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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tradeshow Networking

Baselworld 2014 Photo credit: Courtesy of Baselworld

By Lisa Nikfarjam of Lisa Nik, Inc.

Every year it can seem like we are going around in a circle from one event to the next, one store to the next, and one tradeshow to the next. I've heard many retailers and manufacturers ask, “Are we doing too many tradeshows?” and “Maybe we should sit this one out?”

Having established a company during the past five years, I realize that every time I attend a tradeshow or visit a store, or made the effort to attend an event, something significant happens. Companies that have existed much longer may forget this and newer companies may feel hesitant or not even know about the networking opportunities at trade shows. 

We exhibit at the Centurion Jewelry show in Phoenix and at The Couture Show annually. In addition, I attend Baselworld. Walking around this fair, I am always surprised to experience the things that can happen while standing in line for cappuccino, waiting for someone at a hotel lobby and even on the airplane or train from Zurich. There is a special energy in Basel, maybe because the town is laid out in a way that makes things more intimate, making it much easier to bump into fellow jewelers. Since most people are not shy about eavesdropping, you can literally be having a conversation on the tram on the way to the fair and end up with three new friends and business contacts by the time you get there.

I would compare networking in Basel to the feeling that you may have had when doing an abroad program in college. I find that generally, the North Americans congregate together and are pretty easy to find. After walking the colored stone sections in Basel each day, hunting for new materials and colored gemstones, the end of day routine usually leads me to the Plaza, Ramada, or Three Kings lobby to meet up with friends and colleagues. With certainty I know that in these three places, I will find a familiar crowd of editors, retailers, tradeshow executives to share my findings with. 

There are also significant networking opportunities surrounding the JA New York shows, JCK Events, In Store, and the AGTA GemFair Tucson. This year, during the Tucson show, JCK is partnering with the American Gem Society Young Titleholders and Gen Next Jewelers to host a networking mixer on February 3 at the JW Marriott Hotel. For more information on how to attend this event, join GNJ on Facebook.

The Women's Jewelry Association, American Gem Society and GNJ associations make it easy to attend exciting awards ceremonies, mixers, and cocktail receptions. One of the most important galas you can attend in the industry is the WJA Awards for Excellence held during the summer. Whether you are a designer, editor, retailer, manufacturer or industry service provider, there is something special that can happen to you by attending this gala.      

To make the most of it, you have to treat all of these events as an extension of the tradeshows and be prepared to fearlessly talk to new people that you may have never met before. Following up with new friends and acquaintances is always easy when you have had fun mingling while at work.

Lisa Nikfarjam is founder of the jewelry design firm, Lisa Nik, a company that combines colored gemstones, diamonds, and artful elements to create fashionable jewelry that women around the world can enjoy on any occasion.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Red Carpet Jewelry at SAG Awards

Jennifer Aniston in an Amrit yellow gold jewelry chain

The Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday presented a second opportunity for jewelry to shine on the red carpet. Although many of the outfits worn were bright and colorful, the jewelry that was was largely based on white metals and diamonds. 

There was a little bit more color present than during the Golden Globe Awards red carpet a few weeks earlier. But still white and conservative were the key themes again when it comes to jewelry. 

Below are some of the top looks of the evening:

Jennifer Aniston (top photo) was practically shimmering in yellow (her dress and even her skin). She wore a long gold Amrit jewelry chain accompanied by Fred Leighton yellow gold bracelets and earrings. It was one of the boldest statements on the SAG red carpet.

Maggie Gyllenhaal also delved into the yellow gold trend wearing Fred Leighton Victorian Gold pendant earrings and 1940s gold, peridot and diamond ring. 

However, the red carpet was most characterized by Reese Witherspoon displaying an elegant ensemble of more than $3.5 million worth of Harry Winston diamonds that included emerald-cut diamond drop earrings set in platinum, a 24-carat princess-cut diamond line bracelet set in platinum, and a cushion-cut pink sapphire & diamond cluster ring.

The Forevermark brand is dependent on white diamonds with white metals. Kaley Cuoco Sweeting was elegantly layered in a variety of pieces including Forevermark by Leo Schachter Flower Stud Earrings with Round Brilliant Forevermark Diamonds set in 18k white gold; two diamond and platinum Forevermark bracelets, and Forevermark diamond cuff set in 18k white gold.

Alysia Reiner was equally elegant wearing a full suite of diamond jewelry by Simon G. Jewelry in 18k white gold.

