PEARLS, COLORED DIAMONDS SPARKLE AT JA
Byline: Marc Karimzadeh
NEW YORK — Tahitian and South Sea pearls in new settings, brown diamonds and a continuation of color in yellow gold and semiprecious stones were among the key trends at the JA New York Winter Show.
The show, which is smaller than its August sibling, ended its three-day run at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Feb. 6 and attracted more than 900 national and international vendors.
Because of consistent talk of plummeting consumer confidence, some jewelry exhibitors expected a slow turnout and fewer orders. But many retailers said they had come off a strong month in January and recent media reports have merely made some rethink their buying strategy rather than reduce the spending.
“January was a strong month for all of us, and while the anxiety has not been dispelled, it has been muted,” said John Green, president and chief executive officer of Hartford, Conn.-based jeweler Lux, Bond and Green. “Instead of buying lots more categories, I may need to go in depth with those categories that are quite strong.”
Lariat necklaces, a variety of semiprecious stones, and freshwater and South Sea pearls were among the attractions for Jim Rosenheim, owner of fine jewelry and accessories store The Tiny Jewel Box in Washington, D.C.
“There was a good representation of merchandise from around the world showing a wide variety of styles,” he said, adding that he particularly liked the multicolored diamond looks mixing both black and brown diamonds.
Rosenheim also noted that many vendors using different shades of colors with a variety of semiprecious stones in the same piece, from tourmaline to aquamarine, opal and topaz.
“We went in with reservations based on soft [retail] sales last Christmas,” said Edward Deutsch, president at jewelry firm Robert Lee Morris. “Some stores were holding back, but people had a nice rebound in January and were a little more confident than expected.”
Deutsch said sales were led by a new line called Crested Wave, which featured nature-inspired cuffs, rings and necklaces in 18-karat yellow gold or sterling silver with diamonds.
German designer Tamara Comolli noted the demand for yellow and white metals has leveled off, with many stores embracing colors in semiprecious stones they would have found risky just seasons ago.
Also leading trends were pearls. Comolli said part of the reason pearls have picked up again is because Chinese freshwater pearls, in their many color tones, have given designers more freedom to play and innovate, which has helped bring in a new customer.
“Pearls have gathered steam because the consumer understands them much more than years ago, mainly through the media,” said Jennifer Jiunta, owner of fine jewelry firm Jiunta Fine Jewelry.
Jiunta said multihue strands of Tahitian pearls in pastel silver, pink and gold tones were among the bestsellers, along with yellow gold South Sea pearls set in 18-karat yellow gold clasps.
“Freshwater pearls are going to be hot, which also has much to do with the environmental water problems with Akoya pearls,” said Krista Olsen, Enjewel.com’s director of affiliate relations.
Also, the variety of available colors for freshwater pearls has added new luster to the classification. For other leading trends, Olsen pointed to a continuation of colors with semiprecious stones such as citrine, amethyst and pink and green tourmaline.
Color and semiprecious stones were also a leading trend at jewelry firm Gumuchian Fils, where the sales at this JA show were led by a line of lace-cut 18-karat white gold or platinum rings set with pink or green tourmaline stones. Though Myriam Gumuchian Schreiber, principal at the firm, was pleased with the size of the orders, she noted that many stores showed more interest in basics than in previous seasons.
“When people are a little afraid they want to go with good, quality basics,” she said, adding that curved diamond pave hoops were the favorites among her basics.
“The economy isn’t bad, nor is the business, but there is caution right now,” said Lynn Grimm, vice president of sales and marketing at Damiani U.S.A., the recently opened American subsidiary of the Italian jewelry firm.
Grimm said white gold and platinum are still in demand, but he also noted a growing interest in brown and black diamonds.
“White gold and platinum are still basics, but yellow gold looks more salable now,” said Cheryl Holland, Ashford.com’s vice president of merchandising.