Best in Show: Hot News + Trends From 2007

BEST PLACES TO SPOT ATTAINABLE, FASHION-FOCUSED JEWELRY

The Gold Expressions by Bel-Oro booth focused on marketable interpretations of top Italian design, and the World Gold Council booth high-lighted pieces selected by its Blue Ribbon Panelfor fashion sense and salability. Both collections are sure to appeal to self-purchasing women—the category JCK has been touting for years as the industry’s best opportunity for growth. Investment icon Warren Buffett‘s recent purchase of Bel-Oro International and Aurafin LLC makes us feel even more certain that our passionate belief in this category is on target.

BEST RESULTS WE’VE SEEN IN COMPETITION

Diamond Promotion Service‘s 2007 Journey winners illustrate why the concept took off like a rocket, with sales going from zero to $1 billion in one year. (The designs are a vast improvement over those submitted for DPS’s right-hand-ring competition a few years ago.) All the winning Journey designs were good, and some, like Colorcraft‘s convertible drop-to-hoop earring, were especially notable. Though it received an honorable mention and not top prize, we think two classic, elegant looks in one earring is totally clever!

BEST IDEA FOR CUSTOMERS WHO CAN’T MAKE UP THEIR MIND

Just when you thought you had seen everything, Tetsuo“Teddy” Maruyama of C. Link, Japan, showed hanks of color-changing pearls. These have been coated in some secret fashion—apparently using nanotechnology—with a material that changes color when exposed to ultraviolet light. Strands of pink, mauve, blue, cream, and green pearls change back to white when taken out of the sun.

BEST FASHION-FORWARD GEM JEWELRY

If you didn’t get to the Feninjer show in São Paulo, Brazil, the Brazilian Pavilion in the World’s Fair section of The JCK Show was the next best thing. Exhibitors in the section are continuously raising the level of quality, design, and use of Brazilian gem materials. From Vianna and FR Heub at the front of the section, to Stone World and Ben Sabbagh at the back, it was a gemaholic’s dream—not to mention that the finished jewelry designs were also excitingly fresh.

BEST ALMOST-EDIBLE JEWELS

Yes, chocolate pearls are treated, but they’re still gorgeous! Just be sure to disclose everything and alert customers to any special care requirements beyond the usual no-perfume advice. Best sparkly version? Chocolate diamonds. We taste a trend here, and it’s one that offers some enticing in-store promotion possibilities. Women and chocolate are tailor-made for a great event! Witness the hordes mobbing the chocolate fountain at the Le Vian Red Carpet Fashion Show on Sunday afternoon if you don’t believe us.

BEST TURNKEY TV AD PROGRAM

Spot Runner‘s customizable TV commercials are professional and on trend, and the program is designed to help jewelers identify the best media placement based on their individual store, budget, and target market. The Diamond Promotion Service was the first in the industry to team up with Spot Runner, and now Stuller has introduced a new Spot Runner program for its customers as well. Stuller’s series of ads, introduced at The JCK Show, are different from the DPS ads and incorporate Stuller product.

BEST ASSOCIATION MERGER

Terry Chandler (president/CEO, Diamond Council of America) and Cindy Ramsey (deputy executive director, American Gem Society) tied the knot June 5 in the wedding chapel at the Venetian. This one’s for real, folks! They got engaged during AGS Conclave in April (you should see the canary beauty she’s been sporting) and moved their September nuptials to June at the conclusion of The JCK Show. The festivities were attended by a host of industry faces as well as Terry’s son, Ian, and Cindy’s daughter, Sheri. As we in the industry say when a deal is closed, mazalu’bracha (luck and blessings)!

BEST NIFTY GEM TRICK

Chi Huynh, gem and jewelry artist at Galatea: Jewelry by Artist, San Dimas, Calif., was told by pearl experts that his idea of using gemstone bead nuclei in black-lipped oysters wouldn’t work. They were wrong. After persuading implantation experts that his idea could succeed, he began growing black pearls using citrine, amethyst, and turquoise bead nuclei. Three years later, he harvested beautiful AAA quality Tahitian-like (but Vietnamese) black pearls and carved them to expose the nuclei. It stunned the pearl world—and us.

BEST DISCLOSURE

Red corundum, as any gemologist knows, is called ruby. But when the mineral has been enhanced through beryllium diffusion—and it generates red-colored corundum—suppliers are reluctant to call it a ruby. Suppliers of beryllium-treated sapphire deserve praise for calling it red sapphire instead.

BEST JEWELRY/CULTURE EVENT

The World Gold Council‘s “Italian Passion: Food, Fashion, Gold!” at Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino restaurant presented the Italian-focused Gold Expressions jewelry collection by dividing it into the three categories from which its designers hail: Piemonte, Toscana, and Veneto. Each occupied a separate room, where delicious food and wine from the respective locales poured forth. Tasting black risotto with cuttlefish, drinking a full-bodied red wine, looking at gorgeous gold jewelry, and chatting with miraculously revived industry peers … it doesn’t get much better than that.

