White Metals Dazzle At JA Show

White gold, platinum and titanium caught the eyes of buyers at the JA International Jewelry Show, held Jan. 25-28 in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Jewelry

Designers and manufacturers offered lacy, romantic, pretty looks, especially in white gold or platinum with diamond pavé. Despite delicate proportions, the new pieces had substance.

Exhibitors at JA said retailers expressed a great deal of interest in white metals, but approached it cautiously.

Instead of one tiny Y chain, this year designers piled together many dainty chains, often adding chunky charms or barrels. Links were dressed up with interesting surface treatments and stations, especially pearls, which were hotter than hot. Texture seemed to fall out of favor last summer, but it’s back with a sparkle and brilliance not seen in the matte finishes of a few years ago.

The Y is definitely waning in popularity, based on what was seen at the show, but the lariat and bolo remain strong, as do pendants on neckwires and rubber or silk cords. Interesting new looks for rings and wedding bands included ribbed metal reminiscent of corduroy.

Watches

Following a good year for most in the timepiece business, many watch exhibitors introduced 1997 models early.

Women’s dress models, whether in 14k gold, steel/goldplate or all goldplate, were shown by nearly all the larger companies. Late 1996 watch sell-through confirmed retailer demand for a greater variety of women’s styles, and manufacturers responded by adding more diamond or crystal bezels and faces, sleeker bracelet linkage and a slightly wider group of sporty dress looks.

Also high on the list of new releases by major companies were titanium watches for men and women. Bulova, Seiko, Citizen and Roven Dino each showed new or expanded lines of titanium watches. Bulova entered the titanium watch market with its sporty Marine Star. Seiko added several in its Kinetic and Pulsar groups, and Citizen expanded the metal’s use from its diver Promaster line into a new Solar-Tech Titanium line.

In fact, the use of solar/light power was another trend among the major brands. Bulova entered the solar/light-power-ed market with the above-noted Marine Star line, for example.

The Barcelona-based World Enterprises International displayed a line that borrows the time-telling method of the Catalan region of Spain: the watch faces are marked by the quarter-hour. The 3, 6 and 9 on the watches are replaced with, respectively, 1/4, 2/4 and 3/4. Founded in 1994 by American Michael McCready, the watch brand is among the top sellers in Spain and is being distributed in the U.S. by Watch It! Enterprises, Vienna, Va.

Outdoor-oriented debuts were at the top of some companies’ featured items. Swiss Army Brands, for example, showed its rugged Allenby & Co. Outfitters watches, a collection of earth-toned round, rectangular and round-on-square bezel faces flanked by “distressed” leather or khaki mesh straps. Wolverine Wilderness introduced two analog-digital chronographs with black or white dials. Nice International, the Italian-made watch made of colorful cork bands and bezels and Swiss movements, is now distributed through Nice USA, New York City.

In the Chronos Store, a section sponsored by the publication Chronos, Sector showed its new rubber-strapped Expanded line and a rare alarm watch that is not a chronograph. German-based Sinn displayed several styles from its line of aeronautical-inspired chronometers for the first time in the U.S. (see “Watch Watch,” JCK, January 1997, p. 97). The company distributes in the U.S. through FCI Chronometries, New York City. Another notable show newcomer, Sinclair Harding Ltd., ironically produced some the oldest designs at the show. The British company’s Harrison Moonphase Sea Clock was designed in 1740 by John Harrison, the hero of the 1996 best-selling book Longitude by Dava Sobel, the true story of the global race to determine with accuracy a ship’s longitude while at sea.

DIRECTORS LEAVE JA SHOW

Two leaders in the growth of the JA International Jewelry Shows have left the show’s owner, Blenheim Group USA, in the aftermath of Blenheim’s merger with Miller Freeman, a magazine publisher and trade show company.

Mort Abelson, senior vice president of the Blenheim jewelry division, retired in January after Miller Freeman consolidated its jewelry group. JA Show Director Judy Karlin-Grant also left the company.

“Miller Freeman has a large existing show division, and now that we are consolidating with Blenheim, we don’t have room for duplicate positions,” says Howard Hauben, group vice president for jewelry and gifts at Miller Freeman. A third Blenheim employee in sales also left following the consolidation, he says.

Abelson had worked with the JA show since 1973, when he joined Retail Jewelers of America (later Jewelers of America) and eventually became show director. He joined Blenheim in 1991 when the company bought the show.

Karlin-Grant started with JA 23 years ago and went to Blenheim when it bought the JA shows from Jewelers of America. She became show director three years ago. Although she had no definite plans at press time, Karlin-Grant hopes to remain in the jewelry industry in consulting or project management.

