Best in Show: JCK Las Vegas 2013



They say third time’s the charm. And judging by the resounding success of JCK Las Vegas 2013 during year No. 3 at Mandalay Bay, they’d be right.

Hailed by many exhibitors as the best show they’d had in years, this year’s JCK Las Vegas was a feel-good fest all around. It started May 28 with the opening of LUXURY and Elite Enclave, and carried on through June 3 at 4 p.m., when the lights at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center dimmed and people began to applaud and holler. In ­selecting our annual list of the best people, products, and promotions to be found in Vegas, the show’s palpable sense of ­optimism deserves top billing. But tiaras, tanzanite, and Adam Levine aren’t far behind.

  

STONES OF THE SEASON
Paraiba & Tanzanite

Necklace in 18k gold with 191.41 cts. t.w. Brazilian Paraiba tourmaline and 7.87 cts. t.w. diamonds; $522,000; Lorenzo Jewels, Los Angeles; 213-233-4207; ljintl.com

Exhibitors at JCK were in a blue mood—as in tanzanite and Paraiba tourmaline (the bona fide material from Brazil as well as the paraiba-like stones from Mozambique). Vianna, Sutra, and Brazil Boutique all debuted dramatic jewels featuring the Windex-blue gems in fresh styles that all but screamed summer. Tanzanite, meanwhile, proved itself once again to be the JCK Las Vegas star. “It is good-looking, more affordable than sapphire, can be sourced in bigger uniform shape and quality for quantity orders, and is getting ­attention and Q&A from buyers,” noted one show veteran. “People are trying to bring it back,” concurred Andrea Kamhi of IZI Creations of New York City, whose cases displayed plenty of finished jewelry options for the purplish-blue stone. ­Mission accomplished. —Jennifer Heebner

BEST NOSTRADAMUS IMPRESSION
Steve Forbes’ keynote

JCK Events

Forbes editor-in-chief and big-business thinker Steve Forbes treated hundreds of retailers at the Plumb Club’s second annual breakfast symposium to predictions on what to expect from the economy in the near future. According to the two-time Republican presidential nominee, the economy will grow “3 percent this year,” bank credit will continue to be more readily available, gold will be a yardstick for global commerce (and will stabilize the costs of other jewelry materials), tax codes will be simplified, and millennials eventually will embrace fine jewelry—as they did the martini. —Emili Vesilind

BEST EXCUSE TO WADE WAIST-DEEP IN WATER
Maroon 5

Beverly Poppe

Getting into the wave pool was the only way to get within swooning distance of heartthrob lead singer Adam Levine, and that’s what music-loving showgoers did—rolling up their khakis, hiking up their skirts, and splashing around to hits like “Payphone” and “She Will Be Loved.” Still, whether they were dancing in the sand or partying in cabanas, attendees agreed that the third Rocks the Beach was the most rockin’ yet. —Melissa Rose Bernardo

MOST INTRIGUING MAKEOVER
Ritani

Vintage halo engagement ring with 0.4 ct. t.w. surprise diamonds in platinum; $4,290; Ritani, White Plains, N.Y.; 914-948-2200; ritani.com

Ritani was once a simple bridal jewelry line. Now it’s an ambitious clicks-and-bricks experiment, backed by investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald. ­Howard Lutnick, Cantor chairman and CEO, explained the thinking behind the brand’s latest incarnation. “Retail store margins have been eroded by Blue Nile,” he told JCK. “But Blue Nile was not giving the customer the service levels they wanted.” The result: a brand sold online—serviced by local retailers. “A global wholesaler combined with service-oriented local retailers is a really cool business model,” he proclaimed. “[This will] make us one of the largest distributors of diamonds in the United States and in the world.” —Rob Bates

BEST (ER, ONLY) REASON TO GET UP AT 5 A.M.
JFC’s Rings of Strength

JCK Events

Only Jewelers for Children could motivate 165 jet-lagged, bleary-eyed, and/or hung-over JCK showgoers to perform an outdoor athletic activity in the wee hours of the morning. The inaugural Rings of Strength Tour—a 15K and 50K bike ride and 5K run conceived by JFC board member Rebecca ­Foerster—brought in nearly $40,000 for JFC, thanks to funds raised by cyclists, runners, and walkers. As for the sleep deprivation from the sunrise start, well, isn’t that what Sin City is all about? —MRB

PROOF THAT SIZE DOES MATTER
Big Rocks

Necklace in 18k gold with 108.88 ct. emerald-cut Colombian emerald and 72.27 cts. t.w. diamonds; price on request; Takat, NYC; 646-728-0151; takat.com

Emeralds, tanzanite, diamonds…big stones were everywhere at the show—and perhaps most prominent at the Takat booth in Elite Enclave. Rayaz Takat, CEO of the New York City–based company, brought numerous fine stones: a 108.88 ct. emerald set into a pendant necklace, a ring featuring a 100.85 ct. faceted tanzanite, and a 279.2 ct. cabochon-cut tanzanite. Many ­buyers for pieces like these—often Middle Eastern royalty or stylists choosing jewels for celebrity red carpet appearances—are in the market for one-of-a-kinds, which is why Takat exhibited its 2-year-old brand in LUXURY. “Last year, we were at Couture, but…this is a higher-end show for one-offs,” he says. “I want to position myself on that level.” —JH

BEST REASON TO PLAY PRINCESS
Tiaras

Rock Crystal tiara in silver with 2.01 cts. t.w. single-cut diamonds; $4,400; Bibi van der Velden, Amsterdam; 31-20-626-9095; bibivandervelden.com

