Trends & Discoveries From JCK Las Vegas

JCK Las Vegas in June is a barometer for what’s trending in fine jewelry for the holiday season and New Year. The Plumb Club in particular offers a spectrum of products from companies billed as the best in their class who work with retailers hailed as best in theirs.

Among the standouts for fourth quarter is a greater use of color stones and in diverse shapes for fashion and bridal jewelry, sentiment jewelry (talisman, iconic, personalized, fine tech), and diamond jewelry—notably two-stone and composite setting designs.

The biggest buzz was over millennials and understanding how to capture what is the biggest, most diverse, and college educated generation of our time. Expectations for the fourth quarter and holiday season are optimistic, as many welcome the launch of the Diamond Producers Association’s ad campaign, “Real is Rare” that taps into millennials’ sense of individuality and search for “real” moments in a virtual world that are as rare and precious as a diamond.

Color remains a key trend, with pastel shades still popular, echoing Pantone’s palette. In fact, blue gems in particular are prevalent including aquamarine sapphire, zircon, topaz, tourmaline, turquoise, and lapis. Blush tones like rose quartz and morganite are also favorites, as well as Ethiopian opal and moonstone. Fancy gem shapes are also trending including variations of the baguette and mosaic mixes of cuts.

Beyond fashion, color is trending for wedding rings as central to or accents in the design. Demand is strong for gems like sapphire, spinel and alexandrite. In fact, online research for Chatham hails alexandrite the most searched color stone for engagement rings, says Monica McDaniels for the lab created gem brand in San Marcos, California. She also reports more requests for color accents to a white center, notably blue and pink sapphire, ruby and emerald.

Sentiment rules in symbolic, talisman jewelry—be it overt or covert in design, including religious and romantic icons, initials and numbers, coded messages, hidden details, and fine tech. “Jewelry is becoming more of a fashion/lifestyle accessory than a reservoir of wealth,” says Todd Wolleman for Color Craft, New York, whose latest brand launch, Luv Tia, is “yoga-inspired” with iconic talisman. Chrysalis, the London-based bangle brand, under the Richline umbrella, has capitalized on the many ways consumers can express their personality and lifestyle in expandable bangles and bands with charms that encourage layering. “Sentiment themed jewelry allows the wearer to create personal collections and ways of wearing their memories and inspirations,” tells David Maine, co-founder.

Companies, like Simply Diamonds, New York, are exploring iconic Disney princess themes and symbolism in fashion, gem and bridal jewelry. Moreover, smart jewelry continues to intrigue buyers, with Richline showing the next level in “elegant lifestyle accessories,” says Cliff Ulrich, product innovation manager. Launched in Vegas: Ela Fine Tech focuses on notifications and memories, with one line offering wristwear featuring quartz crystal that displays different colors for up to 15 contacts, and another heirloom in design storing memories using NFC chip in Tahitian or Chinese freshwater cultured pearls. While the archival technology in NanoRosetta shrinks text to the minutest size on plated nickel pendant, with one design that captures the entire bible especially popular.

Diamond bridal and fashion basics, notably in two-stone and composite settings are expected to be among the holiday favorites this year. Jeffrey Cohen, vice-president of sales, KGS Jewels, New York hails two-stone the big buzz for fourth quarter, noting that the majors are pushing it for rings, pendants and earrings. “The buzz started last Christmas and has been building momentum. The story behind it is easy to understand and resonates with consumers. The concept is adopted by all the major accounts on some level.”

Moreover, multi-stone settings are an important trend, cites Neil Shah for Shah Luxury, New York, whose bridal brands Carizza and Promezza, launched two to three years ago, are hitting critical mass for their beautiful mountings with composite and halo designs that offer big bang for the buck. Also popular, its fashion Sole Brilliante line with patent-pending cluster stone components in pendant, stud and line styles. Corinna Bhasin, general manager F.D. Worldwide Merchandise, New York adds diamond enhancers and stackable anniversary bands, as well as gents diamond rings as key categories to watch; and hails 2016 the year of the ear with diamond climbers trending.

The big buzz at the show was how to reach millennials, considering how marriage is dramatically changing, for an industry so dependent on bridal. “We need to take a hard look at how we can capture customers before/despite marriage,” says Wolleman. The challenge is in making jewelry/diamonds relevant as a lifestyle aspiration. Shyam Jagirdar for Rosy Blue, New York advocates the industry find a way to get diamonds into millennials’ way of life starting at age 16.

At nearly 80 million strong in the U.S., millennials are the fastest growing generation in the workforce, and as consumers will spend over $1 trillion, out spending baby boomers by 2017. “Of any clients with whom you could win their trust, my generation has the greatest lifetime value,” says Jason Dorsey, bestselling author, market analyst and millennial who presented at the Annual JCK Plumb Club Breakfast Symposium. “We’re the No. 1 generation to refer our friends. We’re the market sweet spot because we have no established loyalty. We’re up for grabs.”

Bhasin cites industry-wide messaging needed to make jewelry relevant again, applauding the DPA’s “Rare is Real” campaign. Jean-Marc Lieberherr, DPA CEO, describes the strategy, mainly video advertising on digital platforms, to shift perceptions from diamonds commemorating specific milestones and social rituals to them marking genuine moments chosen by the individual.

Millennials have a different approach to life, careers and relationships compared with previous generations, concurs Lieberherr. “With more experience of divorce, and having grown up through a technological revolution, where superficial relationships via social media are the norm, they’re getting married later, if at all. They’re also comfortable forging their own paths, rejecting social conventions if they don’t resonate personally. These include engagement rings and anniversary gifts, which were formerly the focus of diamond marketing.”

It’s about creating an experience that millennials can visualize of how happy they will feel owning/wearing your jewelry, promotes Lori Kluempke, senior vice president, Prime Art & Jewel, Dallas. “The millennial customer is loyal and will continue to come back to you if they trust you and feel you have special items. You have to have salespeople that are friendly and knowledgeable, not pushing a hard sell but educating customers.”

Social media and video are key tools in helping jewelers tell stories customers can relate to and feel inspired by, which helps to sustain and grow a successful business, hails Crystal Oyler, marketing coordinator for Alison and Ivy, a Fantasy Diamond brand in Chicago. She cites SnapChat the fastest growing social media platform with millennials. “Millennials may not be your customer now, but sometime they will and if they’re exposed to your brand early and you nurture them, there’s a better chance they’ll buy from you when they are ready.”

Moreover, jewelers need a great website to get customers in their store, says Shah. “Consumers research online, visiting at least a handful of websites and getting opinions on social media before they even visit a store.” He says this year at JCK he met with new, stronger accounts at the Plumb Club, noting that retailers who know themselves and their customers, and aggressively promote their brand across channels are doing well.

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