Patricia Arquette in Fred Leighton 19th Century gold pendant earrings.

Uzo Aduba in Forevermark by Rahaminov Diamonds, including Flower Cluster stud earrings; The Center of My Universe diamond ring; and diamond line bracelets, all in 18k white gold.

Laverne Cox in Forevermark Diamonds, including Forevermark by Natalie K The Center of My Universe bracelets; Forevermark pave oval ring; and Forevermark circle earrings, all set in 18k white gold.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus added a touch of color in Fred Leighton cushion cut diamond drop earrings with an amethyst and rose-cut diamond scalloped cluster ring.

A newcomer to the red carpet, Kimiko Glenn kept to the understated theme by with a contemporary look by wearing Dionea Orcini ear climbers. In white of course. 

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

Monday, January 26, 2015

Jewellery & Gem Fair - Europe To Divide Products Into Three Sections

UBM Asia will implement what it calls a product “sectorisation” concept for the tradeshow Jewellery & Gem Fair-Europe. Under the concept, the fair will be divided into three sections—loose materials, fine jewelry and packaging, tools & equipment—with of the goal of making it easier for buyers to locate exhibitors and products. It's the same concept it uses for its other trade fairs.

The second annual JGF Europe will be held March 22 – 25 at Messe Freiburg, Germany. 

“The product sectorisation concept received a warm welcome from exhibitors and visitors at the world’s number one fine jewelry event—the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. We are bringing this idea to JGF Europe,” said Celine Lau, director of Jewellery Fairs, UBM Asia. 

JGF Europe is positioned as a B2B mid-end jewelry sourcing platform for continental Europe. This year’s fair will expand from three halls to four halls and will include the central foyer. The exhibition area totals 25,000sqm, 47 percent larger than the first edition.

Most exhibitors expanded their booths, according to Lau. At the fine jewelry section, there will also be a wider range of products and product categories with associations and group pavilions from India, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Thailand, Turkey and the United States.

Fine jewelry companies that have confirmed their participation include Friedrich Binder GmbH & Co KG, DiamondGroup GmbH, Euro Gems Srl, Herbert Giloy & Soehne GmbH & Co KG – bellaluce, HN Jewelry Group, Lenti Srl, Lorenzo Jewelry Limited, Rio Pearl, Pranda Group, Su-Raj Inter Gold Pvt Ltd and Thien Po Ltd.

As of now, more than 60 percent of exhibitors are from Europe. The remaining suppliers are from around the world with the larger contingents from Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Visitor pre-registration for the fair is now open online. More than 1,200 buyers pre-registered, UBM Asia said.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Charlotte Casiraghi Unveiled as Montblanc's New Global Brand Ambassador during SIHH

Charlotte Casiraghi, Montblanc’s new global brand ambassador at SIHH 2015

Waiting for the announcement of Montblanc’s new female global ambassador in the luxury brand’s exhibition space during the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva, a few of us from the UK and other places were trying to guess who it would be. A Montblanc representative from the Middle East knew who it was but refused to say, although she gave some hints. 

Guess whose guess came the closest? I said it would be someone from the Monaco Royal family. 

It turned out to be Charlotte Casiraghi, the daughter of Caroline, Princess of Hanover, and the granddaughter of Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, and American actress Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco. She is seventh in line to the throne of Monaco, according to Wikipedia.

Following her brief appearance in the booth, she joined the German luxury brand for a formal dinner at the President Wilson Hotel, which I attended.

Jérôme Lambert, Montblanc CEO, and Charlotte Casiraghi, Montblanc brand ambassador, at SIHH 2015

In addition to her royal pedigree, Casiraghi is an equestrian champion, writer and film producer. She will appear in Montblanc’s upcoming advertising campaign, as she takes on the role of worldwide ambassador for the German luxury house. Her primary role will be as the face of Montblanc’s Bohème collection, consisting of ladies watches, jewelry and writing instruments. The collection was first unveiled in August in Shanghai, and is gradually being released worldwide.

“She perfectly represents the Bohème lady of today, with her charming combination of style and substance,” said Jérôme Lambert, Montblanc International CEO. “Her beauty, allure and charisma are matched by her fascinating personality and her many accomplishments, from sport to business or philanthropy.”

Those attending the Geneva event included Taiwanese-born actress and Montblanc brand ambassador Kwai Lun Mei, French actor Pierre Niney, best known for his portrayal of Yves Saint Laurent in the movie of the same name, badminton champion and Montblanc China brand ambassador Lin Dan, and fashion blogger Adam Gallagher. 

