Asteria Colored Diamonds

Asteria Colored Diamonds


TechForm Platinum Jewelry Casting

Leibish & Co

Sunday, January 31, 2016

JNA Awards Reveals 2016 Judging Criteria, Opens Online Registration

The judging criteria for the fifth edition of the annual JNA Awards is finalized and online registration is open to give companies and individuals from the jewelry and gemstone industry more time to review the entry rules and criteria before the submission period begins in early March.

The JNA Awards, organized by the publication Jewellery News Asia, is regarded as one of the jewelry and gemstone industry’s highest honors, recognizing enterprises and individuals that have demonstrated excellence, leadership, innovation and have made positive contributions to their businesses and communities, with a focus on achievements in Asia.

“As organizer of the JNA Awards, we find it very promising to see steady growth in quality entries over the past four years,” said Letitia Chow, founder of JNA, director of Business Development - Jewellery Group at UBM Asia, and chair of the JNA Awards judging panel. “We are also opening registration early to enable interested parties to study the categories and determine which are most appropriate to them prior to the submission period.”

Chow added that the geographical region of the awards has been expanded to include Greater China and Korea and the manufacturing categories have been consolidated. 

“It is very encouraging to see the JNA Awards continuously making improvements on the criteria and entry procedure to make the judging process more efficient and more reflective of current industry aspirations,” said Albert Cheng, World Gold Council advisor and JNA Awards judge.

“A constant refinement of the judging criteria is crucial in maintaining the relevancy and rigor of the awards; helping the judges to better assess, compare and select the best entries,” added James Courage, JNA Awards judging panel member since its inception in 2012.

The JNA Awards 2016 is supported by Headline Partners Rio Tinto Diamonds and Chow Tai Fook, together with Diarough Group, the Israel Diamond Institute Group of Companies, Shanghai Diamond Exchange, and Guangdong Land Holdings Limited serving as Honoured Partners.

The period for the submission of entries will run from March to April 2016. Click here to register online and review all the category criteria and rules of entry

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Wallace Chan’s New Book Takes Readers Inside His Jewels

"Wallace Chan Dream Light Water" is now available in the US. It contains 86 of his sculptural jewels in extreme close-ups and in their actual size

It’s my belief that 100 years from now Wallace Chan won’t be known as a jeweler or jewelry artist, but simply as an artist. He will be considered among the best of his time, if not longer. That his groundbreaking gem carving and faceting techniques and his jewelry making skills will be taught at art schools and gemology schools around the world.

The China native and now Hong Kong-based jewelry artist who grew up in extreme poverty is already successful beyond his wildest imagination among the most elite in the world in money and taste. His notoriety will likely grow with the January 28 release of the book “Wallace Chan Dream Light Water,” designed to open up the process of his techniques to the public.

Wallace Chan with Sarah Coffin, a curator at Cooper Hewitt Museum (left) and Cherry Rao

On the day of the book’s release Chan gave a lecture at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. The book contains photographs of 86 of his sculptural jewels in extreme close-ups and in their actual size. Even at $280 each, the museum’s allotment of the 380-page tome sold out before Chan took the stage.

Chan discussed his quest for knowledge even though he was too poor to receive a formal education.

“I started from reading books I could not understand to wanting books I could not afford and today I have made a book of my own,” Chan told an audience of jewelry and art professionals and enthusiasts at Cooper Hewitt. “I have met a lot of challenges along the way.”

From concept to publishing, the book took seven years to make, Chan told the audience, or as he told me previously, “nothing comes easy” for him.

Vividity brooch centered with a rare elbaite tourmaline

Chan also brought one of his more famous creations with him as an exhibit for the event: “Vividity,” a colorful brooch centered with a rare elbaite tourmaline.

Chan told me in October when he first came to New York to promote the book that he chose to photograph the jewels in extreme detail in order to reveal the techniques he uses so others can learn from them—such as his use of gems as prongs instead of metal, how he manipulates precious metals, and his approach to faceting jade.

“Books are just like jewelry,” Chan told the audience through his editor and translator, Cherry Rao. “They are embodiments of human cultures and emotions. With this book I hope to show you a world that you cannot see—a micro world of jewelry where you can find the hidden truth, goodness and beauty in the gemstone and the craftsmanship.

