JCK Show Marks 10th Edition

The international JCK Show in Las Vegas marked its 10th edition by becoming the world’s largest jewelry trade fair, and with better-than-expected business despite a slight decline in attendance and a soft economy.

The 2001 show, held June 1-5 in the Sands Expo and Convention Center, welcomed 3,000 exhibitors (2,250 from the United States and 750 from other countries). The Basel, Switzerland, jewelry and timepiece fair, traditionally the world’s largest show, this year had some 2,300 exhibitors. In attendance, however, the show still trailed Basel, which boasted more than 86,000 attendees; the JCK Show drew slightly more than 19,000 buyers, compared with 20,800 last year.

A pleasant surprise. Despite the economic slowdown, business at The JCK Show was upbeat. Opening day was crowded with attendees and, overall, business was better than average. In some areas—such as the “Time Square” watch section—business was very good for both well-established brands and newcomers seeking U.S. outlets and agents. Officials of brands such as Bulova, Citizen, and Boccio gave the “thumbs-up” sign when asked about business.

Diamond dealers, too, were upbeat, reporting healthy demand for rounds, princess cuts, and especially matched pairs, largely prompted by De Beers’ ads for the three-stone ring and its spin-offs. Despite the soft economy, dealers said consumers were “trading down” only slightly, and that some of the hottest items were high-end, especially higher-grade color and better-cut stones. Indian dealers also reported strong sales of smaller stones. Not everyone had a positive response. This year’s show added several more foreign delegations of exhibitors, from countries including Ireland, Belgium, Brazil, and Japan. Unfortunately, the newcomers were located in a ballroom off the main floor and saw minimal traffic. Other foreign delegations, housed in the back of the main hall, fumed about the broken air conditioning, and some vendors on both floors said traffic was—as one put it—”spotty.”

Product news. Jewelers seeking new high-quality watch lines found many to choose from. Mid- and luxury-priced brands debuting in the U.S. market at the show included Anomino (Italian), Carrera (German), Bruno Banani (Italian/Swiss), Aero (Swiss), Glycine (Swiss), Japy (Swiss), Limes (German), Faini (American), Regnier (French), and George Von Burg (Swiss). Stylish fashion newcomers included Opex (French) and AquaMarin (American). Returning to the U.S. market are the upscale brands Jean d’Eve and Revue Thommen (both Swiss).

Watch technology also was well-served. Bulova debuted its Accutron 21, powered by “motion quartz” technology; Junghans promoted its “atomic” (radio wave-controlled) and ceramic watches; and Casio presented its “wrist camera” timepiece (in its Wrist Technology series). Timex debuted its new Internet Messanger watch, which can receive e-mail and Internet information, act as a pager, and automatically adjust to accurate time.

In the diamond arena, many sightholders—prodded by the new Diamond Trading Co. (DTC)’s requirement to add value to diamonds—showcased their marketing ideas. One of the most ambitious was W.B. David’s “Leading Jewelers of the World” campaign, a twist on the “Leading Hotels of the World” mark.

Another sightholder, Premier Gem, spotlighted its new “Insieme” engagement ring and wedding band collection, created with Italian designer Luca Carati. Hearts On Fire, the pioneering brand partially owned by De Beers sightholder Eurostar, introduced its newest cut, the squarish “Dream,” plus a new display, radio spots, and purple-hued print ads.

Sightholder Isaac Klein debuted a special jewelry box and packaging meant to act as a sales tool, and Antwerp’s Pluczenik Group continued to tout its “Escada” diamond jewelry brand.

Also at the show: the first area-specific diamond brand. M. Ben-Dor Diamonds Inc. introduced Tundra Diamonds, certified as mined, cut, and polished in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Jewelry Designs: A Sign of the Times. Nearly across the board, designers at The JCK Show toned down their designs to decrease price points. John Hardy and Robert Lee Morris, for example, paired sterling silver with diamonds. And, after several seasons of platinum, 18k gold, and diamond- and gem-intensive pieces, both showed lines that were heavy in sterling.

Other examples of a general down-scaling were a movement toward stackable rings vs. large cocktail rings, delicate diamond pavé bangles and necklaces in single or multiple layers, and the introduction of more silk and rubber cords.

Style-wise, the lariat still reigns supreme. In all its incarnations, the clean-lined, draping sensuality of the lariat is the strongest theme in fine jewelry. Its dangle-end motif is now being used for earrings and bracelets.

Sticks and Stones. The elongated line of last season’s drop earring has been reinterpreted for the hottest look of the spring shows—the matchstick earring. In gemstones, diamonds, silver, platinum or gold, these earrings are everywhere. Ellie Thompson, Chicago, dropped hers to dangerous new levels, with gold wire earrings that ended short of the shoulder—with a gemstone.

The movement from drop to stick followed suit in necklaces, where last year’s draping collars were stiffened up and hinged in back for an edgier style. Damiani interpreted the look with brown and white diamonds, while Bergio softened things up with golden, pink, and black pearls matched with fancy colored diamonds.

Off-Kilter. The crossover between fashion and fine jewelry is evident in the slightly off-kilter lines in both. For several seasons, asymmetry has played an important role in fashion, with everything from hemlines to shoulder lines set askew. Jewelers this year followed suit, with pieces that defy the rules of symmetry. David Yurman’s crossover collection and Diana Vincent’s multi-band Contour bridal line are two examples of the slightly off-kilter trend.

