Opin­ions Di­vided On Las Ve­gas Shows

The week of jew­ellery shows in Las Ve­gas kicked off with op­ti­mism and hope. It ended, how­ever, on a more muted note for many ex­hibitors. Veteran jew­ellery jour­nal­ist CYN­THIA UNNINAYAR takes a look at some of the glit­ter­ing jew­els, gems, trends and opin­ion

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tart­ing off Jew­ellery Week was the lux­u­ri­ous Cou­ture Show, which opened its doors on Thurs­day May 31. The next day, the large JCK Las Ve­gas event wel­comed vis­i­tors to the Man­dalay Bay Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. The two other most im­por­tant shows were AGTA Gem­Fair, also at Man­dalay Bay, and the Las Ve­gas An­tique Jew­elry & Watch Show, which took place at the Las Ve­gas Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

Each show has its own per­son­al­ity. Cou­ture, with less than 300 ex­hibitors, is an easy-to-nav­i­gate and com­fort­able event fea­tur­ing up­scale brands and de­sign­ers from around the world. The much larger and more uni­ver­sal, JCK was spread over two floors and in­cluded more than 2,300 ex­hibitors, whose prod­ucts ranged from in­ex­pen­sive pieces to lux­ury items. The show also in­cluded na­tional pav­il­ions with a di­verse as­sort­ment of man­u­fac­tur­ers.

“State of the Jew­elry In­dus­try”

This year, the JCK show opened with its first ever “In­dus­try Trends Break­fast”, dur­ing which it pre­sented the JCK State

of the Jew­elry In­dus­try Re­port. The re­port sum­marised a sur­vey con­ducted by GFK MRI, which fo­cused on the over­all re­tail sen­ti­ment and chal­lenges fac­ing the jew­ellery in­dus­try to­day. More than 500 re­spon­dents—pri­mar­ily re­tail­ers along with some in­put by man­u­fac­tur­ers, whole­salers and de­sign­ers—par­tic­i­pated in the sur­vey. This re­port re­vealed that 88% of re­spon­dents are op­ti­mistic about the in­dus­try over the next 12 months, although the main chal­lenges they see are: on­line com­pe­ti­tion (47%), over­all eco­nomic cli­mate (13%), lack of con­sumer de­mand (9%) and lack of mil­len­nial de­mand (8%).

So­cial me­dia is also deemed im­por­tant, with 90% of re­spon­dents plan­ning to in­crease ef­forts on so­cial plat­forms, while 81% rank so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing as one of their most suc­cess­ful busi­ness prac­tices. Some 46% of re­tail­ers sell on­line, and 55% in­di­cate that e-com­merce has in­creased busi­ness, while 59% note that e-com­merce is less than a quar­ter of their busi­ness.

Key trends as noted by the 500 re­spon­dents are the ris­ing numbers of lab-grown di­a­monds, with 19% of re­tail­ers stat­ing that th­ese gems are al­ready in their prod­uct mix. Re­spon­si­bly-sourced jew­ellery is also im­por­tant, with 73% in­di­cat­ing that they carry this cat­e­gory, with 49% see­ing an in­crease in con­sumer con­cern about re­spon­si­ble sourc­ing. Some 65% of re­tail­ers are see­ing more

fe­male self-pur­chasers, with 71% of this group spend­ing more than $500 (av­er­age price point of $1201). As for watches and charms, twice as many re­spon­dents saw a de­crease in sales as those who noted an in­crease in de­mand.

De­sign direc­tions

As in all th­ese shows, there were not re­ally any ma­jor new de­sign direc­tions. The prod­uct of­fer is so di­verse, as is de­mand that just about every­thing could be seen at the Ve­gas shows. Hav­ing said that, how­ever, we note that a few direc­tions were some­what more prom­i­nent this year than last. Multi-coloured gem­stones, in­clud­ing rain­bow de­signs are very much on-trend. Whether dec­o­rat­ing enamel in­sects or com­pos­ing a rain­bow-pat­terned neck­lace or brooch, multi-coloured gems el­e­gantly epit­o­mise Na­ture’s glory. Treated ti­ta­nium jew­ellery is also a way to show a myr­iad of colours.

