JCK’s fourth annual Retail Design Contest showed that many jewelers have made a commitment to offer their own unique and creative designs. The contest drew a record 224 entries in three retail price categories.
Designs were judged on creativity, wearability, salability and innovative use of materials. The contest was open to any full- or part-time employee of a retail jewelry store or fine jewelry department that derives at least 50% of its revenue from the sale of fine jewelry.
The panel of judges comprised two designers and two retailers. The designers were Rudolf Erdel of OE Designs and Maija Neimanis, both New York City. The retailers were Michael Eigen of S. Michael Eigen and Jeffrey P. Badler of Maurice Badler Fine Jewelry, both New York City.
The judges noted some trends across categories. With the exception of some ornate, expensive pieces, most of the designers used clean lines and simplicity, said Badler. Added Erdel, “It takes a much bigger effort to come up with a good design that’s clean and simple. There has to be a timelessness to it.” The judges also noted a widespread use of colored gemstones.
In the under-$2,000 retail price category, Betsy Diane Hagele of John McMartin Jewelry Arts Gallery in Milford, Mich., won first place for her 14k yellow gold and sterling silver pendant. The pendant is inspired by the ebb and flow of tidal waters. “Simple, yet very sensuous,” said Neimanis.
The judges awarded extra points for its low price – $250. That allows someone to own an award-winning piece of jewelry for a very good price, the judges said.
Anthony James Vela of Village Goldsmith, Glendora, Cal., won runner-up in this category for his 14k white and yellow gold and citrine earrings. The judges praised the way the citrines are mounted, appearing to float in a reflective bowl of gold.
In the $2,000-$5,000 retail price category, Christopher Duquet of Christopher Duquet Fine Jewelry, Evanston, Ill., won first place for an 18k yellow gold and 14k white gold ring featuring a Tahitian black pearl and 0.43 carat of round diamond accents. “I just loved it,” said Badler.
Ken Weston of Jewelsmith Inc., Durham, N.C., was the runner-up with a platinum swirl pendant with a solitaire diamond. The judges praised its elegant simplicity.
In the over-$5,000 retail price category, the judges selected two pieces that were more in an ornate art-to-wear genre. Kenneth Lee Whipple of Park City Jewelers, Park City, Utah, won first place for a pendant featuring a 70.5-ct. petrified dinosaur bone that he cut himself. The bone is set in 18k yellow and white gold with 18k rose gold and platinum inlay. Two carnelian bullets accent the piece, and the back of the brooch features a triceratops head cutout in gold. “It has so many elements to it, but it just flows,” said Neimanis.
Radu Vidrascu of Stefan Otter Jewelers in Rochester, N.Y., was named runner-up for a tanzanite and diamond ring in platinum and 18k yellow gold. The 3.84-ct. cushion-cut tanzanite is set in a platinum “cup,” leaving the pavilion open to let light pass through. The cup is accented with 0.51 carat of diamonds. The judges admired its playful use of diamonds and integration of tanzanite.
The winners will receive their awards May 29 at ceremonies during the JCK International Jewelry Show in Las Vegas.
Overall, the judges left impressed with the quality of entries, commenting that design contests in general are extremely important to the jewelry industry. “Anything that encourages design is good,” said Neimanis.
1 & 2. First prize in the over-$5,000 retail category went to Park City Jewelers, Park City, Utah, for this brooch featuring 18k rose gold and platinum inlay with a 70.5-ct. dinosaur bone. The back view shows a triceratops head cut-out. Photo by Ralph Gabriner.
3. Christopher Duquet of Christopher Duquet Fine Jewelry, Evanston, Ill., won first prize in the $2,000-$5,000 retail category for this cast and fabricated ring in 18k yellow gold and 14k white gold with diamonds and a Tahitian pearl. Photo by Ralph Gabriner.
4. This pendant in sterling silver and 14k gold won first prize in the under-$2,000 retail category. It was designed by Betsy Diane Hagele of John McMartin Jewelry Arts Gallery, Milford, Mich. Photo by Ralph Gabriner.
5. Citrine and diamond earrings in white and yellow gold received the runner-up prize in the under-$2,000 retail category. By Anthony James Vela of Village Goldsmith, Glendora, Cal. Photo by Ralph Gabriner.