Solid Business at Winter Shows Boosts Optimism

Busy, crowded aisles at the Jewelers of America show in New York, solid business from major retailers at The JCK Show ~ Orlando, a high-end buying blitz at the Centurion show in Tucson, Ariz., and busy stone dealers at the various Tucson gem shows all helped give the jewelry industry a boost of optimism this winter.

At JA New York, held Jan. 26-28, business was brisk from the opening. Show officials reported a 5% increase in attendance over last year’s winter JA show, logging more than 8,500 buyers visiting 950 exhibitors. Many exhibitors, such as Sasson Basha of Aaron Basha, told JCK they were pleasantly surprised by the level of buyer turnout and the number of orders being written.

While foot traffic in Orlando was lighter than in previous years, major retailers such as JC Penney, Kay Jewelers, Macy’s East and West, Sears, QVC, Tiffany, and others were among the attendees, and exhibitors who had preset appointments all reported solid business. “It was a great show for us—I saw all my major clients, and we also saw a big increase in the number of independents here this year vs. last year,” said Jane Stabler of Honora.

At the Centurion show, manager Howard Hauben said attendance at the two-year-old invitation-only show was up significantly from last year and, according to exhibitors, jewelers were buying, not just shopping. Exhibiting firms Mattioli, Mark Patterson, and Robert Wander each reported opening nearly 10 new accounts in the first two days of the show. Likewise, business at the AGTA GemFair and the other loose gemstone shows in Tucson was reported as solid by buyers and exhibitors alike. Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House said, “GemFair exceeded our expectations this year. Confidence in color is stronger than ever!”

The trends. While bridal jewelry is a perennial best seller at spring jewelry shows, and classic looks such as pearl strands, gold hoops, crosses, and hearts also did well, other key fashion trends were apparent. Color continues to be the leading fashion news. Exhibitors such as Lisa Medrano from Kalan of Burbank, Calif. (showing in New York), said that no one color had emerged as a clear bestseller, but the most prevalent colors seen were pastel, sherbet shades. Another trend seen at the shows was an increase in unusual use of color, such as carved gemstones or rough gems combined with traditional materials like diamond pavé or faceted precious stones.

There also was a notable increase in the use of nontraditional materials like leather, silk, stainless steel, and rubber in combination with precious materials. Examples included Chris Correia’s expanded rubber line shown at Centurion; Honora’s bright pink and blue leather and freshwater pearl collars and Silber’s silver bracelets with interchangeable colored rubber straps in New York; and a new line of geometric sterling silver and gemstone jewelry on rubber, stainless steel, or silver, shown in Orlando by Thea Creations of New York.

Other trends to watch: Drop-style necklaces and earrings; feminine, Victorian-inspired styles; dots and circles (tying in with spring fashion) as either a design element or the shape of a ring; charms; designers’ introducing lower-end lines; and small clusters of bezel-set diamonds used instead of pavé. Colored diamonds were a surprise hit at Centurion, perhaps in anticipation of increased demand following actress Jennifer Lopez’s much-publicized pink diamond engagement ring. Woven metals imitating textiles provided an interesting look from Danae Co. Ltd. of Japan, showing in New York. And, mimicking fashion designers’ runway collections, jewelry designers are emphasizing whimsical motifs. Aaron Basha expanded on its famous baby-shoe concept with colorful motifs such as ladybugs, horseshoes, and sea dragons, while Roberto Coin showed small pendants in motifs like playful sunglasses.