Society / Featured Parties

The King of Hermes Tosses Genuine Pearl Necklaces For Mardi Gras — Making the New Orleans’ Partying Even More Rich

Two Days and Nights of Fun With a Master Jeweler Franco Valobra's Unexpected Twist

BY // 03.01.22
photography Daniel Ortiz

Darlings, traveling with the King is the only way to go. Just ask the Houston entourage that joined Franco Valobra of New Orleans, Houston and Italy in Mardi Gras festivities that found him as King LXXXII leading the Krewe of Hermes and friends across the streets of the Crescent City.

It was two days and nights of glorious fun punctuated with police escorts, marching bands and the perfect perch for viewing the Krewe of Hermes (pronounced her-meez) nighttime parade. It also spotlighted Valobra’s dedication to his adopted hometown. For the only means of being selected king from among the 1,000 members of Hermes is by a secret council with voting based on  personal accomplishments, generosity, charitable involvement, personality and reputation.

Those who know Valobra personally know that he checks all the boxes.

Those attributes were at play when the 2022 King of Hermes decided to toss 100 pearl necklaces — yes, real pearls — into the crowd as his parade coursed along famed St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street. As a fourth generation master jeweler with salons in New Orleans’ French Quarter, Houston and Lugano, Switzerland, Franco Valobra knows his way around the coveted pearls and he thought this a fitting tribute to New Orleans’ resilience following not only Hurricane Katrina but also the pandemic.

“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,” Valobra told New Orleans’ WWL TV. “These are going to be handed out to people along the route to let them know that Mardi Gras is here to stay, no matter what. No hurricane, no pandemic, no crisis will stop Mardi Gras.”

King of Hermes Franco Valobra leads the Krewe of Hermes night parade during New Orleans Mardi Gras. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
King Franco Valobra leads the Krewe of Hermes night parade during New Orleans Mardi Gras. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)

Although the pandemic quashed the 2021 festivities, there was no sign of restraint or scaling back for 2022. The Krewe of Hermes festivities at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans began with the white-tie-and-tails presentation evening. In charming old school tradition white gloves were required for both men and women and for the presentation that followed a champagne reception, ladies were seated and gents stood in the back of the ballroom. Rituals that have been honored since the founding of the krewe in 1937.


  • Christopher Martin Gallery October 2
  • Christopher Martin Gallery October 2
  • Christopher Martin Gallery October 2
  • Christopher Martin Gallery October 2
  • Christopher Martin Gallery October 2
  • Christopher Martin Gallery October 2
  • Christopher Martin Gallery October 2
  • Christopher Martin Gallery October 2
  • Christopher Martin Gallery October 2
  • Christopher Martin Gallery October 2

The ball revealed a stunning tableau of glittering gowns, spectacular trains, ostrich plum headdresses on costumed and masked knights, scepters, herald trumpeters and choreographed presentations of the king, queen, ladies of the court and youthful ladies in waiting. All but the colorful knights and pages in white-tie were dressed in white with silvery embellishments. An orchestra provided the presentation music. Dinner and fevered dancing followed in yet another ballroom.

The King’s Traveling Party

The following day found the king’s entourage arriving at Antoine’s in the heart of the French Quarter via police escort through streets that were already teaming with revelers. Valobra’s family and guests dined in the famous Hermes Bar, where the bar was open and the meal a New Orleans feast. Meanwhile members of the krewe dined at the Men’s Float Luncheon around the corner at Latrobe’s on Royal.

Following lunch several dozen of the Hermes gents — wearing requisite coats and Krewe of Hermes ties and carrying cigars and adult libations — began their stroll down Royal Street, led by the Talladega Marching Band of Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. Known as “The Marching Tornados,” it is considered one of the best, most well-known marching bands in the South. The route passed Valobra Master Jewelers where a a champagne and Bloody Mary-infused viewing party was held for guests. The king, of course, rode in a horse-drawn carriage.

Some of the Houstonians never made it back to the hotel before the parade viewing party. Others took a breather and a nap in preparation for the big night.

For the parade the king’s guests were hosted in cozy second floor event rooms at Blake Hotel where the balcony stretched wide and long, enough for the dancing, partying guests. A creole-style buffet and open bar fueled the dizzying party scene that rocked on as the parade passed by. The king tossed one of his coveted pearl necklaces to the balcony and presented a bouquet of white roses to his bride Nancy Valobra.

Much of the Valobra family participated in all aspects of the celebration including the couple’s children and the kings’s sister and brother, Cristina Valobra in from Zurich and Giorgio Valobra.

Devinder, Gina, Mia Bhatia (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
Dr. Devinder & Gina Bhatia and their daughter Mia Bhatia at the Krewe of Hermes ball (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)

While New Orleans is his family residence, Franco Valobra spends enough time in Houston to plant bountiful roots. Much of the philanthropy that he launched in New Orleans, he has repeated here.

Valobra is the founder and past president of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Foundation and a former chairman of the Harris County Constable Precinct One Foundation. He is a senior member of the President’s Leadership Council of the Houston Methodist Hospital. In 2007, he founded the annual Houston Ferrari Festival benefitting Texas Children’s Hospital Cancer Center. The event continues to attract thousands of visitors and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research.

In addition, since opening his store in Houston in 2006 following Katrina, Valobra has donated to nonprofit fundraisers hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry for auction.

In 2015, Valobra was honored by the president and prime minister of the Italian Republic with the Knighthood of the Italian Republic for his outstanding service to benefit the Italian people, Italian brands and the Italian way of life in United States.

PC Seen: Renowned chef Daniel Boulud and wife Katherine, and Houstonians Gina and Dr. Devinder Bhatia, Mignon and Steve Gill, Rachel and Tom Regan, April and Dr. Jorge Salazar, Derek Potts, Ivonne Longoria, Yulia and John Houghtaling, Isabella and Charles Reimer, Edward Sanchez, Joella and Steve Mach, Kristen Cannon, Laurie and Tracy Krohn, Viviana Denechaud, Katrina Armin, Judith Oudt, Cali and Ryan Wheless, Lisa and John Santasiero, Dr. Roland Maldonado and Kayvon Sohrabi, and Derek Potts.

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