Between the cocktail events, design exhibitions, and big diamond displays, it was a good week
In early May, New York City’s jewelry and watch brands must all get the same memo: Throw a party, debut a collection, invite editors for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The string of events in the Big Apple last week was perfectly timed for me, since I was already in town to help close JCK’s big June issue, which comes out at JCK Las Vegas next month.
In between editing layouts, writing headlines, and confabbing with my team, I gawked at the largest diamond ever found in North America, listened to a world-famous photographer recount her trip to Africa with Forevermark, and sat on a chair made of reclaimed Sprite bottles at a design exhibition sponsored by Rado. It was a good week!
1. Monday, May 9
Rolex has a reputation for being considerably more press-averse than you’d expect from a brand with such an outsize advertising presence. But over the last couple of years, ever since I attended the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco as a guest of Rolex, my relationship with the brand has warmed to the point where I now regularly see its publicists when I come to New York. On Monday, we met for lunch at a convenient spot in Midtown and talked about our summer vacation plans, JCK Las Vegas, and this hilarious Baselworld diary by New York Times reporter Alex Williams. Alas, nothing they said can be quoted, nor would I ask. Rolex may indeed be a different company today than it was 20 years ago in terms of its communication style, but it’s still the most tight-lipped brand in the Swiss watch industry. And rather than be frustrated by that, I actually rather admire it. At least they’re consistent!
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King in 40 mm steel case, unveiled at Baselworld
2. Tuesday, May 10
I began the day with breakfast and a visit to the Plukka pop-up shop at the Jack Vartanian boutique on Madison Avenue. When our July–August issue comes out, you’ll hear a lot more about Plukka, the innovative bricks-and-clicks retailer behind the retail experiment. Although there was less to the pop-up than I expected—just a wall of display cases as opposed to a whole store’s worth of jewelry—the pieces from designers Joan Hornig, Eternamé, Ashu Malpani, and AS29, among others, were trendy, timeless, and everything in between. I especially liked the Linee Misteriose pink sapphire full finger ring by Dionea Orcini below (though it was made for much more slender and elegant fingers than mine!).
Linee Misteriose full finger ring in 18k rose gold with pink sapphires and amethyst; $3,300; Dionea Orcini at Plukka; plukka.com
From there, I schlepped across Central Park to the New-York Historical Society, where the Town & Country Philanthropy Summit was in progress. Forevermark, a presenting sponsor, had invited me to hear the spotlight speaker, photographer Annie Griffiths, executive director of Ripple Effect Images, a nonprofit “dedicated to documenting the plight of poor women and girls around the world.” Her impassioned speech covered everything from her first photography assignment (coincidentally, a trip to Namibia, where she shot her first diamonds) to the biggest killer of women and children in the developing world (cooking fires, which cause respiratory disease and, Griffiths added, kill more people than HIV, malaria, childbirth, and dysentery combined).
Griffiths concluded her speech with a few words about what she learned on a Forevermark-sponsored trip to southern Africa last summer. “I had no idea diamonds could do good in the world,” she said, recounting the conservation efforts she witnessed in the diamond communities she visited. “To see this diamond corridor is saving some of the most endangered animals on earth…was an absolute privilege.”
To see Griffiths in action, it’s worth watching a lovely short film about her journey with Forevermark.
Annie Griffiths (photo courtesy of anniegriffiths.com)
I ended the day with a close-up look at Rio Tinto’s astounding Foxfire Diamond, a 187-carater discovered in Canada’s Diavik Mine last year. (Read senior editor Jennifer Heebner’s JCK story from last week to get the scoop on how it was discovered and what the miner expects will happen to it.)
The 187.7 ct. Foxfire Diamond from the Diavik Diamond Mine (photo courtesy of Rio Tinto)
As I sat with Alan Davies, chief executive of diamonds and minerals at Rio Tinto, the thing that struck me about his remarks is that by 2024, Diavik will be at or near the end of its lifespan, while Argyle, Rio Tinto’s behemoth of a diamond mine in Western Australia, is due to reach its end in 2021 (though there may be other ways to continue exploring the ore body after that). That’s only five years away. What happens then? The diamond industry will have to grapple with a number of looming questions in the not-so-distant future. Chief among them: Will lab-grown diamonds soon be a necessity for an industry founded on demand for colorless stones?
3. Wednesday, May 11
Ralph Lauren’s New York showroom occupies the top floor of a well-appointed Madison Avenue high-rise. The spare, whitewashed office has views of upper Manhattan and Central Park. When I arrived for my 10 a.m. appointment, the natural light was just right to admire the brand’s new 888 collection of timepieces for women, the brand’s first round watch for ladies. Available in 32 mm and 38 mm sizes on bracelets and a bevy of colorful straps, the model has an intriguing dial that features both Arabic and Roman numerals in varying sizes. The entry price, for a model in steel, is $1,990—which seems a little high for a watch powered by a quartz movement. Then again, it’s Ralph Lauren.
888 watch in 32 mm rose gold case with diamonds; $14,200; Ralph Lauren Watch and Jewelry Co.; ralphlauren.com
Next up was a visit to a viewing of jewels by Suzanne Syz. I met the Geneva-based designer about eight years ago, on a trip to Switzerland, and have admired her whimsical style ever since. Last week, she made one of her semiannual stops in New York, and I got a chance to check out her extremely luxurious collection, which is easy to love because it’s rife with humor. She has a thing for candy—take her Lifesaver earrings made of white cocholong and blue agate—and also for games, evident in a Scrabble-inspired bracelet made of natural color (gray) titanium with the words “Kiss Me” spelled out in letters that look like Scrabble tiles, or my favorite, a black and white Maze ring with a tiny diamond that swirls around the center—“for a very boring dinner,” Syz says.
Her pieces are all one-of-a-kind and are highly collectible, but she doesn’t shy away from using space-age materials (such as titanium earrings that resemble ribbons and have been anodized a deep, iridescent purple) and setting them with stones that bear her preference for the offbeat (a pair of hoop earrings made of briolette diamonds sliced down the middle, like orange halves).
Make Someone Happy earrings in titanium and white gold with 9.1 cts. Paraiba tourmaline, 11.32 cts. tsavorites, and 17.31 cts. rose-cut pear-shape diamonds; price upon request; suzannesyz.ch
4. Thursday, May 12
My week of hobnobbing wrapped up on Thursday because I had a 5 p.m. flight to catch at JFK. Before I headed to the airport, I trekked out to a warehouse space in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn called Industry City. The Swiss watch brand Rado was sponsoring a design exhibition at WantedDesign and held a lunch in honor of Kim Markel, the U.S. winner of the Rado Star Prize. She’d won the design competition with her Glow Chair made entirely of reclaimed plastic—in this case Sprite and 7Up bottles, which lend the translucent chair its green glow.
Kim Markel’s Glow Chair
The entire exhibiton made me appreciate Rado all the more. I’m a maximalist by nature—more is more is more—but I’ve long been drawn to the brand’s clean, spare, and technically impressive timepieces. Its commitment to a minimalist design ethos is something I aspire to, and its experimentation with high-tech materials such as ceramic and plasma is, well, cool.
Rado True Thinline in high-tech ceramic
By the time I took my seat on the plane, I was beyond exhausted. If there was any doubt that I was headed home to Los Angeles, the requisite star sighting (Jessica Alba and her daughter Honor in the seats across the aisle from me) settled it. Hollywood or bust!