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Gem Shopping Network invited to Michelle Obama's luncheon

Special Photo To honor Mrs. Obama she received a triple strand, hand-strung, 10mm white pearl necklace. Pictured is Susan Martin, from left, who designed and made the USA clasp for Mrs. Obamais necklace, Lori Goodrich, who also works for Claude and did the stringing of the 3 strand pearl necklace given to Mrs. Obama, Claude Markarian, VP of the Gemological and Jewelry Division and PJ Lynch, CEO of Gem Shopping Network Inc.

Special Photo To honor Mrs. Obama she received a triple strand, hand-strung, 10mm white pearl necklace. Pictured is Susan Martin, from left, who designed and made the USA clasp for Mrs. Obamais necklace, Lori Goodrich, who also works for Claude and did the stringing of the 3 strand pearl necklace given to Mrs. Obama, Claude Markarian, VP of the Gemological and Jewelry Division and PJ Lynch, CEO of Gem Shopping Network Inc.

DULUTH -- Gem Shopping Network made a new friend this week -- the first lady, Michelle Obama.

On Wednesday, the Duluth-based company was one of several businesses invited to be a part of the 101st First Lady's Luncheon in Washington, D.C. The annual event paid tribute to Obama's dedication and work with military families, plus her program to encourage healthy eating and exercise.

As for the experience, GSN Chief Executive Officer PJ Lynch could describe it in three words: "Unbelievable. Incredible. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

GSN was invited to the soiree through Chairwomen Billie Gingrey, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey's wife. She hand-picked many Georgia companies to be donors at the luncheon, including The Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, Spanx, Paula Deen Enterprises and Penley Art Company.

Lynch and Claude Markarian, vice president and lead gemologist of GSN, traveled to the event, excited that they and their employees made, hand-packed and distributed approximately 1,800 20-inch pearl and black agate necklaces to the guests in attendance.

The two also had the privilege to present the first lady with a triple strand, hand-strung, 10-millimeter white pearl necklace complete with an interlocking USA clasp designed by GSN's Susan Martin.

The clasp "created a unique interlocking 'USA' clasp symbolic of Michelle Obama's 'Joining Forces' Initiative dedicated to caring for our U.S. servicemen and women and their families," Lynch said.

When the first lady saw the necklace, Markarian believes she was pleased with the gift.

"She had the biggest smile and said, 'I love pearls,'" she said. "She was really sweet and gracious, thanking us."

Now back in Gwinnett, Lynch and Markarian are ready to move into the next phase: commercialization of the pieces.

"I didn't think we could commercialize anything," Lynch said. "We were doing it for honor and organizational pride."

But event organizers gave the company the green light, so duplicates will be made in the future -- most of which will be used as donations for silent auctions.

"It's a magical moment for us personally and for the company," Markarian said. "I hope she wears her pearls."