By  on June 8, 2009

LAS VEGAS — The paradigms are shifting in the fine jewelry sector.

Out is the indulging self-purchasing consumer looking to drape herself in gold, diamond and gemstone jewelry for fashion’s sake. In is a new era of purchasing from the heart: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and the like.

Jewelry brands are banking on special occasion purchasing to keep them afloat in these rocky times. Mother’s Day marked a turn for the better for jewelry sales that have, like other luxury categories, taken a beating since the stock market tanked last fall. Retailers and company executives were pleased, if a bit surprised, at the uptick in sales starting in mid-April.

The new mood was on full display at the jewelry trade shows here, including Couture at the Wynn resort from May 28 to June 2 and JCK, which took place at the Sands Expo & Convention Center from May 30 to June 3. The shows proved quieter than in years past, with fewer exhibitors and retailers, but orders were placed and executives predicted a better holiday than last year’s dismal season.

But jewelers and retailers appear to have learned their lesson, offering lower-priced collections; injecting more bang for the buck, and adding more casual pieces.

“We’re very cognizant of where the consumer is spending for themselves for a gift,” said John Green, president and chief executive officer of Lux, Bond & Green, the 111-year-old retailer with eight locations on the East Coast, who is investing the stores’ buy more into silver. “Luxury is a tough word. Celebration is a great word.”

Jim Rosenheim, ceo of Tiny Jewel Box in Washington, D.C., said, “What we’re seeing is people buying for occasions, not retail therapy.”

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