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Friday, October 30, 2015

Registration Is Open For 2016 Jewellery & Gem Fair Europe

Registration is now open for the third edition of Jewellery & Gem Fair Europe. The jewelry tradeshow will be held in Messe Freiburg, Germany, from March 19 to 22, 2016. 

The show is “positioned as an effective trading platform for mid- to high-end jewelry” that enables those in the jewelry trade to “source conveniently from global suppliers, without having to travel to overseas fairs,” according to UBM Asia, which owns and operates the trade fair.

In 2015, the fair attracted more 6,500 jewelry professionals from 87 countries and regions, and 440 exhibitors from 28 countries and regions.

Buyers have the opportunity to source products that include diamonds, gemstones, pearls, fine jewelry, and packaging, tools & equipment.

Group pavilions include Antwerp, ACODES, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Mauritius, Turkey, Thailand and the United States. Packaging, Tools & Equipment vendors will gather in a theme pavilion.

UBM Asia also owns and operates the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, the world’s largest fine jewelry trade fair. 

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Major Sponsors Renew Commitment To JNA Awards

Partners join hands at the 2015 JNA Awards. (From left) Ira Tsirlina of the Israel Diamond Institute; Naresh Surana of Diarough Hong Kong; Rita Maltez of Rio Tinto Diamonds; Wolfram Diener of UBM Asia; Letitia Chow of UBM Asia; Kent Wong of Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd; Caroline Yuan of Shanghai Diamond Exchange; Ye Xuquan of Guangdong Land Holdings Ltd

Rio Tinto Diamonds and Chow Tai Fook will return as “Headline Partners” for the fifth consecutive year of the JNA Awards.

In addition, Diarough Group, Israel Diamond Institute Group of Companies, Shanghai Diamond Exchange and Guangdong Land Holdings Limited have also renewed their sponsorship of the awards. Both IDI and SDE have been championing the JNA Awards since its launch, while Diarough and GDLAND have come on board as “Honored Partners” since 2014.

The JNA Awards honors companies and individuals that have demonstrated excellence and made positive contributions to their businesses and communities, with a focus on achievements made in Asia. Nominees are selected through an independent, transparent and rigorous judging process. The program culminates with a gala dinner and awards ceremony held in association with the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair.

“The Awards plays an important role in celebrating and inspiring successes within the gemstone and jewelry industry, and our partners' loyal support has helped us make that happen,” said Letitia Chow, founder of JNA, Director of Business Development—Jewellery Group at UBM Asia, and Chair of the JNA Awards judging panel.

Jewelry trade magazine, Jewelry News Asia, the flagship publication of UBM Asia's Jewelry Group, is the organizer of the JNA Awards. 

“It is particularly gratifying to receive continuous support from these distinguished industry leaders who share our values in promoting best practices within the industry and setting high standards to advance the global jewelry community,” said Wolfram Diener, UBM Asia senior VP. “Their involvement will certainly create synergy to drive the industry forward with greater innovation and sustainable growth.”

The JNA Awards 2015 Ceremony and Gala Dinner was held on September 20 at the Regal Airport Hotel, Hong Kong. The awards gala dinner drew more than 500 jewelry and gemstone industry leaders who celebrated the achievements of 19 award recipients and 31 honorees. 

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Robin Thicke Sings A New Tune As Harry Winston Ambassador

Robin Thicke performs at the Harry Winston Opus 14 unveiling in Baden-Baden

Harry Winston is known for placing its high jewelry on some of the world’s biggest and most beautiful stars of the 20th and 21th Centuries. However, in its 83-year history the luxury jewelry and watch brand has never had an official spokesperson. 

This changed Tuesday when the brand used the unveiling of the Opus 14 in Baden-Baden, Germany, to announce that recording artist Robin Thicke is the new brand ambassador for Harry Winston timepieces. 

Thicke appeared on stage following the Opus 14 presentation and later in the evening to perform many of his hit songs accompanied by dancers during the 1950s themed event. After the event ended he stayed around talking and taking photos with several of the invited guests.

Thicke becomes the first ambassador for the New York City-based brand, which was acquired by the Swatch Group in 2013. 

At a press conference the following day, Nayla Hayek, CEO of Harry Winston, said there was never any search for a brand ambassador. She met Thicke in Cannes and thought he’d be good for the brand, adding that it will be a long-term commitment and wasn’t just supporting the Opus timepiece. 

“He’s not the ambassador of Opus,” she said. “He is the ambassador of Harry Winston watches.”

Thicke is one of the world’s best-known singer, songwriter and producers today, and has worked with several prominent artists, including Christina Aguilera, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell Williams, Usher, Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige. He rose to worldwide fame in 2013 for his hit single "Blurred Lines.”

