10 Things Rocking the Industry, January–February 2017

TRENDS

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Kermit the Frog famously lamented that “it’s not easy being green.” Well, Pantone just made it a little easier. The color authority has selected Greenery—one of its top 10 spring 2017 shades—as its Color of the Year for 2017. (A few past picks: 2014’s cheery Radiant Orchid, 2015’s much-maligned Marsala, and 2016’s pastel pair, Rose Quartz and Serenity.) “Greenery is nature’s neutral,” according to Pantone. It’s also fertile ground for jewelry designers, particularly those who favor bold-colored gems. Hey, Mom always told us to get more greens into our diet.

18k black rhodium gold earrings with white diamonds, tsavorites, yellow sapphires, peridots, and green tourmalines; price on request; Lydia Courteille, Paris; 33-14-261-1171; lydiacourteille.com 

WATCHES

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With Swiss watch exports down double digits compared with a year ago, the watch industry is facing a sales crisis that threatens to cast a pall over 2017. But don’t expect watchmakers at the 27th annual Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, which runs Jan. 16–20 in Geneva, to admit it. Think of the high-end trade fair—home to prestige brands such as Cartier, Panerai, and Jaeger-LeCoultre, as well as a gaggle of well-regarded independent makers—as a posh debutante ball for the world’s finest timepieces. IWC will unveil its revamped Da Vinci collection, while a couple of new exhibitors (Girard-Perregaux, Ulysse Nardin) promise to shake up the show’s established routine.

Da Vinci 36 Automatic Stainless Steel with moonphase indicator; price on request; IWC, Schaffhausen, Switzerland; 800-432-9330; iwc.com

BRANDS

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Endless Jewelry had a meteoric rise in the industry, but it didn’t last. In December, the 3-year-old charm brand—founded by former Pandora executive Jesper Nielsen and given promotional juice by ambassador Jennifer Lopez—filed for bankruptcy in Germany. The North and South America division filed for Chapter 7 in Florida court a week later. The twin filings capped months of turmoil at the company—Nielsen left in February, after what he calls “an ego battle” with a shareholder, and this summer the company replaced its top executives. Still, at least one executive hopes this won’t truly be the end: “I know there is still interest in the Endless brand,” says Brice Pagnuco, vice president of Endless Jewelry International. “The potential is obviously huge.”

A $145 gold-plated charm from Endless

CLOSINGS

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Many were shocked to learn that North Little Rock, Ark.–based Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, a highly regarded American Gem Society jeweler, was closing after 80 years. But vice president Laura Stanley stresses that—despite the closure of so many other independent jewelers (see item No. 10)—this was done for personal, rather than professional, reasons—specifically the retirement of father Loyd. “Our business has been very good,” she says. “But when thinking of taking over this place and running it, and getting more physically bound to it.… I needed a little more flexibility.” Stanley plans to become a personal jeweler. “It’s sad on one level. It’s the end of the era, it’s 80 years. But I am looking forward to change.”

Stanley Jewelers Gemologist’s Loyd Stanley and his daughter, Laura 

SMARTWATCHES

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Pebble, the seminal smartwatch brand that famously got its start by raising $10 million on Kickstarter in 2012, was acquired in December by Fitbit in a sale that ultimately put the financially struggling startup out to pasture. Following the sale, Fitbit dismantled the company swiftly, nabbing Pebble’s software engineers and testers, along with its intellectual property—but not its hardware. An announcement on Pebble’s Kickstarter page read: “Fitbit has agreed to acquire key Pebble assets. Due to various factors, Pebble can no longer operate as an independent entity, and we have made the tough decision to shut down the company.” RIP Pebble.

Pebble: from groundbreaker to collectible

RETAILERS

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Chow Tai Fook, the jewelry powerhouse that owns thousands of stores in Asia and in 2014 bought Hearts On Fire, is coming to America with a branded shop at Macy’s in Flushing, N.Y. The 500-square-foot boutique, which opened in November, sells gem-set, platinum, and karat gold jewelry as well as Chow Tai Fook–branded merchandise geared to the Flushing community, sometimes called the “Chinese Manhattan.” Given that Chow Tai Fook is one of the largest jewelry companies in the world, many wonder if it is planning more. “We shall wait and see how the feedback from the market is,” says a spokesperson. “Our core business focus remains in Greater China while we shall prudently explore opportunities in overseas markets.”

Marc Mastronardi of Macy’s with Chow Tai Fook’s Kent Wong

LAWSUITS

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It’s an age-old retail practice: Listing items as “on sale” when they never appear at the non-sale price. Now the Los Angeles city attorney has targeted four department stores for doing just that. In December, Mike Feuer charged J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, and Sears with unfair competition and false advertising, for allegedly offering items “on sale” with a “false reference” price. And while this practice may not be new, neither is the controversy: Both Kohl’s and J.C. Penney have faced class-action suits over their sales advertising in years past.

JEWELRY

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Well known as a symbol of the punk era, the safety pin has taken on political resonance in the wake of the presidential election and growing fears that minority groups will be targeted for physical and emotional abuse. Rooted in tolerance movements born in Australia and England, the trend of wearing a safety pin indicates you are “dedicated to establishing safe spaces for those being discriminated against,” says Matthew Perosi, founder of the Jewelers Equality Alliance. Jewelers keen to offer safety pin jewels can look to established designers such as Sydney Evan and Ileana Makri, who’ve pinned their hopes on widespread support for society’s most vulnerable members.

Safety Pin earrings in 14k rose gold with 0.06 ct. t.w. diamonds; $660; Sydney Evan, Los Angeles; 213-236-4444; sydneyevan.com

GEMS

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Ruby and jade lovers heading to Tucson in early February for the city’s annual gem week—a confluence of 30-odd gem and mineral shows, including the American Gem Trade Association GemFair, the GJX show, and JCK Tucson—are heaving a sigh of relief. “Burmese goods will be legal,” says Jeffrey Bilgore, president of the AGTA board of directors, referring to the recent lifting of the United States government’s 8-year-old ban on rubies and jade from Myanmar (formerly Burma). “Nobody has to worry about breaking the law anymore.”

18k yellow gold pendant with a 3.02 ct. Burmese ruby, diamonds, and color-change garnets; $31,950; David Gross Group, NYC; 212-542-3199; davidgrossgroup.com

STATS

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It was another set of grim statistics from the Jewelers Board of Trade, with 334 more jewelers closing in the third quarter of 2016. That brings the total for the year to 981. “I’m not surprised,” says JBT president Anthony Capuano. And he doesn’t believe the trend will let up: “There are still well over 20,000 jewelry retailers in the United States. I don’t know what the right number is, but it clearly is below what it is now.”
(Woman with iPad: Pixellover RM 5/Alamy)


  • Lisa Parshan

    Sad about the retailers closing….it kind of is parallel to the other article about the closing (or decline) of shopping malls…..we need to shift the paradigm. If the trend is to shop online for merchandise, then the trend for malls need to change to be a social experience