A close-up view of the Now and Always necklace featuring the "Wallace Cut"

The book cover is a photograph of his most famous gem carving technique: The Wallace Cut, where he creates a reverse image in the back of a gem using cameo and intaglio carving techniques that result in a multiple-dimensional trompe l’oeil effect when seen from the front of the gem.

“On the front you can see five faces but actually I only carved one face at the back of the stone and the four more faces you see are actually the result of reflections that was created by precise calculations and faceting,” Chan said.

A close-up view of the Fluttery Ragtime Brooch

“It was reverse thinking combined with reverse carving motions. What you see on the right I actually carved on the left and what you see that is deep inside the stone was actually carved shallowly and by design.”

A full view of the Fluttery Ragtime Brooch

It took Chan two and a half years to master this approach to jewelry carving, which he first revealed in 1987, and another six months to build the tools, which include dentist instruments adapted for gem carving. He then had to carve while the gem was submerged in water because the carving tools generated too much heat that could damage or crack the gem. Not to mention burn his hands.

An extreme close up view of Parure Plum Flowers in Snow

“As I was carving in water it meant I could not see the details so I was doing the carving stroke by stroke,” he told the audience. “I had to carve one line and then I had to take it out of the water and check it to see if it is okay. I put it back down into the water to do another stroke. It was a long process but I entered a stage where my eyes, my heart my hands were moving as one. By that time I could carve in the water for two or three minutes without looking or checking.

“It was the craziest period in my life. At that time I was completely lost in the magic of light and shadow.”

A full view of the Fluttery Ragtime Brooch

Chan’s reputation transcends jewels and goes into art. He is a sculptor by training and still creates many traditional works of sculpture as well as large glass etchings. Sarah Coffin, a curator at Cooper Hewitt who led the lecture, asked Chan about his artistic approach to his jewelry designs.

“Painters use paint, musicians use notes and I use gemstones to create,” Chan said. “Jewelry is the same as paintings or music. It is a form of expression in art. For more than four decades gemstones have been the most important language I use to communicate with nature and the universe. The carvings, sculptured gemstone cuttings or jewelry creations use gemstones as my medium … and through creation I become one with nature.”

Heart in Bloom brooch

The book, Wallace Chan Dream Light Water,” published by Rizzoli, is co-written by Juliet de La Rochefoucauld, a gemologist, jewelry historian, author and lecturer. The 380-page 11-in. by 15-in. book contains 260 color photographs and illustrations. It retails for $280. Demand has already proven to be strong as the allotment at the Cooper-Hewitt museum sold out during Chan’s lecture Thursday.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Saturday, January 30, 2016

5,000 Attend China International Gold, Jewellery & Gem Fair – Shanghai

The 11th edition of the China International Gold, Jewellery & Gem Fair – Shanghai concluded with 5,025 buyers from 30 countries and regions, according UBM Asia, which owns and operates the trade fair.

Held December 11 - 14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center, the fair featured 354 exhibitors from 25 countries and regions in over 14,000 square meters of exhibition space.

Out of the total attendance, 190 visitors were from overseas and Hong Kong, UBM said.

Celine Lau, director of Jewellery Fairs, UBM Asia, said that Japanese jewelry is one of the best-selling items in China. “In response to market demand, we launched at this edition the Japan Pavilion hosted by the Yamanashi Jewelry Association,” she said. 

Yamanashi is a jewelry manufacturing base in Japan, known for its craftsmanship and designs

Other show features include “The Premier Pavilion” for high-end fine jewelry and country pavilions from Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey offered visitors a wide variety of jewelry. 

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Slowing Watch Sales Bring More Variety At SIHH 2016

The prototype Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Nuit Lumineuse watch with diamonds that light like stars using a mechanical power source

SIHH, the second largest gather of the Swiss watch industry, was held January 18 - 22 as reports emerged confirming that watch sales have slowed. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said Tuesday that exports for 2015 declined 3.3 percent year-over-year to 21.5 billion Swiss francs ($21.1 billion). This coincided with Richemont’s third quarter earnings statement two weeks earlier, which reported that sales fell by 4 percent year-over-year at constant exchange rate to 2.92 billion Swiss francs ($2.86 billion).

