Rio Show Sees Attendance Boost

Judging by the empty display shelves on the final day, this year’s Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show was a success. Held June 1–5 at the Rio Suite Hotel & Casino, the show featured over 280 exhibitors and saw attendance increases of approximately 5 percent over last year’s figures.

Sales increased 2 percent, and buyers were largely on the lookout for big, often retro-style items. “I’ve got no big pieces left,” said Jeffrey Eller of Sharp Facets Gallery, Greenwood, S.C. “Everyone’s looking for the big, fine, signed pieces—although they don’t have to be signed, as long as they’re fine. My low- and midrange pieces are just not selling.”

Joan Stern from Designs by Irene, Montgomery Village, Md., echoed this observation, noting that the quest for larger items stood out among their other, more usual, requests. “We have a lot of Southern customers,” she said, “and they always tend to go for filigree or Victorian pieces. And everyone is always looking for antique platinum and diamond engagement rings. But the large, signed pieces are really big this year.”

Hours before the closing announcement, most dealers were upbeat about their results—despite a slightly uneven flow of buyers across the show’s five days. Julia Rover of Easton, Pa., noticed a lag in attendance during the middle of the show and attributed the slowdown to the holiday and the start of The JCK Show. But others were delighted. “We’ve had a great show,” said Ed Szymanski of Legends in Time, Toledo, Ohio. “But we always do well at this show—we have great deals.”

There were some beautiful pieces to be seen. Hancocks of London showcased an ivory and enamel brooch, circa 1898–1900, by René Lalique. It featured a large ivory plaque carved with nine female cameo heads, set into an enamel border modeled to resemble large thorns.

Pat Novissimo, also of London, offered a rare Georgian, circa 1820s, garnet and gold necklace of an intricate floral design. While antique garnet necklaces are often seen at shows, Novissimo noted, “It’s very difficult to find the earlier Georgian pieces. The later pieces from the 1880s are far more common.”

Novissimo also showed a large, multiple-panel micromosaic bracelet featuring numerous views of Venice, Italy. The dealer noted that, because of its quality and size, the piece would have been extremely expensive when originally sold and was probably a costly souvenir of some past owner’s Grand Tour of Europe.

Toronto dealers Harvey Kessler displayed an unusual art-nouveau tortoiseshell and 18k comb set that was originally made for Tiffany & Co. The set consisted of three combs: one large and two in a smaller matched size. Each comb was decorated with amethyst and pearls and curved to slide smoothly into the upswept hairstyles of past times.

Other interesting items included a pair of Victorian silver and diamond earrings that featured tiny dangling skulls—set with diamond eyes—hanging within pear-shape wreaths of diamonds. The earrings, shown by Jane Fletcher of West Midlands, United Kingdom, were a clear illustration of the Victorian love of the macabre.

McTeigue, New York, offered a dazzling array of opulent, diamond-encrusted art-deco bracelets, and The Pearl Antiques of New York showed off an unusual (probably made-to-order) diamond, emerald, and ruby snake brooch with green enameling. Kothari & Co. Inc., Los Angeles, showcased a huge 161 ct. Colombian emerald in a pavé setting.

Other big design names repeatedly seen were Cartier, Giuliano, Jensen, and Tiffany, as well as later items by designers such as David Yurman—who was said to be actually browsing the show. Sure enough, just as Sandy Steinberg of Owl’s Roost Antiques of Miami Beach was describing a Yurman piece to a possible buyer, the man himself spoke up behind her. Yurman and his wife proceeded to chat with the women about the history of the piece, providing a straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth provenance.