From Sochi With Love: Editor’s Letter, March 2014

Last month, I watched Team USA’s Julia Mancuso earn a bronze medal in the women’s alpine skiing competition at Krasnaya Polyana, a craggy region of the ­Caucasus about 45 minutes east of Sochi. Home to the skiing and snowboarding events of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the mountain cluster saw some of the games’ tightest races, with results often separated by just a few tenths of a second.

As a guest of Omega, the official timekeeper of the games, I had an insider’s view of the state-of-the-art technology that determined the winners and the losers. For example, the company introduced a new measurement device to the bobsleigh races this year that consists of speed and acceleration sensors, and a 3-D gyro-sensor, all of which deliver race data to the competitors, judges, and spectators in real time.

With brains like these, it’s easy to forget that Omega is also known for its pretty face. For a reminder, click on “Dream Machines: 24 Fresh-Faced Watches” and check out the newest addition to its long-running Seamaster collection, among a bevy of timepieces that epitomize the trends heading into this month’s Baselworld fair in Switzerland.

While you’re at it, be sure to read senior editor Rob Bates’ incisive overview of the smartwatch category, “Inside the Smartwatch Phenomenon.” One of the points he makes is that the pioneers of wearable technology have yet to satisfy ­consumers’ desire for great design—which is a major reason analog watches haven’t lost their relevancy.

That’s me on the gondola to the mountain cluster, where our band of Omega guests watched Julia Mancuso win bronze in the ladies super combined alpine skiing race. And the bottom pic shows Sergei, my sweet Siberian ski instructor.

At JCK, we know a thing or two about the essentials of great design. Every March, we publish the results of our Jewelers’ Choice Awards, a retailer-voted contest that rewards jewelry designs that are beautiful, original, and saleable. The 2014 grand prize winner, a 14 ct. morganite ring from San Francisco’s Yael Designs, is all those things and more.

Thanks to senior editor Jennifer Heebner’s exhaustive market research, we’ve also rounded up 10 of the hottest new talents in the world of designer jewelry. Find their bios and the highlights of their work in “Fresh Flair: 10 Up-and-Coming Jewelry Designers.”

A thorny issue all designers must contend with, at one point or another, is counterfeiting, which includes the insidious practice of knocking off someone else’s design and marketing it as your own or making a fake product and then trying to pass it off as the real thing. It’s a nasty reality of the business—which is why we asked contributor Susan G. Hauser to explore how jewelers have dealt with it successfully in “How Retailers and Designers Can Guard Against Knockoffs.”

As most people in the jewelry trade know, the race to market is as competitive as any Olympic sport, though, of course, spectators can only experience the thrill of the latter. For all the flack the Russians have received (deservedly so) for the corruption and mismanagement that led up to the Games, the events appeared to be well-organized. They were certainly exciting! I had no idea how humbling it would be to watch world-class athletes compete for international glory.

I was even inspired to get out on the slopes myself, after a 20-year hiatus from skiing! And while I’m the polar opposite of a world-class athlete, skiing the Caucasus with Omega reminded me that I’m no slouch when it comes to having a good time.