New & Next: 10 Hot Retail Topics for 2016

What’s new for 2016? Instagram and Snapchat—once strictly social networks—are becoming ­viable retail channels. Man-made diamonds are ­moving into the mainstream. And we hear earrings are big. Really big.

Statement Earrings

Clothes may be the reason high-profile runway shows exist, but jewelry still steals the spotlight on occasion—like during the 2016 spring shows. Metallic danglers at Rosie Assoulin, side-facing tribal hoops at Marni, and metal-and-stone pairings at Loewe proved fashion is a firm believer in “Go big (on the lobes) or go home.” Not that jewelry designers need to be reminded of the merits of massive ear mobiles. “Spring fashion tends to be less structured,” says Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations and special events at Jewelers of America, “and oversized earrings are a fun way to bring the focus back to the face.” —Jennifer Heebner

Right: Briolette hoop earrings in 18k gold with 27.6 cts. t.w. Yowah opal, 6.21 cts. t.w. brown diamonds, and 5.55 cts. t.w. pavé diamonds; $35,000; Nina Runsdorf, NYC; 212-382-1243,

Stylish Smart Jewelry

The first wave of wearables brought essentially a barrage of smart devices ranging in personality from Jawbone-style rubber fitness bracelets to Swiss-made watches. But wearable developers are upping their game, incorporating precious metals and eyeing less obvious parts of the body on which to strap their zingy technology. Smart rings, earrings, brooches, and pendant necklaces (designed with an eye on fashion trends) will undoubtedly become more visible in 2016. Apple, which is responsible for the best-selling wearable ever made (the Apple Watch), is already branching out—the company filed a patent for a digital smart ring in fall 2015. —Emili Vesilind 

The Calder wearable in palladium- and gold-plated brass; $395; Wisewear, San Antonio; 844-344-7010;


New Credit Card Security 

Chip or EMV credit card readers have long been standard in Europe, and now we are finally seeing U.S. card companies adopt EMV technology (short for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa). Retailers, however, are a little slower to join the bandwagon. According to, only 40 percent of U.S. stores will be EMV-compliant by the end of 2015. This could turn into a big issue for jewelers; if they don’t have the new readers, they may bear the brunt of fraudulent chargebacks on EMV cards. Retailers’ biggest problem with the new cards is the cost of the new readers ($500–$1,000); many also have serious questions about whether the technology will boost security. While the new setup makes cards harder to counterfeit than the traditional magnetic strip cards, the National Retail Federation and other groups complain the new cards should require PINs (rather than signatures) to verify purchases. —Rob Bates



You could write off Snapchat—the social media platform that lets users send photos and videos that delete themselves within seconds of viewing—as a mere toy for teens. But then your brand would be conspicuously absent from the fastest growing social network of 2015. The Gen Y and Z consumers who’ve been fleeing Facebook in droves have embraced Snapchat—as have savvy jewelry brands including Alex and Ani, Jennifer Fisher, BaubleBar, and Nialaya, posting content such as video snippets and flash sales that route users to e-comm sites. The platform may celebrate brevity, but it’s perfectly poised for the long haul. —EV

Beaded bracelet in 14k gold with cherry quartz and pink sapphire pavé balls; $2,650; Nialaya, Los Angeles; 310-499-7162;


Instagram Sales

To safeguard their pretty interface, Instagram’s founders made it impossible for users to include links to outside pages in their posts. Fortunately, several third-party apps are finally turning the photo-sharing phenomenon into fertile sales turf. A few to test-drive in 2016: Like2Buy, which sends users to a shoppable landing page through a link embedded in the account’s profile data (BaubleBar is a fan);, which lets users like a post to receive an emailed list of where to buy the products pictured (Swarovski is a participating retailer); and Penny, which allows users to buy products by typing the hashtag #sold into the comments. —EV


Ethical Gem and Jewelry Sourcing

Sustainable, recycled, eco-friendly—today, these terms are as commonplace in the jewelry lexicon as carats and culets. From Chopard’s stake in Fairmined South American gold mines to the use of recycled metals and ethically obtained gems by independent designers, the industry has caught on to the fact that consumers (especially millennials) expect accountability at the retail counter. In the next year, expect a slew of new ethically minded campaigns to vie for your attention. Whether it’s a grassroots effort to benefit artisanal Kenyan miners spearheaded by Porini Gems in Nairobi, a new brand of jewelry from Colombia called Makua (designed in partnership with indigenous communities), or a homegrown effort to curb gun violence by jewelry brand Liberty United, the focus in 2016 will rest on ethically obtained jewelry with a backstory that benefits people at the source. —JH