Bohème Date Automatic Jewellery watch with a diamond pavé dial and red-gold bezel adorned with diamonds. It’s powered by a MB 24.14 automatic movement.

Casiraghi has a well-rounded resume. Her journalistic skills (very important for a luxury brand best known for its writing instruments) include contributing to publications as a writer and editor. As an environmental awareness advocate, she co-founded eco-friendly magazines, Above and Ever Manifesto, where she uses fashion, art, photography and design to raise consciousness of the endangered environment. She also co-founded Swoon Productions; a Monaco-based company that produces videos, documentaries and short films.

However, her greatest passion is in equestrian sports, and as an accomplished show jumper, she participated in several international competitions, including the Global Champions Tour. In 2010, she was appointed Honorary President of the Jumping International de Monte-Carlo. 

She also lends her support to charitable organizations in the Principality of Monaco where she lives and beyond. 

Casiraghi did not speak at either event. In a statement she said she is “thrilled to be collaborating with Montblanc, a luxury brand that stands for outstanding European craftsmanship, excellence in design and the finest quality pieces. With its heritage of sophistication, Montblanc excels at creating enduring pieces with a truly distinctive contemporary yet timeless style. The maison is also committed to the advancement of arts and culture, and has been on many occasions an active supporter of arts.”

This is the second time in recent years Montblanc has turned to the royal family of Monaco. In 2011, it came out with a jewelry collection, called Collection Princesse Grace de Monaco, as a tribute to Princess Grace and Monaco.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Out of the Gate, 10 Luxury Watches for 2015

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Squelette Ladies Watch

The new year isn’t even a month old and the Swiss watch industry started issuing releases of its new watches. In fact, the parade of new 2015 products began before 2014 ended. 

Out of the many new releases, I am going to focus on some of the brands that will be exhibiting at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, better known as SIHH, being held January 19 till 23. It’s also known as the Richemont show because the majority of the luxury brands exhibiting are owned by Switzerland-based luxury goods holding company, Compagnie Financière Richemont. It is the first major watch tradeshow of the year and it is also considered by many to be the most exclusive and luxurious of them all. 

A total of 16 brands will be exhibiting and out of that group are introductions from 10 of the companies. 

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia, Saxonia Automatic and Saxonia Dual Time
The German watch brand is introducing three new models to its popular Saxonia collection. The solid-gold applied hour markers have been moved toward the periphery of the dial and are executed as double baton appliqués at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock; along with slightly extended black graduations of the minute scale. For the Automatic and Dual Time models, the seconds subdial is marked by numerals every 10 seconds. The company said all modifications were made in the interest of improved legibility. The new design resulted in a slightly smaller case for the two models. The Saxonia is powered with the in-house manual wind caliber L941.1, the Automatic uses the in-house L086.1 caliber, and the Dual Time uses the in-house automatic L086.2 caliber.

Greubel Forsey Black GMT
The 43.5 mm case is made of titanium treated with vacuum deposited amorphous diamond-like carbon (ADLC), a black coating that displays some of the properties of diamond. It is harder than natural titanium. The movement's main plate and bridges also have a black finish. Greubel Forsey says this helps to bring out the contrast between the different textures and surface finishes of each component. The case houses a GF05 in house movement with a 24-second tourbillon inclined at a 25 degree angle GMT function, three-dimensional globe for day and night indication, a rotating disc with 24 different time zones, daylight savings indication and a 72 hour power reserve. The watch is limited to a production of 22.

IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar
Located at 12 o’clock on the dial, the annual calendar shows the month, date and day in three separate, semicircular windows. The switching mechanism automatically takes into account the differing lengths of individual months. However, unlike a perpetual calendar, the annual calendar cannot factor the differing lengths of the month of February or the leap years. So once a year, at the end of February, it requires manual adjustment with a built-in “corrector.” Its 44.2mm case, grooved bezel, classic railway-track-style chapter ring, slim feuille hands and Arabic numerals, the Portugieser Annual Calendar resembles the original Portugieser of 1939. The small seconds subdial is positioned at 9 o’clock. The subdial on the opposite side serves as the power reserve display. The automatic in-house 52850 caliber movement has a seven-day power reserve. 

Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum
The name Orbis Terrarum, is the Latin term for “globe,” “earth,” and “world.” The in-house complication of the MB29.20 automatic caliber displays 24 time zones in a practical and intuitive way. The dial, constructed in multi-layers, displays the continents and oceans as viewed from the North Pole. Under the main dial is a disc showing day and night, which rotates with the movement of the 24-hour mechanism on the outermost layer on the dial. The names of 24 cities circle the central image surrounded by their respective time zones on the 24-hour mechanism. The disc with the cities can rotate separately from the 24-hour disc with the aid of the pusher located at 8 o’clock. To adjust the time the desired home city needs to be positioned with its corresponding time at 6 o’clock. 

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Squelette - Men
The bridge and main plate of the automatic PF705 caliber skeleton watch for men and ladies (ladies watch pictured in top photo) features a hand-crafted openwork display. The revealed skeleton movement compliments the extra-thin construction (7.8mm for me and 8.4mm for ladies). The platinum micro-rotor is visible on the surface of the watch. The pattern consists of the company’s iconic lugs. The dial is made of sapphire, giving it the impression of being invisible. Only the rim is metalized, which hides the points of attachment between the movement and the case. The dial on the men’s model is polished and transparent, while the ladies’ model features a subtly frosted dial that resembles a veil. 

Piaget Black Tie Vintage Inspiration

Piaget Black Tie Traditional Oval

Piaget Black Tie 'Vintage Inspiration' and ‘Traditional Oval’
The new models reflect the heritage of Piaget’s unusual-shaped watches. The cushion-shaped Black Tie Vintage Inspiration has a slimmer profile thanks to the automatic Piaget 534P movement. The white gold bezel creates a contrast with the intense blackness of the onyx dial for a contemporary masculine look. The Black Tie Traditional Oval for ladies features an oval case housing a silver dial with the bezel and bracelet in white gold or yellow gold. In addition, the bezel is topped with 24 brilliant cut diamonds. It’s powered by P56 quartz movement.

Ralph Lauren Automotive Chronograph
Inspired by the instrument panel of Ralph Lauren’s 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe, its curved case horns and chronograph pushers echo the lines of the automobile’s body. The handmade wooden dial element—crafted from loupe d’orme, or elm burl wood—reflects the interior trim of the Type 57 SC’s cockpit. In order to give the dial the same visual detail and impact as the automobile’s instrument panel, only veneers with the right concentration of knots and grains were chosen. Ralph Lauren partnered with Jaeger-LeCoultre to create the RL751A/1 automatic caliber, with a 65-hour power reserve. 

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Skeleton Flying Tourbillon
The company has taken the skeleton theme beyond the movement, extending it to encompass the 45mm skeletonized titanium case, flange and hands to resemble a spider’s web. It has the signature features of Roger Dubuis skeleton watches, such as the star-shaped design, the tourbillon carriage shaped like a Celtic cross and the high-end finishes—including a circular-grained plate. It is powered by the mechanical hand-wound RD505SQ caliber, which features a flying tourbillon at 7:30 (one rotation per minute) and a 60-hour power-reserve.

Richard Mille RM 33-01 Automatic
The skeletonized RMXP3 caliber that powers the RM 33-01 has an off-center platinum micro rotor. This architecture reveals the grade 5 titanium movement, which is wet sandblasted and electroplasmatreated, the surfaces microblasted, drawn and satin-finished with the anglage entirely worked by hand. The taut lines of the sport-inspired design combine the curvature of the brand’s tonneau cases with the construction characteristic of its round watches. The graphic style of the numerals with their outsized dimensions provides better readability. The tripartite case, with a diameter of 45.70 mm and a thickness of 9.20 mm, is mounted on a rubber strap secured with a folding clasp in grade 5 titanium. The result, according to Richard Mille, is a chic design with a sporty feel.

Van Cleef & Arpels Cadenas
The luxury house is reintroducing the Cadenas watch, first created in 1935, said to have been inspired by the zip necklace worn by the Duchess of Windsor. It’s known for its unashamedly modern design with large double hoop-shaped curves attached to a straight-lined watch case. The new collection consists of nine models, powered by a quartz movement. The Cadenas is available in unadorned yellow or white gold. The Cadenas Sertie, also in yellow or white gold, has touches of diamonds on the upper surface of the case and the alligator strap attachment. The Cadenas Pavée highlights the jewelry aspect of the watch with princess cut diamonds on the upper surface of the case and round diamonds on the case, clasp and dial; paired with a white-gold snake chain bracelet. The Cadenas Pavée is in pink gold with pink sapphires and diamonds. Diamonds and a gradation of pink sapphires adorn the case and the clasp of the Cadenas Pavée Saphirs Roses.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Red Carpet Jewelry Roundup for 2015 Golden Globe Awards

Jessica Chastain in Piaget Limelight Couture Précieuse Earrings in white gold set with 194 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 12.91 ct).