Drew Lawsky, a senior executive at Blenheim who has been with the company for about eight years, is the show director. “Drew Lawsky was one of the rising stars of that company prior to the acquisition,” says Hauben. “We are delighted that he’s going to be director of all three shows – the two in New York and JA Las Vegas! He’s going to be a terrific addition to our jewelry show staff in New York.”

Lawsky will supervise all aspects of sales, support, marketing and ancillary functions for the show. He will report to Joan Landis, the Miller Freeman group director for jewelry shows.

Miller Freeman’s parent company, United News & Media, acquired Blenheim Group USA this past fall for $935.5 million and merged the company with Miller Freeman, its publishing division. Blenheim organized the JA International Jewelry Shows in New York; Blenheim and Miller Freemen have jointly organized JA Las Vegas! since 1995. Miller Freeman is the publisher of National Jeweler and Jewellery News Asia and the organizer of the Hong Kong Jewelry and Watch Fair, the Bangkok International Jewelry Fair in Thailand and the India International Jewelry Show.

JEWELRY CUSTOMERS WIN DREAM WEDDINGS

Two winning couples were selected from thousands of entries in the JA Las Vegas! “Down the Aisle” Bridal Sweepstakes in January.

Theresa Allen and Wil Smith of Houston, Tex., and Mary and Ronnie Lund of Scituate, Mass., won free trips to Las Vegas, an all-expenses paid wedding ceremony and a set of wedding bands from Frederick Goldman and Novell.

Allen and Smith entered the contest at Dia-Gem in Houston, Tex.; the Lunds entered at Sahagian Jewelers in Norwall, Mass. The winning jewelry stores received an all-expenses paid trip to JA Las Vegas! for two in February.

More than 700 retail jewelers participated in the sweepstakes.

WHITE IS ALSO RIGHT IN VICENZA

White metal reigned supreme in Italy, where it was the primary color at the January Vicenza fair.

In Vicenza, experienced buyers such as Rachel Silber of Houston-based Silber’s Inc. and trendspotters such as Christine Yorke of the World Gold Council report manufacturers were cautious about launching many new ideas, but agreed the white wave was overwhelming.

More manufacturers this year offered platinum or sterling silver, especially pavé looks with CZ – a low-end version of the white gold favorites. The interest in pink gold is falling off – Italian manufacturers say it sells mostly to the Russians these days.

Newest in white were stampato pieces, cutout designs of the usual hearts, stars, and moons, along with more flowers and children. Not all cutouts were thematic – mesh is a sophisticated interpretation. Yorke says texture remains, but goes beyond basic matte or shiny and into mesh, hammered and brushed surfaces.

Also news in Vicenza was cool frosted white quartz, in beads or pendants or mixed with Italian-flag colors of green onyx and garnet. The Y necklace hung in, especially in white gold with diamonds. Lariats also were strong, but the hot, most “in” thing was the pendant, either on longer necklaces (24-30 inches) or rubber cords, silk cords and 16-in. necklaces featuring a bar or knot at the throat directly above the pendant.

HELEN BRETT SHOW SCHEDULED FOR APRIL

Helen Brett Enterprises will hold its Spring International Jewelry Fair and General Merchandise Show April 19-22 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, La.

The delivery show will feature more than 450 exhibitors of fine jewelry, costume jewelry, beads, furs, casual and novelty apparel, giftware and more. The show is open to wholesale buyers only.

Helen Brett Enterprises, 1988 University Lane, Lisle, IL 60532-4182; (630) 241-9865, fax (630) 241-9870.

FOREIGN SHOW UPDATE

Watchtech ’97 will be held March 5-8 in the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong. This year’s show will feature a machinery section that showcases such production technology as hand-fitting machines, electroplating production technology and laser marking systems. Brilliant-Art Trade Fairs Ltd., 1101 Tung Wai Commercial Bldg., 111 Gloucester Rd., Wanchai, Hong Kong; (852) 2511-6077, fax (852) 2507-5855.

The Hong Kong Jewelry & Watch Fair has been scheduled a week earlier this year, Sept. 3-7, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Organizers expect 30,000 buyers at the show, which will feature jewelry, gemstones, timepieces, raw materials, manufacturing equipment and services. Miller Freeman Asia Ltd., 102-5 Stanhope House, 738 King’s Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong; (852) 2827-5121, fax (852) 2827-7064.

The offices of the British Columbia Jewellery Show have moved to P.O. Box #31064, #8 2929 St. Johns St., Port Moody, British Columbia, V3H 4T4, Canada; phone and fax (604) 461-4944.