Exuberant, powerful jewelry with a hopeful energy of things to come was the main trend at this year’s Couture show in Las Vegas.
The 2022 show had more than 300 exhibitors, reaching pre-pandemic attendance numbers. Some of the bigger trends at the jewelry community’s most important buyer event: diamonds for every day, colored stones, enamels and gold once again being the strongest metal choice.
After a smaller version in 2021, the recent show saw a return to form, with executives, creatives and buyers buzzing about the fine jewelry and timepiece offerings.
“There was a palpable energy amongst buyers and brands, and it’s clear that the jewelry category has performed exceptionally well across the board over the last 18 to 24 months,“ said Kwiat chief executive officer Greg Kwiat.
The category has been resilient over the past two years of the pandemic, and is only gaining steam. Case in point: the Kwiat & Fred Leighton flagship at the Wynn Resort, which the CEO says has been on a tremendous upward trend since the pandemic began to recede.
”As Las Vegas has reopened, we’ve seen interest and sales at a wide range of price points from under $5,000 to more than $1 million. Larger Kwiat diamonds and signed vintage pieces from Fred Leighton are of particular interest to our clients,” he said.
“Definitely more traffic than last year. The responses from buyers and press was incredible,“ mused designer George Root, whose brand Milamore is in its second year in the Couture Design Atelier program, the show’s place to feature and incubate young brands.
“It’s kind of like an expo of the most creative jewelry designers in the world coming together. Love the energy,” he said, explaining that buyers gravitated to his Maldives diamond turtle charm, diamond duo chain, Kintsugi Victoria Rings and diamond braille pieces.
Another new brand was Belgium’s Dries Criel. His brand had a presence in 2021 but due to travel restrictions, he was unable to make it Stateside. He was one of many non-American-based creatives who made the trip to the U.S. to tell their stories in person, adding to the heightened excitement of the show.
“It was a unique experience,” Criel explained, “and the most wonderful aspect was to meet designers and jewelry aficionados, and to resee friends and supporters. I could not be more grateful for the great reaction by both buyers and press to the collection, and to be able to build the story together.”
Criel’s work retails from $3,500 to $15,000 and his pieces find inspiration from his background as a modern dancer and his love for antique jewelry, architecture and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
”I reshape, reimagine and especially revive classics — in several meanings — to enhance beauty and blend the timeless with the contemporary,“ he said of his work, adding that he felt the buyers who saw him were looking for articulated, unique pieces that are both wearable and strong.
Another brand at the show was Tabayer, launched in the pandemic. Founder Nigora Tokhtabayeva did a lot of research about where her target customer shops, focusing on how her customer discovers new brands.
“Once we defined an ideal distribution strategy for Tabayer we knew Couture would be the right U.S. show for us — a qualitative approach that meets our desire for elevated, focused expansion. There we met with like-minded buyers who are keen on bringing our kind of ethical, sustainable luxury to their clients.”
The brand’s approach using the concept of creating a universal symbol of protection based on an ancient mark, Inanna’s knot, resonated with many buyers — “a story that is both special and easy to tell, appealing to people of all culture,” she noted.
Her first time at the show yielded a lot of positive feedback, establishing partnerships with a number of premium retail accounts to carry the collection — some starting immediately.
“We could not be more thrilled,” Tokhtabayeva said of buyer reactions. “More than the quantity it was the quality of the stores, and the positive outlook of the buyers that really spoke of the environment Couture offers.”
Over at Emily P. Wheeler, color was on full display. Case in point: Wheeler won a Couture design award for best in colored gemstones above $20,000.
“Buyers were thrilled about the overall cheerful mood of the collection,” Wheeler explained. “I don’t take myself too seriously and I believe that is reflected in my work,” she said, reporting that her color-blocked necklaces and the new chubby rings proved to be popular pieces.
Wheeler was previously shown as part of a showroom and this time decided to go at it with her own booth. ”This year, we were able to be completely on-brand,” she said firmly. “We created our own little world that we invited buyers and editors to experience.“
Another standout in the color trend was sisters Kim and Nicole Carosella’s brand Sorellina. The duo has gained traction with their colorful signet rings, launching a “design your worn” signet ring program on their website, a generator that allows customers to pick their stone, element and setting from nine stones options; 47 symbols including zodiacs, initials and motifs, and two setting styles.
“Before we introduced this feature, customers had a hard time envisioning their ideal combination and were more hesitant to order. The signets are a very personal purchase because of how personalized they are. We now average selling one, whether it’s a ring or a necklace, every two days since adding this feature,” they said.
It goes without saying that diamonds are the most popular precious stone, used to mark life’s most precious and personal moments. The stone held its popularity during COVID-19, and the show saw a wide range of dynamic diamond creations.
De Beers, which debuted its high jewelry collection The Alchemist of Light in Paris in January, showed at Couture Vegas for the first time, marking a new chapter for the iconic diamond house’s brand evolution by moving into wholesale with select retail partners.
“It’s been a wonderful Couture, showcasing collections from both of our De Beers diamond jewelry houses, De Beers Forevermark and De Beers Jewelers, together for the first time. It is always fantastic to meet with our De Beers Forevermark partners and continue to foster new relationships,” explained CEO Celine Assimon.
Anita Ko, known for her diamonds with a cool Los Angeles vibe, said while she creates pieces at a variety of price points, “I always see a consistency in selling higher-end pieces, which I contribute to the timeless factor of my designs.”
A seasoned Couture exhibitor, the show serves as a bit of a family reunion, a sentiment many who attend the show year after year echoed.
“When I look back on my years doing the Couture show and what it’s given me and my career, it’s so much more than I could ask for. The great relationships with my buyers, incredible friendships formed, and too many good times to write about. I love seeing my peers from the jewelry community and we can’t wait till next year,“ Ko said.
De Beers partnered with the show on The Radiance by Couture. More than a single collection, it is a wide-ranging assortment consisting of 13 capsule collections by 13 Black, Indigenous and people of color designers working in the market. Two years in the making, the initiative represents the culmination of the inaugural mentorship program of Couture’s Diversity Action Council. The program had a dedicated section on the floor and was one of the most talked-about sections at the show.
“Couture showcases the best designers in the world so to have our work shown among them is affirming and inspiring,“ explained Lorraine West, one creative in the program whose work has been seen on Beyoncé and Zendaya. “We felt at home telling the stories of our collections and sharing the impact of working with Code of Origin diamonds merging our innovative designs with traceable/sustainable diamonds from De Beers mines.”
She called the event “life changing” for her growing brand. West was busy, not only showing but facilitating a piece from her collection being worn by Dominique Morisseau at the Tony’s, which took place the same weekend as the Vegas show.
“Being able to connect with prestigious retail buyers, press and industry leaders was an elevating experience for us,” West said. “We’re looking forward to engaging with and nurturing the connections we’ve made, by applying the constructive feedback given to sustain and grow our brand and fulfill orders placed at the show and beyond.”
For more, see: