Betting on Vegas Odds

Las Vegas is the place to gauge key trends moving into the all-important holiday season and the New Year. The diverse spectrum of brands exhibiting in the Plumb Club Pavilion, JCK Show, Mandalay Bay revealed insights into bestsellers and trendsetters for winter 2015-2016.

Among the proven winners with the best odds: updated classics, products that can be customized, and yellow gold. Moreover, retailers are clamoring for men’s jewelry as more manufacturers up the ante in product development. Perhaps the biggest buzz was for wearable technology, a category Wired magazine expects will be as big as the smart phone. And with the expectation that marriage equality would become the law of the land, some brands are pushing LGBT wedding competence and speaking to the modern family.

Trends tracked at Vegas can be spun into winning promotional strategies for jewelers who play their cards right. Here are key directions you can bet on.

Classics Refreshed
Manufacturers continue to explore different ways of reinterpreting bestsellers like solitaire and halo jewelry, stackable rings, bar necklaces, and monograms by using approaches like interesting texture and finish, different metal and gem color combinations, special details around prongs, and negative space designs.

“We’re playing with proportions,” says Allison Goodman, director of merchandising for Frederick Goldman, New York. She cites impactful details that create a big look for a great price like rope detailing in and around the shank, two-tone and with diamonds interspersed in the twist; as well as halos with bigger stones around the center, smaller ones down the shank for designs in its Art Carved Collection. Randi Bourg, public relations manager for Stuller, Lafayette, Louisiana, also cites updated halo designs incorporating two-tone metal, color stones, and looks beyond the circle to embrace swirls and floral frames. She reports strong demand for updated bypass styles in engagement rings.

Simple designs with special details are important for many manufacturers. Laura Gladfelter, brand manager for Alison and Ivy, a division of the Chicago-based Fantasy Diamond cites the bar necklace a strong trend, with the brand evolving the design by adding cut out shapes, mini monograms, and diamond accents.

Stackable bands, wedding and fashion ring must haves, boast endless design possibilities in mixing gold colors, stone shapes and sizes, and use of interesting textures and trim, says Parag Desai, vice president of merchandising and marketing for Simon Golub, a division of The Shrenuj Group, Seattle, Washington. The category is a bestseller with no sign of waning, setting a new tradition and inspiring collectors who can personalize their looks.

Choose, Change, Create
Customization is a huge trend, says Bourg, who cites Stuller’s Choose, Change and Create mantra, most relevant in its new Ever & Ever bridal collection that focuses on popular styles with multiple customization options. “The collection features 122 prototypes—68 engagement rings and 54 bands. Shoppers can work with jewelers to choose a style, stone shape and size, and metal quality on, through our CAD/CAM Services, or in CounterSketch.”

Personalized jewelry is more than just a passing phase with the reincarnation of a name necklace or popularity of wearing an initial, cites Cora-Lee Colaizzi, director of marketing Quality Gold, Fairfield, Ohio. “The trend started with monogram styles being reintroduced to Millennials who were welcoming. The personalized concept has exploded beyond styles popular in years past, encompassing state pride, various shapes and textures, intricate details, and the extension of designs for family to recognize kids and pets. As the personalized trend continues to flourish, we’re offering options with enameling, textures, and handwritten messages that can be made into jewelry.”

Golden Opportunities
Consumers are hot for yellow gold again. “People are tired of white metal,” says Colaizzi. “They spent the better part of 2010–2012 melting yellow gold and gold items in any color that they didn’t want to collect value at the higher gold prices and pay bills while unemployment was high and the country was in economic trouble. The trend has turned back to color gold, specifically 14K yellow. We’re seeing more ideas presented to us in gold and the incorporation of yellow and rose gold into development initiatives. 14K yellow gold sales noticeably improved in 2014 and we expect this will continue. It also helps that gold prices have been consistent, $1100 to $1200 for most of the year.” Desai says that with gold prices down, there’s renewed interest in bold gold and gem-set designs. “Jewelers are looking tor higher ticket items. Our organic, hand-cut gems in contemporary styles, with an emphasis on yellow and rose gold have been very popular.”

Men’s jewelry is cited as the fastest growing category in the jewelry market. “We’ve doubled our men’s assortment in Leslie’s 14K gold and added more than 300 new styles for men in our Chisel brand,” says Colaizzi, who notes that jewelers are asking for product. “We’re committed to giving retailers options for men in a variety of metals and prices. When it comes to the essentials, function first, form second with cufflinks, tie bars and tacks, money clips, and timepieces bestsellers.” Goodman hails the men’s category full of opportunity. She cites bands as the bread and butter, noting that men like styles that are clean and classic with subtle detail in texture, pattern or color. Tags and pendants using diamond detail with pattern in metal and/or color are also popular.

Wired for Wearable
Wearable technology was the word on everyone’s lips at the JCK show. Leaders in bringing creative jewelry design to market in this category, Richline and Swarovski showed new product in the Plumb Club and organized a workshop with leading tech companies that had everyone excited with the possibilities.

Swarovski had on hand its Shine line, featuring the Activity Tracking Crystal. Designed in collaboration with Misfit Wearables, this nine-accessory collection includes interchangeable bracelets, watchbands and pendants designed with Swarovski crystals. Available in white and violet face, the large, faceted centerpiece crystal counts steps, measures calories burned, and tracks sleep patterns when used with Swarovski’s smart phone app. Later this year, Swarovski and Misfit will launch a solar powered version.

Richline unveiled its smart jewelry and partnerships with Omate and Cuff. The manufacturer showcased new products in Vegas featuring differentiated technology from companies including Say and MightyCast, as well as an assortment of compatibles that offer stylish luxury alternatives for use with existing wearable products like Fitbit and Jawbone. Richline introduced two tiers of product in precious metals and also bronze and base metals.

“Wearable technology is the most exciting thing to happen in the jewelry industry in long time,” hails Martin Hurwitz, CEO of MVI Marketing, San Luis Obispo, California. “Retailers are clamoring for fashionable product they can sell. Richline and Swarovski are taking the lead in bringing product to jewelers.”

Pitch Your 10
Jewelers aren’t looking for more product, they’re looking for more customers, preaches Larry Johnson, merchandising consultant and author of Effective Jewelry Displays. Johnson, a merchandising consultant and author of The Complete Guide to Effective Jewelry Displays, is a proponent of jewelers helping customers and sales with gift ideas that start conversations and offer solutions.

Johnson was instrumental in establishing a program for the Minneapolis, Minnesota manufacturer Ostbye, for its retailers called: Thru The Store, including a Top 10 Program with gifts priced from $99 to $2499 in styles from sterling silver to stackable bands to diamond studs with a twist to minimalist styles, and Shimmering Diamonds, says Sheila Johnson, merchandising manager. “We rolled out this strategy in mid-October. Sales of all 10 items beat expectations. There were many cases of people spending up and buying bigger pieces prompted by the suggestions. Sales staff said the concept made their jobs easier by allowing them to offer good ideas earlier in the sales presentation.”

LGBT Wedding Competent
With the expectation that marriage equality will become the law of the land, some brands are promoting LGBT wedding competence. To help jewelers court this significant demographic, forecasted to inject $10 billion into the already $50 billion a year wedding industry, designer Rony Tennenbaum for EMA Jewelry, New York, launched at the Plumb Club the brand’s Art of Contemporary Love campaign. Promoting collections like LVOE: “love is love no matter how you spell it” bands, the brand is working to redefine “bridal” for LGBT couples and Millennials with a focus on the “wedding” and the Lvoe Cut“modern family”. “As a gay jewelry designer I want to create inspiring jewelry that gay, lesbian, transgender, or otherwise would want to wear to make them feel special, confident, proud, and express their love to the world.” Jewelers can benefit from the brand’s “Rainbow Diamond” Seal of Tolerance and Acceptance and the designer conducts sales training and trunk shows with a focus beyond urban areas to mainstream USA.