STORES READY TO SPEND AT BIGGER JCK SHOW

Byline: Kim-Van Dang

LAS VEGAS--Buyers had a lot of space to cover as well as expanded budgets to spend at the Jewelers Circular Keystone (JCK) show here.
A lot of open-to-buy went for diamond pieces and platinum jewelry, especially when mixed with gold, a mix that buyers said was rising in demand. In semiprecious stones, tanzanite was cited by many as the hot idea.
The show was the fourth edition of this annual fine jewelry market and was enlarged to 300,000 square feet, 40 percent more space than the past editions. Held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, it also spread over two levels for the first time. A show spokeswoman said the two floors were necessary to accommodate 200 new exhibitors and a host of repeat participants who wanted more booth space.
The four-day event, which ran through June 12, counted 2,167 exhibitors in 3,557 booths. According to show management, 14,534 buyers attended, up from 14,250 a year ago. Produced by Professional Exposition Management Co., Carol Stream, Ill., the show is sponsored by JCK, a Capital Cities/ABC fine jewelry publication.
While buyers shopped wide-ranging price points, prices frequently were a key concern.
Beth Bridger and Ron Smith, inventory control manager and gemologist respectively for Day's Jewelers, Waterville, Maine, with three additional units in the state, shopped for "basic" goods at $9.50 to $9,000. With 16 buyers at the show, their open-to-buy was up 25 percent from a year ago.
"The key has been to keep our prices constant, even if our vendors raise theirs," Bridger said, adding that the market is increasingly competitive, making the job of finding appropriate prices easier. Gold and diamond Tiffany-set rings, diamond stud earrings, "teen" jewelry featuring sunbursts and other celestial designs, tanzanites, aquamarines and sport watches were on their shopping list. Fabrikant, a gold and diamond merchant, was an important resource.
Price was a considerable issue for Shirley Zaidman, owner of Baubles & Bangles, a jewelry store on the UCLA campus. She shopped for birthstone jewelry at $5 to $15 and found quite a bit from importers.
"Vendors here from Thailand, Spain and Sri Lanka are offering good quality and excellent prices," she said. "Southern California business is picking up slightly, but you have to have the right prices. A kid with $50 in her pocket can't buy a $1,000 item."
A "contemporary look" was sought by Charles and Sandy Horberg, owners of Charles Horberg Jewelers Inc. in Chicago, as they shopped for gold and diamonds. Detailing their shopping list, Sandy Horberg cited "earrings with a diamond hanging from wire, large pearl pendants, tanzanite pendants with yellow gold, pieces combining yellow and white gold, and two-tone wedding bands."
The couple bought platinum and yellow gold rings by Goldman as well as Wright & Lato. They were also drawn to work by Italian designers at the show.
Rosemary Brockhaus and Edna Carson, owner and buyer respectively for Brockhaus Jewelry, Norman, Okla., praised the Italians, too.
"On one end of the spectrum, we love platinum by Liberfarb, invisibly set diamonds and colored stones," Carson said. "On the other end, we love leather and enamel jewelry from the Italians. It's so different."
Shopping price points of $25 to $8,000, she cited two other favorite exhibitors: Winward, a platinum and yellow gold resource, and Grafstein, a line featuring tanzanite, citrine and pink diamonds. Brockhaus reported the store's budget was up between 10 and 15 percent.
Fellow Oklahomans, Patricia and Frank Anania, who own Gerjean's Jewelry in Edmond, were also enthusiastic about the Italians. Shopping average price points of $700 to $800, they ordered yellow and white gold necklaces with diamond and pearl pendants from several Italian companies. The couple also said they were seeing a comeback of lever-back earrings (that hook and snap) and purchased some from Aurelia and Elite. Modern wedding and anniversary bands, especially ones that crisscross, amethyst and blue topaz jewelry, and two-carat diamond tennis bracelets were also must-haves for them.
"Platinum is catching on, but people have to get used to the prices," Frank Anania said.
"Our open-to-buy is flat to slightly up," he added, "but inquiries are definitely up. That's encouraging."
While many agreed that the show's expanded scope gave it authority, some found the size daunting.
"This is a very big show," said Chicago jeweler Charles Horberg. "They should add another day to it."
Norma Ackley, owner of Norma Ackley Precious Jewels in New Orleans, said she favored smaller, more exclusive shows. "This is a lot to wade through," she said, adding she was at the upper end of the market.
Shopping price points of $500 to $25,000, she was looking for contemporary gold jewelry often encrusted with tourmalines, citrines and amethysts. Jean Francois Michaud's "large, bold gold" creations with semiprecious stones and pavA diamonds caught her attention. Platinum was another important category for Ackley, who was impressed by offerings from Swiss vendors.
The next edition of the JCK show is set for Monday, June 3 through Thursday, June 6, 1996. It will be the first time the show isn't held over a weekend.
"Las Vegas has become such a hot town that booking weekend rooms in prime hotels has become a problem," said the show spokeswoman.

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