White Metals and Fine-Cut Diamonds Highlight JCK’s Orlando Show

This year’s JCK Orlando Show (Feb. 7-9) sparkled, and the reason wasn’t only the Florida sunshine.

Glittering white metal (white gold, sterling silver, and platinum) remained the queen of jewelry, while diamonds – especially Ideal cut and branded ones – were the talk of the show and were featured in workshops on how to sell them effectively. In watches, sunburst highlights, mirror finishes, and stainless steel dominated.

Attendance topped last year’s by 5%, up from around 4,100 to 4,300, according to officials. The buyers came from 48 states and 68 countries, representing 1,813 retail firms. That was up from 1,608 the year before, although some exhibitors expressed disappointment with the level of buying activity.

Especially popular this year were the Design Center, with 80 innovative designers, and “Touch the Future,” which featured one-on-one sessions between jewelers and experts in retailing, computers, and diamonds. The pre-show keynote speech by Sissy Jones – CEO of Sissy’s Log Cabin Inc. who built her Pine Bluff, Ark., operation from an unheated log cabin in 1970 to the largest independent jewelry store in Arkansas today – drew a standing ovation (see Editor’s Page, p. 160).

Fashion. In jewelry, delicate, lacy, wavy designs, especially in white metal with diamond pavé, remained the leading look. Other current favorites such as pearls and diamond microcord necklaces also were well-represented at the booths.

The butterfly was a popular design motif, as were colored gemstone flowers. In general color news, there was a noticeable lack of tanzanite, in contrast to earlier years when it was used in jewelry at all price points. Most tanzanite jewelry was high-end, with fine and costly specimens. Designer Ron Rosen of Rosen Block Design in New York noted a gradual shift away from cool colors and toward warm, earthy stones like citrine, garnet, and topaz. This move toward earth colors mirrors a similar trend in textiles and paint colors for the home.

Diamonds. Almost every diamond seller touted his fine cutting – a sign of the influence of the American Gem Society (AGS) laboratory reports and growing savvy among consumers.

The new Gemological Institute of America study disputing the supremacy of Ideal cuts didn’t dampen enthusiasm for them. At its “Touch the Future” booth, AGS displayed an impressive list of “branded” Ideal cuts, including Hearts on Fire and Lazare Kaplan.

Ideals even popped up in unusual places. The Yehuda company offered fracture-filled Ideals; Diamond Days offered Ideal-cut “smalls.”

Branding of diamonds was a hot topic. AGS announced it’s exploring the idea of its own brand and has upgraded its lab software to give accurate characterizations of inscriptions on the girdle of diamonds.

There was strong buzz for De Beers’ Millennium diamonds, a limited-edition series to commemorate the year 2000. Though De Beers isn’t advertising the 20,000 diamonds, most sightholders say demand is so strong – “even from small towns,” says one – they don’t need promotion. Millennial merchandising in general was increasingly evident. Andin, for example, has built a successful merchandise program around its “Millennium Heart” design, while the United Kingdom Assay Offices have created a “Millennium Hallmark” for British jewelry.

Watches. Black and blue dials with sunburst highlights abounded, often with high-polish, near-mirrored finishes. Accurate Swiss Watches’ midnight blue Harmonic automatic was an impressive example. High-polish steel dials also stood out, but salmon and champagne dials are still en vogue, as seen in Wittnauer’s ruggedly elegant “Zeus” watch.

New watch lines include an impressive one for jewelers from Italian jewelry manufacturer Uno a Erre; prices range from $299 to $7,000. U.S. license king Genender International has added Converse watches, which means retailers will be seeing a new line of this brand this year. For independent jewelers, Jewelry Trends (the U.S. distributor of Christian Bernard and Fontenay timepieces) launched the Alan Still brand – youth-oriented watches that compete with the popular Skagen products. Christian Bernard said it was introducing the Engagement watch in late spring. Egana unveiled Dugena, a German-designed, Hong Kong-assembled brand with Swiss movements.

Tech-elegance abounded, such as in the high-polished finish and futuristic design of Citizen’s Elegance Signature collection and in Wittnauer’s Hard Metal line. Sector unveiled its new Expander 150, a $250 aluminum chronograph with an Alutek finish resembling white titanium. Meanwhile, Citizen’s Eco-Drive, Seiko’s Kinetic, Festina’s Mecaquartz, and Wenger’s Autoquartz watches suggested that the days of watch batteries may be numbered.

Also popular were watch alarms, chronographs (even in women’s watches), and analog and digital functions. And if any coming trend can be predicted from the show, it’s that more watches will be worn off the wrist. There’s been an increase in pocketwatches, pocket fobs, desk watches, watch pendant pins, and even a leash watch from Swiss Army. Another surprise: Watches whose straps inflate like the Reebok shoe “Pump” will make their U.S. debut this year. – Reported by Rob Bates, Keith Flamer, Hedda Schupak, and William George Shuster