Rapaport Magazine

The Place To Be

This year’s Miami Beach show was a bright spot for estate jewelry dealers.

By Phyllis Schiller
Carved jadeite, diamond, enamel 18-karat yellow gold and platinum brooch by David Webb, circa 1970. 
Photo by Alexandra Shriner, courtesy Camilla Dietz Bergeron Ltd.
It isn’t only the pleasant temperatures that make the Original Miami Beach Antique Show such a draw for estate and jewelry dealers. The annual gathering that allows winter-weary exhibitors to bring their wares to sell in a warm-weather venue also offers them an opportunity to take a pulse check of the industry.
   This show, explains Diana Singer, D&E Singer Inc, New York City, “really is the place to be if you want to find soup to nuts in jewelry — in terms of style, in terms of quality and in terms of price. It always has been and it always will be the place to be.” And in fact, this year’s show, held January 30 through February 3, saw an increase of 4 percent in attendance over 2013, with approximately 250 dealers in the jewelry sector.
   The variety of exhibitors gives this show a positive edge, says Eric Bitz, vice-president of David & Company in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. “One dealer might just deal in emeralds, while another, antique jewelry and a third, just antique colored diamonds. There is an interesting mix of both jewelry and many other types of vintage merchandise. It creates a unique and interesting environment; everyone goes there with high expectations of doing great business.”

A Positive Barometer
   Jeff Russak, owner of Lawrence Jeffrey Estate Jewelers, Litchfield, Connecticut, gave the show a thumb’s up all around, for dealers, buyers and the retail public. “Everyone was in a really good mood. We had a steady, positive sales experience, the most positive in the past five years, which is very reaffirming. It was an up experience.”
   “Miami Beach is probably the best barometer of what’s happening in the marketplace,” says Gus Davis, partner, Camilla Dietz Bergeron, Ltd., New York City. “This show gives me a sense of what’s going to be ahead of us and what direction things are going because you have such a cross-section of buyers and sellers. And this was a strong show. For us, it was one of the best Miami shows in recent years.”
   While good, signed jewelry is stronger and stronger and stronger, Russak notes, and people are looking to buy preowned because it’s a good deal, he doesn’t feel there are any other certain trends in estate jewelry right now. However, he did notice a preference at the show “away from serious Victorian jewelry and toward things that are highly wearable.”
   Davis agrees that whether it’s long necklaces or big chunky bracelets or fine jewelry, for daytime or evening, people want to have wearable jewelry. “They want things with a sense of style, something a little different with a little bit of a punch that can be worn easily.”

A Few Surprises
   “Everyone wanted coral,” notes Singer. “In the past, it was just the Italians, but now it is the Chinese and the Japanese who are actively seeking antique coral pieces.” And she says, there was “an extraordinary amount of interest in natural pearls, not just from the Indian merchants, who have always wanted them, but from European and American stores.”
   Singer also states she didn’t see a huge amount of interest in white-mounted jewelry. But there was interest in jewelry from the 1960s and 1970s, a continuation of what she has been seeing the past year or two. But rather than just one or two, she says, “this year there was a noticeable number of people looking for it.”
   Russak says he took a chance and added extremely good silver jewelry — modernist Native American, Mexican — to the mix he brought to the show. And it “attracted probably more attention than any single display we’re ever shown. I was really pleased to have such a strong reaction to high-end silver.”
   Signed, more important jewelry always attracts buyers at the show. This year, however, Davis points out that a good mixture of things were selling, including mid-range pieces, which he thought was a positive sign.

High-End Horse Trading
   Dealers come to Miami to buy as well as to sell, with many deals struck at the start of the show. Bitz says that although he hadn’t come looking for it, he took advantage of an opportunity to make a major purchase of South Sea pearls. “We also bought a large pear-shaped canary diamond, which was probably one of our larger pieces acquired at the show. We go to Miami with the mindset that we’re going to buy, sell and trade, and in any given year, we may do more of one than the other.”
   Singer says she found “a couple of really wonderful antique pieces and a couple of nice Edwardian rings.”
   Fulfilling his mental shopping list, Russak was able to find rings and earrings in yellow gold at the show. “We’re always looking to buy anything that is an opportunity — those things that when you come upon them, you know them.”
   There was a lot of dealer trading before the show opened, comments Davis, which he said kept him busy selling things. “When I did look, I felt the prices were very strong and so I didn’t buy as much as I normally do.”

Cautiously Optimistic
   Russak categorized most people’s mood as cautiously optimistic, stating that things seem to be on an upswing. “The retail crowd in general is still a little tentative, still perhaps doing more looking and less buying than there used to be. But I do think that’s in the process of changing.”
   According to Davis, show traffic was constant. “In the past, there had been days that were slow, but this year, there was a consistent, good flow of traffic of buyers. People definitely were there to buy this time.”
   “The past two years of this show have been really good,” sums up Bitz. “So even if you did 10 percent less than in 2013, you still did pretty well. I did talk to several people who said they had their best show ever in terms of selling. Hopefully, people who came to the show with the outlook to buy and restock will keep the momentum going.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - March 2014. To subscribe click here.

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