By  on April 18, 1994

NEW YORK -- The growing need for faster turnaround should bode well for next month's trade show of the Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America in Providence, R.I.

Jewelry designers and manufacturers say that in fashion jewelry, as in many other fashion categories, stores are buying closer than ever to the season and demanding quick delivery.

Thus, vendors are relying more and more on the types of suppliers who primarily show in Providence, as opposed to buying from the smaller specialized importers, whose deliveries could take months. Those who show at the MJSA are often importers who might also be wholesalers, or component makers who do most of their manufacturing in the Providence area.

The Providence edition of the MJSA show, which focuses on costume jewelry, is slated for May 1-3 at the new Rhode Island Convention Center. The New York edition, which took place last month, concentrates more on fine jewelry.

Although needs change from season to season depending on fashion trends, many jewelry resources said that they often look to the MJSA show primarily for its metals, from decorative brass findings to functional parts such as earring backs and closures and the more basic chain.

The trend to the heavier-weight castings, as opposed to stampings, should also be more evident at the show, as more stamping firms move into castings production. Jewelry makers have turned to the casting because of the heft and more substantial look it gives to their pieces.

According to the MJSA, the show will feature over 300 suppliers of findings, machinery, supplies and packaging materials.

Among those who will be at the show is Celia Landman, who designs costume and sterling silver jewelry collections that carry her name. "Although the show is often geared more toward the big-volume factories and companies, I am still able to find things in Providence that are more reasonably priced than in New York," Landman said.

She'll be looking for new finishes, good chain and findings and casting contacts, in addition to production equipment.

The types of goods she'd like to see more of in Providence, however, include good glass and wood beads, and interesting semiprecious materials that are more trend-oriented."High minimums for orders can make it hard for a small firm to do business in Providence," she said.

On the machinery front, Charles Rose, chief executive officer of Jewelry Fashions, a 47-year-old costume jewelry manufacturer, said he was particularly pleased with a high-speed vibrating machine, used for smoothing metal pieces, that he purchased at last year's show. The machine does in 20 minutes what used to take several hours, he said. This year, he said, he planned to take a look at the latest in linking equipment in the search to speed up his production.

Rose will also be shopping the component exhibitors, although he visits Providence about twice a month, looking to fill specific needs, touch base with long-standing contacts to see what's new and eyeing what's available from a closeout specialist.

He conceded that while much of the market, and the show, is geared toward the mass market, "finding materials that you can control on your own or manipulate somehow so they don't look mass" is part of the challenge of designing today.

Some of the more fashion-forward jewelry designers have reduced the number of times they go to the show, or stopped going altogether, because they feel there isn't enough variety, especially at the higher end.

David Dubin, owner and designer of the costume jewelry firm that bears his name, said the biggest problem is the overload in low-end merchandise, making it difficult to get high-quality glass in a wide and deep variety.

"Most sourcing people have put their money into mass paste production, meaning plastic," Dubin said. "We use glass."

While Dubin designs, then casts many of his own parts, like toggles and caps, he said chain from Providence is one of his top purchases, although he buys it from a New York-based sales representative. "There's tremendous variety in quality chain that I can usually get within a one-to-two-week period," Dubin said.

Jay Feinberg, designer and owner of Jay Strongwater, a costume jewelry firm, also lamented the lack of selection that has lessened his visits to Providence.

Feinberg said that he primarily relies on Providence for "great chain." However, he said, some companies also will work with him to create unusual items, specifically for his collection. A success from his holiday line was a rhinestone chain embedded in a goldplated bangle. A New York sales representative showed him the chain, and the maker in Providence then hooked up with a bangle supplier there to create the finished product to Feinberg's design.John Buffum, vice president at John F. Allen & Son Inc., an importer of loose components and an exhibitor for over 10 years, countered those who complain about lack of selection at the show.

"I think the perception is wrong," Buffum said. "There is a wide variety at the show. Many designers walk the aisles without talking to the exhibitors. This is the only opportunity to see direct manufacturers from every aspect of the business at the same time, all in one place."

Buffum noted, too, that many stone and bead dealers have joined the show in recent years.

His firm features both imitation and semiprecious stones, beads, cameos, painted stones and machine-cut crystal.

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