JCK Las Vegas is the biggest jewellery trade event in north America and features exhibitors from around the world. Everything you could possibly imagine that has a link to the jewellery trade is represented here.
From my point of view as a small designer/maker I was interested to see emerging trends, loose gemstones, tools and custom packaging options for our products.
The size of the show was for me breathtaking. As a first time visitor to Las Vegas and the US, the drive down the Vegas strip, between the mammoth hotels and Casinos was impressive enough before even entering the show. Not to mention the intense heat.
Although it was a short notice trip I had a list of things I wanted to investigate in order to try and give my time at the show some kind of structure. This turned out to be helpful although I did spend the majority of the first day a bit lost. In general awe at the scale of the whole thing. Scale is going to be a reoccurring theme in this review. I think the contrast between the mostly miniature world of jewellery and the size of this show, as well as the way we view our products as rare, versus the seeming abundance of them on display here is why.
Despite this abundance of product I was struck at the lack of variety on display and at the apparent scale to which brands and manufacturers will produce the same thing, over and over and over again. In some cases directly and unashamedly copying well known designs down to the last detail. As a designer its both encouraging and terrifying. Its not the first trade show I have been to where I have thought this but again the scale here was huge.
Encouraging in that there is still room to create new products, and terrifying in the knowledge that if liked these products will be copied rapidly and mercilessly
From a British point of view, we seemed under represented by exhibitors but many products and brands clearly take inspirations from collections and designs originally from British designers. Stephen Websters ‘ Crystal Haze, Gothic styling have obviously served to inspire designers from the US to China and throughout Europe. He must be so pleased.
From memory Germany, Turkey, Italy, Hong Kong, China and Thailand were represented by specific zones, where as the handful of British exhibitors where dotted around the design section. I think the show accurately represents our place in, and attitude to the world wide jewellery industry. A world leader in design but essentially a small market, very much concerned with itself and not too fussed about what’s going on outside.
It seems a shame with the manufacturing expertise we have in this country that this side of our industry isn’t so well represented. Although I do understand Vegas is a long way to go, the strong pound makes exporting tricky and competition from the far east is strong. We also find ourselves in good company with France being in a similar position.
The finished jewellery and design sections are interesting to look around but I wasn’t there to buy finished pieces . Wearing a name badge that says designer gets you some suspicious looks from exhibitors. Everyone is acutely aware that good ideas are quickly reproduced.
The tools and packaging sections were the busiest and most hectic, packaging stands especially could be manic. A novel if tacky idea, was a ring box with a tiny in-built camera, to capture the moment of proposal from the view of the proposer. It remains to be seen weather it will catch on here as much as I’m sure it will in the states, but its a fun thing and your sure to see a video of a sobbing fiancée to be, on your facebook news-feed at some point.
I always tend to gravitate towards the gemstone section and I found my way to the bottom level of the show where there were 2 rooms full of gemstone dealers. India, being the world centre for gemstone cutting was well represented in this section along with China and many U.S based gem dealers.
Again the sheer abundance of extremely valuable material on show here struck me. There were Tanzanites, Emeralds, Rubies, Sapphires and Paraiba Tourmalines in excess of 20 cts each. Individually worth many thousands. You do have to remind yourself of just how rare these things are after an afternoon spent in there.
A personal mission of mine was to find a pair of square cushion shaped Tsavorties about 1ct each. Square cushions are rare with Tsavorites because of the shape of the crystal means this shape normally calls for an unacceptable amount of wastage. Despite the abundance of stones I was only able to find one suitable stone, pictured below this 0.97ct stone from Tanzania has a good spread, colour and is loupe clean.
Already earmarked for a design, you can expect to see this stone mounted soon. Although I am still on the hunt for a matching stone to make a pair of earrings.
To summarize, taking a weekend to visit JCK is well worth it if only to meet people that you would never have the chance to meet anywhere else.