In terms of jewelry, the Golden Globe Awards Red Carpet on Sunday resembled more of a Dîner en Blanc event then it did a major entertainment industry celebration. There was so much white it was blinding.

Naomi Watts in Bulgari's signature Serpenti diamond necklace.

Colorless diamonds with white gold and platinum was by far the leading trend on the red carpet Sunday. Very few bold statements as well, as classic, understated styles were the norm.

Julianne Moore in Chopard with two platinum and diamond bracelets and three rings.

Colored gemstones and yellow gold were near invisible. This is unusual considering that the trend in recent years had been leaning well toward colored gems, colored diamonds and yellow gold.

Anna Kendrick in Fred Leighton 1960s ruby and diamond pendant earrings.

Of course the big jewelry houses adorned the biggest stars and made the biggest splash. Jessica Chastain sparkled in white gold and diamond earrings and cuffs by Piaget. Naomi Watts may have the only bold statement of the evening wearing Bulgari’s iconic Serpenti diamond necklace. Julianne Moore was a consensus best dressed of the evening as she matched her metallic gown with two platinum and diamond bracelets and three rings by Chopard.

Allison Janney in Martin Katz 15.83-carat fancy yellow radiant diamond ring microset with 370 diamonds, 7.13-carat fancy yellow radiant diamond earrings, and a yellow radiant and white emerald cut diamond bracelet with 15 fancy yellow diamonds and 15 white emerald cut diamonds.

Fred Leighton also seemed to be the most visible brands on the red carpet Sunday. Usually this would mean a variety of color and styles but not this year. Only Anna Kendrick chose to wear understated ruby and diamond pendant earrings and ring.

Kate Hudson in Forevermark Diamond Jewelry, including Forevermark Exceptional Diamonds by Slane Earrings, a Forevermark Diamond Ring set in platinum, and a Forevermark Diamond Line Bracelet set in platinum.

Martin Katz, known for his diamond designs, although he had been venturing into color in recent years, adorned several stars Sunday but only Allison Janney went with something a bit different using fancy yellow diamonds, but still understated.

Chrissy Teigen in $1 Million in diamonds by Harry Kotlar, including a radiant cut diamond ring and cushion cut pink and white diamond earrings.

The De Beers Forevermark diamond brand, which personifies whiteness in its jewelry, adorned no fewer than three red carpet stars with layers of white diamond and metal jewelry (Kate Hudson, Giuliana Rancic and Frances O’Connor).

Katie Cassidy in $1 Million of Diamonds by Harry Kotlar, including 8-carat round brilliant diamond stud earrings.

Model Chrissy Teigen and actress Katie Cassidy both looked stunning, each wearing more than $1 million of understated (believe it or not) jewelry by Harry Kotlar.

Mark Ruffalo in a Montblanc Star Twin Moonphase timepiece.

Montblanc and Jaeger-LeCoultre helped dress several men in their timepieces and Montblanc added cufflinks for at least two more men walking the red carpet. Hip Hop artist Common sported a carved moonstone elephant and diamond jabot by Fred Leighton.

Jeremy Renner in a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin timepiece.

However, the highlight among those wearing watches was Diane Kruger who looked stunning in a Jaeger-LeCoultre Joaillerie 101 Art Deco timepiece.

Diane Kruger in a Jaeger-LeCoultre Joaillerie 101 Art Deco timepiece.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wearables: What Happens When Tech Companies Design Wearable Products

By Chris Benham, co-founder and director of Inspired Jewellery Ltd.

Wearables is a big discussion point at the moment with the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas—where the who’s who of the tech industry launched their latest products and innovations. Many people, including myself, watched with interest to see all the latest product launches. I must admit I was pretty deflated when I saw an article on all the designs of the watches. Almost as deflated as I was when the Apple Watch was launched. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a gadget lover. I already have visions of incorporating my wearable in my daily life. I hop into my car. It starts up with my proximity key watch with the door already opened this way. Buy my coffee by swiping my phone using NFC technology (I can’t wait to be able to ditch my wallet and keys!) Then get home and open my garage door with the watch. Then walk to my front door and open my Kevo lock with the touch of my finger. Then as I walk in the Philip Hue lights come on along with the Sonos music streaming my favorite stations … you get the idea. But no matter how cool all this is, I won’t wear it if I look like a walking computer. 