It is also that song that placed Thicke and Pharrell Williams on the losing end of a $7.4 million copyright infringement case (later reduced to $5.3 million) brought against them by Marvin Gaye’s family. The case is under appeal. He also had a messy public divorce with his former wife Paula Patton. 

Hayek is seemingly undeterred with these issues, saying that Thicke has already been “very positive to the brand and a very professional ambassador for the brand.” 

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Harry Winston Unveils The Opus 14 ‘Jukebox’

America was always a significant part of the Harry Winston brand’s soul and its new owners took to creating a product that honors both the brand and the country.  

The Opus 14, the first Opus timepiece launched by Harry Winston under Swatch Group ownership, takes its inspiration from a nostalgic 1950s view of America, most specifically the jukebox, which brought American rock ‘n’ roll to public venues all over the world. 

The main feature of the Opus 14 is an automaton complication that works like the turntable of a jukebox. It reveals four disks housed in what Harry Winston calls a “store.” Each disk shows a specific display: local time, GMT time, the date and a star bearing the signature of Mr. Harry Winston, a reference to the stars of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Harry Winston and the Swatch Group turned to Swiss watchmakers Franck Orny and Johnny Girardin of Telos Watch, to devise and build the timepiece. At a press conference Wednesday, Nayla Hayek, Harry Winston CEO, and Marc Hayek, Blancpain director, said the concept of the watch was already in place when Swatch Group aquired Harry Winston about three years ago but they immediately fell for the idea. 

“The first time we saw this project we fell in love with it,” said Nayla Hayek. “It’s Hollywood. It’s America. It’s Harry Winston.”

Added Marc Hayek, “We really wanted to make it happen. Seeing the idea and bringing it to life is fantastic.”

It was a three-and-a-half year project with done primarily within the Harry Winston watchmaking facilities in Plan-Les-Ouates, Switzerland—with the exception of testing the watch’s accuracy and endurance, which were done at the testing facilities of Blancpain, also owned by the Swatch Group.

The time in hours is already shown on the top disk (the minutes are shown on a separate retrograde display). When pressed for the first time, a push-piece activates a moving arm that picks the disk up and sets it onto the platform to be read like a turntable. While the disk displaying the local time remains in place at 9 o'clock, the chosen GMT, date or star disk is positioned on this platform. Pressing the push-piece a second time once the disk is in place reactivates the arm, which moves the disk back into the store. The first activation takes five seconds and returning the disk to the original position takes three seconds.

The power reserve for the patented HW4601 caliber uses two separate barrels, one for the automaton mechanism and the other for the clock operation. It provides 68 hours for the clock operation and enough power for five back-and-forth disk movements. Although the power reserves are separate and function independently, they are driven by a shared winding crown. A second winding crown is used to set the time. In addition, push-pieces on the lugs at 12 o'clock allow the wearer to correct the date and GMT.

The multi-layered movement and display resulted in a very large watch, even by Opus standards. It’s housed in a case measuring 57.4mm by 21.9mm.  

Design details of the black watch include a red, white and blue color palette and a two-tone insignia bearing the number 14 in a style reminiscent of the Route 66 road sign. These elements and others are designed to recall the rock 'n roll era and the emblematic diner aesthetic, the company said. 

The timepiece, with a total of 1,066 components, retails for 428,000 Swiss francs ($434,600) and is limited to 50 pieces.

The event unveiling the Opus 14 was originally planned for Los Angeles but there are several watch-related events in Switzerland at the same time so they instead opted for the tourist destination of Baden-Baden, a small city in the Germany’s Black Forest renowned for its natural springs and spas. Despite this, Harry Winston took great pains to create the illusion of 1950s Americana in Baden-Baden, with a bevy of 1950s American cars, a staging area set up as a 1950s diner, women servers on roller skates and 1950s rock ‘n’ roll playing throughout the evening. 

The scene certainly played into the nostalgic American theme of the watch.  

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Attendance Drops 2.5% At September Hong Kong Jewelry Fair

It had to happen sometime and it seemed this was the year. After robust growth since 2008, overall attendance at the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair decreased by 2.5 percent.

Data from trade fair organizer UBM Asia showed 3,752 exhibitors from 50 countries and regions and 57,616 unique buyers from 156 countries and regions attended the 33rd edition of the September fair. The slight increase in exhibitors is a new record for what is still the largest fine jewelry tradeshow in the world.

Celine Lau, director of Jewellery Fairs at UBM Asia, noted that the number of buyers from mainland China increased slightly by 4.34 percent from last year, contributing roughly 33 percent to the total number of visitors.

“This clearly shows that the Chinese market remains robust and a significant driver of jewelry demand,” said Lau.

The following countries, meanwhile, recorded double digit percentage growth in visitor number: Korea (14 percent); the Philippines (10 percent); Italy (12 percent); and Sri Lanka (19 percent).

The fair was held in two venues: The AsiaWorld-Expo from September 16 to 20 for jewelry making materials and machinery, and the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre from September 18 to 22, for finished fine jewelry.

