Monday, June 02, 2008

Jewelry show

On Friday the big jewelry show opened; this is the largest show that we handle all year. There are other shows that are bigger for the city, with parts in multiple locations, but this one is exclusively here and it consumes all of our available space (and I mean all of our space as well as most of the big hotel next door). Our halls and conference rooms are broken up into over three thousand separate booths, with larger ones for the larger companies. Over 70,000 people are expected to attend, so in addition to the people manning the booth as well as guards and those running the show we will have over 100,000 more people in the building than we did last week. This does make it a little hectic in the corridors.

Not all of the exhibitors are trying to sell jewelry; there are displays of those little velvet bags your stuff is put in, fancy boxes to put things into, the velvet boards used for display, neck and wrist displays to put things on, booths displaying glass display counters and others with clasps, engraving machines, welders, printing, gold granules, artificial stones and everything it takes to create jewelry. Store owners come to pick out new display systems, for store remodels as well as new styles of boxes and spotlights and other parts that go with selling; manufacturers come to find sources of raw stones and gold and silver; artists come to find new colors and shapes and cuts of stones; but most of the booths are just filled with finished products.

The overall show is broken up into several individual pieces, with each part directed at a specific audience. The first part of the show dealt with very high end jewelry; it opened on Monday and finished up yesterday. It was held up in the top of the convention tower in the big hotel next door while one of a kind items were displayed in suites up in the hotel itself. This is where the movie stars and people with twenty million to spend on one item come for sparkly stuff that no one else has, or to have something custom created. We went up to the fifth floor yesterday to work on one of the computers, and were quite impressed by the number of guards that were at the door. First were two gentlemen in sport coats, who seemed to be unable to hold their arms close to their sides, then were two uniformed armed guards dressed in black, who escorted us up to the individual checking badges. Unfortunately we were only issued wristbands for the part of the show down in our hall, and had to do some talking to be let in. Behind the door were two more uniformed armed guards, with two LV city policemen standing with them. I guess that it might be difficult to leave with items you shouldn’t be taking.

My first indication that things were different when I got to work on Friday were all off the cars parked out front on the sidewalk.

(sorry for the quality of the pictures, my camera is not doing too well right now)
There were a line of marked police cars down the side street and all of these out front. Walking past them I noticed they all were a bit similar

They all had these two little antennas on the back, but were different color cars, most Fords, with standard license plates. I didn’t see who drove them in, but most of the pickups and large vehicles came with two or three guys dressed in green combat gear with LV-SWAT logos on the pocket, big belts with lots of stuff hanging off and big guns.

Those of us that work here have to wear wrist bands in addition to our photo badges.

Different colors every day, and if you come in early before they give them out (as I do) then it’s a closer look by the security guards as I walk to my office. We are only allowed into the halls to get lunch from the food court, so sorry I have not been able to take any photos of all of the sparkle, but I can say that there are probably more spotlights in our building than in the rest of the southwest. Every booth has at least half a dozen lights pointed at their display cases, most have a lot more; all the better to make everything sparkle and shine and look really pretty. You almost need sunglasses to fend off the glare when you walk into the hall from our bright Vegas sunshine. All of these lights (and people) generate so much heat that there are huge temporary air conditioners all around the building, with big ducts leading into assorted rooms to help cool things off.

At most shows the China pavilion contains the most booths, but at this show the largest area is the Israel section. There are also a lot of companies from Turkey, India, Japan and Russia as well. When I say pavilions it means that some government office from a country acted as coordinator for companies located there. They reserve a big block of space, and bring along all of the booths. So there are areas where all the booths are the same little box, same color and same size signs to provide a continuity of design. The India Pavilion is comprised of about 200 booths, all 10x10 feet, with white paneling and the same glass counter out front, one company per booth, each displaying their own specialty.

One of the big things again at this show is colored gems; there are large posters for ‘chocolate diamonds and pearls’ as well as bright yellow diamonds out in the lobby. I thought that pure clear diamonds and bright pearls were supposed to be the most highly prized, but it looks like the industry (or selected companies) is trying to move things over to deeper colors. So those of you with those old fashioned clear diamonds hit up your spouse and break out the credit card and go get new ones. All I can say is that I will be replacing every diamond and pearl necklace at our house with the latest style, which is really easy to say because there aren’t any. OK, now, don’t go beating me down because I haven’t bought my wife pearls, please, if I buy her fancy stuff she’ll want me to take her places where she can wear it, which will then entail new outfits and and and, so stop it.

Just back from walking through the lower hall for lunch: wow, even more impressive after a quick pass through (and security didn’t throw us out like last year). Rows of turquoise stones, pearls from Japan, filigree silver from Russia, trays loaded with sparkly bits and glass counters filled with gold, it really is impressive looking at that much stuff all in the same place.

Last year four of the conference rooms down the hall were used as vaults, where bags of display items were locked up each night and redistributed to booths every morning. Each booth gets a big white Tyvec bag in which they place all of their display items each evening. A lock and seal goes on top, and two or three guys come by with a cart to pick it up.

Every time I look at that picture I just think, boy, there goes my house and more than I will earn for the rest of my life. Just put it in the trunk of my car please.

This is what the room looks like during the day. The carts in the corner have some spare bags piled on. All of the guards are gone, and it looks rather empty. At night this room is filled wall to wall up to the ceiling with bags filled with shiny stuff. It isn’t a real vault; there are no thick concrete walls or heavy steel door, but being located next to a casino, with all of the guys with guns that I have seen around, I would not recommend you trying to take anything out of here. This year the show looks bigger than it did last year, with more booths and attendees. The rooms that were used as vaults last year are being used to hold more vendor booths this year, so temporary rooms have been set up in different areas.

Being a large building there are a number of tunnels and corridors that are left empty as fire exits. Temporary walls have been put up in these areas, which are used for nightly storage. This one is at a wide spot heading down to the ‘team members’ entrance and parking garage.

Just thin plastic walls clipped together. I walked past this one last Thursday at lunchtime, when bags were arriving. Again, it might be empty here, but it was totally filled with bags at the end. I was hesitant to walk down the hall, as there were about fifty security guards dressed in black all wearing guns just standing around. Again, it might be easy to poke a hole in the wall, but for some reason it might be a little harder to get away with anything.

All of the stuff displayed here has to come from somewhere, so there are scheduled pickups by armored cars from locations around the country, and special secure shipping containers and even special planes that are used to bring all of this stuff into Vegas. It arrives over several days, but it all goes out right after the show closes in a big caravan to the airport. Shipping containers are filled up and sealed back on our loading dock, the transported on flatbed trucks (so somebody can’t hide inside) in convoys to the airport, they bypass the security checkpoints and those airline baggage employees that have no problem taking a camera out of your checked bag and are put right onto waiting planes. Yes, I can picture George Clooney coming up with a grand scheme to swap out trucks or containers or even airplanes or something, but with a dozen cars surrounding them I think it might be a little difficult to pull off.

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