LED Role: Bright Ideas for Retail Jewelers



New innovations in lighting put the spotlight on light-emitting diodes

Lighting may not be something shoppers consciously notice, but the right light can make cases more appealing and turn browsers into buyers.

LED (light-emitting diode) lights are the A-­listers of the lighting lineup. They provide a better spectrum of light than fluorescent bulbs and are far more energy-efficient than ceramic metal halide fixtures, a favorite of jewelers a decade ago.

“LED lighting seems to be the wave of the future,” says Keith Kovar, a principal of GRID/3, a New York City interior design firm. “It’s now been developed sufficiently so that it starts to become really useful.” Specialists who create lighting for jewelry showrooms are developing new LED variations to help jewelers solve their lighting challenges.

Consider museum-style showcases, says Howard Gurock, president of Tappan, N.Y.–based Eco-Lite Products, which boasts a jewelry-specific division called Econo-Lite Products. “How do you light them and not impact the display? If you put a light across the top, where do you hide the wire?”

Future Designs by Lahijani’s 3-watt stem light

Earlier this year, his company developed a 3-watt stem light a half-inch in diameter to fit these tricky kinds of spaces. “These are so thin they won’t impact the view” of the merchandise, he explains.

Mike Lahijani, owner of Miami-based Future Designs by Lahijani, says his company developed a 3-watt stem light for Pandora and also debuted a 9-watt stem light last year. For cases with shelves, “we can make the 3-watt lights with two fixtures.”

The biggest drawback to LEDs: the price. “A good LED is usually around $100, although you can buy them for as little as half that,” Gurock says. Retailers who are used to $6 fluorescent tubes often get sticker shock. But buying bargain-basement LEDs can backfire. “You get what you pay for,” Gurock says. “And you have to look at the warranty.”

A Titan II display case light by Lighting 4 Diamonds

While another selling point for LEDs is longevity—a single bulb can supposedly last five or six years—Gurock says buyers can be disappointed when these pricey bulbs don’t live up to their hype. Sometimes they’ll burn out after a few years because the wattage is too high for the heat generated by the bulb to be dissipated effectively.

James Giordano, CEO of Miami-based Lighting 4 Diamonds, says his company has found a solution to the wattage-versus-lifespan trade-off with its newest showcase fixtures, a line called Titan. (He expects it to be available for distribution this month.) “Our engineers have come up with a very lightweight aluminum extrusion that disperses heat very well,” he says. The bulb also incorporates lenses that concentrate and reflect the light.

Courtesy of Pandora
The light, bright Pandora Century City store in Santa Monica, Calif.

While LEDs are ideal for showcases, some experts say they’re too underpowered for overhead use. “I’ve only done one store with LED lighting above the cases,” says Herb Schottland, president of Store Design and Fixturing in Chapel Hill, N.C. “I’m not convinced LED lights have evolved to the point where they’re comparable in color and power to metal halide.”

Some manufacturers are working to solve that problem. “Our ­newest product is a 30-watt LED overhead light,” says Mike Clow, owner of Chandler, Ariz.–based Light Source Specialties, a division of Mission Specialties. Expected on the market mid-2012, the light has a 30-degree beam angle—it generates a circle of light five to six feet wide even from a ceiling—and a special aluminum casing to dissipate heat and prevent burnout.

Just over a year ago, Eco-Lite released an overhead 18-watt LED bulb with the brightness of a 24-watt, thanks to lenses that concentrate the light more effectively. So…what will the next bright idea in LED be?

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