To win me over you’ve got to combine exquisite design with exceptional ease of use. An epic challenge. No doubt Apple, Samsung/Android and Withings have all nailed the software side of this. Currently I see the wearables that have been launched fall into two categories: 

The first is the phone/tablet/laptop on your wrist category. These are the ones that feel like they’ve been designed by the creators of the software who are often not inherently wearable product designers such as watch, jewelry and fashion designers. The ones that fall into this category include the major brands like the Apple Watch, Samsung and Fitbit. It feels strange adding Apple and Samsung into this category as they are arguably the best product designers in the world. 

The second category are the traditional watches that have had some “smarts” added to them but still essentially look like a regular watch to the layperson. These include examples like Withings Activate, the latest LG and Guess watches.

When designing jewelry our challenge is always to make the diamond integral to the design and not an afterthought. The most successful diamond ring designs are the ones that achieve this. Consumers inherently can feel this when they see a design that passes or fails this emotional test. I currently believe there is a gaping hole in the wearable watch between the two categories. The technological advances are not integral to the design and consumer need. They feel like someone has plunked a phone on your wrist or a diamond on a band because you’ve got to get the diamond on there somehow.

Watches, like jewelry, provide people with an outward expression of themselves, their personality and lifestyle. They buy a watch because they have an emotional connection to the design. They already have a clock on their phone so they don’t need one like they used to. But they still buy them because of this connection and expression. 

Currently one of the biggest barriers I believe in creating a successful wearable is that in order for it to be successful you need exceptional software to back it up. This can cost millions if not tens of millions to develop. No doubt when Apple’s Watch is available it will have an exceptional user experience that integrates with all the other gadgets you use in your daily life. The same with Withings Activite, which I’m sure has great health-based software that they’ve leveraged from all their existing health based products. 

The best products will be developed, I believe, when the barriers to entry are removed and watch creators can use a platform where they can quickly create apps that integrate with the wearable they’ve created to serve a niche. The Android Wear platform will likely be the best place for this. Thus ensuring they don’t have to spend all their time being distracted by creating the software. This will have its own challenges in terms of seamless experience and lack of full control of the customer experience. Apple has overcome this by keeping the ecosystem super tight. The problem that I see with this approach is that they can get away with it when it’s a phone, a MacBook Air, etc. The catch, I don’t wear any of those things. 

So to put my money where my mouth is, my prediction is that the truly cool smart watches will come when people start focusing on niches. I like surfing and I for one can’t wait until there is a surfing watch that combines all the tide information predictions, weather patterns and proactively tells me there is a pumping swell coming over the horizon arriving at 7:15 a.m. A watch that I can wear in the surf and not have to take off when I get into the office because it looks like I’ve still got the beach on my hand. But that’s just me. 

I’ll be excited when someone creates a wearable that combines form and function not a slapping together of existing technologies. If they achieve this then I’ll be the first person to line up and buy. For now my pick is the Withings Activite but maybe that’s because it embraces traditional industrial design and is not just trying to add another screen to my life. Bring on new developments and innovation—I’ll surely be watching. 

See of full list of 56 wearables from the CES conference.

It is a very subjective topic but I’d love to hear if your thoughts on whether you agree or disagree. 

Jewelry News Network columnist, Chris Benham, is co-founder and director of Inspired Jewellery Ltd., Wellington, New Zealand, a global creative studio for specialist jewelry design. 

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China International Gold, Jewellery & Gem Fair – Shanghai Attracts More than 7,000 Visitors

The 10th edition of the China International Gold, Jewellery & Gem Fair – Shanghai ended with more than 7,000 visitors from 32 countries.

The event held November 6 – 9, at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center, also featured 340 exhibitors from 21 countries.

“We always strive to make the Shanghai Fair an ideal springboard for jewelers who aim to enter China's vibrant jewellery market,” said Celine Lau, director of Jewellery Fairs, UBM Asia Ltd. “This year, we introduced a new element to the fair—the first-ever Korea Pavilion and the preview of Mineral & Gem Asia. This new feature joins other fair attractions, among them the Premier Pavilion, the largest Sri Lanka Pavilion in this fair’s history. Other group pavilions housing exhibitors from United States, Thailand and Taiwan region. The exhibits offered visitors a wide range of jewelry, diamonds, gemstones and jadeite from world-class suppliers as well as unmatched opportunity to network and see the latest trends.”

