JCK Show Helps Visitors Face the Future

In Las Vegas, you can visit a 20-story pyramid, view a patch of New York skyline, ride a Venetian gondola, and see a 30% downsized Eiffel Tower. On June 2-6, you could also visit The JCK Show, the largest jewelry and watch trade fair in the Western Hemisphere.

Edith Weiner, president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown Inc., a futurist consulting group, presented the keynote speech, a ?View from the Future,? which speculated on how emerging social, economic, and technological trends are shaping the future markets, products, and processes of retailing generally and the jewelry business specifically.

A two-day educational program offered a smorgasbord of topics, including branded gems, e-commerce, retirement planning, and how to sell a diamond.

The best-attended sessions offered practical, apply-it-right-away advice, such as retailer Gary Gordon?s ?Advertising Dollar Decisions,? diamond jewelry marketer Michael O?Connor?s suggestions on ?Competing Effectively with Heavy National Marketers,? and jeweler Rex Solomon?s tale of ?How Technology Kept Us Alive.?

A special industry meeting addressed ?conflict diamonds,? those originating from African countries devastated by brutal civil war. Forum participants included representatives from the U.S. State Department, human rights group Global Witness, and industry associations.

?As a responsible industry that is based on diamonds being a gift of love, you must take efforts to prevent ?conflict diamonds? from coming into your shop,? said Charmain Gooch, director of Global Witness, the British human rights group that first brought the issue to public consciousness. ?Thousands of people are dying, being maimed, and having their lives destroyed. No responsible person wants to be part of such a problem.?

Gemstones and Diamonds

Sapphire headlined the gem news at this year?s show. Attractively priced blue sapphires, especially from Madagascar and Sri Lanka, outperformed tanzanite. Purple sapphires also were plentiful. Pink sapphires sold well again, and yellows were nearly as popular as pinks.

The big manufacturers had lots of color to pitch to retail chains and TV shopping networks. Look for red citrines to hit the airwaves, but in better qualities than before.

A.B.C. Gems of Los Angeles showed princess-cut emeralds. The brilliant faceting added sparkle to the darker African material. Peridot from China and Arizona was plentiful, but Nigerian red tourmaline was limited, especially very fine material.

Tom Cushman of Allerton Cushman & Co., Sun Valley, Idaho, showed more than a dozen different gem materials from Madagascar, including sphene, known for its incredible dispersion, but the more unusual Madagascar gems aren?t as easy to acquire as sapphire.

Chinese freshwater pearls. Antoinette Matlins? allegation that some Chinese freshwaters have been nucleated by old freshwater potato pearls (see Gem Notes, JCK, March 2000, p. 36) had many dealers up in arms. They said there?s no truth to her comments. There has been a report of one Chinese pearl farm attempting what Matlins suggested, but there?s no commercial production of this type of pearl, dealers contend.

Marc Freeman of Freeman Pearl Co. in Los Angeles, who had just returned from a buying trip to China, said buyers look through thousands of kilos to find a handful of high-quality round freshwater Chinese pearls. Tetsu Maruyama of C. Link said he found only a dozen or so ?top-top-quality? pearls after sorting through 5 to 10 kilos of better-quality pearls. ?These pearls are rare,? Maruyama says.

New gem equipment. Amitai Bekerman, president of OGI 2000, New York, introduced the MegaScope, which measures gem angles and proportions, and the ViewScope, a video microscope that prints out a certificate listing a gem?s angles and percentages along with a properly proportioned diagram and a photo. It has a photo database of different diamond clarities that the user scrolls through to match his diamond. For information, call (212) 768-2226.

Oregon-based 3 Beams Technologies, which specializes in ion beam and laser inscription, also introduced a new tool, a viewer that reads ion beam logos branded on diamonds. It fits into a standard gem microscope and can read the De Beers Millennium logo, the Zales logo, and others. Call (503) 640-0586.

Diamonds. De Beers has just begun promoting the ?three-stone ring? for anniversaries, but it already looks like a hit. Dealers at the show said demand for matched pairs of fancy shapes was particularly strong, probably because advertising features matched fancies. Ovals, emeralds, and princess cuts were said to be doing well. In anticipation of another De Beers advertising campaign, many dealers stocked diamond line bracelets?an upscale version of the tennis bracelet.

Branded Ideals and super-Ideals proliferated, and many booths touted stones showing the famed ?hearts and arrows? patterns. Nearly every dealer noted continued strong demand for premium cutting and for stones that offer something ?different.? One new brand?the ?Rand? diamond from New York?s Codiam?was touted as both ?conflict-free? and untreated.

Several dealers stocked fancy-colored diamonds, especially yellows and pinks. Overall, dealers noted that diamond demand was healthier than it had been in years. In general, dealers said demand was heaviest for higher-end items and larger stones, and most were selling diamonds in the .75-ct.-and-over range. Demand for smaller stones also was strong. Many dealers said prices were rising, and they anticipate a shortage by Christmas.

Fashion

Designers and manufacturers stuck with last season?s strong trends?color, yellow gold, and luxury over minimalism. Blue gems?sapphire, aquamarine, topaz, tanzanite, and iolite?were best sellers, according to suppliers. But the forecast shows a warming trend, with yellow, orange, and green gems making a nice match for the upcoming yellow gold rush.

?Color is the pop right now,? said Heath Slane of Slane and Slane, New York. Slane was one of several suppliers to mention chalcedony as a popular addition to the traditional blue stones. Zoltan David, Austin, Texas, interpreted blue with the fresh look of a cat?s eye aquamarine. ?Retailers are really drawn to big color right now,? said the company?s Patti David.

