Trade Shows


Event: The first JA Las Vegas! Show.

Date: Jan 10-12.

Location: Sands Expo & Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nev.

Producers: Miller Freeman Jewelry Group and Blenheim Group USA.

Cosponsors: Jewelers of America and the California Jewelers Association.

Attendance: Nearly 900 exhibitors (1,645 exhibit spaces) and 3,485 buyers, according to show producers.

Mood: Better than anyone expected, including the show organizers.

Seminars: A conference program offered buyers a choice of two tracks – “Diamonds Are Big Business” and “Developing Your Business.”

Business: As opening day approached, several obstacles stood in the way: the early dates, lack of enthusiasm by buyers, skepticism by exhibitors and a blizzard some 2,000 miles away. But by show’s-end, most people involved were smiling.

The day before the show opened, many wondered whether it would even get under way. A storm in the East delayed delivery of many exhibits and the people who were to staff them. Even during setup late Tuesday, Jan. 9, the Sands Expo Center was in chaos, with forklifts moving crates and the decorator trying to erect lights on booths and lay carpeting.

“When we sensed the problem Tuesday morning, we vowed to work around the clock if necessary,” said Joan Landis, show director for Miller Freeman. Drew Lawsky, show director for Blenheim, added, “It was necessary, because between 2 and 6 a.m. Wednesday, 32 companies arrived.” Exhibitors appreciated the effort and praised the producers for their cooperation. In the end, 49 exhibitors were snowed out.

Though attendance was light, many exhibitors reported writing some orders. And some, including Conni Mainne of Conni Mainne Designs, Oakland, Cal., said the low attendance worked to vendors’ advantage. “During a slow show, buyers are more relaxed and I can spend more time with them,” she said.

Said Mike Epstein of watch distributor Egana of Switzerland, “There weren’t a lot of buyers, but those who came came with a reason.” James DeMatti of John Hardy Collection, New York, N.Y., agreed, adding that “the better independents had a good Christmas season and they needed to buy.”

One of the most optimistic individuals at the show was Bart Leddel of Leddel International, San Mateo, Cal. “Buyers love to come to Las Vegas,” he said. “Entertainment in Las Vegas and Orlando make them attractive.” He opened several new accounts, including some from the company’s home state.

Frank Farnsworth of Idaho Opal & Gem, Pocatello, Idaho, said he opened 10 or 15 new accounts and saw some of his regular accounts. Maija Neimanis, whose New York City company bears her name, said she opened a new catalog account that has “very good potential.”

Philip Edelstein of Novell, The Wedding Ring Co., New York City, said he was disappointed in the lack of qualified buyers. But he did open a few new accounts and obtained some leads for his sales staff.

Vendors who reported doing business said buyers were filling in, and there were no noticeable buying trends. “I had orders for delivery for Valentine’s Day,” said Renee Miller of Aaura Inc., Chicago, Ill. “It was a good time for us. They were going for our better goods.” Several vendors reported good platinum sales.

But other exhibitors were nearly unanimous in saying the show was too early in the year. Some comments: “People are still counting their cash from Christmas.” “We’re taking inventory and don’t even know what we have.” “No salesman calls on customers on the 10th of January.”

Vendors also complained about the show being held Wednesday to Friday. The 1997 show will begin on Sunday, and vendors are optimistic that the Feb. 2-4 dates will be better. Most said they’d try again next year; by show’s end, many had reserved space already.

Several vendors voiced disappointment about the lack of buyers from California. While Landis and Lawsky said buyers came from 47 states, vendors reported that most came from the Midwest and South. “I saw some of my regular customers, but didn’t have much contact with new buyers,” said Rigoberto Rodriguez of Rigoberto, Los Angeles, Cal. And Hugh Power of Hugh Power Designs, Anchorage, Alaska, said he picked up a big order in the first 30 minutes of the show, but little thereafter. “It was mostly low-end buyers,” he said.

About midday Friday, as another show was moving into the upper level of the Sands Expo Center, a forklift struck a sprinkler, setting off an alarm and an automatic announcement ordering everyone to evacuate the building. The problem was quickly identified and the evacuation order rescinded, but not before many exhibitors panicked at the thought of leaving their lines unattended.

Rapaport guides Italians at Gemfest Europe

Martin Rapaport, editor of The Rapaport Report, tried to bring Italian jewelry designers and manufacturers into the 20th century where diamond buying is concerned at GemFest Europe, a symposium held in January during the Vicenzaoro fair in Vicenza, Italy. Gemfest Europe is organized by Federico Stocco, head of GIA Europe, the European branch of the Gemological Institute of America.

Rapaport first complimented the packed room by saying Italians design creatively. But then he exhorted them to buy their diamonds with the same intelligence and foresight. His speech was peppered with typical Rap-isms, along with his well-known body language. He didn’t dance, but the speech was pure “Rap.” Among his “gems”:

  • Don’t try to get something for nothing. Rapaport confirmed that manufacturers could get diamonds for dirt cheap prices if they bargained hard enough. “But the diamond dealer may give you a certain clarity and cut and still cheat you by giving you a poorly cut stone,” he said (when Rapaport’s Italian interpreter look confused at the word “cheat,” Rapaport began to list synonyms for cheat “You know, like, steal?”). The bottom line? Bargain well, but don’t expect quality to come at rock bottom prices.

  • Focus on the high-end market, but remember high-end consumers like quality diamonds. Italians, because of their design expertise, should focus on the high-end of the market. But remember that high-end buyers recognize a lousy diamond when they see one. “There must be quality throughout the product you sell to high-end retailers. Their customers demand it.”

