Rapaport Magazine

Trends of the trade

Business at the JCK Las Vegas and Luxury shows surprised many vendors with the generous number — and dollar values — of sales.

By Jennifer Heebner

Image: JCK Events

On day one of the JCK Luxury show, Anil Maloo sold seven diamond line necklaces. It was surprising for two reasons: Firstly, the owner of Baggins Pearls is known for his pearl jewelry, and secondly, nobody really knew what to expect at one of the first major Las Vegas shows since June 2019. As it turned out, Maloo’s good fortune continued: “We were slammed for the next two days,” he says.

He wasn’t the only one; many of the fair’s exhibitors were pleasantly surprised at their sales. With a rise in US Covid-19 cases and a reduced number of show attendees — both visitors and exhibitors were down by 30%, according to Sarin Bachmann, group vice president of organizer Reed Exhibitions Jewelry Group — it was anybody’s guess how business would go. But since jewelry sold steadily throughout 2020 and early 2021, the buyers who came were serious about replenishing inventory. Even with the drop in attendance, final JCK numbers revealed 1,200 exhibitors and more than 10,000 qualified buyers. Perennial occasions like birthdays and anniversaries still require celebrating, pandemic or no.

“Those who came were intentional, opening orders that were double what they ordinarily are,” reports designer Jacquie Earle of Willow Diamonds, which sold its pierced-diamond designs at Luxury. “People are normally worried about overspending, but not at this show.”

Diamonds: Bigger and better

“Go big or go home” is apparently the new motto for diamond collectors. In the first two days of Luxury, Christopher Slowinski of Christopher Designs found that people were spending twice their usual. One of his clients bought 12 diamond bracelets, plus pendants and earrings, for a whopping $240,000. “That was a big purchase for me,” he says. “No one is afraid to buy.”

However, he continues, “the problem is a shortage of goods.” Indeed, shortages — along with ongoing staffing struggles and fewer overseas cutters working due to Covid-19 — are paving the way for price increases. “People are afraid that if they don’t buy today, the price will be higher in a few months,” explains Slowinski.

The price points clients are seeking are on the rise as well. Customers of Amit Sofer, who helms the Beny Sofer and Roberto Demeglio brands, were looking for larger, diamond-intense styles in the $2,000-to-$10,000 range at Luxury — much higher than his previous $500-to-$2,500 sales. These included tennis and riviera necklaces, and fancy shapes such as cushions, ovals, radiants and marquises.

Earle has been getting more requests for custom and says no one is asking about cost. “I have two clients, one outside of San Francisco, [California,] and another in Austin, [Texas,] that had their best years ever.”

Color rules

After 18 months of Covid-19, many shoppers are ready for some levity. Enter colored gems, which graced numerous collections. Even diamond specialist Rahaminov dipped its toes into the rainbow, surprising Luxury buyers with aquamarine and blue spinel alongside its diamond offerings. “Black-tie events aren’t happening, but people still want to look their best in pieces they can wear [for] casual or [dressing] up,” says Melanie Goldfiner, the brand’s director of business development.

Other blues that sold included sapphire, tourmaline and turquoise. Jeweler Omi Privé has struggled to keep Paraiba tourmaline in stock, and Brazilian designer Ricardo Vianna of Vianna Brasil — one of the brands in the elite JCK Las Vegas Design Center — has seen strong interest in this rare stone native to his country. “It had been hard to sell Paraiba in the US, but the more clients learn about it, the more they understand it’s a good investment and unique to wear,” he says.

Puja Bordia of Trésor, also in the Design Center, had robust sales of rainbow moonstone, turquoise, sapphire, and a lot more. “Color-wise, everything is selling,” she says. Before the fair even started, she made sales in a pre-show Zoom call, and serious buyers abounded at the fair itself. “We opened so many new accounts.”

Ditto for Andrea Kamhi, vice president of Izi Creations, who picked up at least 10 new accounts on the Sunday near the end of Luxury, thanks in part to some gold necklaces with turquoise and diamonds on paper-clip chains. “We’re not walking out of here with a million dollars, but those who were present were interested in purchasing,” she reports.

Links, leather and new talent

Paper-clip chains remained a fixture in nearly every booth. Other trends included charms, fancy diamond shapes, diamond tennis necklaces, men’s designs, gold links, and the combination of leather and gems.

Rahaminov’s Triple Threat collection of diamond pendants features trios of fancy shapes, and one of Earle’s most popular styles is drop earrings with princess-cut diamonds. For Julie Romanenko of Just Jules, leather bracelets with charms were hot sellers at Luxury, as were pendants with gemstones such as opals.

Meanwhile, emerging design talent Manvi Golcha of Clarté, who exhibited in a corner of her father’s Valentine Jewels booth at JCK, sold link designs, enamel pieces, and styles from her 1920s-inspired Gatsby collection. She received positive feedback, as well as some good orders. “People liked that my collections were relatable, modern classics,” she says.

Reporter’s notebookBeing back at JCK Las Vegas after two years was a joyful experience: I saw — and hugged — friends, handled and tried on jewelry, and learned how great business had been for many. (That lack of travel definitely helped jewelry sales in 2020 to early 2021.) Working the show again was like taking a drink out of a fire hydrant in terms of people and product, but it was refreshing nonetheless. We’re one step closer to returning to normal — which will hopefully still involve customers valuing jewelry as a way to celebrate special occasions.

Those who came to the shows despite the rising Covid-19 case numbers nationwide were serious buyers. It was as if everyone was grateful for the opportunity to shop in person — in contrast to myriad previous trade shows, where retailers seemed less serious about purchasing. Designers have always dreaded the “hold for confirmation” caveat that clients issue at jewelry fairs in early June, as it leaves the designers holding their breath until the call comes in September to either confirm or cancel the orders. However, this year’s August show was close enough to the fourth quarter that makers didn’t have that stress; retailers had to order immediately if they wanted stock for Christmas. Ongoing shipping delays in every industry worldwide ensured swift and confident orders in Las Vegas to replenish empty cases in time for the holidays.

Finally, about those rumors of last-minute cancellations by exhibitors and attendees: They did happen, but didn’t deter those present from enjoying the live affair and conducting business — with masks on. I felt safe and could not have been happier that I’d come. Viva Las Vegas.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - October 2021. To subscribe click here.

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