The blame for the decline range from the combined austerity measures and stock market turbulence in China, the effects of a strong Swiss currency (particularly in Europe) and the introduction of the Apple Watch, which may have resulted in the steep decline of watch exports in the 200-franc to 500-franc price range. Even the Paris terrorist attacks had a major impact on watch in the “City of Light,” according to reports. And 2016 is looking like another year of softer sales.

One thing that hasn’t changed is silly stories in the consumer press that tout complicated timepieces as being “insane” and a layered, carbon-fiber writing instrument that uses a mechanical movement to expose and retract the nib as a “crazy ass pen.”

Back to the matter at hand, despite slowing sales the mood at SIHH was largely positive. The 24 watch brands presented more than enough new items in a number of styles and price points to leave retailers and trade journalists satisfied. One UK retailer told me that prices were more “realistic” this year.

The Parmigiani Senfine concept watch movement with 45-day power reserve

Among the biggest developments, two were for products that were not yet available to the public. The Parmigiani Senfine concept movement, which boasts a remarkable 45-day power reserve, and the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Nuit Lumineuse watch, which has diamonds that light like stars using a mechanical power source (top photo).

Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Spilt Seconds Chronograph

The other big release was the RM 50-02 Tourbillon Spilt Seconds Chronograph ACJ Chronograph, made in a partnership with the exclusive Airbus Corporate Jets division of the Airbus Group. It incorporates design details and materials of the ACJ aircraft. It’s limited to 30 pieces and has a price tag of more than $1 million.

A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon

A. Lange & Söhne, which has mastered the ability to create highly technical movements and house them inside beautifully balanced dials, introduced the latest edition of its highly praised Datograph chronograph timepieces, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon. This newest version from the proudly German company combines the Datograph chronograph with a flyback function and Up/Down power reserve indicator and the typical Lange outsize date; with a perpetual calendar with a moon-phase display; and a tourbillon exposed on the sapphire-crystal caseback and the open tourbillon bridge. 

This year, for the first time, the established 15 brands (11 owned by the Swiss holding company, Richemont) at SIHH were joined by nine watch artisan-creators and independent workshops. They all showcased their unique approach to watchmaking. One brand, Ralph Lauren, pulled out of the show this year.

MB&F Sherman table clock in gold

MB&F, perhaps the most successful of the new group, not only introduced its latest “horological machine” but also unveiled its latest in artistic and creative table clocks. Called “Sherman,” it is once again made in partnership with Swiss clock manufacturer, L’Epée 1839. It is in the shape of a boyish robot, with movable arms and hands, and tank-like caterpillar tracks for feet. It was inspired by the US Sherman tank and MB&F’s founder, Maximilian Büsser’s on-going quest to revisit his childhood. The balance and escapement of L’Epée’s eight-day, in-line movement is located under the transparent dome of Sherman's head.

The Roger Dubuis Blossom Velvet ladies timepiece

Finally, Roger Dubuis declared 2016 to be the “Year of the Velvet Diva” by focusing on a collection of ladies watches called, Velvet. The five-watch collection combines high jewels powered by robust automatic movements.

For more highlights from what is rightfully touted as the watch industry’s most luxurious and exclusive watch show, stay turned to this blog.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Friday, January 29, 2016

Jewellery & Gem Fair – Europe Offers Romance and Creativity

Jewellery & Gem Fair – Europe, being held March 19 – 22 at Messe Freiburg, Germany, will include new themes and seminars designed to encourage creative collaboration and business networking. 

One feature is simply called, “LOVE,” which will showcase fine jewelry relating to romance that goes beyond bridal jewels. Another is “DESIGN,” which is an international networking platform for European design students lead by the Hochschule Trier, Campus of Idar-Oberstein, and Hochschule Pforzheim. 

The event offers seminars, hosted by the trade fair organizer, UBM Asia, in cooperation with two jewelry associations. They are as follows:

“Gemstones Seminar: A visit to the world’s largest ruby, emerald and amethyst mines.” Claudio C. Milisenda of DSEF German Gem Lab will discuss the gemstone mines of Gemfields, a mining company based in London. The company is known to own the world’s largest ruby, emerald and amethyst mines in Mozambique and Zambia. This seminar is hosted by the Deutsche Gemmologische Gesellschaft e.V. on 19 March.