More than 121,000 visits were recorded during the fair. Hong Kong-based visitors totaled 16,841 accounting for nearly 30 percent of the total number of visitors. The rest of the visitors, 40,775 or over 70 percent of the overall total, were from overseas.

The largest group of visitors from outside Hong Kong region came from mainland China. At 19,105, the number of visitors from mainland China again surpassed the number of Hong Kong-based visitors. Hong Kong region follows with 16,841; India, 2,980; the US, 1,929; Taiwan region, 1,816; Thailand, 1,717; Japan, 1,320; Korea 1,222; the Philippines, 1,213; and Indonesia, 681.

The UBM Asia official emphasized that the attendance of jewelers from around the world enriches Hong Kong Fairs as a networking platform and a barometer of business sentiment.

“The September Fair has a key role in forecasting upcoming design trends, the hottest colors and the newest materials because exhibitors launch their latest products here before they hit the stores,” Lau said.

This year’s edition of the September Fair also saw the launch of a new security measure, which entails verifying the identity of badge holders at the venue’s entrance. “We want to strengthen and maintain a business-friendly environment at the fair. This measure has the full support and cooperation of both exhibitors and buyers. The feedback from the participants regarding this initiative was very encouraging,” she said.

Lau also said that UBM Asia appointed a professional research agency last June to conduct an on-site survey to review the feedback from both exhibitors and visitors on the “One Fair Two Venues” concept. “The study reconfirmed that participants are happy with the current arrangements in place, whereby the fair at AsiaWorld-Expo begins a few days before the fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre,” she said.

During the September Fair period, eight seminars, one diamond auction, two pearl auctions, three conferences and other special events were held at AWE and HKCEC. 

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

$3.6 Million For 75-Carat Yellow Diamond Ring

Statement diamonds sold within their estimates and a few signed jewels achieved outstanding results at Christie’s New York Important Jewels auction, held Tuesday.

The top lot was a 75.56-carat cushion modified brilliant-cut Fancy Vivid yellow diamond ring sold for $3.6 million, within its $3 to $4 million estimate. 

The auction realized a total of more than $19.9 million, with active online bidding from several locations including Hong Kong, Indonesia, Monaco, the United Kingdom, and all over the United States, according to the auction house. 

Additional top prices were achieved for the following:

* An 18.8-carat marquise-cut D color diamond sold for $1.45 million, within its estimate. It was mounted on a platinum ring flanked on either side by tapered baguette-cut diamonds.

* A 12.75-carat heart-shaped D color diamond sold for $965,000, within its estimate. The diamond, mounted in white gold, is worn as a pendant attached to link neckchain. 

* A 34.12-carat cushion-cut fancy yellow diamond sold for $725,000, within its estimate. The center is mounted on a platinum and 18k gold ring flanked on each side by a bullet-shaped diamond.

Several signed jewels far exceeded their estimates in the sale. They include the following:  

* A multi-gem and diamond brooch by Donald Clafin for Tiffany & Co. sold for $137,000, nearly seven times its high estimate of $20,000.

* A multi-gem and diamond brooch by Donald Clafin for Tiffany & Co. sold for $233,000, smashing its high estimate of $15,000.

* A diamond and emerald “Ballet Précieux” brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels sold for $161,000, well above its high estimate of $100,000

* An Art Deco emerald, diamond and Onyx pendant, Crica 1925, sold for $245,000, smashing its high estimate of $20,000.

* A diamond and kunzite spider brooch by David Webb, designed as a circular and baguette-cut diamond flexible spider, centering upon a cushion-cut kunzite, sold for $77,500, above its $50,000 high estimate. 

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Two New Montblanc 1858 Collection Watches Tout The Minerva Heritage

Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter

Two new limited-edition timepieces for the Montblanc 1858 Collection were unveiled Tuesday at SIAR 2015, the luxury watch show in Mexico City. Both watches, as with the rest of the collection, pay tribute to the 157-year history of the Minerva watch manufacturer, known for its hand-made chronograph movements. 

The watch manufacturer was acquired by luxury holding company Richemont in 2006 and is now part the Montblanc brand, which Richemont owns. Montblanc changed its name to Villeret, after the picturesque Swiss town where the facility is located. It still produces hand-made high chronographs, tourbillons and classic watch lines; and bespoke timepieces for private clients. It also provides specialist movements for Montblanc’s main watch manufacturing facility in Le Locle. 

The newest pieces for the Montblanc 1858 Collection were modeled after a chronograph launched by the Minerva manufacture in the 1930s in both appearance and function. 

The main product released Tuesday is the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter. The 18k red gold 44 mm-diameter case features a design with rounded forms inspired by those of the Minerva chronograph from 1930. In keeping with the original design and function, the watch has a beveled winding crown with a monopusher function to activate the chronograph. 