UBM China Holdings Ltd., hosted a seminar titled, “Investment and Collection of Mineral Crystals,” that provided information on the latest market information on gems and minerals.

“Shanghai is an important market for the jewelry trade, which is why we’ve been participating in the Shanghai Fair for many years,” said Safraz Jabir, color stone specialist of Safaiyers, a gemstone exporter of Sri Lanka, exhibiting at the fair. “We met many buyers, mainly from China, and received some orders with them. We are happy with the overall result.”

Con Arsenikakis of Olympic Opal Co Pty Ltd from Australia, said it was his first time at the fair.

“I am a retailer in Australia and I came to update myself with the latest trends,” he said. “The fair offers buyers a wide array of quality exhibits; I met my suppliers, mostly from Hong Kong.”

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Trade Association Jewelers of America Acquires Trade Publication National Jeweler

It’s one of those announcements saved for Friday afternoon in order to attract as a little attention as possible. However, it also seemed to coincide with Friday night’s Gem Awards gala in New York and a board of director's vote to approve the acquisition, held earlier in the day.

Whatever the reasoning for the late Friday announcement, the jewelry trade association, Jewelers of America, will enter into the publishing business by acquiring jewelry trade publication, National Jeweler

In a carefully worded statement on the JA website, it said it will purchase National Jeweler from Emerald Expositions, which owns the JA New York shows, Couture and tradeshows in several other markets. The tradeshow company, National Jeweler and JA already had a relationship through the two New York tradeshows. In fact JA and National Jeweler were both founded in 1906. 

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the month. No reason was given for the acquisition and financial details were not disclosed.

The question is can a trade organization own a publication that is truly independent? JA, in its statement, took great pains to say yes. I have my doubts. 

“JA and National Jeweler will remain and act independent of each other,” the statement reads.

“National Jeweler is natural fit for our organization, as it shares our mission to be an informative resource to retail jewelry professionals,” David J. Bonaparte, JA President & CEO, said in the statement. 

Michelle Graff, editor-in-chief of National Jeweler, added, “We look forward to taking advantage of the additional resources being part of the JA team offers us, but we remain focused on our mission: to objectively deliver the news that retail jewelers need to run their businesses on a daily basis.” 

No matter how it’s being spun, it’s difficult not to see this as a publication that will lose at least some (if not all) of its independence. 

There are three major jewelry trade publishers left. The largest and most significant is JCK (my former employer). After facing the possibility of collapse during the 2008-2009 economic downturn, which dramatically impacted both the jewelry and publishing industries, Reed Expositions, which owns JCK tradeshows, took ownership of JCK. It gave publishing responsibilities to a third-party publisher: McMurry/TMG, a marketing company that creates custom magazines for a variety of organizations ranging from the Ritz-Carlton to WebMD. 

The result was a loss of editorial independence. 

The remaining independent publisher is Smart Work Media, which owns trade magazines InStore and InDesign magazines and the Smart Jewelry Show. These publications are the only ones left that truly targets jewelry retailers, something all of the publications should be doing, although it relies too much on old-school “industry experts” and not enough on its editorial staff. 

At a time when independent jewelry stores are closing at a significant rate, when young people are not entering the industry, and where the competition for disposable income is as intense as it has ever been, jewelry trade publications with independence are needed to provide leadership within the industry to tackle these problems. 

Instead, they continue to lose their voice. 

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Master Gem Carver Naomi Sarna Presents Her Jewels

Queen of the Sea is an elaborate brooch built around a natural Chinese pearl. It is made up of platinum, 18k yellow gold, 18k white gold, and oxidized sterling silver set with VS-G white diamonds, black diamonds, multicolored sapphires, faceted Ethiopian opals, and moonstones.

I still get surprised by the breadth and depth of the jewelry business. For example, I recently “discovered” gem carver and jewelry maker Naomi Sarna. And that’s only because I was contacted by the affable and hard-charging Georgia Fleming, a longtime luxury magazine salesperson who is serving as Sarna’s public relations representative.

Hand-carved 203.2-gram Rose de France amethyst.