“The romantic wedding ring seminars.” Two seminar sessions hosted by USE Uhren Schmuck Edelsteine Bildungszentrum Pforzheim on wedding ring consultation will be held March 20. The seminar speaker, Kaju, is the creative head and founder of the platinum atelier and goldsmith Aurom from Worms, Germany. He specializes with bridal jewelry as well as customer psychology and behavior.

Visitor pre-registration for the fair is available at this link. Pre-registration enables visitors to avoid long lines at the registration counters and save the admission fee of €30. The organizers are offering a free shuttle bus service from various points to Messe Freiburg throughout the fair’s four-day run. The timetable will be announced later. For updates, visit this link

In addition, Deutschen Bahn AG is offering a special concession on train tickets (from €99 and up) for visitors travelling from any German city to JGF Europe in Freiburg. Follow this link for booking details.

The Fair's Official Airline, Lufthansa Group Partner Airlines, will offer special air fares and conditions to those flying to Germany from around the globe. To make a reservation, visit this link and enter the access code CNZZQGC in the "Access to Your Special Lufthansa Offer" area. 

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Montblanc, Marc Newson Create New Writing Instruments

Montblanc M collection designed by Marc Newson

Montblanc has teamed with famed contemporary designer Marc Newson for a new collection of writing instruments designed to appeal to a younger audience.

Together they created the Montblanc M collection of writing instruments that combine the iconic elements of the famed designer with the heritage of the iconic luxury brand. It is the first time Montblanc has participated in a design partnership in its 110-year history. 

Newson is one of the most important and successful contemporary designers in the world. He has designed products ranging from clothing to airplanes. He is best known for designing the Lockheed Lounge chair, one of which sold at auction for $3.5 million, the most expensive object ever sold by a living designer. Most recently he was hired by Apple as part of its design team and has had input in the design of the Apple watch.

The Montblanc M collection has been available since September but they received their first proper public unveiling at the recently concluded Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva. Newson said the writing instruments were designed with an aesthetic and a price that should appeal to a younger audience. 

“The idea was to try and design something which perhaps is a little more accessible for a slightly different demographic … a slightly younger person,” Newson said prior to Montblanc’s 110th anniversary celebration January 18 in Geneva. “A product that is not in the same price range and that we could potentially target for a different segment. It could in some ways be perceived as an entry into the world of Montblanc.”

Montblanc M fountain pen retails for $565, compared with the Montblanc Meisterstück 149 fountain pen at $935. A rollerball and ballpoint models are available at $400 each. There’s also a “ScreenWriter” for use on touch screens and a thin “Montblanc Artfineliner” for technical drawing.

“The purpose of the item was not to design a cheap product or a disposable product,” Newson said. “It was designed as a very high quality writing instrument for a younger demographic; who I might add probably doesn’t have the same historical relationship with writing instruments as someone of my generation.”

The M pens have a sleeker design than the typical Montblanc writing instrument. The rounded shape gradually moves to a flat surface at its end—a new design direction for the luxury brand. These elements are among Newson’s trademark biomorphic style, defined by its fluid and pure organic forms. 

Meanwhile, the pens have the iconic elements associated with Montblanc, such as Montblanc emblem made of white resin on the tip and on the flattened end. The platinum-plated clip is mounted into the cap so it doesn’t interrupt the design flow. The ruthenium-plated metal (a platinum alloy) forepart that balances the weight of the writing instrument is engraved with “MONTBLANC.” The 14k gold nib for the first time is plated in two tones, using rhodium and ruthenium. The nib is engraved with the letters “MN” for the designer.

“If you look at the type of person we were trying to pitch, I think the product had to be recognizably Montblanc and it had to be slightly more modern slightly more contemporary in its lines at the same time,” Newson said. “If you saw it in the window of a shop you have to be able to recognize that it’s a Montblanc. There were these two dynamics that we had to play with.”

A key functional aspect of this writing instrument is the magnetic closing of the cap and barrel, with what is described as “an additional snap mechanism” designed to the make the closure smoother and ensure the cap stays firm.

Newson said Montblanc CEO Jérôme Lambert approached him with the problem of designing a new writing instrument for a new audience. The two have worked together previously when Lambert had the same position with luxury watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre. Newson designed the Atmos 561 and 566 clocks. 

Newson described the task as a problem solving exercise. 

“He asked me if I would be interested in designing something quite specific for Montblanc,” Newson said. “Not a project but a specific target in mind and he thought I could add some value. A series of writing instruments with the same sort of design.”

