Value-driven goods drive JCK, Couture shows
By Carol Besler
LAS VEGAS, June 2011 – The JCK/Luxury and Couture shows in Las Vegas closed amidst reports of brisk business and an optimistic outlook for the fourth quarter of 2011.
JCK reported a whopping 20 percent increase in buyer attendance over last year’s event, with over 20,000 retailers attending the show.
The top news story at JCK is its new venue at Mandalay Bay, a combined hotel and convention center at the south end of the strip.
Cuff with leather and black spinel set in silver, by Scott Kay
The halls were lined with signage and information kiosks to help buyers navigate the new location, and staff with “Ask Me” T-shirts and signs answered questions.
Shuttle buses ran regularly between the Couture show, held at the Wynn, and the JCK Show, which was previously held at the Venetian Hotel and Sands Convention Center.
“We are encouraged by the level of buying on the show floor,” says Yancy Weinrich, industry vice-president, JCK Events.
“This suggests the recovery is picking up momentum as jewellers are looking to refresh and purchase new inventory for the upcoming holiday season.”
So vast is the JCK Show that any and every type of merchandise that exists is available in any size, colour and quantity, but a few trends stand out in the crowd, most of them driven by the quest for value.
With the price of gold and diamonds soaring, there was a lot of interest at the show in merchandise with alternative metals and coloured gemstones, particularly sapphire, including white sapphire, in melee sizes.
Most top designers and brands are now using sterling silver. The metal has always been around, but is now simply more prevalent.
Tassel motifs, white sapphire and black spinel are huge trends. Rina Limor
As UK designer Stephen Webster points out: “Nearly all our accounts who didn’t carry silver before, do now.”
Often the surface of the metal is paved with small gemstones.
“You don’t see the silver, and that’s the beauty of it,” says designer Rina Limor, of the designs, mainly cuffs, in her Calypso collection of silver jewellery set with enamel or melee gemstones, starting at $400.
Most of the top brands launching such collections continue to offer their trademark creations in 18k gold with diamonds, but have added silver/semi-precious collections to the product mix – in designs that are as well crafted as their couture lines.
Vermeil is also making a huge comeback.
The difference with today’s vermeil is that the plating is thicker and therefore longer-lasting. Again, top brands with 18k lines are adding pieces with vermeil and vermeil accents to their product mix.
Alternative metals and new alloys abounded at the show.
Top jewellery brand Scott Kay, always on the leading edge of new alloys, is using a cobalt mix in one of its new collections (retailing for $300 or less), which it calls SK Cobalt.
“Cobalt is a material used in prostheses that is hypoallergenic and on par with palladium in terms of colour and durability,” says Kay.
Many other new alloys were on hand, such as Fope’s Silverfope, a palladium/silver alloy, and Stuller’s White Dura Tungsten steel collection and Dura Cobalt collection, new alloys that are scratch resistant and colour-fast.
“Retail semi-mounts under $2,000 are hot right now,” says Shawn Montgomery Stuller’s executive director of business development, who adds, “The number-one best-selling wedding band in America right now is tungsten.”
Perhaps in response to the growing use of alternative metals and the sticker shock of gold, the World Gold Council launched a campaign at the show aimed at young people, endeavoring to introduce them to the precious metal.
That said, brands whose stock in trade has always been hand-finished gold are still doing that, despite the cost, including Roberto Coin and Marco Bicego, whose newest collections include pieces with lots of gold surface, solid gold and diamonds.
From the SK Cobalt collection by Scott Kay
Nevertheless, these brands also showed some hollow beads and followed the trend toward “strappy” designs – ribbon-like strands of gold with open spaces (Le Vian calls it “Gladiator” jewellery, after the fashionable sandals), as well as designs with flat profiles, including gems in “slice” or near-slice cuts.
“We have always been known as an accessible luxury company, and we still are,” comments Julia LeBlanc of Marco Bicego.
Small sapphires and semi-precious gems, often in the form of faceted beads in tassle necklaces and pinwheel designs, were hot.
Another value-driven trend is the strong use of white sapphire in place of white diamonds and black spinel in place of black diamonds.
Scott Kay introduced one of its largest collections in years, in both men’s and ladies fashion collections, with heavy use of white sapphire and black spinel, including a spectacular collection of lariats.
One of the most spectacular pieces in the collection is “Protecting the Cross”, a piece made of sterling silver, 18k rose gold vermeil, white sapphire and black spinel, in a design that represents arms folded over a cross.
From the Tungsten and Cobalt collections by Stuller
Unusual gems were another big part of the mix, the more exclusive the better.
Several, including Gurhan and Stephen Webster, launched collections using zultanite, a newly discovered colour-change gem mined in Turkey.
“Not many new things are coming out of the ground these days,” says Webster.
“It’s new, it’s rare, and that makes it special. It is already being packaged and marketed like a brand by those who are mining it, and my customers are loving it.”