Las Vegas Jewelry Week 2019 – CREATIVE COLOR, MIXED Sales
Held at the end of May, the annual Jewelry Week in Las Vegas has become a fixture on the North American jewelry calendar. It covers everything from cash-and-carry mass-production items to elaborate one-of-a-kind designer creations.
Here is an overview of the changes at the 2019 Jewelry Week and some of the beautiful jewelry and gems seen at the various shows.
By Cynthia Unninayar
The biggest change this year was JCK’s return to the Sands Expo, where it took place from 1992 to 2010. This move by North America's largest jewelry trade show was welcomed by retailers who could thus walk across the street to Emerald Exposition's high-end Couture show or take a short cab ride to the Las Vegas Convention Center that housed three other shows.
Although JCK moved to the Sands Expo, its long-time "partner," the AGTA GemFair, did not join it. Apparently, the two shows could not reach a mutually acceptable financial arrangement to keep the GemFair at its traditional JCK location.
So, to make up for the loss of this important participant, JCK created a Global Gemstone area, made up of the ICA Pavilion, the Fine Gems Pavilion and three other gemstone areas.
As for AGTA, Emerald Expositions stepped in and offered the GemFair a prime spot at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), a few-minute drive from JCK and Couture (at the Wynn Hotel). Here, the GemFair shared space with the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry and Watch Show and Premier, a newly created, lower-cost, design-focused alternative to Couture and JCK’s Luxury show. Together, these three shows were marketed as “The Collective.”
This year, while official statistics have not been published, it was clear anecdotally that there were fewer buyers in attendance at all the shows. The aisles were less crowded, the booths less busy, the ambience more subdued. Yet, as always, there were some who expressed great satisfaction with the shows, in terms of business and/or new contacts. For others, the shows were said to be somewhat "quiet." This continues what we have observed at various other trade events around the world over the last few years.
While there may have been less-than-hoped-for buyer turnout, there was certainly no lack of creativity at all the shows. Although there was nothing dramatically new in terms of trends, the way the traditional trends were interpreted was creative and modern. From simple to sophisticated, hoops took on new life and form, rings became more ornate, necklaces made bigger and more innovative statements.
Geometrical shapes evolved into new forms while rainbow-colored jewels continued their growing popularity in all types of jewelry, using multi-colored sapphires and tourmalines as well as a mix of many colorful gems. Enamel was also more apparent this year in a variety of jewels as was the use of titanium in a variety of colors.
In addition to the usual glittering gems used in fine jewelry, we noticed an increase in gem slices that were accented with other stones and/or diamonds in earrings, rings and pendants, while the more non-traditional jewelry gems such as agate, druzies, malachite and other ornamental stones were available in higher-end creations.
Aside from the Big Three (ruby, sapphire, emerald), Paraiba tourmaline (both Brazilian and African) was very popular as were morganite and aquamarine. Tourmaline, especially the lagoon color was also in demand.
Continuing its popularity over the last few years, spinel seems to be the gem of the season, with the cobalt blue variety the color of the season. We saw examples at two booths where one dealer offered an amazing 10-carat cobalt blue spinel for prices hovering around a whopping US$100,000 per carat, even though somewhat lesser prices for smaller stones.
Although not a design direction as such, a rising, inexorable and welcome trend in this industry is the awareness and acceptance of sustainability and social and environmental responsibility, topics that were discussed at several seminars during the week.
This is a far cry from nearly two decades ago when I was one of three journalists (out of 3000 at BaselWorld) who attended a press conference conducted by a Swiss NGO, which presented three individuals from China and India who were dying of silicosis. As you might imagine, the presentation was not a pleasant one, as it touched on the darker aspects of the gem and jewelry industry, aspects that were hardly spoken of at that time.
I was frankly surprised that the seminar did not attract more journalists, given the importance of the topic, and even more surprised when the fair’s Daily News refused to give it more than a tiny mention, much to the chagrin of its journalist. In this respect, AGTA and the Tiffany Foundation-funded Gemstones and Sustainable Development Hub deserve a shout-out for their recent efforts to address this issue.
During Jewelry Week, the emphasis was on how jewelers can tell stories that resonate with consumers to make them feel good about their purchases. Most talks centered on the mined-diamond industry, which is trying to pull the narrative back from the lab-grown sector that is trying to market the eco-friendly and socially responsible aspects of their stones, both hotly contested assertions.
Indian jeweler Harakh showcased high-end diamond and gemstone jewelry at its booth, but what was also unique, and even more so given the rising movement of Vegan restaurants and lifestyles, was his collection of Vegan handbags. With roots embedded in the brand's core values of compassion and joy, these stylish bags are handcrafted and embroidered with finely spun metallic threads of gold and silver to revive the centuries-old traditional Indian thread work called Zardosi.
Harakh handbags are a fusion of India’s artisanal expertise with Italy’s proficient bag making skills. Each handbag begins its journey in India, its origin of conceptualization and travels to specialized Italian designers and ateliers to prepare the fabric for embroidery. The carefully crafted Vegan Leather is then brought back to India to embellish with ornate gold and silver Zardosi embroidery and then very carefully flown back to Italy for stitching, sewing, and completion.
The Nirav Modi Fire Sale
One of the booths at JCK that attracted a great deal of attention was GCAL (Gem Certification and Assurance Lab), the company selected to organize the asset sale of two of the Nirav Modi retail stores in the USA. More than US$3.5 million of unique, one-of-a-kind and exclusive Modi collections included platinum and 18K gold collection suites (Embrace, Luminance, Mughal, Lotus, Celestial and Jasmine) as well as the patents for the expandable pieces in the Embrace line, which include bracelets, wedding bands and necklaces.
The sale was conducted by written bids and ended on June 7 at GCAL’s JCK booth. It was the eighth in a series of sales of Modi’s USA assets. According to Donald A. Palmieri, President of GCAL, “There was bidding on all the lots, with brisk bidding on some of the larger, spectacular pieces.” He noted that once all the parties concerned have been consulted and agree to the bids, the Court will publish the results on its website. Nirav Modi, who allegedly defrauded Punjab National Bank of $2 billion, was arrested in London in March 2019.
New 2020 Show Dates
To avoid having the issues of some exhibitors missing the show on Saturday, JCK announced that the 2020 show will take place from Tuesday, June 2 to Friday, June 5. Emerald Expositions, organizer of the Couture Show and the new “Collective” at the Las Vegas Convention Center, stated that its shows will take place from Monday, June 1 to Friday, June 5, 2020. (All photos are courtesy of the brand or by the author unless otherwise specified.)
In the following slideshows are just a few of the many types and colors of creative jewels (left) and gemstones (right) seen at Jewelry Week.