The result is a collection that is both contemporary in form and speaks to the legacy of the brand. 

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Friday, January 22, 2016

Kerv Contactless Payment Smart Ring Funded On Kickstarter

By Chris Benham, co-founder and director of Inspired Jewellery Ltd., and Angelka Vegar, marketing coordinator of Inspired Jewellery Ltd.

The world’s first contactless payment ring has been funded through Kickstarter, achieving 43 percent more than its goal, with more than 2,000 backers. The backers pledged 110,182 British pounds ($158,000) to help bring this project to life.

The ring is called Kerv, and although there are other smart rings on the market, Kerv is the first ring that allows you to make a payment simply by swiping your hand over a contactless payment terminal. We spoke to one of Kerv’s founders, Philip Campbell.

Campbell and the team behind Kerv have backgrounds in the payments, digital, creative and electrical engineering industries. 

“We worked on a number of innovative projects in the FinTech sector, but we felt that they weren’t fulfilling their potential, and neither did the other products in the market. We felt we could do it better. Our goal was to make a piece of wearable technology that was desirable and looked more like a fashion item than a piece of technology. Nobody wants to wear ugly jewelry. It’s as simple as that.”

The ring comes in seven colors. Its design was developed by creative director, Dean Leybourn. “Dean and I have worked together for over 15 years, and he's a significant influence on the overall concept.”

And it would seem that people do want to wear it, with such a positive response from more than 2,000 backers pledging their money to get their hands (or fingers) on Kerv. It shows that there is demand for this wearable technology.

Kerv is being marketed to those who are young and active, whose minds are on which mountain to climb next or which gig to attend on Friday. Not concerned with the details, they just want to do it, be there and jump right in.

Currently in the production phase, it will be interesting to follow the journey of this new product concept—a wearable that aims to blend a good-looking aesthetic with useful technology. Executed well, it will provide many opportunities for the company, including opportunities to partner with banks, sports and lifestyle brands looking for clever ways to capture the younger, ‘less is more’ audience. You only need to look at the success of minimalist wallets from the likes of Bellroy, echoing the sentiment of millennials whose daily grind is to ditch the excess.

Campbell points out another group of consumers who have showed positive interest in Kerv. “One of the best responses we have received is from people that lack dexterity in their hands, be it the elderly or some disabled users. We are currently working with some disabled users and groups to help refine the product for this group as it could provide significant benefits. We are very keen to see if we can help support this audience”.

Initial plans were to sell Kerv directly online but the firm is now actively exploring the potential to sell via retail partners, specifically jewelry retailers. “This offers a great opportunity for users to see, touch and try the ring which we have seen leads to a very positive impression.”

There’s no doubt that smart rings are on the rise, only last week the OURA Ring was unveiled at CES 2016. But OURA serves a different function — it assesses your body and sleep patterns to help you live a balanced, healthy life. The NFC Ring (also funded through Kickstarter) unlocks doors and smartphones, and Ringly, the ring that most looks like a traditional piece of jewelry, allows you to receive notifications from apps on your smartphone. Kerv claims to be the first ring to allow contactless payments.

When released to the general public, Kerv will retail for 49.99 British pounds ($71).

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Friday, January 15, 2016

Jewels (And One More Watch) For Year Of The Monkey

Earrings in 18k black rhodium gold, fancy sapphires, tsavorites and fire opals by Lydia Courteille

It wasn’t easy finding jewels depicting monkeys, and more specifically the “fire monkey,” which is the animal to be celebrated for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

The Lunar New Year or Spring Festival will be celebrated Feb. 8 this year. It is near and dear to those living in Asia and those of Chinese descent all over the world. Below is a selection of jewelry (and in one case a ladies watch) from the US and Europe with artistic portrayals of the animal.

The well-known Parisian high jewelry designer, Lydia Courteille, specializes in creating wild, colorful and innovative representations of flora and fauna. So she had no problem designing two sets of whimsical earrings created with colorful diamonds and precious gems and crafted in extraordinary detail. In both instances, the pavé jeweled monkeys are dangling off of a vine attached to a pavé jeweled rose.

Earrings in 18k black rhodium gold with pink sapphires, brown diamonds, black diamonds and pink opal by Lydia Courteille

One is in different shades of pink and brown with its other hand holding a cluster of grapes made of pink opal. The second in blue shades is holding a single teardrop shaped blue agate.

