How Does Jewelry End Up on JCK’s Cover?

At JCK, we are often asked about how we choose the jewelry for our covers. And judging by the kinds of queries we get—someone recently asked whether the pieces on our cover had won a contest—a great deal of confusion about our process reigns.

Seeing as how I just returned from New York City on Friday, after spending two days overseeing our cover and still life shoots for the December–January issue, now seems like a good time to clarify the decision-making process we go through to call in, and ultimately select, the merchandise that graces our covers.

It all starts with our editorial calendar, which dictates the themes and topics we touch upon in each of our 10 annual issues. Let’s use the December–January issue as an example: Because the cover story is dedicated to the ideas, products, and trends that will have the industry talking in 2013, and the secondary “Spotlight” (which appears at the end of the feature well in each issue) is focused on gold jewelry, we knew that we would be looking for pieces that were both current with the trends we’re seeing for the new year and gilded. What’s more: The issue comes out at the very end of December, so we had plenty of excuses to call in the festive statement pieces that would make sense for a cover girl who needed to look as if she’d just attended the city’s most fabulous New Year’s Eve party.

Model Alexandra Carter strikes a rose gold pose for the cover of our upcoming December–January issue.

With these overarching ideas in mind, we approached our stylist, Brooke Magnaghi, and our market editor, Jennifer Heebner, with a brief, and they promptly set to work, culling through their files for images of jewelry that fit the bill. Because we strive to show our readers the latest and greatest styles, we try to limit the jewels we shoot to pieces manufactured within the past nine months—and much more recently, when possible.

The other criteria that determine what will end up on our cover are largely out of our control. Are the pieces we request available? Can the vendor deliver them to our office on time, with all the paperwork intact? (For insurance purposes, we require brief descriptions of the items being shipped to us, along with wholesale values.)

Once the merchandise is in our possession, we bring it to the shoot location (presided over by a guard we hire), where we set it all out on long tables to get a good look. After attending a couple years’ worth of shoots, I’ve realized something critical about the process: Just because a piece of jewelry is beautiful and well made doesn’t mean it’s going to look good on a model.

One more sneak peek: We haven’t decided which look will nab the coveted cover spot in our upcoming December–January issue, but this one, with those incredible jade earrings, is a contender.

For starters, the pieces that tend to look the best are big, or at least bigger and more substantial than dainty. There’s also a great deal of interplay between the dress, the hair, and the other pieces we’ve selected for the model. For example, a great dress often looks best paired with dramatic earrings, leaving room for a couple sizable cocktail rings and a dramatic cuff, or perhaps an armful of bangles—but not a big necklace, or even a pendant.

On the other hand, a high dress neckline can look fantastic with a standout necklace—meaning that we’d need to go light on the earrings. Check out the cover of our June 2012 issue for a great example.

There are, of course, other considerations. Have we featured the designer before? If yes, we’d prefer to try out someone new. Has this designer shipped merchandise to us in the past without ever landing a cover credit? If yes, then perhaps it’s time to show our thanks.

As for a contest, there is one time of the year when that truly applies: Our March designer-themed issue features the grand prize winner of the Jewelers’ Choice Awards on the cover—an added incentive for all of you to cast your votes for the 2013 candidates!

The process of selecting jewelry for our covers is far from scientific—I prefer to think of it as a beautiful experiment in alchemy. Thanks again to all those designers who’ve supported our efforts over the past couple years.