A local business owner wants to remind everyone how important Mardi Gras, and the tourists who visit, are to the local economy and he's doing it in a way you've never seen before, with real jewelry, not plastic throws, at an upcoming parade.
We've done many stories on Mardi Gras beads, how they add to the garbage, get stuck in trees and drains, help special needs children with a job, their toxicity to babies, and how some groups are making environmentally safe ones. But you've never seen a Mardi Gras bead story like this one.
Fourth generation, master jeweler Franco Valobra is doing something special for the Hermes parade. His gallery in the French Quarter is donating 100 strands of genuine pearls to the King of Hermes for the Friday night parade goers.
“The king wants to show to all of the revelers, that Mardi Gras is rare and valuable to all of us, for our tradition, for our economy, for everything else,” said Franco Valobra, Owner and President of Valobra Jewelry in New Orleans, Houston and Switzerland.
The pearls are double A quality, 10 to 12 millimeters round, perfectly matched with high luster, and knotted in-between. Some are opera length of 54 inches. The others are even longer, 72 inches. Retail they run in the $1500 range.
“These are going to be hand out to people along the route to let them know this Mardi Gras is here to stay, no matter what. No hurricane, no pandemic, no crisis will stop Mardi Gras.”
It's not the first time the Italian-born New Orleanian has given back to his adopted city. Every Christmas he organizes a big toy giveaway with the Ferrari car club. He has done supply drives to bring donations to hurricane victims, and he donated special gold recognition pins to health care workers on the front lines during the height of the pandemic.
“I came here, and I love New Orleans. I love the people from New Orleans. I love the resilience. I love the tradition. I love the pride. This is my new home,” said Valobra.
People at Valobra Jewelry say that they can tell that New Orleanians have a different culture than all the places they go around the world. They say we have an attitude of gratitude, we're much more festive, and we're much more likely to strike up a conversation and be very talkative with strangers.
But he says the city that care forgot, can not forget now to give back time, money and effort so the culture will live on.
Hermes rolls at 5:30 Friday night on the uptown route.