Jewelry Design in Basel Stays the Course

Jewelry designers and manufacturers exhibiting at the BaselWorld Watch and Jewelry Fair showed extreme caution about launching new trends to an audience that is watching its budgets carefully.

The jewelry on display at the fair, held March 31–April 7, was exquisitely pretty and highly salable, but the design trends shown were, for the most part, continuations of or subtle twists on existing ideas. Designers coped with price concerns by scaling down size or incorporating nontraditional materials such as wood into their designs.

The general design trends included delicate, open, outlined forms; interpretations of lace, such as were done by Italian designer Stefan Hafner, German manufacturer Buchwald, and English designer Stephen Webster; color (pastel shades and coral are up-and-coming gem choices); and a continuation of classics like flowers and crosses. One new trend appearing on the horizon was designs inspired by water. This new interpretation wasn’t about sea creatures but rather about the water itself. Whether it was a clear quartz gem cut to resemble a reflecting pool or delicate designs inspired by waves, a few designers were clearly influenced by water.

Because of the dollar’s decline—it has reached new lows against the euro—American buyers were at a disadvantage buying jewelry from European companies.

“It’s good for American manufacturers,” said Leopoldo Poli, president of La Nouvelle Bague, Florence, Italy. “It’s cheaper [for retailers] to buy from U.S. companies than European companies.”

Watch manufacturers did not experience that kind of drop in American business, perhaps because there are few alternatives to branded, Swiss-made watches. European jewelry makers, however, saw a noticeable drop in American business, while the pavilion housing Asian and Indian jewelry manufacturers was mobbed. But a number of European manufacturers cited significantly increased business from emerging markets in Eastern Europe and non-Japan Asia as helping to offset the drop in American spending.