The vintage-style dial has “cathedral” hands coated with beige Super-LumiNova, so they can be seen at night. The display is laid out around two counters, the first displays the seconds at 9 o'clock, and the second subdial shows the minutes that have elapsed once the chronograph complication has been started. The dial background painted in deep black with the historic Montblanc emblem shows a traced rail track with a tachymetric scale for measuring speed in terms of a timed kilometer. 

The MB M16.29 caliber of the hand-wound monopusher chronograph is the same size as that of a pocket-watch. It was inspired by the original chronograph movement, the 17.29 caliber, designed by Minerva in 1929, and has many of the same functions. The column-wheel is activated by the single push-piece built into the winding crown. The iconic engraved Minerva “V” chronograph bridge can be seen through the transparent case back (pictured above). 

The horizontal coupling in this classic construction is combined with a lever that holds the chronograph's hammers, and is finished off with a little arrow, the visual signature of Minerva. This classic mechanism, assembled, adjusted and finished by hand in Villeret; comprises 252 components, has a depth of 6.30 mm and oscillates at 18,000 vibrations per hour, with a power reserve of about 50 hours.

It is being sold as a limited edition of 100 pieces.

The other product launched at SIAR 2015 is the Montblanc 1858 Small Second Special Edition timepiece (pictured above). The stainless steel, 44 mm diameter case has a design that contains many of the codes of the historical chronographs produced by Minerva. A direct-drive small seconds is located at 6 o'clock and has a hand-wound caliber with a beveled winding crown. 

Like the previous timepiece, this watch has a vintage-style black dial has Arabic numerals, “cathedral” hands coated with beige-painted Super-LumiNova, and the historic Montblanc logo. 

The MB 23.03 manually wound caliber has 17 jewels and an approximate 46-hour power reserve once the barrel has been fully wound. It has a balance that oscillates at 21,600 vibrations an hour. The visible finishes can be seen through the transparent caseback.

It is being sold in a limited edition of 858 pieces, paying tribute to the birthday of Minerva in 1858. 

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Dim Sum with JNN: Wallace Chan, ‘Everything In This World Is Alive’

Wallace Chan and an example of his famous Wallace Cut. Photo by Anthony DeMarco 

Wallace Chan, 59, moves quickly, smiling and eagerly greeting me as he enters his showroom in central Hong Kong on a recent Saturday morning. He’s dressed casually in an oversized grey cotton shirt and a flat cap. Beneath the cap his eyes are intense as he strokes his graying beard. With pride he says he lost about 30 pounds after learning that he was on the brink of getting diabetes. He took one prescribed pill and hated it. He decided instead to radically change his diet.

When Chan speaks he motions with his hands, sometimes pressing his thumb against his fingers to emphasize his words. He speaks in Cantonese for long periods about a variety of subjects, stressing certain words as he discusses how just about everything in the universe relates to the art of jewelry making.

Wallace Chan making a point. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Cherry Rao, who serves as Chan’s writer, editor and translator, sits across the table from Chan staring directly at him, patiently listening. When he finishes she nods her head and not only translates but summarizes his thoughts.

For the past three years while attending the Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, I managed to spend some time with a Hong Kong-based jewelry designer. Last year it was Mayuri Vara, founder of Vara of London. A year earlier, I spoke with Dennis Chan, creative director and co-founder of luxury jewelry brand, Qeelin.

The "Fish Dream" brooch with pearls and colored gems. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

This year I hit the jackpot with Wallace Chan. He is arguably the world’s top living jewelry artist, known for many innovations, particularly the “Wallace Cut,” an unconventional carving technique that creates a multi-layered, 3D relief illustration in transparent materials. He is also known for his pioneering work with titanium, ground-breaking gem-setting techniques and for faceting and carving jade. He has exhibited at the past two Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris, a famed antiques and jewelry show. He is the only Asian jeweler to be given this honor. Those who attended those two events, whom I spoke with, marveled at how crowded his booth was throughout the exhibitions.

"Bright Star, Forever Dancing Series” brooch. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

I recently spoke with three jewelry specialists from two international auction houses about Chan and they describe him as if he inhibits his own space among the greatest living jewelry designers. They marvel at his original techniques (particularly his sculptural proficiency), his artistry and even his engineering skills.

His jewels, his thoughts and everything about him reflect his devotion to Buddhism. Something he took up when he was commissioned to create a stupa for the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. He spent two-and-a-half years on the project and did nothing else.

The world's largest purple sapphire, 164 carats. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

Maybe this Buddhist philosophy was the reason for Chan’s extremely generous and hospitable welcome. My meeting in his showroom/office unexpectedly lasted four hours, and included dim sum at a local restaurant.

For Chan, “Everything in this world is alive,” including gems.

