Byline: RUSTY WILLIAMSON
DALLAS — Silver futures are bright in Dallas. The many women sterling designers who call this city home are projecting substantial gains in business this year, from 10 percent to almost double.
Most made their initial marks with Southwestern collections flavored with turquoise and conchas. But in the past two years, those looks have almost vanished from most of the sterling lineups in favor of more classic styles.
The new trends in accessories, including lots of color and glamour, will make the sterling business shine this fall, they predicted. And some are diversifying with gold, vermeil and pewter to boost sales, as well.
“Glamour fits right in with our styles,” said Foree Hunsicker, owner of a company here called Medalias. “Smaller pieces and color are hot.”
Hunsicker began pairing cubic zirconia with her sterling Victorian luggage tag designs late last year, and the looks were a hit with buyers.
Blue and pink pearls, along with amethysts, yellow jade, garnets and amber, also are expected to star in Medalias’s fall collection. Besides sterling, they may also be set in gold vermeil — possibly in time for the fall market.
Medalias’ business this year is forecast ahead at least 25 percent against 1994’s $3 million.
Brenda Schoenfeld, a sterling designer here known for sleek styles, said she’ll spotlight glamour this fall with soft shapes that move, including lots of necklaces and bracelets.
“I’m happy about the fall trends; they’re refreshing,” said Schoenfeld, who’ll accent her jewelry with semiprecious stones and colored cubic zirconia. She projects a 10 to 15 percent gain this year.
Sally Davison, in contrast, refuses to chase trends. “I don’t intend to make that many changes,” said Davison, who works with sterling, semiprecious stones and antique ornaments from a variety of cultures. “The trend for high glamour is just that — a trend. I’m staying with dressy styles with a bit of flash, looks that will endure.”
Davison’s line this fall will encompass a global theme, from Egyptian scarabs to Chinese frogs to Moroccan beads. She’ll also unveil a collection featuring untreated lapis from Afghanistan. Her sales are projected up 25 percent this year.
The new look represents an evolution from Southwestern styles. “The Southwest inspired about 50 percent of my collection as recently as two years ago,” explained Davison. “Today, it’s about 10 percent. I’m still keeping my molds should I ever decide to go back [in that direction].”
Classic styling with a twist, chunky rings and whimsical pieces make up the diverse line of Dian Malouf, a sterling and gold jewelry designer. Malouf is especially bullish this year, projecting sales ahead 30 to 40 percent.
“Word of mouth is really helping us sell, plus we’re having more name recognition,” Malouf claimed. We’ve worked very hard on organizing, streamlining and holding down spending.”
In her fall collection, Malouf lets her sense of humor show through. It is divided into themes such as Moroccan Roll (African beaded looks) and Food Chain (organic and food-inspired silhouettes). Some of Malouf’s fall looks include rings sculpted to resemble fruits and vegetables and a big bracelet textured like corn.
Pink rhodonite is one of Malouf’s favorite working materials this season and will probably show up in her three collections, where prices stretch from $20 for a small endearment ring to $14,000 for an 18-karat gold and cabochon opal ring.
Rebecca Collins, whose unusual collection mixes fossils, antiquities and minerals with silver, also is banking on diversity to boost business this year at her eponymous accessories firm.
“Business has never been better,” said Collins. “We’re looking to double this year based on strong specialty store business.” Neiman Marcus is among her accounts.
“People are afraid to wear flashy diamonds and gold,” explained Collins, who has been in business almost 20 years. “They want something more artistic. That’s where I come in.”
Collins casts her silhouettes in gold, sterling or pewter, an alloy she began to work with about three years ago when the economy was floundering.
Fall wholesale prices are from $5 for a small pewter piece to $2,500 for a stone and gold or sterling item.
Her latest pieces, inspired in part by Greek and Roman sculpture, will be anchored by aquamarines, jade, emerald and icy pastel stones.
“Color is very important,” said Collins. “It can work magic.”
The designers say Dallas is an ideal spot for sterling makers because it allows easy access to sterling manufacturing centers in Santa Fe, N.M., and Mexico.
“Silver is typical of the Southwest,” said Hunsicker, adding that she began collecting sterling along with coral and turquoise while still a child.
Sterling was a natural material for Schoenfeld; her family founded the Los Castillos silversmithing business in Taxco, Mexico, in the early part of the century.