Forging Metals and Friendships at the Santa Fe Symposium
May will be an exciting and bittersweet month for us and for many in the jewelry industry. It’ll be exciting for us at David H. Fell Company because Ken Babayan, our Director of Manufacturing, will be participating in the upcoming Santa Fe Symposium at Hotel Albuquerque in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But it’s also a little bit bittersweet because this month’s symposium will be the last, bringing an end to an incredible 34-year run for this unique industry event that has played a huge role in driving our whole jewelry industry forward.
The Santa Fe Symposium is not your typical trade show. It prides itself on being a non-commercial, non-profit endeavor that brings together the very best of the jewelry casting and manufacturing industry, attracting speakers and participants from not only the US but from all over the world. Like many great ideas, the Santa Fe Symposium began in order to address something lacking in the jewelry casting and manufacturing industry: there was a lot of great research on jewelry casting and manufacturing out there, but it was inaccessible to the people who most needed it. Eddie Bell of Rio Grande, Inc. and Dave Schneller partnered up to found the Santa Fe Symposium because they believed that sharing research, discoveries, and ideas would drive innovation and help the industry grow.
That belief in cooperation brought decades of success not only to the symposium but to all corners of the jewelry industry. As a non-profit event, its sole interest is in making the jewelry industry stronger by bringing together its best minds in the scientific, technical, and business spheres and giving them a space to interact with and learn from each other. As casting and manufacturing topics are important to everyone involved in making and selling jewelry, the symposium has seen jewelers, gemologists, business owners, wholesalers, and retailers all benefit from the volume of knowledge on display each year.
Because of the symposium format, the Santa Fe Symposium is unique among industry events. All attendees are there to participate in the sharing of knowledge, teaching as well as learning. In addition to expanding their knowledge of their own area of expertise, participants leave the symposium with new ideas for their businesses and plenty of new professional contacts. As the Santa Fe Symposium points out on its website, the symposium was founded on the idea that “No one would be selling anything. No one would be buying anything.” It’s all about sharing knowledge and making connections.
The speakers are all experts in their fields, presenting rigorously researched papers on a vast array of topics from the metallurgy of precious metals to the uses of blockchain technology to generative design algorithms for jewelry designers. Some of the topics to be presented at this year’s conference include hydraulic forming for jewelry manufacturing and optimizing mass finishing processes. These technical papers and extensive, in-depth Q&A sessions offer new discoveries, new perspectives, and new techniques, helping jewelry industry professionals expand their skill sets while gaining insights into the ever-evolving technological landscape.
While this may all sound a bit daunting, it is all presented in an inviting, inclusive atmosphere that welcomes questions and discussion. The word “symposium,” after all, comes from a Greek word meaning “to drink together.” A symposium in Ancient Greece was a friendly gathering that took place after a meal where peers could discuss the things they were passionate about and knowledgeable about. In this social context, these people were not only creating social connections but intellectual ones, as well. They got to know their peers better, but they also came to understand their world, their professions, and their ideas better.
As a non-profit space to think about the future of the industry, the Santa Fe Symposium provides a similar atmosphere. As one attendee quoted on the Santa Fe Symposium website says, “As a young female educator, I was initially a bit intimidated to be in the presence of so many jewelry giants, but the atmosphere couldn’t have been more inviting.” The professional network this atmosphere helps to create is unlike any other in the world. Jewelry professionals have forged lasting bonds for over three decades at the Santa Fe Symposium, and though this year will be the last, the knowledge gained and the networks created will last a lifetime.