The famous Wallace Cut.  Photo by Anthony DeMarco

“When he looks inside a gemstone, his mind goes inside it. The light, colors, reflections, he can hear its rhythm. It’s almost like being in utopia,” Rao translates.

Chan’s next statement is in a totally different direction. He talks about food, music, water and the lives of objects all around us and how it relates to his work.

Another look at the famous Wallace Cut.  Photo by Anthony DeMarco

“He loves ice cream, a lot. When ice cream melts on the tip of his tongue he imagines melting with the ice cream. Good music has the same feeling. Everything melts with ice cream and music. When he sees a gemstone he likes, he can communicate with it, like music and ice cream.”

Rao then translates his next thoughts of comparing gems to women and jewelry as his children.

“When he sees a gemstone, he has a real feel for it. It’s like a lady he really wants to impress. He is considerate like a lady. He really likes it when the gemstone likes him back…. He sees every piece of his jewelry creations as his own child.”

"Return of the King" bangle in white jade, diamond and titanium. Photo by Anthony DeMarco 

Classical and traditional Chinese music is very spiritual for him. He compares great jewels to great music. “When you look at it, it is giving you something for your soul.”

Finally, there’s this: “When he creates for the gemstone, he lives for the gemstone. He forgets his own existence…. He just doesn't want to let go of the moment.”

White jade and gold bracelet looks like sparkling snow. Photo by Anthony DeMarco 

One of his greatest feats, although he refuses to admit this, is “A Heritage in Bloom,” a necklace made of green and white jade, colored diamonds and 24 D-color, internally flawless diamonds. Hong Kong-based jewelry retailer Chow Tai Fook commissioned Chan to create a jewel from diamonds cut from the Cullinan Heritage, an exceptionally rare 507.55 carat Type IIa rough diamond. Released in September, one of the most amazing things about this necklace (among many amazing things) is that it can be worn 27 different ways.

A pendant necklace with a blue diamond by Wallace Chan. Photo by Anthony DeMarco  

Chan is in a position in his career where he can choose his clientele and he will refuse to do a piece if he feels the person isn’t ready to properly appreciate the work. He may tell some of his customers not to buy anything from him for a year.

“If they still miss this piece, still want it, we can talk about collecting it.”

Asymmetrical Pea Pod earrings. Photo by Anthony DeMarco  

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Unique Baume & Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Watch Placed On Auction

Capeland Shelby Cobra 18k red gold flyback chronograph

Baume & Mercier and legendary race car manufacturer Carroll Shelby International Inc. created the Capeland Shelby Cobra chronograph collection that was released in June. 

Modeled after the Shelby Daytona Cobra, the two limited-edition watches honored the 50th anniversary of the car’s greatest achievement: finishing first in 11 out of 20 races to be crowned 1965 FIA GT champions. It was an unlikely victory as the small American car maker and its team of drivers beat the best-known and most-established car manufacturers in the racing world. 

Baume & Mercier US officials say that it was the company's most successful watch lunch in memory.

Now the two companies are partnering in a release of a one-of-a-kind Capeland Shelby Cobra 18k red gold flyback chronograph that will be auctioned at Antiquorum in New York on December 15. All proceeds will go toward the Carroll Shelby Foundation, which raises funds to help families and children affected by heart disease and provides schooling and education for underprivileged young people in the US. 

A view of the La Joux-Perret mechanical movement from the sapphire crystal caseback

An auction estimate has yet to be set for this new timepiece. Bids may be placed online, over the phone or in person.

The unique version of the Capeland Shelby Cobra is inspired by the same graphic identity codes of the Shelby Cobra race car. Unlike its predecessors, which replicated “Guardsman Blue” racing color with transparent dual racing stripes, the watch up for auction has an off-white dial with sky transparent dual blue racing stripes. There’s also blue accents on the dial and hands, a 44 mm polished/satin-finished 18k red gold case, a black calfskin strap with round-scale blue alligator lining and gray stitching, and an 18k red gold pin buckle. The inscription “Shelby Cobra 1965-2015, Unique Piece” is engraved on the case back, framing a sapphire crystal bearing Carroll Shelby’s signature. 

The Shelby Cobra

The flyback chronograph mechanism is driven by a Swiss-made mechanical self-winding movement from Manufacture La Joux-Perret. The watch comes in an exclusive presentation box that will also house an additional black leather alligator strap with round-scale blue alligator lining and gray stitching.  

The Shelby Cobra stripes

Along with the watch, the winning bidder will receive a “VIP package experience,” which the watch brand says is valued at $10,000. It includes a visit to the Shelby World Headquarters in Las Vegas, an original illustration of the Cobra signed by the Cobra driving legends, a Cobra driving experience, two custom-made racing suits, a VIP factory tour, a personal item of Carroll Shelby and a photo opportunity aboard an historical Cobra CXS2000. 