“We’re not paying enough attention to our heads,” says 2013 JCK Design Center Rising Star Bibi van der Velden while showing off a pair of tiaras, or headbands, she had on display in her booth: Both were silver with diamonds; one had a knot motif, while a second had the silhouette of raw crystal formations. Jewels in the hair like tiaras and headbands—or necklaces and brooches pinned into place for a similar effect—are whimsical, youthful, and downright fun. (You may remember them topping off a few ensembles in runway presentations during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in the past year.) Trust us: Tiaras aren’t just for 6-year-old girls anymore. —JH

BEST DESIGN FOR DUMMIES SOLUTION
Stuller Create Bar

Beverly Poppe

Your clients are clamoring for custom designs, but you don’t know where to begin? Stuller has taken all—we mean all—of the guesswork out of the equation with its Create Bar, a turnkey plug-and-play design package that debuted at JCK. Here’s what you get: a 6-foot design bar; three bar stools; LED lighting; personalized signage; 108 of Stuller’s best-selling prototypes; a tool kit (which comes with a mandrel, ring gauges, and more); a color printer; a 42-inch Vizio TV; CounterSketch software; marketing support; two-day in-store training; and access to Gemvision tech support—all for a cool $29,500 (including freight and installation). “We sold seven at the show,” says Maren Rosen, executive director of merchandising for bridal and jewelry. “It’s like selling a car! It was a home run.” —Victoria Gomelsky

MOST BUZZED-ABOUT FIRST-TIME VISITOR
Philippe Mellier

Wendy Monahan/The Viewfinders

Time was, De Beers execs didn’t dare step foot on U.S. soil for legal (read: antitrust) reasons. Then they came for “noncommercial” visits, but always steered clear of JCK Las Vegas. This year, the show hosted not only a sizable De Beers contingent, but none other than CEO Philippe Mellier, who scouted the floor, spoke at the Forevermark breakfast, and even chatted with JCK TV. Retailers acted like they were seeing a rock star. One told Mellier he’d waited his whole life to meet someone from De Beers and shake his hand. —RB

BEST TRICKED-OUT JEWELRY BOX
Charles Garnier’s billionaire safe

Beverly Poppe
You’d have to be a pretty strong thief to make off with Charles Garnier’s 585-pound safe!

At 585 pounds, the “billionaire safe” on display at the Charles Garnier Paris booth in Prestige Promenade wasn’t the heavy-duty option most jewelers prefer for storing precious inventory. But that mattered little to Guy Benhamou. “We like drama,” says the president of the Los Angeles–based silver jewelry brand. The brass replica of the original safe Charles Garnier used when he opened for business in Paris in 1901 was hand-built in Italy especially for JCK. “We calculated it and if it was made of gold, it would be $25 million,” says Benhamou. “You’d need a billionaire to own it.” —VG

COOLEST MARKETING CAMPAIGN BOOST
“Diamonds With a Story”  

Beverly Poppe
Shaped by Origin ring with Rio Tinto diamonds; price on request; Zoltan David, Bee Cave, Texas; 512-372-8888; zoltandavid.com

Mining giant Rio Tinto has added a compelling new twist to its year-old “Diamonds With a Story” initiative. The firm enlisted eight designers—including Kara Ross, Zoltan David, and Kristen Hanson—to create collections with Rio Tinto diamonds inspired by four distinct “stories”: Shaped by Origin, Cutting Impact, Mixed Medium, and Color My World. “We need to de-commoditize the diamond and ­jewelry industry,” said Bruno Sane, Rio Tinto Diamonds’ general manager of marketing. “The consumer is really looking at something else. The consumer is looking at stories.” —JH

BIGGEST BLING BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Amden’s Moonlight line

Moonlight rings start at $1,295; 213-327-0863; pascal@amdeninc.com

Los Angeles’ Amden Jewelry has always excelled at traditional diamond designs (i.e., channel-set engagement rings, tennis bracelets), but at the LUXURY show, the brand debuted—to quote Monty Python—“something completely different!” Amden’s Moonlight collection features colorless diamonds set into black diamonds with 18k gold mountings for an uncommon 21st-century Art Deco touch. The globally patented concept was developed by a silent partner and will be manufactured and distributed by Amden. —JH

MOST UN-BEAD-ABLE EXPERIENCE
Pandora

Joan Fuller

Pandora didn’t simply build a booth this year; it offered an experience. Two elaborate hallways leading to its showroom—which was for the first time located on the third floor of the show—paid tribute to Pandora’s collection themes: The first was the Enchanted Forest, full of trees, leaf-covered actors, three fake deer, 30 faux butterflies, and even a forestlike smell. The second 1,700-square-foot hallway conjured a makeshift Winter Wonderland, with 50 pounds of fake snow and actors portraying Santa, skaters on fake frozen ponds, and an ice princess. The “inspiration areas” took four days to set up, says Laurie McDonald, Pandora’s director of sales strategy. “Customers get so accustomed to visiting booth after booth at a trade show, and they all look the same,” she adds. “This gives you something different to remember
when you get home.” —RB

Black pavé crystal  and purple CZ rings; $135 each; Pandora,  Columbia, Md.; 410-309-0200; pandora.net

MOST EYE-CATCHING DISPLAY
Art of Henri

Beverly Poppe

While strolling around the shops near her home in West Hollywood, Calif., Design Center exhibitor Natalie Torre, creative director and founder of Art of Henri, wandered into DAO, a contemporary furniture showroom, and fell in love with owner Sue Chitpanich’s “mind-blowing” wood art. With the JCK show fast approaching, she purchased an 8-foot-high slice of reclaimed teakwood imported from Indonesia and used its organic form to display her new collection of lockets and pendants. The striking presentation attracted the attention of passersby, Torre says, and helped the first-time jewelry trade show exhibitor come to a conclusion most trade veterans figured out a while ago: “People in fashion are so mean, but they’re really normal in the jewelry world. Everyone’s so nice!” —VG