Melanie’s engagement ring wasn’t in stock. It wasn’t because her choice was a surprise—everybody at Rahaminov knew what she wanted.

“She always kept me posted on what she wanted,” says Nicol Goldfiner Barlev, Melanie’s sister, who runs production and design with their mom. “I have a whiteboard on the wall in front of my desk where she wrote down her ring size and style she wanted, just in case he ever asked.”

And what she wanted was an elongated emerald cut upwards of two carats in size with a double halo design.

When Daniel rang Nicol about the ring, that size stone wasn’t in inventory, so it took a few weeks before she, and eventually her dad (who pitched in to help source), could find one.

“It’s really important that a girl is happy with her ring, but especially in this industry; we knew she would be picky,” says Barlev.

Because of the quarantine, finding the stone wasn’t as easy as some might think. The family didn’t want to choose one that was too deep or too shallow in cut. Ultimately, they turned up options and narrowed down choices for Daniel. “He just wanted her to be happy,” notes Barlev.

Proof of that directive was obvious in his decision. Amir offered him a beautiful 1.8 ct. center stone, but Daniel said he wanted to give her a bigger diamond. The final choice? A 2.90 ct. G-color, VS1-clarity elongated emerald cut with a double-sided halo in 18k white gold. Rahaminov’s own bench jewelers (safely) returned to work to craft the ring. The shank is plain (no diamonds at all).

“I told Melanie she couldn’t have diamonds on her band because she is tough on her jewelry,” says Nicol. “Her band is thick and plain to fit her lifestyle. A lot of girls today want a band as thin as they can get with stones all around. It’s a beautiful look, but not the right kind of ring for Melanie.”

And why not platinum, the rarest of the metals, for such a special ring? Practicality. “Gold is a little stronger than platinum and holds the diamonds better. If we were just making a plain solitaire, we probably would have gone with platinum, where you don’t lose metal over time. But with a super pavé-intense look, we like to err on the side of caution by using 18k gold.”

Once the ring was ready, Daniel held onto it until one fine day in May, the 15th. He and his would-be bride were taking lots of walks for exercise since their gym was closed, so he coordinated with friends to make the proposal.

As they headed outside on a waterfront near their Southern California home to stroll, Daniel brought binoculars. Melanie didn’t think much about it since her beau was a gadget guy. As they walked, he looked through the binoculars across the water to a residential area opposite their location. He told her, “I think I see our friends,” a believable statement given they did have friends who lived in that direction. Daniel encouraged her to take a peek.

As she did, squinting to adjust her sight, she saw what Daniel had planned: his brother holding up a banner reading, “Will You Marry Me?” Nearby friends were concealed by bushes to snap photos. Daniel then got down on one knee and proposed.

“I was completely surprised,” says Melanie.

“We were so happy we didn’t have to postpone the ring design because of COVID-19,” adds Barlev. “Love is alive. It was a good distraction during quarantine.”

Melanie Rahaminov and her fiance, Daniel

Melanie Goldfiner and her fiancé, Daniel

Melanie Rahaminov and her fiance, Daniel

Melanie Goldfiner being proposed to by her fiancé, Daniel

Melanie Rahaminov and her fiance, Daniel
Melanie Rahaminov’s engagement ring, made by her family’s firm: A 2.90 ct. G-color, VS1-clarity elongated emerald cut with a double-sided halo in 18k white gold.

Melanie Goldfiner’s engagement ring, made by her family’s firm: A 2.90 ct. G-color, VS1-clarity elongated emerald cut with a double-sided halo in 18k white gold. (The photo angle doesn’t reveal the second halo.)


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Personalities

Have You Heard About the Alex Sepkus Jewelry Van (Down by the River)?

Upstate New York. Aug. 26, 2020. Jeffrey Feero is at it again. First it was his dark comedic take on the pandemic, and now it’s how to sell jewelry during it. Enter, the van.

Feero, one of the principals at the helm of the New York City–based jewelry brand Alex Sepkus, bought a used 2002 Dodge Ram van with 204,000 miles on it and pimped it out for light living and road trips for the jewelry brand. The van’s interior has a Porta Potty, a freezer and refrigerator, a pressure cooker, and a two-burner stove. Additional amenities include an outdoor shower, a fire pit, and a popup tent. He parks at campsites at night to cook and sleep. Feero made about $11,000 worth of renovations to the van; the last thing he wanted to do during the pandemic was get on an airplane, stay in a hotel, or go to a restaurant.

The jewelry van from Alex Sepkus is for pandemic road trip

“I could easily spend that much on airplanes in a typical summer,” he says. “I’m saving a ton of money on rentals and gas, which will help because this will be a thinner year. Plus, the novelty of this matches the weird times.”

