Ring in the New, Editor’s Letter, February 2013

Overheard at a clothing store in Brooklyn Heights last month: two women, about 30 years old, talking about rings, including a breathless anecdote about a mutual friend who’d just received a lovely style “that wasn’t too flashy.”

The act of giving or receiving a ring to commemorate a betrothal is so commonplace in our culture that a conversation about it borders on the banal—unless you’re a jeweler or a devoted spectator of the biz, like I am, in which case any off-the-cuff comments about rings should be treated as wholly unbidden and, thus, incredibly valuable market research.

Here’s another example: A good friend in Los Angeles recently asked me to help him find an engagement ring for his longtime girlfriend. “Can we do something more interesting than a diamond, or do I have to line up with the rest of the suckers?” he asked.

I recently visited designer Paolo Costagli’s New York City showroom and swooned over this 6.20 ct. cushion-cut mint tourmaline ring in 18k yellow gold. At $32,000, it’s a steal (assuming, that is, you’re comparing it with bridal styles with diamond center stones).

Whether they’re gravitating away from diamonds or toward styles that aren’t “too flashy,” consumers’ tastes are changing. In this issue’s Shop Talk opener (“Shopping for an Engagement Ring? Think Outside the (White Diamond) Box.”), contributor Randi Molofsky provides some excellent pointers on how to sell to the cutting-edge crowd.

Once you’ve digested that advice, check out “How Retailers Can Make the Most of Any Bridal Budget” for a compendium of tips collected by bridal specialist Amy Elliott, on how to sell to brides and grooms of all budgets and backgrounds, be they big spenders or bargain hunters.

A few months from now, you’ll be able to put that advice to use on the JCK Las Vegas show floor. The bridal pavilion will play host to 100-plus vendors as well as a bridal lounge sponsored by The Knot (our bridal research partner in crime—check out “2013 Wedding Gown and Jewelry Trends” for proof of our continuing collaboration).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Between now and Vegas, we’ve got the Tucson gem shows to cover. I’ve made no secret of my love for this annual gathering of rock hounds to which virtually every nation with a stake in the gem trade sends a delegation. Thai dealers loaded with parcels of Burmese rubies mingle with Colombian emerald specialists, Sri Lankan sapphire traders, German agate carvers, Nigerian government valuators, Zambian garnet miners, Polish amber salesmen, and Brazilian tourmaline purveyors. The selection ranges from rocks that can fetch $50,000 per carat at wholesale to fossilized mastodon horns worth whatever the market for such oddities will bear.

The tradition started in 1955, when the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society staged its first buying show. What began as a modest gathering of amateur collectors and hobbyists spawned a succession of satellite ventures that attracted miners, cutters, dealers, gemologists, mineralogists, retailers, and designers from all over the world. Today, at least 30 shows take place during the first two weeks of February in hotel rooms and lobbies across town, drawing a roguish mix of characters to Tucson’s sprawling neighborhoods.

Senior editor Jennifer Heebner, who profiles a unique form of selling gems in this issue’s colored stone spotlight (“Roundtables: The Hot New Way for Retailers to Sell Colored Stones”), will be there, as will I. If you see us cruising the aisles of the American Gem Trade Association GemFair, or picking through bins of minerals at one of the kooky shows that line Interstate 10, don’t be shy. We’d love to hear from you.

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