When it comes to pop­u­lar sin­gle colours and/or gem­stones, if I had to choose one or two, it would be Paraiba tour­ma­line in var­i­ous shapes and sizes. While its price con­tin­ues to rise, some de­sign­ers are us­ing the neon-blue stone in smaller sizes or in ma­trix to cre­ate spec­tac­u­lar de­signs. Opals are also seen in a wide va­ri­ety of pieces, es­pe­cially stones from Ethiopia.

Lab-grown di­a­monds have def­i­nitely moved into the main­stream, helped no doubt by the sur­pris­ing—to say the least—an­nounce­ment by De Beers that it has cre­ated a new lab-grown di­a­mond sub­sidiary named Light­box. As you can imag­ine, this shock­ing de­par­ture for the di­a­mond brand left ex­hibitors and vis­i­tors buzzing with the news.

The adop­tion of lab-grown di­a­monds is only one man­i­fes­ta­tion of how brands are cre­at­ing more af­ford­able col­lec­tions in or­der to ap­peal to a wider range of buy­ers. Us­ing lighter, more del­i­cate de­signs in all ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing fringe and tas­sels, man­u­fac­tur­ers are hoping to at­tract more self-pur­chasers of all ages, as well as more cus­tomers look­ing for rea­son­ably-priced gifts.

Bri­dal, of course, was the largest sin­gle cat­e­gory at the shows and, while white di­a­monds were the norm, bri­dal is tak­ing on more colour­ful cen­tre stones. The most pop­u­lar gems are sap­phire—with blue and pad­parad­scha tones lead­ing the

charge—and ruby, with some de­sign­ers adding emer­alds and mor­gan­ite to the mix.

Pearls are om­nipresent. Among the more in­ter­est­ing de­signs were those fea­tur­ing fresh­wa­ter pearls set with gem­stones as well as won­der­ful pieces fea­tur­ing baroque pearls of all types. Very tiny and un­usual seed pearls from Ja­pan pro­vided the ba­sis for a num­ber of unique jew­els.

While metal hoop earrings are peren­nial favourites, quite a few hoops are set with gem­stones in a va­ri­ety of in­no­va­tive styles. Also on the agenda at many de­signer brands are long dan­gling pieces, many with asym­met­ri­cal sides.

Edgy jew­ellery is seen in pieces rang­ing from “cy­clone” fence loops and sharp points to skulls and snakes of ev­ery sort in both men’s and ladies’ jew­ellery. On the other side of the coin, evil eye jew­els pro­tect the wearer.

The big­gest in­crease in a cat­e­gory of jew­ellery this year has been in the num­ber of re­versible, trans­formable and ex­pand­able jew­els. Avail­able in rings, bracelets, pen­dants or earrings, cre­ative ways to change jew­els from one form to another or add com­fort while wear­ing th­ese orig­i­nal pieces are a wel­come ad­di­tion to any jew­ellery wardrobe.

Show re­ac­tions

As with all shows, the range of ex­pec­ta­tions var­ied con­sid­er­ably. With my time split be­tween the Cou­ture show, fol­lowed by the Las Ve­gas An­tique Jew­elry & Watch Show, JCK show and the AGTA Gem­Fair, the dif­fer­ence in mood was pal­pa­ble. Opin­ions at Cou­ture were gen­er­ally—but not al­ways—pos­i­tive, not only with re­peat busi­ness, but also with new con­tacts. Stephen Web­ster, of his epony­mous brand, summed up many of the sen­ti­ments: “Bril­liant show! We saw our big­gest in­ter­na­tional clients; this is the best show in the world; noth­ing com­pares.” An ex­hibitor who re­turned to Cou­ture af­ter a brief ab­sence, Ital­ian de­signer Alessio Boschi also en­thused that Cou­ture was a suc­cess for him, with many new con­tacts made.

At JCK, sen­ti­ments were more muted, es­pe­cially on the main floor, gen­er­ally in­di­cat­ing “slow” to “quiet”, although some ex­hibitors stated that they were “happy” with re­sults. In the JCK Lux­ury sec­tion, ex­hibitors seemed more con­tent. Laura Bicego, owner of Ital­ian brand Na­nis was de­lighted with re­sults, es­pe­cially as buy­ers showed great in­ter­est in her colour­ful Re­verse col­lec­tion, among oth­ers. Sa­muel Suli­manov of Sa­muel Sylvio, a spe­cial­ist in fine gems, was es­pe­cially happy with the re­cep­tion his Paraiba pieces re­ceived.

