My Thoughts on Business & Jewelry Trends at Baselworld 2013

The Baselworld fair that just concluded yesterday was show No. 7 for me this calendar year, and I expected more in terms of sales and designs. At every show I attended this year, sales were brisk. Vendors were busy and happy writing orders at VicenzaOro Winter in Italy in January; at Centurion in Scottsdale, and the AGTA GemFair in Tucson, both in February in Arizona; at the Buyer’s Market of America Craft in Philadelphia in February; and at the Hong Kong International Jewellery fair in March. When sales at consecutive shows are so upbeat, I expect sales at later shows to be equally as good, but that didn’t seem to be the case here.

Americans weren’t there for the jewelry. There were quite a few American buyers present (I saw a number of familiar faces from stores nationwide walking the halls), but jewelry vendors insisted that they were there mainly to shop the watches. Because the show was so late this year—and so close to jewelry week in Las Vegas—and the fact that many retailers are obligated to place their new timepiece orders in person at Baselworld, many retailers told jewelry vendors they would see them in Las Vegas. And when the exhibitors with whom I spoke dished on sales, few mentioned American buyers (it seemed Basel’s biggest buyers this year hailed from Germany and Eastern Europe).

To be fair, most regard Baselworld as a watch—not a jewelry—fair, despite the multitude of jewels on display, so maybe my expectations were unrealistic. I certainly hope that’s the case as we all prepare for the Las Vegas shows that are just a few weeks away.

Snakes were the dominant trend. With regard to trends at Baselworld, the number of snake jewels in the stands rivaled the number of facets in the newly constructed Swarovski stand; in other words, there were a lot of snakes. Given that 2013 is the year of the snake, that trend didn’t come as a surprise. Emeralds and other green stones were also plentiful, and again, this sight was not unexpected considering that Pantone’s color of the year is emerald green. Aside from those two looks, the strongest trends seen at the show were textured metal surfaces (something we covered in JCK’s May issue), black and white (also covered in the May issue), pieces with negative space (although now that the price of gold is dropping, I wonder for how long that look will stick around as folks can afford to make weightier styles), as well as some punk rock influences like spikes and studs that will complement the punk rock clothing trend of fall 2013 (even prim and proper Mikimoto showed a safety pin motif!). Alternatively, flower motifs were evident, and estate and vintage-inspired goods—jewelry and important stones—also had a strong showing at Siegelson, Garrard, and Bayco (which unveiled a massive emerald recently purchased from a collector).a new diamond and 18k gold snake ring from Staurino

A new 18k gold and diamond snake ring from Staurino Fratelli

Line extensions took the place of completely new looks. Surprises came from a few big name jewelers. Stephen Webster primarily dipped into his archives to breathe new life into established looks instead of showing completely new ones. This made me nervous; if the industry’s beloved rock star jeweler wasn’t showing newness, did that mean that his retailers were still reticent to fill cases? Mattioli, too, added quite a few line extensions to existing collections. And Chopard’s Couture jewelry looks were disappointingly plain, as they, too, made extensions to their Happy Diamonds collections and created a few cocktail rings with big nice stones with mountings that could have come from any manufacturer. I’m still holding out hope for more novelty and freshness along the lines of Chopard’s 2011 offerings.

a reinterpreted Fly By Night Crystal Haze style from Stephen Webster

A reinterpreted Fly By Night Crystal Haze style from Stephen Webster

Have we all OD’d on colored stones? Something to keep an eye on: The possibility of retailers starting to sell more plain gold instead of pieces brimming with colored stones. It’s a point that one of my gold jewelry sources said he noticed, and then I started to realize that many of the displays at Basel were filled with plainer gold looks. Even prolific Robert Coin showed a number of new styles with lots of textured metal surfaces, and the crown jewel in his new offerings was a gorgeous, sleek, and flashy metal-intense look with not a colored stone in sight. Colored stones have been riding quite the wave of popularity in the past four to five years because when gold prices skyrocketed, many wanted a way to still offer gold but with lower prices, and the introduction of inexpensive gemstones served that purpose. But by the looks of business at Baselworld this year, we may now be seeing the start of that tide turning back to metal-intense looks.

new gold looks from Roberto Coin, shown at Baselworld

(Sorry for the blurry photo) New gold-only looks from Roberto Coin