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Brooke Shields Launches High Jewelry Collection With Robert Procop

Peridot Sugarloaf ring with diamonds and 18k white gold

Actress and model Brooke Shields has partnered with gem-expert and high jewelry designer Robert Procop to create a new high jewelry collection called “Legacy Brooke.”

Amethyst and peridot necklace with diamonds and 18k white gold

The two recently launched the first works from the collection publicly at the recent opening of Procop’s creative studio in Wilshire Rodeo Plaza in Beverly Hills. This was followed at a nearby Saks Fifth Avenue, with a reception for select clients who met with the designers and viewed the collection for the first time. A few of the pieces were first unveiled privately about a year ago in New York.

Blue Topaz bracelet with diamond and 18k gold

Procop may be best known publicly for his collaboration on a line of jewelry called “Style of Jolie,” with actress, filmmaker and UN ambassador Angelina Jolie, in which all proceeds from the sales are used to build schools for girls in impoverished countries. Those in the jewelry industry know Procop as a world-class gem expert and high jewelry designer whose connections and skill allow him to purchase statement gemstones around the world, which are then either sold as investments or made into one-of-a-kind jewels.

Amethyst necklace with diamonds and 18k gold

Shields really doesn’t need an introduction as she has been prolific as an actress in movies and television and as a fashion model for four decades. 

The collection employs what are becoming trademarks of Procop jewelry designs, where he takes a variety of statement gems of a specific palette and showcases them with an unusual and consistent shape. 
Blue Topaz Lattice RIng

The color palette in the Legacy collection uses amethyst, peridot, topaz and emerald to create jewels that are purple, green and aqua blue. The central gems in each piece employ the rare sugarloaf shape. This generally consists of four facets that are shaped into a pyramid-like finish or as a more rounded cabochon finish. In this collection Procop and Shields use variations on the shape combining four facets with rounded cabochon edges. The statement gems are enhanced with diamonds and 18k white or rose gold.

Amethyst and Peridot Earrings

As longtime friends prior to their jewelry collaboration, Shields and Procop have numerous shared interests, including philanthropic work. Proceeds from the collection will benefit The House of Ruth charity, which both Shields and Procop are affiliated. House of Ruth is a transitional housing shelter for victims of domestic violence. The organization provides shelter, prevention programs, opportunities and education to those transitioning back to normality after suffering abuse. 

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Value For Some, Luxury For Others At Hong Kong Jewelry Fair

Inside the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. Photo credit: UBM Asia

With the slowdown in the Chinese jewelry market and other BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia and India), there was a focus on value among many of the fine jewelry vendors exhibiting at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre during the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. 

“Affordable luxury” and “fun” collections using gold and small diamonds starting at $200,” was one of the major selling points at this year’s fair, says Marie Feliciano, editor-in-chief of Jewelry News Asia. 

“Stackable rings, stack bracelets, ear climbers and multi-layered necklaces are trending,” she said. “I’ve seen some really attractive over-sized rings with colored gemstones. With regards to colored stones, tourmaline, tanzanite, topaz and fancy sapphires are quite popular. Some Hong Kong companies are using carved jade in their contemporary collections.”

It also helped to provide variety. 

Inspired Jewellery makes a statement about the financial people on Wall Street with this silver pendant necklace

Inspired Jewellery, a contemporary jewelry design firm, exhibited examples of its modern diamond-based jewelry, a line of delicate bridal rings for the Japanese market, and an affordable silver jewelry collection with satirical statements about the state of the world today. It’s called “Deception ... A Collection.”

“We’re really well-positioned with our product mix,” said Chris Benham, CEO of the New Zealand-based firm. 

The company was located in “Designer Avenue,” a new area on the fourth floor of the Hong Kong Convention & Exposition Centre dedicated to smaller design-focused firms. Benham said he was “really pleased with the crowds” from a variety of Asian countries and regions. This variety means the experiences of individual exhibitors and buyers differed.

The Inspired Jewellery booth in "Designer Avenue." Photo by Chris Benham

It’s not only the size of the show that makes it arguably the most important in the worldwide jewelry industry but its scope. The variety of jewelry available at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre includes low-end silver products, designer items, haute couture, and collectible jewelry and watches.

One of the more interesting exhibits each year is a group of jewelry designers in single booth, organized by Frank & Label, a company that represents jewelry designers in China. The number of exhibitors changes each year. This year there were about five from different countries and representing various jewelry markets. 

Evert DeGraeve, a New York-based jewelry designer who also serves as business development director for the company based in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China, says that business in China is still good despite the well-publicized difficulties, particularly at the luxury end. 

“There might be a slowdown but the markets in China are still open,” he said.

So while value was the focus for many exhibitors, those who deal in high-end jewelry still brought their best items and were ready to do business. 

So while value was the focus for many exhibitors, those who deal in high-end jewelry brought their best items with them, no matter the cost. 