  • Remember that diamond dealers have already separated the wheat from the chaff; you must pay for that. “There’s an expression in the diamond industry that goes, ‘There’s money in the tweezers,'” said Rapaport. “It means that dealers have added value to their selection because they’ve sorted and selected the diamonds. You have to remember that you can’t just dig a hole in Africa and come up with all F and G color stones!”

  • If you can’t beat the competition, step around it. “If the market in Hong Kong or Japan suddenly goes crazy buying the same size and quality diamonds you want, just quit and go skiing. There’s no way Italians can compete with that kind of foreign competition,” Rapaport said. Realistically, he said, “You should just buy other diamonds and avoid the sizes and qualities the competition has chosen. Just go around them.”

  • Find out what diamonds are available first, then design pieces to highlight those stones. “If American manufacturers are all buying 10- and 11-point diamonds, you buy 8-pointers instead, then design for that size.”

  • To become an educated diamond buyer, travel and read. “Go on buyers’ trips with others, join clubs, travel to see the different diamond trading centers around the world,” said Rapaport. “Read and stay educated about what’s happening in the diamond market. Then you can design jewelry while buying the best diamonds that are available at the most reasonable cost. Remember that knowledge is power.”

  • Use your supplier for diamonds, not for information on price, quality and supply. For that, says Rapaport, educate yourself from other sources. You’ll be a more qualified buyer for it.

  • Exercise extra caution when buying smaller diamonds in the years ahead. This is the part of the diamond market most likely to be affected by ongoing negotiations between De Beers and Russia. The Russians will likely reach an agreement with De Beers on 2-ct. and bigger stones and compromise to some extent over 1Ž2- to 2-ct. stones. But the smaller Indian-type goods will be a real fight. “The Russians have a long-term strategic need to develop a local cutting industry and they want to do more cutting in Russia,” he said. “So the fight between Russia and De Beers is over polished, not rough goods.” Rapaport believes the Russian influx of diamonds will bring opportunities to buy at better prices, but he said price competition will be fierce.


The Wisconsin Jewelry Expo will be held March 9-10 in the Holiday Inn Madison West in Madison, Wis.

More than 180 booths will feature the latest jewelry designs. The education program comprises the following seminars: “Niche Marketing,” presented by Barbara Hight-Randall of the Diamond Promotion Service; “Detecting Fracture-Filled Diamonds,” presented by the Gemological Institute of America; and “Recognizing Enhanced Gemstones,” GIA. In addition, the Jewelers Certification Council will offer its CSM (certified store manager) exam.

The Wisconsin Jewelers Association will honor winners of its Jewelry Design Competition. Social activities include a preshow reception March 8 and a Western Roundup March 9 complete with the Jackson Lee band from Nashville and country line dancing.

Wisconsin Jewelers Association, 30 W. Mifflin St., Madison, Wis. 53703; (608) 257-3541.


Parker Trade Shows has announced the dates of its 1996 San Antonio Wholesale Jewelry, Gift & Accessories Shows. The shows will be held in the San Antonio Convention Center, 200 E. Market St., March 15-17, June 14-16, Sept. 20-22 and Nov. 15-17.

Parker Trade Shows, 106 Rupen Dr., Austin, Tex. 78734; (512) 261-4223, fax (512) 261-3503.


The second annual Jewel Time, held Oct. 26-29 in Shanghai, China, attracted 150 exhibitors and a record 11,560 buyers. The show featured jewelry, packaging, equipment and related services. On special display was an 8.18-ct. emerald pendant hanging from 166 emerald beads totaling 76.38 carats. The necklace, valued at $10 million, is from the private collection of Kenny Tsui, president of Kenny International Co. of Colombia. The next edition of the show is scheduled for Oct. 16-19 in the Shanghai Centre.

Brilliant-Art Trade Fairs Ltd., 1101, Tong Wai Commercial Bldg., 111 Gloucester Rd., Wanchai, Hong Kong; (852) 2511-6077, fax (852) 2507-5855.

Miller Freeman Asia Ltd. has scheduled three Asian trade fairs in June so exhibitors and buyers who wish to attend all three can do it in one trip. The Bangkok International Jewelry Fair will be held June 13-16 in the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. The Hong Kong Jewelry & Watch Fair will be held June 20-23 in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Guangzhou International Jewelry Fair will be held June 27-30 in the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, China.

Miller Freeman Ltd.,One Penn Plaza, P.O. Box 2549; New York, N.Y. 10116-2549; (212) 615-2657, fax (212) 279-3966.

The Asian International Gift Fair, held annually in Singapore, has received Union Des Foires International status. UFI, the main industry organization for trade fair organizers worldwide, accords the status to trade fairs that are of high quality, have a good track record, attract a high percentage of international exhibitors and visitors and have been held at least three times. This year’s fair is scheduled for April 23-26.

Singapore Exhibition Services, Two Handy Rd., #15-09, Cathay Bldg., Singapore 9022; (65) 338-4747, fax (65) 339-5651.

The European Fine Art Fair will be held March 9-17 in Maastricht, the Netherlands. About 160 dealers from Europe, Hong Kong and the U.S. will present jewelry, silver, paintings, books, carpets, textiles and other works of art. The jewelry section will feature pieces from Gianmaria Buccellati (Milan), Cartier Joailliers (Amsterdam), Garrad & Co. (London) and Harry Winston (New York City/Paris).

Sue Bond Public Relations, Five-A, Bramber Rd., London WI4 9PA, U.K.; (44-171) 381-1324, fax (44-171) 610-1890.