What Happened in Vegas…
Las Vegas sparkled in early June as gem shows returned to the city and JCK celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. Olga González FGA DGA, CEO of Pietra Communications, reported from the scene. This article was published in the Summer 2022 Issue of Gem-A’s Gems & Jewellery Magazine.
The industry was more than ready to make Las Vegas in 2022 a season to remember. Over the past two years, trade events, including entire shows, were postponed or cancelled. This year, Vegas brought things back into full swing, delighting buyers, exhibitors and press alike.
Celebrating its historic thirtieth anniversary at the Venetian Las Vegas from 10–13 June – with the invitation-only Luxury show open 8–9 June and JCK Talks beginning on 9 June – JCK made headlines with the return of a three-year partnership with the American Gem Trade Association. Swan Sit, former global head of digital marketing at Nike, Estée Lauder and Revlon, gave JCK’s opening keynote address, “Web3 is Coming – Navigating the Past, Present, and Future of Retail,” to a crowd eager to discuss what is coming next for brands engaging in the metaverse. AGTA members exhibited in the Gems Pavilion alongside vendors from the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) and new pavilions from Sri Lanka and Thailand. The show brought back its popular ‘JCK Rocks’ event, which featured current and past cast members of the musical ‘Hamilton’, performing tunes from the show, as well as mashups of the show’s songs to music from the 1980s and 90s.
With all the excitement, and with record-breaking attendance at the JCK Show, one cannot help but ask what is trending in fine jewellery now, especially in the post-pandemic world. Here is what we learned.
Oculus and Surrealism. Designs based on eyes date back to their use as amulets, or talismans, to protect against misfortune. They still hold their spiritual meaning, but different variations of the eye are used, making it a medium for creative expression. From the evil eye to a resurgence of the ‘lover’s eye’ miniature, rings and pendants – such as those from the Tu Es Partout line by Lito Fine Jewelry (at the COUTURE Show at the Wynn Las Vegas) – are integrating the oculus as a new charm with a familiar aesthetic. In addition to the eye, surrealist objects, such as melting clocks and landscapes, represent the omnipresence of time. Audrius Krulis displayed moonstone earrings from the Embrace Collection, and his Dancing Beings rings, which shared an otherworldliness. Krulis says the pieces “have a unique personality and endearing nature. They manifest a celebration of affection and joy in embracing others, yourself, and the world, and they remind us of the power of human contact.” On his experience exhibiting at the COUTURE Show, Krulis said, “COUTURE 2022 was full of energy and optimism. It was exciting to see friends coming together, and once again, witness the love for design and incredible craftsmanship that this community holds.”
Chained Up. The chunky gold chain is coming back into style in a big way. The shows exhibited both thin, lightweight chains that are perfect for summer, giving a dainty look, and classic styles with a modern touch. Vittorio B. Fine Jewels impressed many with their Stretch and Reverse bracelet at JCK, which was set with 18K gold in a ‘chain’ design and natural black and white diamonds that allowed the bracelet to be worn two ways. To the delight of buyers, JCK’s Italian Pavilion had a host of companies lined with elegant chains. Traditionally worn as necklaces or bracelets, chains are also used in various thicknesses to accommodate preferences and layering. The family-owned Fratelli Bovo, from Trissino, Italy, found the gold bracelets from their Mambo collection, which can be inlaid with carnelian, malachite, onyx or mother-of pearl, to be quite popular this year.
Whimsy. Many designers used the pandemic to create what they considered their best work ever. The extended downtime offered space for self-reflection, experimentation and prioritizing creativity over conformity, considerations also heard at the Tucson gem shows (see Spring 2022 G&J pp. 10–16). Unusual silhouettes, political statements, fantastical creatures and innovative constructions emerged as a result to these ‘think outside the box’ approaches, which are sure to satisfy the demands of customers looking for one-of-a-kind pieces.
At COUTURE, new exhibitor Karina Brez had a constant buzz around her booth. Brez, a jewellery designer who is renowned within the riding circuit, launched her wholesale collections in Vegas, including her signature Huggable Hooves. “Let the horse hug you back,” said Brez. Retailers, especially those with stores near riding centres, were delighted with the niche that appeal to equine-loving audiences.
Always a whimsical delight, LORD Jewelry’s booth – also at COUTURE – had an array of colourful pieces on display; a Medusa ring was a particular standout. Jewellery brand director Lena Agdere explained that “LORD collections are an invitation to take a colorful journey through elements of history, architecture and nature.” Ms Agdere reported that Lord’s Rock Candy line was also hugely popular. This latest collection sets coloured stones in 18K gold with diamond and enamel accents and evokes ‘sweet cravings for bonbons’.
KIL N.Y.C., which exhibited at the Antiques show, displayed their Agape Sword earrings in 14K gold. Konstantinos Leoussis, founder of KIL N.Y.C. said, “We are very much inspired by antique jewellery, specifically antique jewelled swords, and their ability to blend the masculine imagery of the sword with the gentleness of the hearts and the sparkle of a gemstone.” The earrings come in sterling silver, 14K yellow gold and 18K yellow gold with diamonds; they are made entirely by hand. They were inspired by the jabot, a type of brooch. “KIL N.Y.C. tested numerous versions of the design to ensure it both looks great and stays put,” Leoussis explained.
Vivacious Pearls. Pearls were present and accounted for in Vegas this year. Among the exhibitors was Rosa Van Parys, at the COUTURE show, who called her self-named pearl jewellery brand ‘elegance with an edge’. She explained that “As a practicing architect and interior designer, my approach to designing my pieces has these three principles in mind always: balance, symmetry and composition. I want to challenge the classic pearl jewellery standards and make our pieces rock and roll. I love the juxtaposition of geometric shapes against the roundness of the pearls.” Her goal is to make the pearl pieces fierce and daring by adding pointy and edgy elements (that she calls ‘daggers’) while remaining stylish and elegant.
A refreshing addition to the shows was a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through events, along with an increased presence of emerging designers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC). For the first time, JCK sponsored the Black in Jewelry Coalition (BIJC), with booths in the Design Collective featuring works from six members: Adore Adorn, Christian Stone, Jam + Rico, JNCY Jewelers, Made by Malyia and The Personal Jeweler. “History was made at this JCK event,” says Adrianne Sanogo, co-founder of BIJC. “I want to personally thank JCK for being a visionary and being committed to changing the narrative. This will always be a part of your legacy and ours.”
The Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) kicked off its the Generating Community Impact Breakfast to a standing-room-only crowd, with a keynote presentation by Karine Bah Tahé, founder and CEO of Blue Level Training, a Black woman-owned enterprise focused on building diverse, inclusive and respectful work environments. WJA’s 2020 Veteran Grant winner, Latoya Boyd, commented on being impressed with the diversity she saw in the room and on the show floor.
At COUTURE, The Radiance by Couture program was created in partnership with DeBeers, and featured the work of thirteen BIPOC designers, including Lorraine West. Each designer was provided with De Beers Code of Origin diamonds and seed funding, enabling them to create unique capsule collections of stunning diamond jewellery — a total of 40-60 pieces overall.
Ultimately, the return to Vegas was memorable. Buyers lined up for an opportunity to restock their collections, and business transactions were plentiful. Early days, late nights and networking were back to their usual state, with an added sense of creativity and appreciation. Everyone was happy to see each other and be back in bustling rooms, and many attendees echoed the same sentiment — that it was their best show ever.