Best in Show 2008 [Part II]

MOST INCREASED PROFILE

With De Beers seriously rethinking its marketing, it wasn’t surprising that the traditional breakfast presentation from the Diamond PromotionService didn’t happen this year. But the NaturalColored Diamond Association was all over the place holding seminars and even throwing its own lavish breakfast in DPS’s former time slot. Under the leadership of Rob May (not incidentally, an ex-DPS’er), the organization was surprisingly effective and aggressive spreading its main message: In this era of “commoditized” white stones, fancy color diamonds are a way to bring margins back to the diamond business.

BEST MYSTERY VISITORS

This year in Vegas, something happened that never did before—two De Beers executives visited the show and talked business. De Beers executives have visited before but were careful to engage only in noncommercial activities, like World Diamond Council meetings and the Jewelers for Children dinner. But with De Beers feeling confident that it’s settled its U.S. legal problems—to the tune of a $300 million antitrust settlement—the executives apparently felt free to walk the floor like anyone else, even if their appearance was largely kept on the down low. (JCK never saw them, but spoke to people who did.)

BEST CELEBRITY SIGHTING

Pop star and new mother ChristinaAguilera is the face of Stephen Webster‘s Hitchcock-inspired ad campaign, which made Webster’s cocktail party the most coveted invitation in Las Vegas this year. Aguilera, who had not performed since taking time off to focus on her family, sang for a select group of retailers and editors at Pure nightclub.

BEST NEW BRIDAL LINE

Design duo Mark Badgley and James Mischka constitute the designer label Badgley Mischka, whose philosophy is “One zip and you’re glamorous!” As they have now launched their own bridal jewelry line, that philosophy may need amending. This latest design pursuit, in collaboration with Zalemark, will be seen in stores this fall.

BEST IN AQUA/AGRI-CULTURE

Chi Galatea has taken the art of pearl carving to new heights with blooming-cactus pearl pendants—without the prickly part, of course. Galatea’s Cactus line uses Tahitians, South Seas, and Chinese freshwaters, carved and set with gold bead cactus“needles” and florets of rubies or red spinel. Galatea, San Dimas, Calif.

BEST AFFORDABLE ITALIAN DESIGNS

There were two: the H2 collection [right] by Lecil Henderson, and Rebecca, the new sensation in high-fashion jewelry. Henderson’s new line—crafted by hand in Italy—uses an alloy of bronze and 18k gold, with onyx, citrine, amethyst, and mother-of-pearl accents. The resulting collection has the look of pricey rose gold, but at a fraction of the cost. Bracelet pictured retails for $350 at keystone. Meanwhile, the Rebecca booth in the Italian Pavilionwas a must-see for rich 18k yellow gold vermeil pieces incorporating hydrothermally grown quartz stones, a huge fashion look for an affordable price.

BEST-DRESSED iPOD

Faceted Designs‘ diamond cases for an iPod or iPhone show a gadget you care. Cases are 14k white gold, with 1.00 ct. t.w. of G-H color and SI stones in the iPhone case, and 0.75 cts. t.w. in the iPod case. Faceted Designs, New York.

BEST PRECIOUS APPAREL

Carolina Bucci has long made a name for herself with bracelets and necklaces that weave fabric with precious metals to stunning effect. At The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas, she showed an extension of that concept: gorgeous scarves that could accompany an evening dress or add a stylish touch to jeans and a T-shirt.

BEST USE OF RARE COLORED STONES

Mark Schneider selected huge, high-quality cuts of ammolite from a private collection (owned by the head of Korite International, an ammolite dealer) to make this one-of-a-kind necklace. The stones are rare because of their thickness (most ammolite is available in thin pieces sold as doublets and triplets);the presence of blue, green, and red; and because the material comes from only one place in the world: Alberta, Canada. Schneider spent a year and a half searching for companion gems. The piece is set in 18k yellow gold and retails for $100,000. Mark Schneider, Long Beach, Calif.

SWEETEST JEWELRY EXHIBIT

Combine fine jewelry with high-quality chocolate, add Italian flair, and you get “Precious and Delicious,” an exhibition showcasing some of Italy’s best food designers, held at the Italian Pavilion. The exhibition was the result of a competition among 20 food experts who were asked to create a masterpiece of Italian jewelry through the flavor of chocolate. Their creations were displayed in a dedicated area in the pavilion throughout the show. On May 31, a reception was held where buyers received the four winning creations packaged in elegantly designed chocolate-color boxes and boutique bags. La dolce vita.

BEST UPGRADE

Popular-price watch brand Casio is marking its G-Shock watches’ 25th anniversary by aiming at higher-income consumers, targeting jewelers and high-end department stores with its Premiere G-Shock ($400).

BEST RELAUNCH

Mido, the Swatch Group‘s stylish, Swiss-made watch brand ($300–$2,500), which offers mainly mechanical watches (70 percent), has relaunched in the U.S. market after a long hiatus. Popular in many Latin American markets, and Mexico’s leading Swiss watch, it’s initially targeting the U.S. Hispanic market.

BEST IN BIG

With 23 high-quality, well-matched South Seas white cultured pearls that range in size from 18 mm to 21.75 mm, this magnificent 18-inch necklace (worth seven figures) might be the ultimate pearl necklace. The necklace (and hand) belongs to Alexandre Hahn, of Gerhard Hahn Pearl, Düsseldorf, Germany.

BEST SUPPORTING MOUNTING

What better use of Ferraridashboard carbon fiber material than to inset gemstones? Women’scarbon fiber ring is set with 3.05 cts. spinel and accented with 21 diamonds (0.25 cts. t.w.). Inner shank is 18k white gold. Gent’s carbon fiber ring features a 10.55 ct. carved aquamarine, 18k rose gold bezel, and accents. Höllmüller, Lucerne, Switzerland.

BEST WINDOW DISPLAY

Many trade-fair booth displays lean one of two ways, hasty or ostentatious, with few striking a good visual balance between the jewels themselves and the company marketing mission. So it was refreshing to find that the Sylva & Cie. booth window was equal parts visual allure, representation of brand, and invitation to the line.

BEST NEW CELEBRITY JEWELRY LINE

Musical artist Seal debuted a new line of sliding lockets in Las Vegas this year, joining the ranks of Mouawad, with whom his wife, Heidi Klum, is already a designer. The lockets feature inspirational lyrics from the artist’s music, and the design invites people to become more in touch with their emotional selves by keeping, in Seal’s words, “precious objects, more than just pictures, close to their hearts.”

BEST BEATLES PARTY

Guests at the Frederick Goldman/Condé Nast Bridal Media event at Tao were treated with The Fab Four, a Beatles cover band, and a Rhythm and Hue performance featuring David Garibaldi. Garibaldi painted portraits of famous musicians while onlookers watched and listened to the work of the musician being portrayed. Paintings were raffled off, and proceeds benefited Jewelers for Children.