BEST EASY PLEASURE

Amid the show’s intensity, one booth was surprisingly, appealingly soothing. Toby Pomeroy‘s collection doesn’t change drastically from year to year, but with its beautiful matte finishes and small sprinklings of diamonds, it’s consistently good and lovely to behold and wear. Notable this year was a beefed-up basic: an elongated gold-and-diamond hoop earring. An added bonus: Pomeroy’s gold is green. Not in color, but in environmental consciousness, as he uses EcoGold, a reclaimed gold, in all of his pieces.

BEST COOL NEW PEARL JEWELRY

Vibe, a new-to-the-market company—represented by Fragments showroom—stood out even among the plethora of companies offering new and interesting pearl designs. One of our favorites at Vibe featured a baroque pearl with a chain of linked golden seahorses.

BEST WATCH WINDERS

The surge in self-winding (automatic) mechanical watches, from affordable to luxury, has prompted growth and advances in watch winders. Orbita‘s Avanti 12, the first wall-hung multiple watch winder, has programmable microprocessor controls for each module. For the Underwood (London) Biometric Lock System, the “key” to the briefcase in which watches and their winders are kept is the watch owner’s fingerprint (pressed on a tiny pad), providing security at home, in-store, and when traveling. Wolf Designs‘ 4.0 single module rotator has a patented connecting system, enabling the serious enthusiast to add modules as his or her collection grows.

BEST NEW PROFIT IDEA

Last year, a common question at The JCK Show was “Palladium jewelry: What’s that?” This year, the phrase was “Palladium jewelry: Tell us how to sell it!” The market for the light, white, precious metal is growing significantly. In 2005, there was virtually no palladium jewelry at the show; in 2007, palladium accounted for up to 20 percent of some companies’ jewelry intros. The “Palladium: The Time Is Now” seminar, hosted by Palladium Alliance International (www.luxurypalladium.com), welcomed about 275 retailers. PAI unveiled sales training, bench guides, and other free materials to help jewelers and is developing a national marketing program.

BEST CELEBRITY SPOTTING

Those looking for famous faces saw several in Las Vegas. Actress, author, and entrepreneur Suzanne Somers gave the opening-day keynote address. Six-time Grammy award winner Toni Braxton appeared at the booth of watch brand Von Dutch. Mrs. America and Mrs. Worldwere at Le Vian‘s Red Carpet Fashion Show. Mike Bibby, of the Sacramento Kings, and Mageina Tovah, a star of the Spiderman movies, could be seen at luxury watch brand D.Atlantis‘s booth. And screen legend Elizabeth Taylor put in a brief appearance at the House of Taylor salon at LUXURY by JCK, supporting her self-designed, eponymous jewelry collection.

BEST FAUX-CELEBRITY SPOTTING

Richard Gere,” “Angelina Jolie,” “Paris Hilton,” and “Johnny Depp” all were on hand (sort of) one afternoon to greet visitors at the Egana-Goldpfeil watch stand. The celebrities were actually impersonators who so resembled their counterparts in looks, dress, and mannerisms that throngs of astonished passersby stopped, gawked, and asked for photographs and autographs.

BEST REASONS TO START COLLECTING

Limited editions of timepieces have become an active category among aficionados who love to collect them. Among the many on display at The JCK Show: handcrafted and signed Hardcore Watch Co.‘s Artistry in Time collection, by designer and craftsman Steve Soffa, have sculpted dials and come with a matching painting by the artist; D.Atlantis‘s Cliento series of diamond and ruby skeleton timepieces have interchangeable bezels.

BEST TOURBILLON WATCH THAT DOUBLES AS A DESK CLOCK

Bell & Ross‘s square Instrument BR01 Tourbillon is the hands-down winner. (It’s the only tourbillon watch that doubles as desk clock.)

MOST EXPENSIVE PIECE OF CLOTHING

Dalumi Group brought its $1.3 million diamond-studded top to the show. Created by world-renowned fashion designer Gianfranco Ferré in a joint effort with the diamond company, the outfit was introduced during Milan Fashion Week, as part of Ferré’s runway show and was on display in Basel, Switzerland. Yuval Kemp, Dalumi marketing and business development manager, told JCK the top will soon be placed for auction. With Ferré’s untimely death just weeks after the show, the top should gain even more value above its already stratospheric price tag.

BEST USE OF RECYCLABLE PRODUCTS IN JEWELRY DESIGN

The Technonature collection of amber jewelry from Polish company Ambermoda consists of microprocessor boards from computers. Pieces of amber replace the processors, and the pieces as a whole resemble satellite imagery of large metropolitan areas. Mariusz Gliwinski, co-owner of the family firm, designed the collection after his daughter’s laptop broke. “Down there, the people are in motion—just like the tiny electrons on a computer’s mainboard,” he said. “The nature and civilization constantly overlap, inspiring each other.”