This motif goes to extreme lengths with another pair of earrings in fiery reds and oranges with the monkeys in the same position enclosed in a circle of tsavorites and fire opals (top picture).

Meanwhile, the artistic Spanish jeweler, Carrera y Carrera, made a yellow gold monkey head ring with the gold on the top of the head meticulously carved in intricate detail (pictured above). The gold-carved skull is then topped with rows of colorful precious gems.

Borgioni, an American jeweler with Italian roots, created a playful charm necklace featuring a brown diamond pavé monkey in a classic pose scratching its head (pictured above). Beside the figure are two bananas made of yellow sapphire pavé.

I did a story on Year of the Monkey watches but missed one and here it is. Jaquet Droz has created two timepieces in two versions based on its Petite Heure Minute collection and inspired by the legend of Sun Wukong, also known as the Monkey King.

The dial of the Petite Heure Minute Monkey (pictured above) depicts the animal leaping onto a branch to pick a peach. These painted dials are presented in 35 or 39 mm red gold cases. The bezel of the smaller watch is set with brilliant-cut diamonds.

The Petite Heure Minute Relief Monkey (pictured above) is made of lacquer and mother-of-pearl then sculpted in gold, perched on the branch of a peach tree against a background of foliage. The artwork has been created in two versions. One is enclosed in a red gold case and the other in a white gold case with diamonds. The oscillating weight, designed to match, marries gold that is first engraved then patinated, with black onyx.

Both models are powered by the Jaquet Droz 2653.P automatic movement with a 68-hour power reserve. They are available in a limited edition of 28.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Etienne Perret’s Gem Ceramic Ring With Color Enhanced Natural Diamonds

Etienne Perret has carved a very successful niche for himself creating bridal and fashion jewelry using traditional and new materials. He specializes in color enhanced natural diamonds, 18k gold, platinum and Gem Ceramic. The results are first-rate designs that are affordable.

I find that some of his most interesting work is with his contemporary looking gem ceramic pieces. Perret was fascinated with this material for more than 20 years but its durability made it difficult to work with. The solution was to use diamond-cutting tools.

There’s a lot of variety in the designs in terms of shapes, colors and complimentary materials. The ring pictured is further adorned with round color enhanced natural diamonds.

Etienne Perret jewels are available at specialty retailers throughout the country and even in Amsterdam. Follow this link to the locations.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Eight ‘Protagonists’ Honored As Jewelers And Artists

The statuette by Alex Soldier consists of 35 separate parts of gold and platinum with rubies, sapphires, diamonds and pearls. A removable ruby ring completes the work. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Eight US jewelers were honored by an Italian publication for their uncompromising vision Monday while they showed their jewels during a special event at Bonhams New York.

They were selected by the Italian jewelry publication, Vogue Gioiello, in its annual listing of “US Protagonists,” described as being “the best contemporary fine jewelry designers in the US.” The idea is to give these US-based artists international attention.

Maria Soldier wears Alex Soldier’s Anemone Coronaria (crown) brooches during the “US Protagonists” event at Bonhams New York. Photo by Anthony DeMarco 

The eight U.S. “protagonists” for this year are: Alex Soldier, Alexandra Mor, Heidi Gardner NYC, Hoorsenbuhs, K. Brunini Jewels, Suzanne Kalan, Sylva & Cie and Temple St. Clair.

Approximately 350 jewelry lovers and media representatives attended the event in which each jeweler showed their work in display cases. Since nearly all of the designers were in attendance, people were able to talk with them as well try on and buy their jewels.

Alexandra Mor and her jewels. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Susan Abeles, Bonhams director of US Jewelry, in her welcoming remarks, stressed that the pieces on display are wearable and collectible art.

“These are jewelers of the 21st Century,” she said. “It’s your responsibility to meet them, to hear their story, to find their inspiration, and to touch the jewelry—pick it up, try it on. To understand what the artist was trying to do…. Pick out what you like. There’s something in every taste and for everyone.”

There certainly was something for everyone as each designer showcased their independent, artistic flair.

Alex Soldier pearl ring. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

For example, Alex Soldier specializes in several techniques, including those he created, and combines them in jewelry of differing textures and forms. One of his specialties is using casting techniques to create sculptural pieces made of many separate parts. In fact, in addition to jewels, Soldier is known for his sculptural objets d'art.

