High-End Times at Baselworld 2014

Baselworld has always been a magnet for the world’s leading luxury players, and this year was no different. The Swiss watch and jewelry fair, held March 27 to April 3 at the redesigned Basel Exhibition Center, saw plenty of activity at the high end.

For one thing, retailers are reportedly in the market for more unusual, rare colored stones such as paraiba tourmaline. “Stores are definitely understanding paraiba—and are asking for it,” says Divyanshu Navlakha, co-owner of Sutra, based in Houston. “We’re also selling $30,000-and-up pieces now more than ever.”

In general, exhibitors reported that bigger-ticket items are selling without difficulty, and sales of uncommon goods like fine baroque South Sea pearls are selling better in the United States than in previous years. In a similar vein, Jonas Hjornered of Beverly Hills, Calif.–based Ivy New York says tsavorites and unheated sapphires in excess of 20 carats were among the brand’s top sellers at Baselworld.

The pearl market also appears to be heating up. Japan’s Mikimoto debuted a new baroque pearl collection in response to customer requests, while Israeli brand Yvel’s co-owner Isaac Levy says his 2013 pearl jewelry sales in the United States doubled his 2012 sales. He adds, however, that Americans want supplier add-ons like stock balancing and ad campaigns in order to make an investment in a brand. “The U.S. buys security, not jewelry,” Levy says.

The show served as a platform for some of the ­jewelry industry’s most innovative technology. Geneva jeweler Shawish, which made headlines in 2011 for creating a diamond ring made entirely of a single faceted diamond, showed an outrageous light-up diamond and pearl Octopus cuff equipped with a patented light technology as well as diamond-studded flash drives in mushroom motifs for extravagant techies.

The Italian firm Buccellati earned plenty of tweets and Instagram shout-outs for unveiling the world’s most expensive iPhone and iPad covers, made in solid 18k gold, embellished with diamonds, and priced around $200,000 and $480,000, respectively.

Meanwhile, Italian jewelry maker Mattia Cielo embraced silicon, pumping it into karat gold and carbon fiber jewels with concealed magnetic enclosures to offer big looks at more reasonable prices.

Speaking of reasonable pricing, Baselworld wasn’t all about high-ticket sales. Daniel Koren, the New York City designer behind the Daniel K collection of big diamonds, used the occasion to roll out Dani by Daniel K, his new diffusion line of jewelry featuring cubic zirconias and lab-grown gems set in sterling silver; retail prices range from $300 to $5,000. “It allows me to play and have some fun,” says Koren, who will show the new line at this month’s LUXURY show in Las Vegas.

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