Jill Zarin announces the nominees at the Couture Design Awards in Vegas

Couture kicks off poolside at the Wynn. May 28, 2009 Las Vegas--Couture 2009 officially kicked off on Wednesday evening with an opening reception featuring welcomes from hotel mogul Steve Wynn and special guest Jill Zarin from The Real Housewives of New York City. Couture exhibitors, sponsors, press and Cornerstone and VIP retailers were among the attendees who gathered poolside at the Wynn Las Vegas to celebrate the start of the 2009 show. Wynn developer Steve Wynn welcomed guests to his hotel, emphasizing the connection between the high-end Couture jewelry show and the luxurious atmosphere of the Wynn, home to the six-day buying and networking event. As for Jill Zarin, the Real Housewives star helped to introduce the nominees of the 2009 Couture Design Awards, along with National Jeweler Editor at Large Victoria Gomelsky. Well-known for her buying habits on the Bravo reality series, Zarin explained her presence at the jewelry show by saying, "I'm pretty much your target customer." Zarin and Gomelsky said that a total of 200 entries to the Couture Design Awards were whittled down to 39 finalists, with three nominees in each of the "Best Of" competition categories: Gold, Platinum, Silver, Diamonds, Natural Colored Diamonds, Colored Gemstones, Pearls, Bridal, Men's Jewelry, New Trends, Timepieces, New to Couture and Haute Couture. Online voting took place from May 11-22, with the Couture community casting a total of 2,000 votes. The Couture show opened earlier this morning, and the event will continue until June 2. In addition to buying opportunities, educational seminars such as the America's Best Jewelers breakfast series will provide retail jewelers with opportunities to network and listen in on best-practice strategies. "I know what a difficult and challenging year it has been, and I know for me and the Couture community, it is so important to share our successes and strategies," National Jeweler Network Group Vice President Bailey Beeken said during the opening reception. "It reminds us that we're one community--the Couture community."