5 Takeaways From JCK Las Vegas 2018



After six nights in Las Vegas, my brain is not operating at peak capacity, so please forgive the dashed-off nature of this post. I wanted to capture the most important takeaways from this year’s JCK and LUXURY shows, but you’ll have to tune in a week from now to get a more comprehensive recap of jewelry market week.

For now, here’s what struck me as I walked the show floor, in descending order of significance.

JCK will forever be the place to see extraordinary gems

Designer Erica Courtney is well known for a collection heavy on important gemstones, from Paraiba tourmalines to Mahenge spinel. But I’ve never thought of her as a diamond specialist. Until now.

At her booth at LUXURY, Courtney showed the Rob Red Diamond, a 0.59 ct. pear-shape fancy intense red gem once described as “the most saturated and purest red diamond measured visually and instrumentally to date in the world.”

I’m used to seeing natural color diamonds whose color you have to squint to truly see. Not this beauty. With its rich strawberry hue, the Rob Red is a perfect little crimson tear.

Rob Red Diamond at Erica Courtney

The 0.59 ct. Rob Red Diamond (photo by Serge Ekmekjian)

The rainbow look is in full effect

Multicolor jewelry used to evoke a dated spread of clashing hues that looked nothing so much as tacky.

Not anymore.

Designers at JCK—Including Lauren K, Le Vian, M. Spalten, and Shay Fine Jewelry—have helped lift rainbow-style jewels to new heights by carefully arranging stones in ways that feel complementary and organic, not clashing.

If you’re looking for one key trend from this year’s Vegas shows, my vote goes to multicolor jewels in fashionable styles, especially for this summer. Meanwhile, pieces featuring trendy malachite, perennially popular emerald, and suddenly newsworthy aquamarine (thanks, Meghan Markle!) are in a close tie for second place.

 

Lauren K Carly rainbow sapphire necklace

Carly necklace in 18k yellow gold with 3.71 cts. t.w. rose-cut multicolor sapphires and 0.07 ct. t.w. diamonds, $3,190; Lauren K

Stackables and celestial motifs are the new black

Once considered trends, stackable rings and bracelets and celestial motifs such as moons, stars, and sunbursts are the new jewelry staples. Virtually every manufacturer with a fashion jewelry collection features these now-classic styles. Perhaps not earth-shattering news, but certainly an incentive to stock up if you haven’t already.

 

Shay Fine Jewelry Victorian crescent moon diamond necklace

Victorian Crescent Moon necklace in 18k gold with diamonds; $14,280; Shay Fine Jewelry

Price point (fine) jewelry is on fire

As noted in my article last week about the prevailing product trend at LUXURY, exhibitors across the price spectrum are embracing affordable collections aimed at younger buyers. Everyone from luxury makers such as Tacori and Yael Designs to manufacturers who’ve traditionally appealed to a wider range of buyers, like Stuller and Charles & Colvard, introduced price point fashion fine jewelry collections this year intended to capture self-purchasers, gift-givers, millennials, Gen Zers, and all of the above.

Stuller, for example, debuted 302, a new line of fine jewelry divided into five collections: Rebel, which focuses on geometric motifs; Seeker, a range of pieces with scattered and clustered diamonds; Sage, which is rife with celestial styles (see above!); Ruler, a collection of crown-inspired pieces; and Innocent, which is focused on jewels that evoke mindfulness (think Buddha charms).

I can’t help but see the emphasis on affordability as the industry’s collective effort to disprove the long-standing conviction that millennials don’t buy jewelry. Of course they buy jewelry (simply read the results of JCK’s groundbreaking 2018 industry survey); they just buy more casual, accessibly priced, fun jewelry than what the trade has grown accustomed to selling. Hey, that’s okay. Times change. And tastes mature. And once a young person gets used to bejeweled adornment, we have every reason to believe they’ll trade up as their affluence grows.

Stuller 302 fine jewelry collection lookbook

A page from Stuller’s new 302 fine jewelry brand lookbook

Lab-grown diamonds are officially mainstream

I’m hardly the first one to note that last week’s bombshell announcement from De Beers was the talk of JCK. Perhaps it was inevitable that the world’s best-known name in mined diamonds would venture into the synthetic diamond jewelry fray, but with its new Lightbox lab-grown diamond jewelry subsidiary, De Beers is upending the nascent market much quicker than anyone expected.

And they’re not wasting any time in getting the word out. When I landed at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on May 29, the same day De Beers made the Lightbox news public, I was greeted by a banner touting the brand—“for lighter moods and lighter moments”—hanging above the baggage carousel.

 

Lightbox pink lab-grown diamond studs

Lab-grown pink diamond studs; Lightbox Jewelry

The brand will debut its e-commerce site in September and will quickly follow up with a brick-and-mortar trial through select retail partners. It will be fascinating to watch if the Lightbox premise—that consumers are not interested in lab-grown diamonds for life’s precious moments, such as engagements, but instead want lab-growns to mark light gift-giving occasions such as Sweet 16s and “Galentine’s Day”—bears out. According to the created diamond makers I spoke to at the show—including Suzanne Miglucci, president and CEO of moissanite maker Charles & Colvard, and Amish Shah, president of ALTR Created Diamonds—bridal accounts for 50 percent and 80 percent of their sales, respectively.

“These are bridal products,” Shah told me. Only time will tell if De Beers comes around to that way of thinking, too.

JCK Magazine Editor