Last updateThu, 17 May 2018 7am

Buying at the Big Show: JCK Las Vegas


May is here and retail jewelers are ready for some buying at JCK Las Vegas. Trends having a strong influence on jewelers’ open-to-buy budgets for the upcoming trade show include a yellow gold comeback, purchasing larger loose diamonds and diamond-set jewelry, fancy colored diamonds, fresh bridal designs, and the mainstays for color plus some unusual color.  

Vegas-Sissy-MayBridal jewelry typically tops a jeweler’s buying list for the Las Vegas Show. Store owner Emil Girardin, owner of Girardin Jewelers in Valdosta, Georgia is comfortable with the bridal designers he’s currently working with and won’t be bringing on any new ones. And, trends - halo or otherwise - won’t be guiding any of his bridal buying decisions.

“For me, it’s just filling in my bridal inventory and meeting the vendors I’m working with, that’s it,” says Emil. “Everyone [jewelry designers and manufacturers] seem to be copying everyone else, and I just don’t see myself buying too much outside of what I need to replace for this category.” 

Jane Cullen, the merchandising manager at Josephs Jewelers in Des Moines, Iowa, is also aching to find something new in bridal. “I really want to find some new bridal - other than halo,” says Jane. “I see a lot of repetition out there and need to find fresh, new designs.”

Jewelry store owners and their staff may be suffering from halo fatigue, but customers are still asking for it at Sissy’s Log Cabin in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Store owner Sissy Jones succinctly summarizes why retail customers continue to gravitate toward halo designs. “A lot of flash for the cash,” says Sissy. 

Sissy, her son (and company president) Bill and the other four members of her six-member Management Team will be looking for new approaches to halo designs.  Susan McClain, general manager at Scheherazade Jewelers in Edina, Minnesota (a suburb of Minneapolis) will also be looking for halo designs, but with an emphasis on variations of the theme because, “people are still asking for it.” 

Vegas-Emil-MaySusan will also be searching for more traditional looking diamond engagement rings that will coordinate well with thin matching diamond-set bands. “These aren’t shadow bands, but customers want pave, channel or common prong set diamond bands, either the 1/2 portion or all around that match up well with the engagement ring.”

Engagement rings set with emerald-cut diamond center stones are also trending for Susan’s store as is yellow gold bridal. “It’s coming back,” says Susan. 

The yellow gold revival just isn’t about bridal. Every market is different which is why Jane would like to bring some new gold fashion jewelry not set with gemstones for women looking for a big gold look for everyday wear. “The retail price points I’d like to find are between $500 and $1,500,” says Jane. “People want a big look for not so much money, so we’ll have to find lighter weight pieces.”

Emil wants to add some sterling silver lines. Currently silver jewelry makes up 10% of his store’s overall inventory. “We’d like to expand that number to 20%,” says Emil. “By adding some silver lines on the higher end, ranging in retail prices from $400 to $900, we’d give our customers more variety while offering less expensive alternatives to gold jewelry.”

Fashion jewelry for female self-purchases takes a variety of forms. Susan will be seeking out mixed metals jewelry ranging in retail prices from $200 to $3,000 that tells a story, makes a statement or both - ideally. “Whether its vermeil or [gold] plated jewelry, women are after statement-making pieces,” says Susan.

Vegas-McClain-MayJewelry that tells a story sells well with Susan’s customers, be it Oscar Heyman’s century-plus history of making fine quality high end jewelry, to Vietnamese designer Nina Nguyen, who is using proceeds from jewelry sales to build an orphanage in her home country. Nina’s sliced gemstone necklaces, such as drusy quartz pieces from the designer’s Lotus Collection, are selling well at Scheherazade.

The organic, freeform look inherent in sliced gemstone-set jewelry (namely necklaces) also appeals to Sissy’s customers, but she’ll be looking at sliced diamonds, along with un-cut and diamond cubes. The interchangeable trend is also “hot” in Sissy’s market, namely with color, as is jewelry with versatility built in. Women in her area are partial to the long, 34-inch diamond necklace to create an understated layered look with the 16-inch portion inside the 18-inch outer loop. 

Loose diamonds and diamond jewelry will be a major focus for Sissy and her team at the JCK Show. Similar to customers in Susan’s area, many customers are buying larger important diamonds (2 carats on up) and fancy colored diamonds as investments. Customers have used the “I word” (investment) but not in “hard assets” speak like a financial planner.  

Customers at both Sissy’s store in the south and Susan’s store in the Upper Midwest mention gold and silver price volatilities to sales associates when engaging them in important large white and fancy colored diamond purchases. But the more affluent customers are “investing” in these types of diamond purchases more for a family’s future, to ensure heirloom quality diamond jewelry for generations to come.

Vegas-Cullen-May“People know diamond prices are going up,” says Sissy. “That’s why we’ll be spending a lot of time at the Luxury Show as well. We have a diamond source that we have developed a great relationship with over the years.  We will certainly be sitting with them.  They have superb quality loose diamonds and diamond jewelry.”  In addition to important diamonds Sissy and her group will also be looking for antique cuts like European cut diamonds. “What’s old is new again and many designers are using them,” says Sissy. 

A JCK Las Vegas Show wouldn’t be complete without a stop by the AGTA Show for some color. Topping Jane’s list are garnet varieties, spinels, cornelian and turquoise for long necklaces. Single stones in ruby, sapphire, emerald, rutilated quartz, drusy quartz, moonstones and meteorites are also in her buying plan.

She’s another retail buyer looking to purchase sliced gemstone-set jewelry. “We bought some last year and it sold well for us,” says Jane. Affordable color-set silver jewelry is in Jane’s open-to-buy budget as well, namely sterling silver jewelry set with amber and drusy quartz.

Sapphire jewelry is performing very well for Susan. “Sapphires in all sizes are selling very well, no matter the size, jewelry type or prices it doesn’t stay in the cases very long,” says Susan. At her store Susan and her staff have been “dabbling” in color statement pieces. So far the reaction from customers has been favorable. She’ll be searching for unusual color with sapphires and tourmaline varieties.

Sapphires have been selling well for Sissy too, as have rubies, but tanzanite is performing particularly well. Her customers have been asking for colored stones that are unique, warming up to Paraiba tourmaline and its electric blue color. “We have a jeweler from Brazil who is partial to this gemstone, and customers like it,” says Sissy. “Smoky topaz and alexandrite are on our ‘something different’ list as well.”

Large baroque pearls in larger sizes, from 15mm to 20mm, are also in Sissy’s sights. “When Robin Roberts returned to the Today Show after her medical leave, she wore a large baroque pearl necklace,” says Sissy. “Celebs drive trends.”

Other destinations for jewelers will include a visit to the JCK Show’s watch section. Emil wants to find a watch line that will fit between Citizen on the affordable end and TAG Heuer and Rolex on the top end. “A line with attractive styles in the $400 to $1,000 retail price range would be a nice fit for us,” says Emil.

And, Sissy’s husband will be looking for the latest and greatest tech gadgets in the equipment and technology exhibition area.