JCK Las Vegas 2012: Best in Show



They came, they saw, they bought. Our wrap-up of the best and the brightest jewels and news JCK Las Vegas 2012 had to offer.

When we arrived at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center at the tail end of May for JCK Las Vegas and its sister events, LUXURY and Elite Enclave, we figured that year two at the show’s new digs would be smooth sailing. And we were right. The floor was crowded—the show has seen a 21 percent increase in attendance over the past two years—but in a good way. That made our annual effort to select JCK’s most note­worthy offerings not-so-smooth sailing. ­Tracking down the best diamond jewelry or the ­coolest men’s bridal bands was like searching for a gem-covered needle in a solid gold haystack: demanding—but in a good way.

BEST DIAMOND JEWELRY

Plevé Collection by Ron Rizzo for Pluczenik
Grouted diamond mosaic jewelry? It may sound strange, but that’s exactly what designer Ron Rizzo showcased at JCK in his Plevé Collection for Plumb Club mainstay Pluczenik. The line, which debuted in 2011 and expanded this year, incorporates diamonds of all shapes, sizes, and colors into light-cured, stainable dental ceramic beds. The collection spans 80 SKUs in silver and 18k gold with grey and brown diamonds ranging from .005 ct. to 0.70 ct.; suggested retail prices start at $1,000. Perhaps the biggest testament to the line’s potential: strong sales in the Midwest, which typically takes longer to embrace new looks. Just ask Karyn Tarnacki of Moyer Fine Jewelers in Carmel, Ind. “We’ve had it for less than a month,” she wrote in a show-related blog post, “and have sold four pieces already!” —Jennifer Heebner

Cinnamon Open Leaf Drop earrings in 18k gold with 7.5 cts. t.w. diamonds; $12,700; Plevé by Ron Rizzo for Pluczenik, New York City; 212-813-1110; plevediamonds.com

BEST WAY TO MAKE FRIENDS ON THE FLOOR

JCK TV
JCK TV was back for its second year, with a crew of about a dozen producers, hosts, cameramen, and editors clocking in 14 to 18 hours each day to produce four original episodes that aired in 6,500 hotel rooms and across the show floor. Each half-hour episode—cheerfully hosted by JCK publisher Mark Smelzer and ­editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky (pictured)—featured segments on trends, notable designers, show events, and commentary from retailers around the country. “Creating a 30-minute show with 12 people every day is pretty ballsy,” says Michael Wolcott, lead producer of TV and online video for TMG (publisher of JCK). “But it was an exciting ride.” —Emili Vesilind

BEST NEW OLD CONCEPT

“Center of the Universe”
Once upon a time, the De Beers account at JWT was known for introducing “beacons”: heavily promoted products (e.g., three-stone rings) that were really just repurposed old favorites. Now, most of that account has decamped to Forevermark. At a May 31 breakfast in Las Vegas, the brand’s U.S. office debuted its first product concept. And what do you know—it seems like a beacon. The “Center of the Universe” campaign aims to elevate the ubiquitous halo setting with a romantic positioning that lets a man tell a woman she is his “everything.” Forevermark will tout the concept via a media campaign hitting in September. —Rob Bates


Beverly Poppe
Forevermark centers on the omnipresent halo setting.

BEST PLACE TO SPOT HIGH ROLLERS

Swiss Watch
While the JCK Las Vegas show welcomed retail ­jewelers from all segments of the marketplace, high or low, the adjacent Swiss Watch event—at the Mandalay Bay Tower, THEhotel, and the Mandarin Oriental—catered to a considerably more upscale crowd. The goods on offer told the story. From the Girard-Perregaux Cat’s Eye Tourbillon flooded with 32 cts. t.w. diamonds to the $680,000 Toric tourbillon timepiece by Swiss watchmaker Parmigiani—featuring a Westminster chime and an indigo dial rendered in exceptional guilloche work—the models on display at Swiss Watch, which celebrated 10 years at JCK this year, have become progressively more luxurious with every passing year. Among the event’s 30-some participating brands—including Harry Winston, Hermès, and Hublot—business was, to quote Marcia Mazzocchi, Parmigiani’s general manager of the Americas, “upbeat and very positive.” From her lips… —Victoria Gomelsky


