PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Vintage and ethnic looks emerged as the top trends at Expo Providence, the jewelry components trade show held here last week at the newly opened Rhode Island Convention Center.
The three-day show, which ended Tuesday, featured lines shown by jewelry findings manufacturers — domestic and foreign — and manufacturers’ representatives. Attendees numbered 3,954, down 1 percent from a year ago, according to David Rocha, associate executive director of the Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America, the organization that sponsors the show.
Rocha said the timing of this year’s edition — just prior to accessories market week in New York — could have contributed to the drop in attendance. The number of exhibitors was up, however, to 261 from 219 last year.
Next year, Rocha noted, the show will return to its usual mid-April schedule, running April 9-11. Meanwhile, the international mix of buyers and exhibitors seemed to be a plus at this edition.
Many of those buying at the show said they came looking for specific trends — chiefly romantic/vintage and ethnic — and were finding them.
“I’ve found many semiprecious and vintage-looking pieces that will be great for my collection,” said Elizabeth Kaczmarczyk, an owner of Today’s Vintage Designs, a New York jewelry and hat pin vendor.
Kaczmarczyk said she also placed sample orders for stampings with some French and Italian exhibitors whose quality she preferred over what she has found in New York.
Jan Katz, designer and owner of a New Orleans costume jewelry firm called Alexa Jared, said she was focusing on ethnic-type beads and stones that are either tortoise colored or black to use as fill-ins for her fall collection.
In addition, Katz said she found unique, romantic stampings and chain from some European exhibitors and made contacts with several semiprecious stone vendors as well, which she said was “a main goal for this trip.”
Other buyers said they were in search of innovative manufacturing equipment. Jewelry designer Hannah Agee, who is based in Stow, Mass., said she was looking for new tools and ways to treat and finish metals.
“I was particularly interested in a sandblaster that uses synthetic crushed rubies to gives metals a rougher finish,” Agee said, referring to a machine by Gesswein & Co., a Bridgeport, Conn., manufacturer.
On the exhibitor side, many said they were satisfied with the traffic flow, and many said they noticed an increased presence of international buyers.
“We’ve seen customers from England and France, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and Mexico, South America and even Thailand and Korea,” said Randy Harrison, product sales manager at Greene Plastics, a manufacturer of plastic beads and stones.
Harrison, whose firm is in Hope Valley, R.I., said he had seen “a steady stream of traffic since opening day on Sunday.” He pointed to romantic/vintage and natural looks as some of the strongest sellers. A new item, a handpainted plastic bead that looks and feels like glass but sells for about 30 percent less than glass or even high-grade European plastic, was also hot.
Some vendors noted that they were encouraged by the return of glamorous looks to the fall runways, something they feel might lead to stronger jewelry sales in the second half.