Best in Show: Our Favorite Moments, Stones, and Finds From JCK Las Vegas 2016

Best Gemstone Trend: Iridescence

Designers are besotted with the delicate shimmer of opals and moonstones, both of which featured prominently in a slew of collections that debuted during market week. Sutra, Dallas Prince, and Davani all showcased new jewels set with Ethiopian opals, while Arya Esha, Le Vian, and JS Noor introduced lovely lavender and rainbow moonstone styles. “Moonstones for me have a lot of energy and almost feel alive because of their sheen, iridescence, and luster,” says JS Noor co-owner Jehangir Noor. Judging by the wealth of designers working with June’s birthstone, he’s far from the only one to appreciate the gem’s scintillating sparkle. —Jennifer Heebner

Top: earrings with Ethiopian opal and diamonds in 18k gold with black rhodium, $15,000, Sutra, Houston, 713-984-4987,; necklace in 18k gold with black rhodium, moonstone, and indicolite tourmaline, $71,300, JS Noor, Towson, Md., 800-962-6667,; inset: stud earrings in recycled 18k gold with 5.48 cts. t.w. rainbow moonstone and 0.48 ct. t.w. diamonds; $2,550; Arya Esha, Jacksonville, Fla.; 305-812-4986;

Best Discovery: Design Center’s Kickstarter 

Undoubtedly, our (and buyers’) favorite part of walking the floor at JCK is finding new work, and show organizers made that easier than ever this year with the inaugural Kickstarter class, a group of fresher-than-fresh faces plucked straight from such schools as New York City’s Pratt Institute and Georgia’s Savannah College of Art and Design. Stationed smack in the middle of the Design Center—already a hotbed of creativity—the seven artists impressed us with their daring, sculptural styles, and use of underappreciated materials (see: bronze, copper, and steel). And with any luck, they kickstarted a few sales as well. —Melissa Rose Bernardo

Black gold emerald earrings in carved acrylic and gold fill; $180; Olivia Shih; 646-469-5678;;

Most Creative Booth: Jack Mason 

If you did a double take when you passed the Jack Mason “booth” at JCK Las Vegas, you weren’t the only one. Craig Carter and Michael Reese, cofounders of the budding lifestyle brand based in Deep Ellum, Texas, parked a 1971 Airstream trailer in the Clockwork section of the JCK show, set up a picnic table, and invited retailers to take a peek inside their world of classic watches and leather goods styled in the great tradition of Americana. The timepieces, which feature Miyota quartz movements, retail between $185 and $600. “Everybody’s looking for something new, and we’re clean and classic—not trendy,” Carter says. Watch your back, Shinola! —Victoria Gomelsky

Hottest Issue: Lab-Grown Diamonds

Industry leaders discussed man-made stones at the “Lab-Grown Diamonds: Threat or Opportunity?” seminar moderated by JCK’s Rob Bates. The packed event sparked a few lively debates—including whether or not lab-grown producers have a right to call themselves “eco-friendly.” Jean-Marc Lieberherr of the Diamond Producers Association said lab-grown diamonds could confuse consumers, while Maarten de Witte, master cutter at the Leonardo DiCaprio–backed Diamond Foundry, said, “The real threat of lab-grown diamonds is the people who don’t want to adapt to change.” Touché! —Emili Vesilind

18k gold Divine Ring by Michael Weggenmann for Diamond Foundry; $3,990 (without center stone)


Coolest Product: Diamond Alphabet 

“If you love diamonds, set them free.” That’s the unofficial motto of New York City’s Aero Diamonds, where diamonds are best in the buff. “Our work has no traditional mounting,” says head designer Jacquie Yu Earle. “It’s all about releasing the color and vibe of the diamonds.” The LUXURY exhibitor gave that -philosophy a linguistic twist, introducing a new collection of laser-drilled letters shaped from G-VS stones. Each letter is custom-made, weighs 0.33–0.5 ct., retails between $4,000 and $5,000, and comes mounted on an adjustable 18k gold chain. “We can do each letter off the chain like a charm, or we can connect them so they hang one letter beneath the other,” Earle says. Spell-check not included. —VG