Toric Westminster Large Date timepiece in platinum with tourbillon mechanism and indigo dial; $680,000; Parmigiani Fleurier, Miami; 305-260-7770; parmigiani.ch

BEST TRADITION

JCK Rocks the Beach
It may be just 2 years old, but the Sunday-night party has already become a veritable JCK Las Vegas institution—and we doubt it has anything to do with running around barefoot in the sand. Turns out that jewelers rock pretty hard (pun intended). This year, alt-rockers OneRepublic hit us with their singles “Apologize,” “Come Home,” and “Good Life”—not to mention covers of everything from Buffalo Springfield (“For What It’s Worth”) to the White Stripes (“Seven Nation Army”). They also admirably braved a few inflatable–beach-ball attacks. Splashing in the Mandalay Bay pool, sipping a summery drink…to quote OneRepublic, “this has gotta be the good life.” —Melissa Rose Bernardo

Beverly Poppe
The rockin’ beach at Mandalay Bay

BEST SHOW OF CULTURE

India Evening
On June 1, 350 guests gathered in Mandalay’s Lagoon ballroom for an “India Evening” hosted by the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council and featuring the group’s ambassador, actress Sonam Kapoor; traditional Kathak dancing; and a runway show spotlighting—what else?—elaborate Indian jewels. The gala helped “portray India’s strength and capabilities in culture and design,” says GJEPC chairman Rajiv Jain, proving that if anyone can out-Vegas Las Vegas, it’s the Indians. —VG


GJEPC ambassador Sonam Kapoor at India Evening

MOST CREATIVE NEW SALES VEHICLE

Precious Express by Richline
In the back of the Richline booth in the Plumb Club, showgoers saw a new gadget that may not represent the future of jewelry retailing but certainly offers a very different take on it. Meet Precious Express: a vending machine that delivers jewels in no time flat with the swipe of a credit card. The machines can stock anywhere from 72 to 144 items—mostly impulse buys, such as hoop earrings, with $50–$150 price points. While this isn’t exactly the most dignified presentation for a luxury product, Richline chief marketing officer Mark Hanna says a few mass retailers have already expressed interest. “There will be some people who think it is ugly,” he says. “But some people will think it is cool.” —RB


Beverly Poppe
Yes, that is Warren Buffett’s face on the Precious Express. (Richline is owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.)

MOST VALUABLE GEMSTONE PLAYER

Opal
“Trippy translucent opals have been popping up everywhere, of late,” the influential fashion ­website Refinery29 declared in mid-May. Among jewelers, however, the report was hardly news. Opals began to shed their shady reputation as gems of misfortune roughly a decade ago when a generation of fearless designers including Irene Neuwirth, Kimberly McDonald, and Dior’s ­Victoire de Castellane rediscovered their allure. October’s birthstone has been a designer darling ever since. The Australians preside over the gem’s legendary deposits—think Lightning Ridge and Coober Pedy—but up-and-coming varieties from Mexico, Peru, Ethiopia, and Queensland have recently begun to crowd jewelry’s center stage. “Sure, they don’t come cheap,” wrote Refinery29, “but we’re betting they’re the next big, perhaps huge, thing.” Judging by the tremendous opal ­jewelry selection at the JCK and LUXURY shows in Las Vegas, the trade is banking on that. —VG


Beverly Poppe
ARA Collection’s JCK show opal selection included a slew of beguiling fire opal rings and fish-like pendants; the piece at bottom is studded with Australian opal doublets.

COOLEST MEN’S BANDS

Spexton by Stuller
In 2003, Nate McPherson and Greg Shelton opened a high-end men’s underwear store in Tulsa, Okla. On the side, Shelton, a former trucker and all-around Mr. Fix-It, began making men’s jewelry in the machinist shop next door. The pieces were so well received that in 2006 McPherson and Shelton launched a custom-designed bridal ring business under the Spexton label. A Spexton retail store soon followed, earning the duo accolades—and a celebrity following—for their cool design sensibility. Then, last summer, a serendipitous meeting with representatives from Lafayette, La.–based Stuller grew into an exclusive partnership; the mega-supplier is now producing a Spexton-designed bridal line, set to debut in the fall. The collection retails between $250 and $2,500, and comprises customizable titanium rings inlaid with silver, gold, and rose gold. “It’s a converter line,” McPherson says. “It converts non–jewelry-buying men.” —VG

 
“My buyer is the guy who never wore jewelry in the first place,” says Nate McPherson, cofounder of the bridal brand Spexton.

