Industry / Shows

Exhibitors: Business Strong in Industry and at 2021 JCK Show


Chatham created gems alexandrite earrings
14k white gold earrings with 3.91 cts. t.w. lab-grown alexandrite and 0.11 ct. t.w. lab-grown diamonds, $2,135; Chatham Created Gems

This year’s JCK show was, in many ways, a series of contradictions. At times, if you eliminated the masks from people’s faces, it looked just like your standard, bustling Las Vegas show.

But, of course, this year’s JCK show was far from normal—just like nothing has been normal for the last year and a half. The annual fair was held, for the first time, at the end of August, rather than its traditional time at the beginning of June. The show presented a long-awaited chance for industry members to meet face-to-face—although, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone’s face was half-covered by a mask. And while just about every attendee agreed that the jewelry industry was in strong shape, they also said that the trade faced a number of challenges, including disrupted supply chains, price competition, and the continued prevalence of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.

But if there was common sentiment among JCK attendees, they all agreed it was good to be back again.

David Bonaparte, president and CEO of Jewelers of America, commented that jewelry is a uniquely personal industry, which is why trade shows like JCK will always be popular.

“Retailers and suppliers are happy to ­finally have a larger-scale face-to-face experience,” said Bonaparte. “That’s really what these shows are about—a chance to be with each other.”

People in masks at booth
Exhibitors and showgoers alike masked up. (Photograph by Camilla Sjodin)

He said people were looking for diamonds, especially bigger ones, as well as colored stones and “new things.”

Because so many people are unwilling to travel just for the heck of it, buyers at the show were serious and focused, said Brian Fleming, owner of Carla Corp. and Nancy B.

“The retailers here are on a mission. They are here for a purpose. They need product,” he said, adding that yellow gold hoops were particularly popular.

Harry Stubbert, president of San Francisco–based Chatham Created Gems, was also impressed by the quality of attendees. “There are less tire-kickers and more buyers. I think the people here are serious and ready to buy.… They need product. The jewelry industry is stronger than it’s ever been.”

Man looking at pearls
Trending throughout the show: pearls (photograph by Camilla Sjodin)

That said, there was consensus that, despite the current good—if unusual—times, the industry faces a number of challenges. Supply chains have been disrupted throughout the world, and that has created issues obtaining product.

Stubbert admitted that his business had experienced occasional delays getting items from Hong Kong but said it has been working through them.

“Things are taking a week to two weeks longer to arrive than they usually do,” he said, “but it’s not a major problem.”

Smiling Rocks display
A display by lab-grown diamond brand Smiling Rocks (photograph by Camilla Sjodin)

This was the third year the show had a lab-grown diamond pavilion, and one could see a noticeable difference in this year’s vendors compared to past years’. While the section’s 2018 debut featured a mostly motley collection of low-rent booths, this year’s lab-grown section included a slicker, more professional group of exhibitors.

But while Garth Bloch, head of loose diamond sales for Classic Grown Diamonds, said his company’s business was strong, he also noted that the proliferation of lab-grown companies had created its own issues.

“So many people are coming into lab-grown, we aren’t seeing the flow of goods that we’ve seen in the last few years,” he explained. “Competition is fierce.”

Top: The packed registration desk on opening day (photograph by Camilla Sjodin)

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By: Rob Bates

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