The van’s exterior, meanwhile, serves as advertising for Alex Sepkus, with magnetic graphics. For real. An industry friend asked him if he was insane, driving around with pictures of jewelry emblazoned on the sides. His response? Relax, they’re only visible when Feero is parked at a store. Before he leaves and returns to campsites, he swaps them out for signs for his blueberry farm. He even brings blueberry bushes with him to cement the ruse with nosy neighbors.

Van customized by Alex Sepkus jewelry for road trips

“I’ve never stayed at an RV park, but the other campers all want to know way too much about you,” he says.

To date, he’s taken a 10-day, 2,200-mile trip to Wisconsin and back, and there’s a second one being planned. Customers are happy to have Feero visit since his means of travel doesn’t put anybody at risk of virus exposure. They’ve even sold a few jewels. At one Midwest shop, Feero and the owner did a zoom presentation with a client, closing the sale in person on her porch. Everyone was socially distanced and wearing masks. That trip netted $30,000.

Van customized by Alex Sepkus jewelry for road trips

“Some people’s choices now are based on fear, but I can’t sit home and hide,” he says. “It used to be that retailers were sick of seeing dealers walk through the door, but now they’re happy to see someone. We have to do something creative to find business. If you’re waiting for the old way to come back, you’re crazy.”

Another peer rang Feero to say he admired his gumption. Feero’s reply? “I have no choice; I don’t want to starve.”

Van customized by Alex Sepkus jewelry for road trips

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Personalities

Meet Jewelry Designer Cora Sheibani and Her Gloriously Graphic (and Hard-to-Find) Gold Jewels

London. Aug. 24, 2020. Cora Sheibani has been bringing bold and colorful jewels to life for 18 years from the U.K. The founder of the same-name design house loves telling a story through graphic incarnations of themes like cacti, cupcakes, or eyes, the final pieces celebrating the vibrant hues and volume of art from the 1960s and 1970s.

Jewelry designer Cora Sheibani

Jewelry designer Cora Sheibani

“I’m obsessed with shape and color,” she explains in a phone interview. “My jewelry is heavy and solid, made in Switzerland and France, and my aim is not to maximize effect for profit—it’s made for how the jewelry feels when worn.”

Sheibani’s art-rich background paved an exciting path for her high-end offerings to take shape. Raised by an art dealer and design collector, Sheibani had childhood experiences as one of a kind as her jewelry, such as sitting as a model for Andy Warhol and painting with Jean-Michel Basquiat as a toddler. She studied art history at New York University and attended GIA in London before sketching out her own line and collaborating with goldsmiths in tune with her visual sensibility to bring them to life. Much of her work is cast, though pieces in Valence and Valence Plus are fabricated out of wire.

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“I could not work with just anyone, I only work with those goldsmiths whom I feel understand my sensibility to shape and color and have a similar aesthetic,” she says. “Otherwise the interpretation is always wrong.”

Sheibani’s signature style of volume and color are evident in her Copper Mould collection, ice cream rings, frames, clouds, and more. In these works, plump symmetrical objects are made by thoughtful master jewelers in Switzerland and France; some pieces, like her Pudding ring from Copper Mould, are assembled with screws for ease of possible repair down the road. Gemstones of choice include hard stones like agate and nephrite jade but also faceted rocks like diamonds.

“I enjoy working with hard stones as much as diamonds,” she says. “Hard stones are not dainty, and I’m inspired by the graphic nature of them.”

Where to find Sheibani’s fantastic creations? Check her website for private exhibitions or reach out to her to set up an appointment to view jewels in person. The specialness of her jewelry—retail prices start at £5,000—doesn’t lend itself to online sales, nor does she wholesale to stores (save for the occasional gallery that offers a small selection of works for a limited time). No design is ever replicated in the same colors, and Sheibani travels worldwide to meet collectors for private shows. “When I was younger, I was told to make my pieces cheaper for wholesale, but I didn’t, and I think that has set me apart,” she says. “I’m still able to make very fine, well-made jewelry—it’s hard to find jewelry made to this standard. I appeal to a small market. I’m more of a destination jeweler.”

Pudding ring* in 18k rose gold with 20.65 cts. t.w. of pink opal and pink sapphire, $8,900; email info@corasheibani.com for purchase

Pudding ring* in 18k rose gold with 20.65 cts. t.w. of pink opal and pink sapphire, $8,900; email info@corasheibani.com for purchase (*Components are held in place by a concealed screw.)

Black Blizzard Cloud earrings in 18k white gold with black rhodium and 1.7 cts. t.w. spinels, $10,100; email info@corasheibani.com for purchase

Black Blizzard Cloud earrings in 18k white gold with black rhodium and 1.7 cts. t.w. spinels, $10,100; email info@corasheibani.com for purchase

Texan Cactus bracelet in 18k yellow gold has 137.2 grams of gold with 4.22 cts. t.w. tsavorites, $32,800; email info@corasheibani.com for purchase

Texan Cactus bracelet in 18k yellow gold has 137.2 grams of gold with 4.22 cts. t.w. tsavorites, $32,800; email info@corasheibani.com for purchase


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