2014: The Year in Preview



By all accounts, 2013 was a pretty good—if not great—year for jewelry store ­owners. To keep the momentum going, we’ve pulled together our annual list of the 10 tech, style, and retail trends that’ll have the industry buzzing in 2014. Body jewels, blue gems, and brand loyalty are just the ­beginning. (Two words: ­Chinese synthetics.) Here’s to a healthy, happy, and ­sparkling new year!

1. BODY JEWELRY

Body jewelry has come a long way since the belly ring craze of the 1990s. Just ask Kathy Rose, the owner of Roseark in West Hollywood, Calif. She’s worn a Karma El Khalil body chain—a long number that attaches like a bra and crisscrosses the body—for the past six years. “We carry designers who’re making more belly chains, and we make our own anklets,” she says. Beverly Hills, Calif., designer Jacquie Aiche is another believer in baubles that treat the entire body as canvas. Her coveted gem-set chains are designed to drape the torso like “modern-day La Perla,” she says. Thanks to the season’s vogue for sporty crop tops, belly jewelry is poised for an even bigger moment in 2014, as are its edgy cohorts—toe-ankle bracelets and ear cuffs. Of all the parts of the body getting bejeweled, however, none have gotten more love from designers than hands, which now have a plethora of finger bracelets, hand rings, hand cuffs, and “handlets” to choose from. —Jennifer Heebner

2. SPEEDY DELIVERY

iStockphoto
It’s all about fast, fast, fast delivery.

Instant gratification has become a basic expectation of modern consumers, even fine jewelry shoppers. Rapid delivery options—e.g., free next-day shipping, same-day pickup on online orders—helped tip the scales toward online (as opposed to in-store) shopping in 2013. But the need for speed isn’t only imperative in cyberspace. The growing popularity of on-demand manufacturing (namely 3-D printing) also is contributing to the need-it-now mentality. For small jewelry retailers, this means implementing systems and practices that place a premium on velocity as well as value. Savvy store owners are offering speedy shipping and in-store delivery of custom products and adopting website tools that allow shoppers to customize their baubles and their in-store experiences. —Emili Vesilind

3. SMARTWATCHES

Courtesy of Samsung
Will watch lovers give face time to the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch?

In the beginning, watches told time. Then they became fashion ornaments. Now, if some brands have their way, gadgets on your wrist will send emails, give directions, take pictures, play music, check Facebook, and who knows what else. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear was the first major entry in the smartwatch sweepstakes, but response so far has been underwhelming. (“Nobody will buy this watch,” wrote The New York Times, “and nobody should.”) Most observers have higher hopes for a proposed Apple iWatch, which is reportedly in the works. All of which could cut into the traditional timepiece market. Swiss execs, however, don’t seem concerned with the tech hordes invading their business. In a Bloomberg interview, Richemont chairman Johann Rupert put it bluntly: “How would you like it if your boyfriend brings you a smartwatch instead of a nice pavé diamond watch?” —Rob Bates

4. BLUE HUES

Festival Fruits pendant in 18k white gold with tanzanite and diamonds; $1,658; Facet Barcelona, NYC; 212-302-8200; facet.es


Emerald lovers: Prepare
to be green with envy. From gemstones to ready-to-wear, the new year’s hottest color is perennially popular blue. It was evident at JCK Las Vegas 2013 when leading designers placed tanzanite, Paraiba tourmaline, and other bluish gems on the proverbial pedestal. The fashion sector acknowledged the blue streak too: Pantone’s Placid and Dazzling Blues made an appearance in spring 2014 clothing collections. Pantone executive director Leatrice Eiseman, has called Placid Blue “tranquil and reassuring,” saying it can “induce a sense of peaceful calmness,” while Dazzling Blue is the “scintillating, polar opposite.” The wide range of moods these shades represent is one reason the trade has fallen so hard for the hue. —JH

5. BLOGGERS OR BUST

Sought-after ­jewelry blogger Danielle Miele of GemGossip.com

Back in the early aughts, when bloggers first were forging a path through cyberspace, the notion that their easy, breezy columns could command respect (much less a respectable income) seemed, well, far-fetched. What a difference a decade makes. Today, the most successful bloggers have managers and contracts, and charge thousands of dollars to brands vying for a mention in their posts. The jewelry trade is just one of many industries now capitalizing on their reach. LoveGold, a digital project of the World Gold Council, recently enlisted Jonathan Valdez of OrangeJuiceandBiscuits.com to blog about gold jewels. Los Angeles–based Coronet Solitaire is working with a select group of style bloggers to promote its diamond staples (helping to explain how its Facebook page garnered 30,000-plus likes in the first week of its debut). And New York City’s Greenwich Jewelers recently asked GemGossip.com’s Danielle Miele to blog about her favorite pieces on the Greenwich site. “Bloggers help with PR,” says co-owner Jennifer Gandia. “They can complement a marketing plan…and are generally less expensive, at least in our market, than an ad.” —JH