The fact is I should have been aware of Sarna and her work as she’s been right under my nose as she has been racking up prizes at the Spectrum Awards for the past five years for her gem carvings and her one-of-a-kind jewelry. I did get to meet the energetic and good-natured Sarna in December and get an up close view of her work, which combines fluid shapes, motion, plenty of color, and a skilled combination of several jewelry-making techniques. It blends art with craft.

"His and His" rings, sizes 9 and 10.5. The size 9 ring features a 2.51 ct. natural, fancy dark orangey brown, SI2 diamond set in platinum along with multicolored orangey brown diamonds and a touch of 18k yellow gold. The size 10.5 ring features a 3.17 ct. natural, fancy dark orangey brown VS1 diamond set in platinum along with multicolored orangey brown diamonds and a touch of 18K yellow gold. 

The surprising thing about Sarna is that she has only been involved in gem carving and jewelry making for about five years, bursting onto the scene winning awards and accolades in a field that usually takes decades to perfect.

18k white gold petal set with approximately 650 gems, including VS-G white diamonds, yellow diamonds, pink diamonds, brown diamonds, green diamonds, amethysts and multi-colored sapphires.

This year alone, she took honors in the Spectrum Awards competition sponsored by the American Gem Trade Association for “Best Use of Pearls,” for an 18k rose gold necklace with white cultured pearls accented with pink diamonds; Platinum Honors for Men's Wear for her "His and His" rings featuring brown natural diamonds; and First Place for Gem Carving for her "Rose de France" 1,015-carat amethyst carving.

Pendant featuring a hand-carved aquamarine complimented by 18K white gold and VS-G white diamonds.

Sarna became successful enough in other businesses to have the financial freedom to dive full-time into gem carving and jewelry design. This and her longtime love of art and design is what she credits for her fast rise. As an art student she said she was fascinated by drapery in classical sculpture and Renaissance painting.

Brooch featuring an 80-ct. hand-carved aquamarine set in 18k white gold with VS-G white diamonds.

“I like to incorporate this love of the flow of fabric into my gem carvings and set pieces,” she said. “I think of my pieces as more than sculpture; the carving of the gem is only one part of the vision. The gem in its setting must also be in balance because there is a harmony between the jewel and the wearer. I enjoy the challenge of finding that balance and harmony.”

Pasha ring featuring a hand-carved 63.5 ct smoky quartz set in platinum and 18K yellow gold with VS-G white diamonds. 

Sarna treats her pearl jewelry differently. Whether natural or cultured, she will leave pearls alone, them in their original shapes, although she prefers unusual forms.

First Wave brooch featuring a Chinese freshwater pearl set in 18k yellow gold with multi-colored sapphires.

Her work has taken her many places including Tanzania, where she teaches the local Maasai people how to make jewelry. She does this in collaboration with TanzaniteOne, the largest and only commercial company that mines Tanzanite from the world’s only known source of the precious gem. Other mines in this region are set aside for artisanal miners from the local area.

147-gram hand-carved topaz titled "River Wind."

Her first time there she gave them 30 pliers so they create jewelry with wire. “I held them (the pliers) up and asked does anybody know what these are? They have never seen pliers before. I taught them how to do this. I knew they would be able to do it because they do fantastic bead work so I knew they would be able pick this up very quickly.”

She adds, “And off it went. It was love at first sight.”

Aquamarine Brooch featuring a hand-carved 91.64 ct aquamarine encased in 18k white gold set with VS-G white diamonds.

On her return trips she bought basic items like pencils and sunglasses.

One of her Tanzanite carvings, the 275-carat L'Heure Bleu mounted on a silver base serves as a special fundraiser for the Maasai. The cost of the piece includes a trip for four to Tanzania.

Ring featuring a hand-carved amethyst set in platinum with VS-G white diamonds.

“The mine gave me this crystal to carve and the sale of this crystal, which is pretty expensive, will include a trip for four people to Tanzania, go to a wonderful safari, and they’ll also get to meet the Maasai ladies and their families and go down to the mine. Most importantly, it will benefit people who are impoverished.”

Pearl ring with 18k yellow gold, multicolored diamonds and sapphires. 

Sarna works with a variety of gems but some of her favorites include opal and topaz.

Her brooches and rings are designed to fit properly so when they settle into place, it has the proper appearance.

“You know how rings flop over to the side,” she said. “Mine are designed to go over to the side right away. The way I designed the shank it has to go over this way. It becomes a part of your hand.”

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