Rare amatrin gem (which combines the colors of amethyst and citrine) on a ring flanked by two amethysts by Alexandra Mor. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Alexandra Mor creates elegant, well-crafted pieces with signature characteristics such as the use of large colored gemstones, “floating” diamond melee and knife-edge wire trim. Out of this group, she is perhaps the best at incorporating her work and her persona into her brand.

Wrap your wrist with a woman’s pelvic bone. 18K Gold Plated Brass with five orange sapphires by Heidi Gardner NYC. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Heidi Gardner describes her work as “dangerous and delicate” and for good reason. She specializes in jewels that depict skeletal structures—such as spines, pelvises and (of course) skulls—of humans and all sorts of animals whether they walk, swim or fly. Somehow she manages to make her silver and gold-plated brass pieces to appear playful and even beautiful.

Katey Brunini wearing her large flower brooches made of cow bones. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Katey Brunini of K. Brunini Jewels is artistic, innovative and endlessly creative, taking inspiration from the primitive to the modern and using materials one would not associate with jewelry making, such as cow bones, which she fashioned into large, milky white flower brooches that she wore at the event.

Tree of Life pendant by Temple St. Clair. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Temple St. Clair has been a leader in the fine jewelry industry for many years, known for her signature gold pieces with colored gems and design influences from her travels around the world. All of her jewels are handmade in Florence by traditional goldsmiths. Last year she introduced a couture line of nine one-of-a-kind pieces. Those works were not at the event as she chose to show some of her signature pieces.

Ancient coin necklace with handmade beads By Sylva & Cie. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Sylva & Cie was one of the biggest surprises for me at the event. I never saw its pieces in person or met its founder and designer, Sylva Yepremian. She creates high quality fine jewels but the most interesting items for me were jewels that combine new materials with vintage and period items, such as antique coins and glass beads, into one-of-a-kind pieces.

Patile Kalandjian wears diamond and gold choker by Suzanne Kalan. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Suzanne Kalan, whose jewels are designed by Suzanne and her daughter, Patile, are well known for their “Fireworks” collection, which features baguette-cut diamonds placed in clusters and rows and other untraditional ways that appear like firecrackers.

Long, flowing linked gold chain by Hoorsenbuhs. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Hoorsenbuhs, founded by self-taught designer Robert Keith in 2005, specializes in fashion-forward hand-made luxury gold jewels. The company is best-known for its tri-link rings and its partnerships with a number of celebrities.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes website

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Harry Winston, Chopard Win 2016 Golden Globes

Jennifer Lawrence in Chopard “High Jewelry" choker with 156.77 carats of diamonds set in 18k white gold.  Photo credit: Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Harry Winston and Chopard were among the jewelry highlights at the 2016 Golden Globes red carpet Sunday in an otherwise showcase of jewels that lacked in diversity and color.

Jennifer Lopez in 200 Carats of Harry Winston Diamonds: Winston Cluster Diamond Wreath Necklace, 46.95 carats, set in platinum. Caftan Cascading Drop Diamond Necklace, 68.40 carats, set in platinum. Pear, marquise and round brilliant cut diamond bracelet, 59.27 carats set in platinum. Yellow diamond drop earrings, 16.46 carats, set in 18kt yellow gold and platinum. Diamond band Ring, 5.21 carats, set in platinum· Radiant cut yellow diamond ring, with diamond side stones

The consensus winner of this year’s awards event was Jennifer Lawrence who wore a large sparkling one-of-a-kind choker with 156.77 carats of diamonds set in 18k white gold from the luxury brand’s “High Jewelry Collection.”

Lady Gaga in Neil Lane diamond jewels

However, Harry Winston also had an excellent showing with Jennifer Lopez, Helen Mirren, Katy Perry and Lily James all wearing Winston’s white diamond jewels. Piaget also did well dressing actresses and actors with its jewels and watches.

Zendaya in Yoko London pearl and diamond earrings and ring and a Lydia Courteille garnet and diamond ring

Familiar names once again dominated the red carpet and in fact may have increased its presence. In addition to brands mentioned, there was Fred Leighton, Neil Lane, Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier. This may be why red carpet jewels lacked excitement overall, as white diamonds and precious metals dominated the event. A few in the jewelry industry were disappointed as well saying that just about everyone is being paid to wear jewels.