Color combined with pearls sold especially well?either as pendant accents or as stations in pearl strands. Arlene Hagopian of Makur Design, New York, said interchangeable gemstone rondelles were among her hottest items.

Beads were another strong look. Among the designers interpretating beaded color were Slane and Slane and Italian designer Belocchi Presziosi. Diamond beads were also on display.

The show featured an unusually large number of diamond briolettes and black diamonds. Aaron Basha and William Levine Fine Jewels showed off their lines of briolette-set necklaces and earrings, and Los Angeles-based Kevork updated the briolette concept by making them detachable.

Stiff neck cuffs and collars?popular in the 1970s?have been resurrected and appeared in lines ranging from stainless steel by Stahl Design, Pforzheim, to rich 18k braided yellow gold by Ron Rizzo, Roslyn, N.Y.

Reinterpreting classic design is the leading trend right now. It includes updating traditional pearl strands and giving new life to more subtle standards like three-stone rings. Catherine Iskiw and Color Story by Robert Leser, both of New York, showed the ring with colored stones.

White metals remain the most prevalent look this year. Picking up on the trend that began in Europe last year, many suppliers to the U.S. market are using black diamonds in their white gold and platinum designs.

Watches

Jewelers looking for new and different timepieces found them in abundance. Las Vegas was the stage for the launch or return of many important, and some lesser-known, international watch brands.

Junghans, a German watchmaker renowned for high-tech watches, unveiled solar-powered ?Atomic Watches? ($299-$850), whose accuracy is radio-controlled by signals from the U.S. atomic clock in Colorado.

Daniel Mink Switzerland returned to the show after several years? absence with five new Swiss-made collections (women?s, men?s, tonneau, ultra-thin, and skeleton) retailing for $700 to $5,000. Limes Watches, German-made mechanical watches with Swiss movements ($300 to $1,000) were a first-timer in the U.S. market, while Clyda, a French manufacturer of high-fashion watches ($90 to $500), was returning to the United States after a brief absence. Also back in the show after a few years was Dubey & Schandenbrand, whose luxury Swiss watches retail from $2,600 to $14,000.

Corum, the upscale Swiss brand now owned by watch industry veteran Severin Wunderman, relaunched with 12 collections, including the eye-catching Bubble watch ($1,495 to $1,895). Zodiac, a well-known Swiss brand owned by Genender Inc., was officially relaunched in the United States with a trendy signature line, the redesigned automatic Astrographics series ($1,395).

Newcomer Underwood (London) debuted its automatic unique single-module watch winder that operates as a stand-alone unit or inserted into a multiple-module box.

Trends. The number of women?s small-sized chronographs (such as Chase-Durer?s new model), many in soft colors, made it apparent that chronos are no longer the exclusive domain of men. White metal remains king, but yellow gold and two-tone models also were widespread. Several firms offered ceramic watches, including Rado, which showed upscale models; Nisomov Watch Co. of Los Angeles, which showed its Oniss line (popularly priced at $100 to $300 retail); and Junghans.

Oversized and angular watches were prevalent, but there were also several tonneau case watches, part of a wider trend toward softer, tapered designs. Many collections used diamonds (or crystals or CZs) to add a luxury touch to cases, dials, and bands.

Debuts. Individual debuts also drew buyers? attention, including Jacquar?s sleek 4-mm steel ?Sorrento? collection ($595) with tapered tonneau cases and Festina?s Swiss-made sporty, ultra-thin, and lightweight ?Cyprus? series ($295).

Bulova?s 18k and steel Accutron ?Vera Cruz? collection ($895-$995) with oversized rectangular cases and its women?s bracelets with Swarovski crystals ($399) elicited a strong buyer response.

Fendi?s high-fashion ?Logo? ($395) features colorful patent leather straps and its trademark ?F? integrated into the oversized case design. Its dome crystal ?Bussola? ($295) is a no-hands analog?time is read in narrow hour and minute windows on either side of the watch face. Dior debuted ?Diorific,? a stainless-steel cuff bracelet with alternating matte and polished design motifs ($890), and the new Art Deco series, with wide band and petite, narrow cases ($850).

Fortis, the 88-year-old Swiss brand that?s the official watch of Russian cosmonauts, launched Spacematic, with four different automatic models, including the auto-quartz Eco. Nautische Instrumente of Germany showed the first-ever mechanical wristwatch with an electronic altimeter ($1,575), while Chase-Durer?s Combat Command GMT ($995) is the first triple-time-zone, automatic GMT with long hand indicator.

The Internet Connection

The Internet as a medium for selling jewelry and watches was a recurring theme at educational seminars and show events. A session on selling luxury goods on the ?Net, presented by Ashford.com chief Ken Kurtzman, drew standing-room-only crowds, as did a session on creating a retail Internet marketing program, presented by marketing consultant Elizabeth Chatelain. A variety of ?dot-com? exhibitors lined the top-floor entryway into the show.

The e-commerce venture formerly known as DJOL (Designer Jewelry On Line) was relaunched at the show as ?Enjewel.? Its ?click-and-brick? Web site is scheduled to debut in September. Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America and Jewelers of America announced the formation of a new company, JA/MJSA Net Inc., which will provide the trade with a portal Web site with e-commerce capabilities.

Zodiac Watches plans a site to support its retail clients, and Cosmoda, a Canadian watchmaker, will launch a series of watches for Yahoo! this fall.