EARLY ORDERS DRIVE JCK
Byline: Wendy Hessen
LAS VEGAS — Store executives typically come to the JCK International Jewelry Show here to put the finishing touches on orders and merchandising strategies.
But with the recent strength of the fine jewelry market, the pace of traffic and buying was brisk at the show’s most recent edition, with vendors reporting strong bookings for the second half and increased demand for earlier deliveries.
Drawing 17,862 attendees, up from 14,226 last year, the show ended its five-day run at the Sands Expo & Convention Center on June 9. Exhibitor numbers increased as well, from 2,154 a year ago to 2,266.
“The reaction has been mind-boggling,” said Jeff Feero, vice president at fine jeweler Alex Sepkus, which launched its collection of platinum and diamond briolette jewelry at the show.
Briolette, the oldest known cut of symmetric diamonds, was attractive to buyers for its clean, modern shapes and accents of softly colored stones, such as aquamarine, as well as for fitting into another emerging trend: those reminiscent of Bauhaus designs of the Twenties.
Beyond the strength of the new collection, Feero said the firm’s classic collection also performed well, putting the company “ahead 50 percent over last year at the show.”
“We had a lot more requests for July, August and early September deliveries,” Feero said. “At the higher end, it’s not so cyclical anymore. Business is good, and the stores feel they need new goods all the time.”
“I wasn’t finished when I got to Vegas,” said Carolyn Kelly, fine jewelry buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue, summing up the sentiments of a number of buyers working the aisles. She completed pieces for the company’s catalog, where the look is moving away from the diamond pave that has been so popular in recent years.
“I don’t believe in white pave anymore for the high-end market,” Kelly said. “We’re trying very hard to reintroduce color in large, very fashionable looks. Our colored-diamond business, particularly yellow diamonds, is very strong, but that’s not for everyone and not for everyday.”
Kelly pointed to aquamarines and garnets as some of the best-selling stones because of their neutral hues and how well they work with the current gray and tonal palettes in ready-to-wear. They are also “a big look for not a lot of money.”
She said, for example, “I bought stones in great blues and purples from Pasquale Bruni and aquamarines in soft beads from Antonini.”
Rise Gerber, fashion director for accessories at Bergdorf Goodman, made her first trip to the show and characterized it as “a very educational experience.”
“This was a research trip for us,” she said. “We’re looking for new people and found some that we will follow up with. We’re definitely more drawn to the Design Center, where there is more of a fashion point of view. I got a lot of my ideas about upcoming trends reinforced [in Las Vegas].”
Among general trends, Gerber was particularly interested in some clean and geometric looks as well as colored diamonds in less traditional shades of brown, green and pink.
“We saw some nice clean but important looks from some Italian and German firms,” said Gerber. “They are for the woman who lives in Jil Sander or Yohji Yamamoto and doesn’t necessarily go for the glamorous, turn-of-the-century, vintage looks.”
Gerber tagged Cathy Carmendy’s platinum and diamond collection and Wendy Brigode’s oversized stone enhancers, flower line and new watches as things she expects will be particularly strong for Bergdorf’s this fall.
Carmendy said the platinum line has been hot because it has a vintage flavor and most of the pieces are small scale and wearable from day to evening. Although diamonds are a major part of the line, many pieces use gray or pink pearls or colored stones. Also strong have been items that have a blackened background that accentuates the romantic designs and stones.
Brigode said her enhancers, in such stones as aquamarine or green or raspberry tourmaline, and accented with Tahitian pearls, were among her bestsellers at the show, furthering the renewed demand for soft color.
“Aquamarine is a year-round color now, not just for summer,” said Brigode. “It looks great with diamonds and pearls, as do tanzanite or green garnet. The green garnet was slow to take off, but I think it’s very fashion-forward now.”