Over at the Las Ve­gas An­tique Jew­elry & Watch Show, sen­ti­ment was sub­dued. While a few ex­hibitors said the show was “okay”, oth­ers ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment, even lament­ing that they hardly sold any­thing. The sit­u­a­tion was some­what more pos­i­tive at the AGTA Gem­Fair, where most ex­hibitors opined that the event was “de­cent” if not “great”.

The In­dia Pav­il­ions

A num­ber of In­dian brands ex­hib­ited at Cou­ture and JCK, while oth­ers ex­hib­ited to­gether in the In­dia Pavil­ion at JCK. Th­ese two GJEPC-spon­sored pav­il­ions were lo­cated down­stairs in the main hall. The jew­ellery ex­hibitors were grouped

to­gether in the “Pass­port” area, sit­u­ated at the back of the show floor, while the di­a­mond ex­hibitors were in a small pavil­ion near the front. To learn more about what types of jew­ellery the In­dian com­pa­nies were pro­mot­ing in the United States mar­ket, as well as their opin­ions of the JCK event, we spoke to ten of the ex­hibitors in the jew­ellery pavil­ion. (In pass­ing, it should be noted that traf­fic was greater at the di­a­mond pavil­ion.)

All but two of the ex­hibitors, who were first-timers, have been at­tend­ing JCK for be­tween two and 20 years. Gen­eral per­spec­tives on the USA mar­ket were pos­i­tive with ex­pec­ta­tions that prod­ucts would re­ceive a good re­sponse from US re­tail­ers. Un­for­tu­nately, for more than half of the ex­hibitors, the show did not meet their ex­pec­ta­tions. The oth­ers in­di­cated that the show was ei­ther “okay” or “rea­son­able”.

In terms of on-trend prod­ucts that the ex­hibitors con­sider at­trac­tive for US con­sumers, there was wide di­ver­sity. When asked how the com­pa­nies dis­cerned th­ese trends, an­swers ranged from them do­ing “no re­search” to us­ing “trend spot­ters” who keep a finger on the pulse of the US mar­ket. In gen­eral, the va­ri­ety of the ex­hibitors’ of­fers cor­re­sponded to the wide di­ver­sity of tastes in the USA. Since most ex­hibitors al­ready have US cus­tomers, they also fol­low the trends through their clients, who make re­quests de­pend­ing on their par­tic­u­lar cus­tomers.

Some prod­ucts seemed to be a fu­sion of tra­di­tional In­dian and mod­ern pieces in an as­sort­ment of de­signs and a va­ri­ety of ma­te­ri­als, which in­cluded gold, sil­ver (in­clud­ing di­a­mond-set sil­ver), gold-plated sil­ver, brass and zinc. Sil­ver seemed to be the metal of choice for most ex­hibitors, although di­a­monds and gold (both 14-karat and 18-karat) along with coloured gems were avail­able at most booths. A few of the pieces of­fered at the In­dia Pavil­ion are fea­tured on th­ese pages.

Venue changes for 2019

Af­ter years of ren­o­va­tion, the Sands Con­ven­tion Cen­ter will again host the JCK show. Lo­cated across the street from the Wynn Ho­tel, which hosts the Cou­ture show, this move has been wel­comed by at­ten­dees, who will spend less time in tran­sit be­tween the two events.

Another change in venue is the re­lo­ca­tion of the AGTA Gem­Fair that will join the Las Ve­gas An­tique Jew­elry & Watch Show at the Las Ve­gas Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, not far from the Sands.

In place of the AGTA Gem­Fair that has tra­di­tion­ally been as­so­ci­ated with JCK, two new pav­il­ions are tak­ing its place at the Sands: the In­ter­na­tional Col­ored Gem­stone As­so­ci­a­tion (ICA) Pavil­ion and a new Fine Gems Pavil­ion.

Fair dates for JCK are June 2 through June 5. The two gem­stone pav­il­ions will open a day longer, from June 1 to June 5. The AGTA Gem­Fair and the An­tique show will open from May 31 to Tues­day June 4. Cou­ture has not yet an­nounced its dates.

Ital­ian brand Na­nis in­tro­duced a col­lec­tion called “Re­verse” where the cen­tres can be turned to fea­ture a dif­fer­ent de­sign as shown in th­ese two “Danc­ing in the Rain” Re­verse earrings.