BEST USE OF FIBER-OPTIC LIGHTING

The fiber-optic lighting in showcases from Genius POF Industries Ltd., a Hong Kong company with a U.S. office in Solon, Ohio, producesno heat and is more efficient than other types of lighting. The cool white color (more than 4,000 Kelvin) can be adjusted for brightness, and the spotlights are flexible enough to use in a number of positions. The company sells custom-designed showcases in a variety of wood, metal, and laminate styles, but the lighting also can be used in those built by other companies.

BEST CHARITABLE PARTY

The Green Initiative Celebration, held at the Venetian‘s V Bar, touted the Diamond Empowerment Fund, an international nonprofit founded by Russell Simmons, head of Simmons Jewelry Co., and other members of the jewelry industry. It raises money “to support education initiatives that develop and empower people in African nations where diamonds are a natural resource,” according to a DEF statement. The Green Initiative designates 25 percent of proceeds from a line of African-mined malachite jewelry to DEF. A malachite and rough diamond bracelet, given to party guests, retails for $125, and half of proceeds from its sales also go to DEF. One industry notable said of Simmons, who attended the party, “Can you think of anyone else in this industry who attracts this kind of attention?” Not really.

BEST GIVING RECORD

Since 1999, Jewelers for Children has given a whopping $28,765,000 to charities benefiting sick or needy children. But it deserves special recognition for its minuscule administrative overhead: 92 percent of every dollar raised goes to charity, a figure practically unheard-of in the nonprofit world. Says JFC executive director David Rocha, “We work hard at keeping it low. Since we don’t actually administer programs, we give the money away. According to the IRS, over 75 percent is considered good, so I guess we’re doing OK.”

BEST NEW LOOK IN MEN’S JEWELRY

The Vertebrae collection is inspired by—you guessed it—bones. Not only human bones but also snake vertebrae made into jewelry by street vendors in West Africa. Jewelry designer Timothy Meier caught sight of the latter during a trip and fabricated oxidized sterling and stainless-steel versions when he returned home. Pieces from the Vertebrae collection are massive, masculine, and hard not to notice.

BEST NEW TRADEMARK

The World Federation of Diamond Bourses is throwing a lot of support behind its WFDB Mark, which will stand as a sign of assurance to retailers (and possibly consumers) that the seller abides by the World Federation’s Code of Principles. The mark takes its place beside De BeersForevermark and BHP‘s CanadaMark, but WFDB president Ernie Blom notes that, while other companies can try to enforce their “Best Practice Principles,” WFDB has not only an established ethics code but also a system that enforces those ethics.

BEST EFFORTS TO JOIN THE PARTY

We’re used to synthetic diamonds making a bigger splash in the consumer media than in the jewelry industry. But at this year’s JCK Show, Gemesis, the Florida-based company that manufactures fancy-colored lab-grown stones, was, if not high profile, still a presence. Several vendors exhibited their stones, and Gemesis executives—accompanied by De Beersveteran Joan Parker—threw a party and attended numerous events and seminars. A week later, Gemesis announced that Larry Pollock, a former CEO of Zale and veteran of both Karten’s Jewelers and J.B. Robinson Jewelers, was joining its board of directors. It was a classy and welcome sign that Gemesis doesn’t see itself as opposed to the jewelry industry, but as part of it.

BEST LOGIC FOR MAKING A SALE

Couples willingly shell out thousands of dollars for wedding invitations, party favors, food, flowers, and other short-lived elements of the big day, but shop for bargains on the most long-lasting symbol of their commitment: their wedding rings. While hoping to build sales in its own category, Platinum Guild International‘s “Take Back the Wedding” initiative helps jewelers increase their share of wedding dollars. And the free morning coffee and bagels in the Platinum Pavilion were a great enticement to sit and watch the “Take Back” video.

BEST USE OF WEB-VIDEO TECHNOLOGY

EyeOnJewels Corp.‘s video-based e-commerce platform allows jewelers to make live, private video presentations for clients from their home, office, or anywhere in the world—and then complete the transaction online. In addition, the company provides links to the store Web site, e-commerce capabilities that can be integrated into a store’s existing Web site, and online marketing capabilities. The cameras (users need a Web camera) and the Web-based software also can be used for 24-hour store surveillance.

BEST NEW WAY TO FIGHT BLUE NILE

GemFind.net has started a new business-to-consumer Web site (www.gemfind.com). The site gives consumers a choice of making diamond purchases online or going to the nearest jeweler in the GemFind network to purchase diamonds. Either way, the jeweler gets credit for the sale and shares in the profit—20 percent net profit—according to Louis Valentineof the Laguna Niguel, Calif.–based company, “without ever seeing that customer.”

BEST WORLD PREMIERE

Luxury jewelry- and watchmakerHarry Winston got into the Las Vegas spirit, launching its limited edition Exotic Birds collection of watches with painted enamel dials. The launch took place at the invitation-only Swiss Watch by JCK, with a cocktail reception in a suite that was swathed in pink flamingo feathers, pink lighting, and even boasted a room-size golden cage, with two showgirls wearing pink flamingo feathers from top to toe.