Hot Weather Leads to Lukewarm JA Show

The 2006 Jewelers of America summer show, held during one of New York City’s hottest-ever Julys, had little gain in attendance, but there were some reports of good business from vendors and buyers. The show took place July 30–Aug. 3 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

There were about 1,750 exhibitors, and at 13,900, attendance was “about equal to 2005’s summer show,” said Drew Lawsky, JA New York Show director. Most attendees were from the Northeast. The show’s first day was crowded, but midway into its third, many aisles were near empty.

Even so, some had steady business, though others thought foot traffic overall was less than usual for a JA summer show. A few suggested the four-day show is too long, but many blamed heat—both outside, where the heat index rose to a scorching 115, and inside, where it seemed warmer than usual—for discouraging buyers from coming into the city.

Still, Lawsky said that even flat attendance was “a positive, in view of this challenging economy, gold’s high prices, and New York’s heat wave. The buzz inside the show was positive, given what’s happening in the world and in the jewelry business, where sales are a little sluggish.”

There was some discontent about temperatures inside Javits. Many exhibitors complained, particularly those in the all-glass “Crystal Palace” lobby where the sun’s heat can be oppressive. Many assumed air-conditioning was lowered because of a general city request to prevent power outages. However, Lawsky said the Javits Center put it “100 percent on” for the show and “never turned it down.”

One popular sector chose not to attend because of the heat and is unlikely to return. The Concourse d’Elegance, an annual exposition and show of several-dozen mid- and luxury-price watch brands, had been held for seven years in a large open pavilion in the Crystal Palace. The event was popular with visitors, who came not only for watches but also to see special guests like actor/watch collector Eli Wallach and events featuring mountain climbers, vintage cars, and even an antique airplane. But every year vendors complained about heat, and organizer Bert Kalisher early this year asked Lawsky to move the Concourse d’Elegance into the main show. Told there wasn’t room, Kalisher canceled. Instead, the 2006 Concourse will be held Nov. 18–19 at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, N.J.

Despite hot weather and flat attendance, many vendors said they wrote orders and made new contacts. In general, they termed business “satisfactory.” The Hong Kong and Italian sectors were busy much of the time, as was the Couture/IJDG Pavilion, which showcased couture designers, International Jewelry Design Guild collections, and, for the first time, the two-year-old Natural Color Diamond Association.

Among jewelry for the fall and holiday seasons, delicate necklaces and earrings, particularly hoops, were popular. Many designers expanded into new colored stones, complementing gold pieces. Rose gold and sterling silver jewelry were on many retailers’ buying lists.

Among watch sellers claiming good sales were Oceanaut’s new Swiss-made watches and the revitalized, expanded Ernst Benz luxury timepieces. Ecclissi, known for sterling silver watches, had a traffic-puller with its Bali-style watch, with white mother-of-pearl mosaic dial. Cristian Geneve (Brokoe Corp.) had a fast seller in its new women’s luxury gold line with mother-of-pearl dial and diamond markers.

Giorgio Visconti’s red gold and diamond V-One was a best seller, while Boston-based Essence offered midprice watches of ceramic and tungsten. Festina, in addition to its 18k line, did well with its colorful Dashboard chronographs with dual-textured rubber straps. Another crowd-pleaser was Vetania’s five-year warranty with guaranteed seven-day service, backed by the pledge of a free watch.

Ecco, a Korean mid- to luxury-price brand (with Swiss and Japanese movements) made its U.S. debut with high-tech ceramic watches. London-based Storm did well with midprice Regal cuff watches with large square steel cases. A popular watch type in Italy catching on here is good, affordable watches with transparent plastic or polycarbonate cases and bracelets. New ones at JA included Ritmo Mundo’s Drops line and Zoppini’s Manuel.Zed.

Among other product introductions were Wolf Designs’ small Module 3.0 single watch rotator; designer Mark Silverstein’s The Wartch, a steel ring watch with interchangeable bezels (including diamonds); and Cherie Dori’s midprice petite aluminum watch, with interchangeable colored bezels set with tiny Swarovski crystals as hour markers.

The Gem Certification & Assurance Lab announced its new digital certificates, known as GemFacts, which come on a mini-CD with full graphics of a GCAL certificate. Moving a cursor over any of 19 keywords on the CD certificate, e.g., “clarity” or “color,” produces a pop-up window.

Those winning the show’s Golden Apple for publicity and marketing campaigns included jewelry designers Sonya Ooten, Andrea Levine Jewelry, and Mathew Trent. The 2006 Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year award went to Geoffrey Giles.

Social highlights included the Women’s Jewelry Association 23rd Annual Awards for Excellence gala and the American Gem Society’s seventh annual Circle of Distinction award dinner. In addition to honoring eight women in design, manufacturing, retail, sales, marketing, reporting, and special services, WJA gave special awards to Hedda Schupak and Terry Burman. Schupak, JCK editor-in-chief, received WJA’s highest honor for 20 years of service in the jewelry industry. Burman, chief executive officer of London-based Signet Group, the parent of Sterling Inc., received the Ben Kaiser Lifetime Achievement Award for his support of women in the jewelry industry.

At the AGS dinner Matthew A. Stuller, chairman and CEO of Stuller, won its 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award. Thomas A. Andruskevich, president and chief executive officer of Birks & Mayors, and Michael Bondanza, principal and founder of Michael Bondanza, won the AGS Triple Zero Award in the retail and industry categories, respectively. The AGS Richard T. Liddicoat Journalism Awards went to Russell Shor, of Gems & Gemology; Cynthia Zarin, of The New Yorker; and Carole Schrock of The Star Newspapers