By  on June 20, 1994

LAS VEGAS -- The action focused on bigger price tags and larger pieces at the Jewelers Circular Keystone Show here.

This third annual edition of the fine jewelry trade event, which ran through June 7 at the Sands Exposition & Convention Center, included a four-day show preceded by two days of seminars and panels. Major events included a fashion show put on by the Platinum Guild International and a gala thrown by jewelry retailer Sterling Inc., called "Party With a Purpose," that raised $1.9 million for AIDS and retinitis pigmentosa research.

Buyer attendance at the show was a record 14,250, up from 11,200 a year ago. The number of exhibitors was also up, to 1,615 from 1,483.

Many retailers said they are once again seeing growth in the higher-priced end of the business. As a result, more expensive pieces, in materials such as diamonds and platinum, were in demand. In terms of trends, classic styles in larger, bolder sizes -- styling that also adds to the price tag -- were popular.

Jeffrey and Dana Josephson, the husband-and-wife co-owners of Raymond Lee Jewelers in Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said they liked the larger, chunkier and less colorful pieces they had seen at the show.

"We're moving away from funky looks," said Jeffrey Josephson. "We like large rings, earrings and collars that are contemporary but classic. New techniques in making hollow jewelry, such as electroform, keep these pieces lightweight, too."

The Josephsons said they were keeping their budget flat from a year ago, but spending more per piece. "We are buying fewer pieces, but more important pieces," Dana Josephson said. Instead of buying 60 fairly generic items, for instance, they might buy 20 from a designer collection, she noted. At the show, she said, they were concentrating on the $500-to-$5,000 wholesale range.

"Some of our better customers stopped shopping for a while," she noted. "But they are back, and they don't mind paying $4,000 for a quality piece."

Among the Josephsons' picks were diamond pavÄ hearts by Chimento, and platinum and gold rings with princess-cut diamonds by Baguettes USA.Yanula Blacy Adler, owner of Yannaworld by the Sea in Rye, N.H., said she found the selection at the show "outstanding."

Shopping in the $200-to-$5,000 wholesale range, Adler liked designs by Charles Krypel, David Yurman, Stephen Lagos, John Atencio and Jose Hess.

Looks she said particularly appealed to her were 18-karat gold combined with platinum, and white gold with silver. "White gold is still outselling platinum, but the latter is catching on. I have a mixed clientele, so I offer silver, too. Right now, people want chunky jewelry that's not too gaudy."

Canadian retailer Judy Richards, owner of Davidson's Jewelers Ltd. in Ottawa, also said her platinum sales are up. "People are just starting to be conscious of platinum's purity, and it will catch on. But yellow gold will always be a better seller."

Richards said she was excited by new looks she found in the designer section of the show. While she sells jewelry retailing from $25 all the way up to $10,000, she said the bulk of her action is in the $1,000-to-$3,000 retail range.

Her open-to-buy was up between 5 and 10 percent, she noted, due to a resurgence in sales over the past two months.

Carlos Lopez, a buyer for Marla's Custom Designs in La Jolla, Calif., said business was up 20 percent from a year ago. "People are loosening up."

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