BEST MODERN TAKE ON AN OLD-WORLD TECHNIQUE

Ilgiz F. Enamel Jewels
The Moscow-based designer Ilgiz Fazulzyanov, or simply Ilgiz F., hails from a small town near Kazan, the capital of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, but his exquisite enamel ­jewelry reflects an artistic heritage drawn from ­Limoges, Osaka, and St. Petersburg. The first-time LUXURY exhibitor, together with his wife and translator, Dina Nassyrova, made clear why the enamel technique that he favors—“the real Russian hot enamel, in the Fabergé tradition,” according to Nassyrova—is coveted by connoisseurs with greater fervor than gold and diamonds. Heated to 950 degrees Celsius and fired multiple times before being accented by coral, lapis lazuli, jade, onyx, and diamonds, the enamel jewels designed by Ilgiz F. were among the most fetching pieces we spied in Las Vegas, boding well for this talented artisan’s American wholesale debut. —VG

 
Beverly Poppe
Butterflies earrings in 18k yellow gold with 3.36 cts. t.w. diamonds, faceted pearls, and enamel; $43,000; Ilgiz F., Moscow; ilgiz.org

BEST SHOW WITHIN A SHOW WITHIN A SHOW

Beverly Poppe

The Elite Enclave Décor
Luxury isn’t just about rare gems and big price tags. It’s also about atmosphere, as anyone who visited the intimate eight-designer Elite Enclave boutique at ­LUXURY (pictured) can attest. Creative consultant Pam Bristow established a lush yet laid-back urban safari theme with stacks of vintage trunks, African wood elephant sculptures, and white-jacketed waiters serving tea on silver trays. And lest you forget about jewelry, Bristow decked the walls with accessory-centric photographs by Tommy Ton. It all contributed to what Bristow called the “360-degree luxury experience.” —MRB

MOST CREATIVE JEWELRY DISPLAY

Beverly Poppe

Yael Designs
For the second year in a row, LUXURY’s Yael Designs reminded showgoers of an axiom of retailing: The display’s the thing. Prior to the show, Maryam Lavassani, the San Francisco firm’s operations manager, created an underwater-themed display (pictured) replete with charming handmade touches: colorful paper jellyfish; plastic utensils melted and twisted into ­fantastical coral shapes; even a few recently deceased crabs found at her local beach. “Years ago, in the Emirates, a jellyfish got stuck to my mom’s arm,” she says. “I thought it’s time to enjoy jellyfish instead of hating them.” —VG

Le Vian’s Fashion Show
They had us with the martinis: sinfully good cocoa-liqueur-and-vodka concoctions garnished with Hershey’s Kisses—an homage, of course, to the Chocolate Diamonds made famous by the Great Neck, N.Y.–based jewelry manufacturer. But the drinks were only a prelude to a jewelry-filled fashion show, of which one man (pictured) was the indisputable star. To show off Le Vian’s limited-edition Swiss-made chronographs, stylists strapped 17 of the watches onto a shirtless male model. And not on his wrists, mind you—strung across his (very toned) chest. The total value of all those timepieces: $31,815. But you can’t put a price on that kind of publicity. —JH

 
ZAG 78 Setai limited-edition Swiss chronograph with Chocolate Diamonds; $2,495; Le Vian, Great Neck, N.Y.; 516-466-7200; levian.com

David Crotty/PatrickMcMullan.com

MOST USEFUL NON-TECHNOLOGICAL FEATURE

Beverly Poppe

The “Ask Me” Team
You may have seen them strategically stationed throughout the hallways of Mandalay Bay. In fact, there’s no way you could have missed those smiling faces, stop-sign–size placards, and solicitous offers of directions and assistance. There were, after all, 150 of them stationed throughout the show—solely to help buyers, exhibitors, and, yes, even JCK editors make their way around 557,000 square feet of convention space. They knew the fastest way to AGTA, the easiest route to Tradewinds EF, and (most important?) the locations of nearby restrooms. It was like JCK’s own real-life Siri…sans the creepy robotic voice. —MRB