6. CHINESE SYNTHETICS

A peek inside Scio’s diamond-growing process

We know Chinese factories manufacture everything from clothes to iPads. But diamonds? In September, lab-grown diamond manufacturer Scio announced plans to mass-produce gems in China in conjunction with two trade partners (which it declined to name). When the company gets all its machines up and ­running, it plans to produce as many as 1 million ­carats a year, though CEO Michael McMahon says some will be used for industrial purposes. Still, industry ­observers worry such a large synthetic ­production could seep into the industry undisclosed. “We are trying to deal with clientele who have a real good reputation in the industry,” McMahon says. “We will do everything we can do. But there is nothing we can do to make sure that companies down the line mark them as lab-grown.” —RB

7. BRAND LOYALTY

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Retailers are integrating easy-to-use mobile checkout into their stores to make the brick-and-mortar experience more like shopping online.

Technology allows brands to connect with consumers on a personal level. Proprietary shopping apps, targeted Facebook ads and email blasts, and online tools that link the brick-and-mortar experience with e-commerce are only a few of the paths brands are employing to achieve daily face time with their shoppers. One result of this omni-channel approach will be an increase in consumer devotion to brands that offer easy-to-use shopping platforms and appeal to their emotions and aspirations. Branded commerce apps will whittle down further the endless retail options—and as they are hammered into streamlined, one-click point-of-sale systems, they very soon will be the easiest and most popular way to shop. Finally, the recent resurgence of bold logos in fashion feels like the initial stirrings of widespread brand ­obsession—the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1990s. Retailers would be wise to ensure that their brand’s messaging reflects their mission and is unshakably cohesive across all selling platforms. —EV

8. THE NEW DE BEERS

De Beers Group
De Beers’ Botswana headquarters

For eight decades, De Beers’ famed sights took place at its ornate headquarters on London’s Charterhouse Street. But last November, the company moved the 10-times-a-year ritual to its new sorting facility in Gaborone, Botswana, in part to “add value” to its partnership with the Botswana government. This will undoubtedly benefit the local economy, but sightholders gripe about longer travel time—17 hours from New York—and fewer meal and entertainment options. Plus there’s the issue of whether Botswana—which is still a Third World country, if a relatively prosperous one—has the infrastructure to regularly host the cream of the world’s diamond crop. “There is growing concern about the speed,” says one longtime client. “It will be a pity if Botswana fails to live up to expectations.” —RB

9. CONCEPT RETAILERS

In Paris, the “it” store is—and has been since its 1997 opening—Colette, a one-stop shop for all that’s hip and fashionable, from bijoux to street wear to home goods. In New York City, Fivestory, on the Upper East Side, is Colette’s newest American heir apparent. The retail phenomenon embodied by these independently owned stores—as arbiters of taste in categories far and wide—isn’t new; what’s so striking is the degree to which store owners in small-town USA have caught on. Look to Marissa Collections in Naples, Fla., or Kiki in Lafayette, La., in the heart of Cajun country, for proof that today’s most successful jewelers aren’t jewelers in the traditional sense. They’re tastemakers. And in the coming years, we predict that more retailers, located across more ZIP codes than ever, will attempt to emulate their sixth sense for style. —Victoria Gomelsky

10. LUXURY EXPERIENCES

Handcrafted stackable microband rings with diamond and gemstones in 18k white and yellow gold; $2,500 and up; Martin Katz, Los Angeles; 310-276-7200; martinkatz.com

First came goods; then came services. So what’s next? “The psychic component of goods production will assume increasing importance,” Alvin Toffler wrote in Future Shock, his prescient 1970 polemic about our rapidly changing “super-industrial society.” He thought we soon would see a “revolutionary expansion of certain industries whose sole output exists not of manufactured goods, nor even of ordinary services, but of preprogrammed ‘experiences.’?” Toffler could have been describing the present-day ­­jewelry business, where brands are devising luxury experiences that go way beyond the in-store purchase. Take Forevermark’s $1.85 million fantasy gift in the Neiman Marcus 2013 Christmas Book: a 25 ct. rough diamond plus a trip to Africa to see where it was mined. Or the new $25,000-per-night Martin Katz Jewel Suite at the New York Palace hotel, where Katz placed his artwork and couture designs in vitrines to create “a gilded jewel box,” Katz says. “Every luxury company is looking for something that makes them stand out. When you create these experiences that you can’t typically buy for yourself—that’s what makes it exciting.” —VG