Rapaport Magazine

Something For Everyone

Couture showcases high style at many price levels.

By Nancy Pier Sindt

This year’s Couture show remained true to its reputation as a high-end event. Expanding on its annual showing of the fresh and exciting, it also offered a wide variety of opening-price-point merchandise, including more timepieces, as well as lower-cost boutique collections from established companies, which in some cases opened the door to higher-end purchases.


During the five-day run, held May 31 to June 4 at the Wynn hotel, the show featured an expanded exhibitor list that included more than 250 brands. While no longer “by invitation only,” the show, now in its seventeenth year, also saw a 13 percent increase in attendance of “cornerstone retailers,” better independent jewelers who make up the bulk of the show’s buyers, according to the Nielsen Expositions’ Jewelry Group, the show’s organizer.

According to exhibitors, traffic was brisk on day one, fell off on day two when the JCK show opened, but ramped up again as new buyers arrived in town and others returned to Couture after finishing at JCK. To facilitate moving among the shows, a shuttle traveled along the strip from Couture at the Wynn to the JCK Show at the Mandalay Bay hotel.


At this year’s show, merchandise covered a fairly wide swath, with fabulous, top-of-the-line showstopping jewelry balanced by larger assortments of imaginative pieces at more reachable price points. In the latter collections, there was more use of silver and alternative metals, as well as bold designs featuring brown diamonds, quartz, mother-of-pearl and other less-expensive stones.

Sergio Antonini, owner and designer of Antonini, Milan, said this was his best show ever, with buyer interest as strong as at the Basel fair. “The Couture show has been unbelievable,” he said, “We sold out of all our one-of-a-kind pieces.” These included the company’s Extraordinaire Collection of ruby, sapphire, emerald and pearl jewelry, most of which retails in the high five figures.

Hammerman Bros., New York City, also enjoyed strong customer response to its dramatic medallion necklace — a large openwork pendant set with either cognac or white diamonds on a long diamond-accented chain. The same design was also shown in a slightly smaller version with a mirrored back and accents of colored gemstones.

A & Furst, Saint Helena, California, enlarged its “Bouquet” collection of multicolored jewelry, introducing a large collier and bracelet that coordinated with the bold pendant unveiled in 2011. Two color combinations were offered, one with warm-toned gemstones in rose gold and a blue/green combination in white gold with black rhodium. “Clients are not price conscious; they want quality, style and something special,” said Kiki Furst Antonini, who founded the brand with her husband.


Designer Eddie Sakamoto, Torrance, California, known for his understated, sculptural designs of 18-karat gold and diamonds, introduced a collection of earrings in a mixture of silver, multicolored gold and palladium. Pieces in the new collection wholesale between $350 and $1,200. “At first, I resisted doing this collection because I thought my regular customers wouldn’t accept it,” said Sakamoto. “But now, silver is the new 14-karat, and at this show, I developed some new business with the silver collection.” Using alternative metals also allowed him to create larger, dangling earring designs that would have been too heavy if made in gold, Sakamoto said.

Vendorafa, Valenza, known for its organic, textured yellow-gold jewelry, also added a silver collection detailed with the same hammered, brushed and matte treatments it uses on its gold jewelry. Some designs were accented with rose gold and brown diamonds. “We received fabulous feedback on the new pieces,” said a company spokesperson. Opera Omnia, Miami Beach, offered another Italian-made collection of silver and enamel pieces, stackable rings and designs inspired by exotic islands. Gemstones included mother-of-pearl, smoky quartz and multicolored sapphires.

Adding silver to the assortment it showed at Couture, NRS Nina Runsdorf, New York City, showed new items from its “Silver, Skin and Stone” line. The more popularly priced collection was credited with attracting a lot of new clients because of its fashionable designs, as well as its “Made in the USA” status. In addition to silver, designer Runsdorf, who began using slice diamonds in 2005, also has added new diamond cuts to her jewelry, including tabiz, briolette and rose cuts. Pieces retail from $10,000 and up and are “about the fashion rather than the diamonds,” said Laura Aman, company spokesperson. “Our customers already have the classics.” 

The trend of women designing for women was another strong direction at this show. Hera, a Toronto-based designer, encourages women to build their own jewelry identity using her “Live Life” $200-to-$2,000 pieces. Her material of choice is sterling silver with either a matte or rhodium finish and accented with gold and diamonds. “I want women to feel empowered to buy jewelry for themselves,” she said. Her pieces range from simple Life Links used to design a necklace or bracelet to statement pieces with black spinels and white diamonds.

MadStone Design, New York City, showed two lines at Couture. The first is a higher-priced collection of gold and diamonds created by Kerri Halpern, reflecting her minimalist tastes and fashion background. The other is a new, edgier boutique line named MAD by MadStone. Designed with her daughter Kelsey, the MAD collection, which stands for Mother and Daughter, has a younger, hipper flavor. Both collections are aimed at female self-purchasers.

Summing up his experience with Couture, designer Ray Griffiths, New York City, declared it his “best show ever” because his company “grew up.” He said the showcases, formerly cluttered with jewelry, were remerchandised and simplified. He established an identifiable look, using hot pink for his catalog, display and merchandising materials. Griffiths kept his collection stylish and salable. “I have always done 18-karat gold, and in the past, shoppers experienced ‘sticker shock’ at the prices,” he said. “Now, for the first time, there is no shock and people who had just taken notes came back to buy.”

Griffiths was not alone in his satisfaction with the results of the show. Other exhibitors also commented that this year, established clients as well as new buyers came to Couture with serious intentions and a willingness to try out new items.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2012. To subscribe click here.

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