JCK 2015 PREVIEW: The Fantastic Forecast for the Jewelry Industry in 2015



For retailers, 2015 will be all about reinvention: ­transforming themselves into media outlets, manufacturers, and even diamond buyers. herewith, 10 hot ­topics that jewelers will be buzzing about all through the new year.

Wearables

Apple chose an intriguing venue (and time) for one of the first public viewings of its new smartwatch: the high-end Paris boutique Colette during fashion week. Equally intriguing was the guest list: Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The upshot? The tech giant wants its more-than-a-timepiece viewed as not just a gizmo, but also a piece of fashion. And it’s not alone. Online retailer Gilt.com just released a smartwatch by menswear designer Michael Bastian; Rebecca Minkoff has created two smart bracelets with Case-Mate (one notifies you of calls and texts, the other charges your phone); retailer Opening Ceremony partnered with Intel on its MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory) bracelet; and Fossil is designing a wearable-tech series, also in conjunction with Intel. After several failed attempts, tech companies are reaching out to true design experts to hopefully produce smart-looking smart devices. —Rob Bates

In-House Manufacturing

Pendant by Sierra Design Studios’ Kitty Hundley, first-place winner of the 3DPMP Challenge, in 18k red gold by Cooksongold using the Precious M 080 3-D printer

Consumer demand for customization and one-off pieces continues to heat up. Shoppers who previously wanted nameplate necklaces are now asking for designs from scratch. The demand dovetails neatly into the democratization of 3-D manufacturing—jewelry-grade printers now start at around $16,000. But even jewelers who aren’t interested in 3-D fabrication should invest in their bench game. Why? Modern consumers have become accustomed to mixing and matching metals and stones on sites such as Blue Nile. And they expect a finished product to be delivered in days. ­Jewelers who can offer that level of design flexibility—while keeping turnaround times miniscule—will have an edge in 2015 and beyond. —Emili Vesilind

Recycled Diamonds

Melodir/Thinkstock

Diamond buybacks haven’t received near the attention that gold selling did at its height, but they constitute a substantial business, accounting for an estimated $1 billion in transactions each year. Businesses like CIRCA and White Pine have targeted this space; now De Beers has expressed an interest, running a test program with four jewelers that it claims will reinvent diamond buying. Diamond dealers aren’t crazy about the buyback business, but as America ages, look for a lot more gems to return to jewelry counters. As Ezi Rapaport, head of global trading for the Rapaport Group, said at a conference: “There are more diamonds now coming out of America than South Africa.” —RB

Apple Pay

Ted Soqui/Corbis
Mobile payment: making a comeback thanks to Apple

When the bigger, slicker iPhone 6 debuted in September, it effectively revived a mobile technology many considered on its way out. Near frequency communication (NFC), a form of short-range wireless communication that allows consumers to pay for goods and services by holding up their smartphones to an NFC reader, is the technology used in Apple Pay—the de facto mobile payment system in all new iPhones. NFC is popular in Europe and Asia, but was resoundingly rejected by major U.S. retailers including ­Wal-Mart and Target. Consumer fervor for all things Apple, which is famous for embracing lame ducks (see: Bluetooth, which Microsoft dabbled in before all but abandoning), may very well result in a resurgence of NFC use in the United States. Our advice: Get wired to accept it ASAP. —EV

Retailers as Media

Victoria Gomelsky

At a time when media are becoming retailers—the blog Hodinkee.com, for example, does a slamming watch strap business—the reverse is also true: “I really believe that retailers have to become media,” says Max Büsser, founder of the boutique watch brand MB&F. Case in point: STORY. Since 2011, the New York City emporium has embraced “a retail concept that takes the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery, and sells things like a store,” according to founder Rachel Shechtman. Translation: Every four to six weeks, the store changes everything from the merchandise to the flooring in order to tell a new story (“Love,” “Good,” “Made in America”). Brand sponsors—Target is behind the current story, “Home for the ­Holidays”—play the role of advertisers. A less ambitious, but no less winning, strategy? Build a community on social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest, where ­storytelling is easy—and free. —Victoria Gomelsky

Designer Collaborations and Exclusives

BaubleBar’s Sprinkle Links Bracelet, from its collaboration with Salvador Perez, costume designer for TV’s The Mindy Project

