Of all the different kinds of buyers who attend the Tucson gem shows, the group that may benefit most from attending is made up of independent designers on the hunt for both one-of-a-kind gems and suppliers with whom they can strike long-term relationships.
For insights into what this cohort of jewelers may be searching for at the shows next month, we spoke to David Hakimian (pictured), founder of DEH Jewelry Solutions, a New York City–based firm that has, since 2013, provided a range of developmental and production services to independent jewelry designers and retailers across the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.
“We work with independent fine jewelry brands and connect them with manufacturers who can produce their product to their standards and expectations,” Hakimian tells JCK. “We’re kind of like their freelance production team.”
DEH works with some of the industry’s most celebrated designers and retailers, including Greenwich St. Jewelers and Broken English on the retail side, and Harwell Godfrey, Andy Lif, Prounis, Milamore, and Sorellina on the design side. For DEH clients, the gem shows tend to be their biggest colored stone buying event of the year, and 2022 is shaping up to be no different.
“This year, our whole team is going,” he says. “We currently have 17 different brands that we work with going as well.”
Besides making time for a meal at his favorite Tucson eatery, Mariscos Chihuahua, Hakimian urges all newcomers to Tucson to check out Saguaro National Park, named for the massive, multi-armed cacti known affectionately as “Jolly Green Giants.” “If you have time for a morning hike to see the sunrise, it’s amazing,” he says.
The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How did the holiday go for your clients, and what are your expectations for business in ’22?
Last year was a huge year for most of our clients; most grew in some capacity. We are expecting and very much hoping for the same thing this year. Because we’re on the development side, right now, we’re planning for June of this year. That’s why Tucson is great for a lot of our designers.
Which trends are you and your clients eyeing at the gem shows this year?
Some things I know will be big are carvings or vendors that do carvings, including cameos and mosaic-style pieces. Those are some key things my brands are very much looking for. Hearts are another big thing: heart-cut anything is very popular right now, as well as beads—high-end beads or those with unique cuts.
And then there’s always the common stuff: beautiful high-end stones at great price points. I don’t think there’s a clear color that everyone is going after, but a few that are always popular are hot pink and emerald green.
Are your clients in the market for any particular gemstones?
At Tucson, you kind of reset your pricing. We do a lot of research into what’s available in the market, and what price points different stones are at. Spinels are always at the top of the list for both production needs and one of a kinds. Also really high-end moonstone, which is popular. (When you see very nice moonstone next to commercial moonstone, it’s very different.).
Of all the gem shows in Tucson, which do you prioritize?
For us, AGTA and GJX are the two safe shows for fine jewelers. Everyone’s vetted that participates at the show. They know their supply chains, they know a lot about their materials. They are safe to anyone who’s in the industry who just wants to purchase and experience the shows.
That said, a lot of the side shows are where you’ll find deals. You’ll have to dig through a lot of stuff, you will have some experiences with vendors, but it’s where you will find deals. If you’re looking for production goods, that’s primarily AGTA and GJX. (A lot of our designers are going to Tucson not to buy, but to set up partnerships for future collections.) But I have other people who are going with large budgets for really amazing stones. I recommend they check out the side shows before going to GJX and AGTA.
Our favorite side show is the Pueblo—they have a lot of very high-end vendors. Overall, it’s the next best show at Tucson. For people who’ve never been, you’re walking through a motel and in some cases, you’ve got the mattress pushed up against the wall and a million dollars of inventory laid out on the carpet. It’s pretty wild.
Which issues are top of mind for your clients as they prepare for Tucson?
Sustainability and supply chain are key issues for all of our clients. A big part of what we do when we go there is, ideally, you’re talking to people who know a lot about their products. A lot of vendors at AGTA have offices in New York City. But it takes forever to see all these different people. Tucson makes it easy to spend a day and meet 100 different people and ask all those questions.
With Tucson, they now have an Ethical Gem Fair. It’s really small but growing, and I know all our clients are going to go. If the people we’re buying from don’t know where their material came from, how it was mined, or what else might have happened to it, we don’t typically buy from them. But the good news is more and more people do know.
Are you concerned about encountering supply constraints in Tucson this year?
Not really, to be honest. A lot of our designers, their designs change year to year based on how they’re feeling and what inspires them. I have no concerns about there being plenty of material for us to buy in Tucson. It might not be what we’re expecting to buy, but in most cases, that’s a positive thing.
We always recommend to our designers that they go with an open mind. I know prices have increased, especially for core materials such as aquamarine. But I have zero fear that there won’t be enough.Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
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