Most Timely Topic: LGBT Marketing

At the first JCK Las Vegas since last summer’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, same-sex weddings topped the program. Experts on a panel moderated by JCK’s Mark Smelzer agreed that it’s crucial for retailers welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples to avoid assumptions. “Asking a same-sex couple if they’re sisters or if they meant to order two men’s rings is devastating,” said Andy Whittaker, director of market insights at WeddingWire. Other suggestions: staging promotions during Pride month (June) and featuring same-sex couples in ads. “This industry needs to address us—period,” said Out publisher Greg Brossia. “If you don’t, you’re missing a huge opportunity.” —Logan Sachon

Pictured: a 2016 ad for & Other Stories x Faux/Real jewelry


Most Intriguing Personality: Liza Urla (@Gemologue)

You definitely saw her at the show—the willowy young beauty in the enormous white crocheted pearl headdress. Liza Urla, the Russian-born, London-based founder of Gemologue—the hugely popular jewelry blog that boasts a voracious Instagram fan base—was a hosted guest at this year’s JCK Las Vegas. She had the architectural headpiece made expressly for the occasion. “I wanted to wear something special and unusual at JCK,” the graduate gemologist revealed in a live Q&A session on JCK’s Showcase stage about how brands can create powerful content. “I think I’ve taken a thousand selfies with it this week!” —EV

There’s one big advantage to Liza Urla’s headdress: “I don’t need to do my hair,”  she says.

Best New Bridal Collection: Karl Lagerfeld for Frederick Goldman

Fashion’s sunglasses-wearing, silver-haired kingpin has finally brought his creative genius to fine jewelry, thanks to a new partnership with manufacturer Frederick Goldman. The Karl Lagerfeld wedding jewelry collection debuted at JCK Las Vegas with three inspirations borrowed from Lagerfeld’s design DNA—Parisian arches, geometry, and his signature pyramid motif. Engagement semi-mounts are made in platinum and 18k yellow or white gold (no rose at the designer’s request), and retail prices start at $1,000. Company CEO Jonathan Goldman expressed understandable pride in the partnership as a way to reach the millennial consumer. “He’s a true icon—probably the master of style in the world,” Goldman said. “It’s time he designed engagement rings.” —JH

Arch semi-mount in 18k gold with 0.42 ct. t.w. diamonds; $3,800; Karl Lagerfeld for Frederick Goldman, NYC; 800-221-3232;

Best Use of Technology: Virtual Reality at Richline and Gabriel & Co. 

Retailers who stopped by the Gabriel & Co. booth and the InterVision demonstration sponsored by the Richline Group at JCK saw the future—and it’s virtual. Richline partnered with Ceek VR, consulting agency Luxe Intelligence, and designer Wendy Brandes to showcase the immersive technology, which allows users to experience jewelry in 3-D using special headsets or smartphone viewers. Jack Gabriel, cofounder of Gabriel & Co., which debuted its Gabriel Magic VR tool at the show, is bullish about VR’s potential: “It will be as natural as using a mobile app to purchase.” —VG

Most Effective Social Promotion: Sylvie Selfie Station

With JCK Las Vegas’ extensive list of brands, it’s vital that even the biggest names do more to get visitors to their booths. This year, Sylvie Collection had it right with the #SylvieSelfie: Visitors to Sylvie’s LUXURY location created a photo backdrop from sequins, ribbons, flowers, and scrapbooking paper and piled on a selection of close-up-ready Sylvie rings. Then snap!—a Sylvie Selfie was born. Instagrammers who used the #SylvieSelfie hashtag were entered into a jewelry giveaway. The social media campaign doubled as user-generated marketing—with a cost no greater than the price of a few art supplies. —Brittany Siminitz

Top: photograph by Ted Morrison; styling by Betim Balaman 

Jack Mason booth, Liza Urla, virtual reality, and selfie station: photographs by Beverly Poppe

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