High-wattage collaborations aren’t the strict purview of giant retailers such as Target and H&M anymore. More and more, small and midsized jewelry retailers are ­harnessing the cachet-building power of designer collaborations and exclusives. Clicks-and-bricks retailer BaubleBar has built its business, in part, through high-profile partnerships with brands including Fallon and Erickson Beamon. Blue Nile has struck gold with its proprietary Monique ­Lhuillier bridal collection; the e-comm component of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop hinges almost entirely on splashy ­collaborations (Sarah Chloe recently created a special jewelry collection for the lifestyle site); and this summer, when J. Crew added fine jewelry to its lineup, it brought in Catbird, Jennifer Fisher, and Monica Rich Kosann, among others. Manhattan’s Greenwich ­Jewelers has a number of New York City exclusives (including Todd Reed) along with made-for-store pieces from Single Stone. Indie retailers should consider approaching designers they’ve forged great relationships with over the years to potentially collaborate. Remember: You don’t have to be a big fish to make a big splash. —EV

Bank Consolidation

Ojo Images Ltd/Alamy

Bank Leumi has departed the diamond business. Antwerp Diamond Bank is shutting down. And lenders like Standard Chartered have cut back. Clearly, banks seeking to de-risk (as most are) aren’t looking to get involved with the diamond business. De Beers says this shows the industry needs to become more transparent, and it now requires sightholders to submit audited financial statements in an effort to make them more “bankable.” But what about the rest of the industry? The cutback in financing could “drive consolidation,” one exec admitted at a bank forum. Translation: With so many financial institutions exiting the industry, some shaky businesses may have no choice but to follow their lead. —RB

Casual Fashion

Large five geode necklace in 18k rose gold with 3.19 cts. t.w. diamonds; $24,425; Kimberly McDonald, NYC; 646-205-9994; kimberlymcdonald.com

Spring fashion shows across the globe nodded to myriad styles and eras (sportswear and the 1970s, in ­particular), but the underlying messages remained consistent: You can bank on soft silhouettes and pastel colors in 2015. Think fringe, ­loose-fitting frocks, and flora and fauna motifs, which all had strong showings in ­collections from Elie Tahari, Haider Ackermann, Jenny ­Packham, Emilio Pucci, and Fendi. Ideal jewel pairings include ­yellow gold, ­natural symbols such as feathers and beads, and ­neckwear of all stripes. “There were a number of designers showcasing natural stones and drusy statement necklaces,” says Tara Silberberg, owner of The Clay Pot in Brooklyn, N.Y. “We love that kind of thing in general so we’ll have plenty of that on hand.” —Jennifer Heebner

Grading Reports

Chesh/Alamy

It all started when a Nashville TV station targeted a local jeweler for carrying diamonds with reports from EGL International—a lab it said was too lenient. That jeweler was later slapped with a series of lawsuits. Then RapNet banned all EGL reports from its network, and it’s safe to say, the world of certs will never be the same. Many now think grading labs, which were supposed to shore up ­consumer confidence, now pose a threat to it. Under fire, the EGL network is closing the International lab and will have all its branches grade consistently. But the issues raised will remain, with industry groups talking about endorsing a single standard for grading. —RB

Lifestyle Branding

Vibrant Orchid ring with 10.75 ct. Cotton Candy Amethyst and 0.16 ct. t.w. Vanilla Diamonds in 14k Strawberry Gold; $4,000; Le Vian, Great Neck, N.Y.; 877-253-8426; levian.com

Jewelers and watchmakers are taking inspiration from brands the world over by embracing a lifestyle marketing approach incorporating clothes, handbags, and accessories into their repertoires. Scott Kay, for example, has a lifestyle line in the works that will include dresses, handbags, tracksuits, and undies. Benrus, the American watch brand revived ­earlier this year by former Alex and Ani CEO Giovanni Feroce, will sell everything from backpacks to cologne. Even trade fairs are changing formats to accommodate the ­continuing focus on lifestyle marketing: Fiera di Vicenza’s new president ­Matteo Marzotto, a Valentino veteran, reimagined the ­VicenzaOro fairs to drive home the connection between ­jewelry and fashion. Exhibit A: The fair’s January edition will feature a first-ever lifestyle fashion show ­courtesy of Great Neck, N.Y.–based Le Vian. “From dresses to shoes to bags to scarves,” says CEO Eddie LeVian, “the ­models will be ­head-to-toe in Le Vian.” —JH