Industry / Shows

Centurion To Ring In Its 21st Birthday at the Arizona Biltmore


Make no mistake: The Centurion Jewelry Show is on. Scheduled to take place from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 in Phoenix, the show will occupy a brand new venue, the Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort famously built in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Howard Hauben, president and CEO of H2 Events, the organizer of the show, describes the resort as “unbelievable.”

Howard Hauben
Howard Hauben

“We’re full steam ahead because the exhibitors and their customers, the retailers, are doing great,” Hauben tells JCK. “Business is good, there’s a need to buy, and we’ll safely provide for that need.”

This year’s event will feature nearly 180 exhibitors, including the usual suspects—chief among them Mémoire, Tacori, Hearts On Fire, and De Beers Forevermark—as well as first-time exhibitor Messika and returning exhibitors Penny Preville and Stephen Webster (the latter will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his groundbreaking Crystal Haze collection with a new line, dubbed CH2, that features the same technique of layering faceted quartz over a wide variety of vibrant gems).

Since 2001, the upscale buying fair has been a bellwether for the post-holiday jewelry market. If the industry has performed well, Centurion is where that strength plays out. And Hauben, for his part, is extremely optimistic that the 2022 show will deliver. He spoke to JCK shortly after the new year about what attendees can expect in the way of safety protocols, programming, and, of course, business.

Stephen Webster CH2 stacking rings
CH2 rings in 18k white and yellow gold with diamonds, emeralds and opal, $2,500 – $3,150; Stephen Webster

Has the omicron surge had any impact on your expected attendance?

We have had some COVID cancels, but over the past week, we have seen record levels of new registrations. We have two hotels, and both are full. We’ve had a sold-out exhibitor list since last summer.

We definitely have safety protocols in place: People will have their temperatures checked anytime they walk into one of our three exhibit areas. We’ll have free rapid antigen tests available for anyone on-site (we work with a company called Medstar Solutions that will be providing those).

Arizona Biltmore Aztec Room
Registration and badge pickup for Centurion attendees will take place in the Aztec Room of the Arizona Biltmore (photo by Thomas Hart Shelby/courtesy of the Arizona Biltmore)

And we’ll have a mask requirement, but we’re not going to be the gestapo about it. We have to be sensitive, so we’ll put signs up saying masks are required, our staff will wear masks, the hotel staff will wear them, and we think more people are going to want to wear them. We’ll instill a feeling of “be considerate of others.” So, if someone looks uncomfortable and you’re trying to take your mask off in your booth, put it back on.

What are the education and programming highlights of this year’s event?

On Sunday morning, we have Milton Pedraza, the CEO of the Luxury Institute, giving a talk about the current state of the luxury market. On Monday, the Ritz Carlton Leadership Center is sponsoring a session on luxury retailing and how to create brand advocates in your business. Then we’ve got the Natural Diamond Council bringing four influencers to the show, including Engagement 101 and Kyle Roderick, and they will boost the show in only the way they can. We’re looking at reaching 100 million consumers overall with the content.

Messika Move Uno ring
Move Uno ring in 18k white gold with .09 ct. t.w. diamonds, $2,260; Messika

Given the strength of jewelry sales over the holiday, do you anticipate a rush of retailers desperate for new inventory?

It’s all about confidence. If you’re running a business and things seem good, then you want to buy a bit more, and if you’re feeling like the gray clouds are hovering above you, you don’t want to buy. For a long time, retailers have been getting strong signals of confidence, and COVID is only reinforcing the fact that people are not traveling on $50,000 vacations, which will probably further their sales in 2022. They’re saying to themselves, “I need to buy. I need merchandise. I feel safe. I’ll be careful. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Top: The Arizona Biltmore (photo by Michael Baxter/courtesy of the Arizona Biltmore)

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By: Victoria Gomelsky

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