A gem-encrusted lion by Atelier de Creation taken at the firm's booth. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

“It’s the hub of the jewelry industry all over the world,” said Henri Istanboulian of Zorab Atelier de Creation, which has been exhibiting at the fair for 20 years. The family owned firm specializes in unique and limited-edition high jewelry made with combinations of rare gems. “The Hong Kong show became more interesting and better than any other show.”

Sarah Ho Royal Plume Earrings in 18k white gold with pink and blue sapphires, aquamarine, diamonds and pearls; from her Couture collection

During opening day at the convention center (the third day of the fair), fine jewelry designer Sarah Ho said buyers haven’t yet made it to the back of the main hall where her booth is located. She was featuring a couture line of jewelry and the “Numerati Collection” of rings based on the numbers 1 through 9 made in 18k rose gold with diamonds.

“The numbers are visible when the ring is held but as soon as the ring is worn the number becomes a hidden secret, known on to the person wearing it,” she said.

It’s her second year at the show and she says a long-term goal is to move closer to the front of the hall. 

“Once you start a show you have to give it a few years.”

Sarah Ho Numerati Rings in 18k rose gold with diamonds

Etienne Perret, an independent jewelry designer based in Maine, was at the Asia World-Expo portion of the tradeshow where diamonds, gems, pearls and jewelry making equipment are housed. He was primarily looking for pearls to augment his ceramic jewelry creations. 

“I have been looking for 10 mm to 15 mm cultured pearls for some of my rings. To make the rings more affordable for my clients I decided to look at Chinese freshwater pearls,” he says. 

“The biggest challenge was to try to figure out which one of the hundreds of companies selling at the show to buy from. We spoke with a number of companies that were all very helpful. In the end we decided to go with a company out of Hong Kong that took credit cards and let us take the pearls with us. Being from Hong Kong it will be easy to email reorders to them.” 

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Alex Soldier And His Sculptural Artistic Jewels

A mix of darken silver necklaces, brooches, earrings and cuffs from Alex Soldier’s Astra Collection

There always seem to be a place for those few who can create jewels using original techniques and artistic expressions.

Alex Soldier can certainly fit into this category. He prides himself on creating miniature sculptures using techniques that he personally developed. A recent tour of his Manhattan showroom jammed with his jewelry pieces and objects of art reveal that both types of items have this sculptural quality. Some his works are created separately in parts and then pieced together. There’s plenty of micro-quality work from pavé gem-setting to the carving of delicate lines into precious metals to give the piece a softer finish, resembling silk and cloth rather than hard metals. He will work with any and all types of metals and gems in multiple combinations.

Examples of butterflies by Alex Soldier

In terms of style, his work goes to a variety of places. He seems to prefer heavily faceted colored gems. He creates patterns with a variety of colorful pavé gems. His flowers often have movement. Everything he produces has a great level of detail and texture. When he’s not creating pieces encrusted with gems, he’s doing it with intricate lattice work, using space for texture and design.

An example of Alex Soldier's Snail Rings

One of his best-known pieces is his snails. Each snail is embroidered with an assortment of precious gems that form a unique color pattern. Every composition is further enhanced with final touches of fine texturing, hand-applied in several layers by Soldier.

Soldier doesn’t seem to have any present or past mentors in the art and jewelry field. What he considers his strongest influence is his native Russia, more specifically, the city of Perm in the remote Ural mountain region. It was there he says he was first influenced by the story of “Danila,”  who spent seven years to carve a flower out of malachite that was ideal in form and beauty. Russian themes are certainly represented in his objects of art.

Alex Soldier's Diamond Starfish

It was also there where he first worked as a jewelry designer in 1981, starting as an intern and six months later becoming the chief designer of the region’s largest jewelry plant.

When he arrived in the United States in 1990 he began working independently where he’s received a great of attention for his original methods of designing and producing contemporary jewelry in 18k gold and platinum with precious gemstones.

Alex Soldier's diamond-encrusted ring topped with a Tahitian black pearl 

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The Belperron Jewelry Revival Begins

Vintage Bamboo Necklace with Detachable Brooches in diamonds, platinum and gold

Suzanne Belperron (1900 – 1983) is considered by many to be one of the most influential jewelry designers of the 20th Century. Her complex, sculptural pieces—personally created for royalty, world-class entertainers and other notable persons from the 1930s to the 1970s—are highly sought among collectors throughout the world, particularly at auction. 

Now for the first time since her retirement in the 1970s new pieces designed by the French artist are available for purchase. In addition, there’s a new showroom in New York to view and purchase both the new collection of posthumous pieces and vintage original items. 

Wai Gu Necklace in nephrite jade and gold

The father and son team of Ward and Nico Landrigan are behind this rebirth of the artist and her brand. It’s something they’ve done before. In 1985, Ward, the former head of Sotheby’s US jewelry department, purchased the remains of the Verdura brand, founded by its creative namesake, Fulco di Verdura (1898 -1978), and with his son returned it to its original glory.