Hip to Be Square. Though pavé designs remain a favorite, fine-jewelry fashion is a little squarer this year. Square stones (especially princess and emerald), which have been increasingly popular in the bridal category, are finding their way onto the fashion front. Aaron Basha, for example, showed emerald cuts in large fashion rings and necklaces. Judith Conway, meanwhile, had her own geometrical diamond—the shield cut—which features a diamond shape within the diamond.

Warm Front. Yellow gold continues to make inroads, with more designers favoring yellow over white this year. Retailers, however, continue to order white, many suppliers said. The newest designs, nonetheless, are following fashion’s lead.

Along with yellow gold, warm gemstones were a hit for the season. With little change from last year, when warmer tones made a big splash, the gems of choice remain brown diamonds, citrus-y yellows and oranges—from citrine to fire opal—and all shades of green—from peridot to tsavorite.

Sell an experience. The popular pre-show two-day education program (May 30-31) drew record audiences. It offered 35 free seminars led by industry experts on subjects ranging from how to sell watches effectively to how to create employee success.

Attendance at many sessions was higher than in previous years, with 600 people at some concurrent sessions. Charlotte Preston, president of Charlotte Preston Catalysts, which plans and runs The JCK Show’s conference program, said attendance was greatest in sessions dealing with financial management, sales, and marketing.

The Show’s keynote speaker, jeweler Al Molina—who built his business from a single necklace into the multimillion dollar Molina Fine Jewelers of Phoenix, Ariz.—urged jewelers to stop seeing jewelry as “a commodity” and start selling it as “an experience” for consumers. “We’re in the emotion business,” Molina told some 400 people. “Our product isn’t diamonds or green emeralds. It is how the product makes a person feel.” Useful tools, he said, include a “brand identity” and “tag line” for one’s store; service-oriented practices by salespeople to build relationships with customers and the community (for example, regular phone calls, detailed customer profiles, membership on boards of local charities); and maintaining the exterior of the store. “The ‘experience’ starts not when they walk in the door, but when they open their car doors,” he said.

The JCK Show is also a magnet for special events of major industry organizations, and this year was no exception:

The American Gem Society (AGS) —whose staff has grown from 15 in 1999 to 45 now—hosted a reception and tours for more than 500 guests at its expanded “campus” just outside Las Vegas. Facilities include the new lab (10,000 square feet, twice the size of the old one); state-of-the-art color grading stations; a research and development area; laser inscription machines; a doubled-in-size administrative building; classrooms; a new library; and gem and equipment displays. The campus will be fully operational in August.

To date, AGS has raised 60% of the $4 million needed for the project. Inscribed plaques on AGS’s “Wall of Honor” and “Walk of Distinction” are available for donations of $2,500 to $100,000, and facility “naming” opportunities for up to $250,000.

Since June 2000, The Jewelers Charity Fund for Children has raised $2 million, which it donated at its June 3 gala to three children’s organizations and a new project in Africa. The money came from JCFC’s annual Facets of Hope fundraising dinner, a JCFC program that put coin canisters in hundreds of U.S. jewelry stores, and other special projects. Since 1999, the JCFC has raised almost $4 million for charity. The 2001 donations are $520,000 each to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; the Wish-A-State program (a collaborative effort of the JCFC, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Jewelers of America); and the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, fulfilling a $1.5 million JCFC commitment to renovate and expand St. Jude’s Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic. The JCFC also gave $450,000 to the Glaser Foundation’s “Call to Action” Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo to train people in stopping mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.

Platinum Guild International presented its annual Plattie awards and unveiled its new advertising campaigns in a glitzy breakfast titled “2001: A Platinum Odyssey.”

The Plattie recognizes excellence in design, marketing, and retailing of platinum products. The categories and winners included: excellence in retailing among national chains—Sterling Inc.; excellence in retailing among mid-sized and regional chains—Bailey Banks & Biddle; excellence in retailing among independent retailers—Sonny’s at Fillmore, Denver, Colo.; excellence in platinum design—Jeff Cooper Platinum; and excellence in platinum marketing—Scott Kay Platinum PGI president Laurie Hudson led the 45-minute session, which offered rousing performances by the Platinum Dancers, wearing platinum jewelry by various designers and manufacturers, and an introduction to PGI’s Platinum Hearts Pendant Program, which begins in September.

The Contemporary Design Group presented its 11th annual High Achievement Awards to leaders in designer jewelry. The Most Valuable Designer Player award (for creating an indelible place in the world of designer jewelry) went to Ronna Lugosch. The Best Designer Retailer award (for excelling at selling and merchandising designer jewelry) went to Nordstrom. The Best Designer Advocate award (for advancing the designer concept in the industry) was presented to sales representative Toni Lyn Judd. The Best Designer Supplier award (for doing the most to help designers expand their businesses) went to colored gemstone dealer Mayer and Watt.

The JCK Show-Las Vegas annually holds two events—the Silent Auction and the Designers Live Auction—the proceeds of which are presented to industry groups the following year. The 2000 Silent Auction netted $8,912, which was equally divided ($2,228 each) among the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), Jewelers Security Alliance, Jewelry Information Center, and Jewelers Education Fund of the American Gem Society. The 2000 Designers Live Auction raised $7,354 for the Jewelry Design Fund and $17,159 for the American Design Council.