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
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.
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.
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.