The Landrigans unveiled the Belperron showroom on Thursday. The private space is adjacent to the Verdura showroom, connected by a sliding door. Both are on the 12th floor of an office building on 5th Avenue in New York. 

Inside the Belperron salon during its public unveiling. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco 

In a brief conversation with Ward Landrigan during the showroom opening, he said the formula is the same as with Verdura. Find an undervalued jewelry brand with an impeccable heritage and a famous namesake, acquire it for the right price, and recreate the jewels and heritage. It sounds easy enough but it requires (among other things) great negotiating skills, strict budgeting (particularly for a small business owner) and lots of patience.

After nine years of negotiations with several persons who were unsuccessful in their own attempt to revive the brand, the Landrigans acquired the rights of Belperron in 1999 (or 1998 depending on who you consult) and spent another 16 years bringing the rebirth of the brand to its fruition. As with Verdura, the purchase included artifacts as well as thousands of original drawings by Suzanne Belperron. 

Vintage Godrons Heart Brooch in chalcedony, sapphire and diamonds

With the drawings the Landrigans (as they did with Verdura) began recreating Belperron jewelry using artisans specialized in specific jewelry making techniques, including Parisian workshops with a direct family line to Belperron’s original master craftsmen. 

Over the years, the Landrigans also purchased as much Belperron jewelry as they could through the auction market and private sales to augment the new pieces.

Vintage Torsade Necklace in gold and diamonds

The artistic jewels of Suzanne Belperron reflect a number of different influences. She first became known for her Art deco creations of the 1930s but eventually broke away from the rigid geometric aesthetic and began making jewels with Egyptian, Asian, African and Oceania influences. She was inspired by nature and created shapes based on flora and fauna, on land and below the sea. She was known for her elaborate color combinations and for setting precious stones in semiprecious materials. She also preferred working with 22k gold, despite its softness, because of its color. 

“She was a sculptress, with a gift for divining beautiful shapes,” says Nico Landrigan, who serves as Belperron president. “Belperron had an uncanny sense of texture, color and scale; she understood when to hold a line through the most torturous spiral and when to break it with the rogue placement of an errant gemstone.”

Vintage Tonneau Brooch in chalcedony, diamonds and lacquer

Belperron designed pieces specifically for each individual and hand-delivered them upon their completion. 

She did all of her business by appointment in her private salon in Paris. This leads to the final stage of recreating the Belperron brand.

The Landrigans and their team built a space inspired by the interior of Belperron’s salon. 

Scroll Clasp Necklace with Detachable Vintage Brooch in emeralds an diamonds

This is the third time I’ve seen this space. The first time it was under construction site preparing for the exhibition, “The Power of Style: Verdura at 75” in June 2014. The second time I saw it was at the end of 2014 when the exhibition space was completed. 

Now it has been converted into four comfortable rooms that include a library and a drawing room that captures the aesthetic of a 1930s Parisian apartment. The space features black lacquered trim, sable-colored cases, marble fireplaces and chalcedony blue walls. Couches and fabric-lined chairs of various colors from white to purple are among the antique or antique-styled furnishings in the space. 

Coquillage Earclips in diamonds, platinum and lacquer

The salon’s design came from Belperron’s archive of original gouache paintings, tracings and other archival materials, says project architect, Daniel Romualdez. “I wanted to create an environment that spoke to the elegance and glamour of this spectacular Fifth Avenue location while still evoking the intimate and private world of Suzanne Belperron in Paris of the 1930s.”

The jewelry collection on display includes recreated pieces from the archival drawings and the vintage items purchased by the Landrigans. They are for sale. There also are privately owned Belperron pieces on display that are not for sale. 

Spire pendant Earrings in gold

Among the highlights I saw were the Vintage Bamboo Necklace in diamond, platinum, gold and silver. The two leafy ends of the bamboo necklaces are detachable and can be worn as brooches. A Vintage Tonneau Brooch has the smoky glass appearance of Chalcedony, which seems to be a favorite material for the artist, studded with round diamonds and edges of black enamel. 

Like several of the great jewelry designers of the 20th Century, Belperron found artistic uses for many materials. She was unafraid to use jade as shown by a bold gold necklace lined with rings of nephrite jade. The Wave collection of cuffs and stackable bracelets are as contemporary today as when they were when she first created the design. 

Vintage Roof Cuff in rock crystal, emerald and diamonds

There’s at least one significant way the Belperron brand differs from Verdura. When the Verdura brand was released the Landrigans made a decision to augment its vintage jewels and one-of-a-kind and limited edition recreations, with more affordable recreations. For the first Belperron collection the lowest priced piece item I saw was $13,500, with many pieces well into six figures.

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Cambodian Cuff in Smoky Quartz