Hand­made fil­i­gree pen­dant in gold by Por­tuguese brand Eleu­terio.

Ex­pand­able and twistable jew­ellery was very much in ev­i­dence in Las Ve­gas as seen in this gold and di­a­mond bracelet by Ital­ian de­signer, Mat­tia Cielo, ex­hibit­ing with Rock House.

In­dian brand, Moksh - Fine Unseen Jew­els, pre­sented a line of jew­ellery made from mi­nus­cule seed pearls from Ja­pan ac­cented with di­a­monds and sap­phires.

In the In­dia Pavil­ion, Dere­wala pre­sented a saleable col­lec­tion of on-trend gold­plated sil­ver jew­ellery for the US mar­ket.

Ruby, emerald and di­a­mond pen­dant in gold by first-time JCK par­tic­i­pant, B.D. Jew­ellers, ex­hibit­ing in the In­dia Pavil­ion.

Plat­inum ring fea­tur­ing a 4.17-carat pear-shape Paraiba tour­ma­line ac­cented by 0.47 carat of round Paraiba tour­ma­lines and 0.78 carat of round di­a­monds by USA brand OMI Privé.

The peren­nial hoop took on a rain­bow of colour in th­ese multi­gem­stone earrings by USA-based Suzanne Kalan.

French de­signer Ly­dia Courteille looked to the mys­te­ri­ous Nazca lines—gi­ant ge­o­glyphs lo­cated in the Pe­ru­vian coastal plain south of Lima—for in­spi­ra­tion for her gold Nazca earrings. One of the most cre­ative uses of baroque pearls was dis­played by Ital­ian de­signer Alessio Boschi with this large gem­stone and di­a­mond-set shark brooch. The dan­gling earrings of dif­fer­ent lengths can have the strands sep­a­rated from the top for a dif­fer­ent look. Con­cerned about the fu­ture of th­ese mag­nif­i­cent crea­tures, Boschi is do­nat­ing part of the sale price to an or­gan­i­sa­tion de­voted to sav­ing the sharks.

Mes­sage jew­ellery was pop­u­lar es­pe­cially the Evil Eye cat­e­gory as ex­em­pli­fied by this “evil eye” pen­dant in gold, di­a­monds and gems by USAbased de­signer, Jac­quie Aiche.

Ruby and gold pen­dant by Gem­fields in col­lab­o­ra­tion with @Muse.

In­dian brand Am­ra­pali pays trib­ute to Surya with th­ese gold rings fea­tur­ing two un­usual-cut gem­stones ac­cented with di­a­monds.

Two-finger rings are still on-trend as in this colour­ful gold and amethyst piece from Ital­ian brand, Moraglione.

USA-based Gurhan has teamed up with men’s cloth­ier, John Var­vatos, to cre­ate a line of John Var­vatos men’s jew­ellery. Shown here is a se­lec­tion of “edgy” bracelets in sil­ver, leather and lava beads. Enamel adds colour to th­ese gold and di­a­mond in­sect rings by USA brand, Lord Jew­elry.

Se­lec­tion of brass, sil­ver and gold-plated sil­ver jew­ellery with nat­u­ral gem­stones by Navrat­tan, a 20-year par­tic­i­pant at JCK, ex­hibit­ing in the In­dia Pavil­ion.

This re­mark­able neck­lace com­posed of over 500 carats of tour­ma­line and 78 carats of coloured di­a­monds was cre­ated by In­dian brand Pan­choo.

Bri­dal rings in blue and pink sap­phires, held in a pro­pri­etary plat­inum ten­sion set, by USAbased brand, Steven Kretch­mer.

Cuf­flinks in gem­stones set in gold by Ravi Jew­els, a 15-year par­tic­i­pant at JCK, ex­hibit­ing in the In­dia Pavil­ion.

Colour was seen not only in gems and enamel but also in ti­ta­nium as in this gem­stone and ti­ta­nium brooch by Shirley Zhang, a de­signer from China.

One of the most in­no­va­tive uses of pearls in fine jew­ellery comes from USA de­signer Lit­tle H, who slices pearls and sets them with colour­ful gem­stones.

Fringe earrings in sil­ver and gold by USA-based de­signer Freida Roth­man.

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