Maxipechera necklace in 24k gold-plated copper with embroidered crystal beads made by indigenous women in Colombia; $95; Makua, Medellín, Colombia; 57-4-266-6589;


Mainstream Man-Made Diamonds 

Despite decades of buzz, lab-grown diamonds have traditionally been viewed as a fringe item by the industry. Lately, though, the stones seem to be moving into the mainstream. Helzberg Diamonds is offering them as a test; so are Sam’s Club and 73-store chain Rogers & Hollands. Of course, many worry that man-made diamonds will cannibalize sales of naturals, and it is still not clear if consumers will want them. But millennials seem at least open to the possibility: When MVI Marketing recently asked a panel of younger consumers about lab-grown diamonds, all but one said they would consider buying them, citing the lower cost and perceived social benefits. —RB
Marat Utimishev/Thinkstock)


Same-Sex Marriage

The past year was big for supporters of same-sex marriage—and not just because the U.S. Supreme Court deemed that gay couples could legally marry with its 5-4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The jewelry industry made small but important strides: Tiffany & Co. debuted ads featuring a gay couple; Hearts On Fire showed lesbians in its new campaign; Michael Hill included a lesbian couple in its Super Bowl spot; and independent jewelers everywhere found ways to feature same-sex couples in their marketing. Nearly 100,000 gay and lesbian couples got married in the five months after the high court ruling; in 2016, be prepared for more to walk through your door. —Logan Sachon

Ladies’ half-round comfort fit band in 18k gold with hidden diamond; $475; Hearts On Fire, Boston; 877-PERFECT;



Online Sales 3.0

Less than 10 percent of jewelry is bought online, according to most estimates. That’s low, at least compared with other sectors, which is why tech types still see an opportunity—helping explain the swarm of jewelry sites popping up everywhere., once a low-end site run out of Canada, is reinventing itself as an affordably priced pipeline from manufacturers to consumers (similar to how Blue Nile sells diamonds). Gemvara recently introduced Sequel, a site that redesigns heirloom gems. And there are always murmurs about Amazon, which tried (and failed) to become a big jewelry seller in 2004. Lately, the online behemoth has seen tremendous growth in its fashion vertical, which includes jewelry, and has tried to recruit designers to the site. Among them: Wendy Brandes, who found her time on Amazon didn’t pay off. As she puts it: “Who wants to buy jewelry in the place where you buy your cat food?” —RB 

Diamond cross pendant in 14k rose and yellow gold offered on; $999.95



Vintage Jewelry Redux

Forget global supply shifts and generational change—nostalgia may be the most influential force shaping the modern-day jewelry market. As the mainstream popularity of estate jewelry grows (thanks largely to e-commerce and social media), certain eras are trending among contemporary designers. Expect Victorian (cluster rings, old mine cuts) and Edwardian (lace details, feminine touches) motifs in bridal as well as design elements like navette-shaped stones, opals, and crescent moons to make a big statement in 2016. And the Deco era continues to cast a long shadow: Be on the lookout for retro silhouettes reinvented for contemporary tastes, à la the diamond-studded pieces Eddie LeVian recently showed in Los Angeles. “We wanted to reinvent Deco with a softer, more feminine style,” says the CEO of Le Vian. “It’s a vintage look with a modern feel.” —Victoria Gomelsky

14k Vanilla Gold ring with 1.15 cts. t.w. Chocolate and Vanilla Diamonds; $2,999; Le Vian, Great Neck, N.Y.; 877-253-8426;


Model: Photograph by Tom Corbett, styling by Catherine Peridis

Market Editor: Jennifer Heebner. Makeup by Alexis Williams for The Brooks Agency. Hair by Gusléne Bubak. Manicure by Angela Marinescu.

Calder wearable in gold-plated brass, $395Wisewear, San Antonio, 844-344-7010,; white Mica wearable in 18k gold-plated brass with a sapphire touchscreen, snakeskin, pearls, lapis, obsidian, and tiger’s eye, $495Opening Ceremony, NYC, 646-237-6078,; lightning cable bracelet wearable, $58Rebecca Minkoff, NYC, 212-677-7829,


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