Caitriona Balfe in Fred Leighton 1920's diamond and platinum pendant earrings; 1920's natural pearl and diamond ring, in platinum. Photo credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

But there were still plenty of highlights. I don’t think Lady Gaga looked better in her Neil Lane jewels. The young Zendaya showed refined international tastes with her choice of Yoko London pearl and diamond earrings matched with a garnet and diamond ring by Parisian high jewelry designer Lydia Courteille.

Taraji P. Henson in earrings designed by Kimberly McDonald, featuring 107-carat cushion-cut Gemfields Zambian emerald with diamonds. Photo by Jason Merritt via Getty Images

Taraji P. Henson was adorned with large emerald earrings by US high jewelry designer, Kimberly McDonald. The 107 carats worth of emeralds were from colored gemstone mining and marketing company, Gemfields. Caitriona Balfe 1920’s diamond and platinum pendant earrings provided by Fred Leighton was another highlight of the evening.

Montblanc Heritage Chronometrie Dual Time Ident 112540 and Montblanc Cufflinks Ident Photo credit: 112896. Jordan Straus/AP 

Men’s watches had some time in the spotlight as well with Mark Ruffalo sporting Monblanc, Matt Damon and Michael B. Jordan in Piaget and Eddie Redmayne in an Omega Globemaster “Master Chronometer.”

View more Golden Globe jewelry highlights by following this link

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes website

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Signet Jewelers Holiday Sales Up 5%, Same Store Sales Up 4.9%

Kay Jewelers, the largest specialty retail jewelry store in the US based on sales, posted a year-over-year 8.9 percent increase in sales to $778 million.

Signet Jewelers Limited said Thursday that year-over-year sales increased 5 percent to nearly $1.95 billion for the eight-week holiday period ended December 26. Total sales for the period at constant exchange rates increased 6.3 percent compared to the prior year.

Holiday same-store sales increased an equally impressive 4.9 percent compared to an increase of 3.6 percent in the prior year. This was driven primarily by mall-based and outlet concepts in the US as well as Ernest Jones stores in the UK, the company said.

Signet’s e-commerce sales for the holidays increased 10.9 percent to $139.7 million.

Signet bills itself as “the world's largest retailer of diamond jewelry” operating approximately 3,600 stores and eCommerce properties in the US, UK, Canada and Puerto Rico primarily under the name brands of Kay Jewelers, Zales, Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry, H.Samuel, Ernest Jones, Peoples and Piercing Pagoda.

Mark Light, Signet CEO, said in a statement the positive results “were driven by broad-based success across strategic store brands, merchandise categories and selling channels…. The continuation of strong sales and profitability combined with operating expenses that were in-line with expectations, including as-anticipated credit-related expense trends, enabled us to narrow our fourth quarter earnings guidance as well as our same store sales guidance to the top end of the previously provided guidance.”

In a conference call with investors this morning Light was particularly upbeat regarding its “Ever Us” two-diamond ring promotion that was used for several of the company’s brands, including Kay, Zale and Jared in the US, H.Samuels and Ernest Jones in the UK. Light said it was the biggest new launch in Signet’s history and did well in all the stores in the US and UK that carried the program.

“Most importantly, it crosses over gift giving categories and we are excited by that,” Light added.

Nearly all of Signet’s US properties did well during the holidays led by Kay Jewelers, the largest specialty retail jewelry store in the US based on sales, which posted a year-over-year 8.9 percent increase in sales to $778 million. Same store sales for the middle-market retail jeweler were 7.2 percent.

Zales US jewelry stores saw a 6 percent increase in sales to $400.2 million and a 5.6 percent growth in same store sales.

In the UK Ernest Jones same store sales increased 6.9 percent, while total sales were up 4.9 percent to $98 million (9 percent at constant exchange rates).

Only Signet’s Canadian operations suffered losses for the holiday season. Revenues in Canada and the UK were negatively impacted by exchanges rates.

Fourth quarter financial guidance was adjusted upward and is as follows:

* Same store Sales 4.6 percent to 5 percent
* Earnings per Share $3.44 to $3.50
* Adjusted Earnings per Share $3.54 to $3.60

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes website