BOSTON — The price of gold has climbed almost 10 percent since January, silver is up about 30 percent in the last year and the sagging economy is making buyers squint critically at every order, creating much angst for jewelry designers.
Lana Barakat, who designs the Lazuli jewelry line, has opted to use precious metals conservatively and turn to copper, wood, silk and semiprecious stones to flesh out designs.
Barakat launched her business out of a small shop on Newbury Street here in 2002, but closed the store in 2006 to cultivate a national wholesale business.
"I've seen a 30 percent increase in the cost of metals over the last 18 months," Barakat said. "I'm trying to hold the retail price steady, but it's taking some creativity."
With sales projected at about $400,000 this year, down from $500,000 the year prior, she's been creative in terms of growth.
She's even started doing some of the final fabrications herself, wiring mother-of-pearl beads onto wooden bangles with needle-nose pliers. She produces her designs in Mexico, using craftsmen she met while working there as an advertising executive.
Her work focuses on graphic, geometrical shapes such as cuff bracelets made of gold-plated ovals, or a rough-cut turquoise cocktail ring wrapped in copper wire.
"Lana's line has a beautiful clean, modern sensibility," said Ilse Werther, a buyer with New York retail agency Wink, who has commissioned custom pieces from Barakat for the W hotel gift shops and catalogue. "She's a good match for the W sensibility."
Barakat's effort to keep costs reasonable — all items are less than $200 and most under $100 wholesale — is being rewarded by customers. The hammered copper pieces, in particular, wholesaling from $20 to $22, are faring well.
She also does a lot with sterling, and has begun designing disk pendants strung on bright silk ribbons that are rumpled, scratched and/or weathered for textural interest.
"We want the customer to feel like she's getting a substantial piece, with some heft," she said. "We're positioning ourselves as something real, but reasonable."
A Jordanian by birth who arrived here to attend Boston University, Barakat married last year in a ceremony at the Dead Sea. A honeymoon through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam got her sketching the peaked half-moons that she translated into gondola-style earrings.She's lined up a New York sales rep and 120 wholesale accounts, including eight Nordstrom doors. Bloomingdale's is reviewing the line for the Chestnut Hill, Mass., store, Barakat said.
"Retail stores were really cutting back this first quarter....But we've got a lot of ideas and we're hoping for pickup," Barakat said.
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