Returning home on Tuesday to higher piles of snow than when I’d left a week earlier had me longing for the pleasant ocean breezes of Miami Beach. Though most of my time was spent inside a giant convention center, I enjoyed seeing the beach during short morning runs before my day began.
I arrived in the late afternoon on Wednesday, the first day of set up, and decided to rest a bit before dinner. Joining a group dinner hosted by the Richters, I was excited to partake in a tradition for dealers of dining at Joe’s Stone Crab, a Miami institution itself, at the beginning of the show each year. We all enjoyed the favorite dishes the historic, and always busy, restaurant offers: Joe’s famous cole slaw, sweet potato fries dusted with cinnamon sugar, brussels sprouts, creamed spinach and mounds of giant stone crab claws. My wedding ‘diet’ now derailed, I indulged myself with the delicious dessert options: a slice of Joe’s famous key lime pie and a giant helping of apple pie à la mode. Stuffed and well-fueled for the grueling week ahead, I slept like baby.
For the next three days, I helped my friend Amy, her father Kurt and their gemologist (and photographer) extraordinaire Danny of Excalibur. My first day was the second day of set up, during which most dealers hurriedly put out their goods, if they set up at all, and then head off to do some buying of their own. The vast halls are a flurry of activity – buying and selling, flipping and fawning over all the jewels for sale. Fresh from the holidays, this exciting trade show offers dealers and jewelry stores the opportunity to replenish their inventories with new antique stock at discounted, or dealer, prices.
On the following day, which is the first day the show is open to the public, the line of people waiting to get inside extended outside the building (or so I was told). When the doors opened at 12noon, we were immediately inundated with dealers and retailers asking to see that necklace there, or this ring here, what’s your best price?, can you do any better?, and so on. After what felt like no time at all, we looked down at our watches and realized it was already 5pm. Time literally flew. By the time 7pm rolled around, the aches and pains of standing on your feet all day really sank in and that last hour seemed to go on forever. After the show closes at 8pm, and all the jewels are stacked safely in the safe, we drag our starving selves to dinner.
On Sunday, I was finally able to walk the show. Row upon row of booths stretched for miles it seemed, with jewelry dealers systematically interspersed with the other antique dealers. Each year, the dealers set up temporary shop in the same booths, which are highly coveted and impossible to get unless someone decides to stop showing (which rarely, if ever, happens) or passes away. Between all exhibitors, the amount of jewelry on display is truly overwhelming, and the range of pieces is even more staggering.
There are dealers who specialize in Victorian jewelry and others who specialize in no period in particular, small dealers from rural areas around the U.S. and prominent ones from the jewelry capitals of the world – New York, London, Paris and Geneva. Incredible gems, too, can be found at the show. Basically, any jewel you can imagine is at this show.
During my breaks, I tried my best to see as much as I could for the next couple of days. The endless aisles can be daunting and difficult to navigate without some kind of planning, so I mapped out the booths I really wanted to see while stopping at others along the way. While perusing the goods at the booths I was able to visit, I asked how the show was going for each exhibitor. Overall, the show had been a good one for most dealers, and many said they had bought more than they expected to.
While I often forgot that mental pictures aren’t nearly has useful for a recap of my trip, I remembered to take photos of those pieces I found particularly interesting or simply beautiful. Here is a small fraction, a sliver really, of the jewels that caught my eye at the Original Miami Beach Antique Show: