Fall in Manhattan
Yellow gold, layered necklaces and ’90s styles were among the trends at the JA New York fair.
The fall 2022 edition of the JA New York show was timed to target retailers seeking to fill holiday inventory holes, as well as any stores buying for the pre-spring travel season. The event, which took place from October 23 to 25 at the city’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, was the second fall show after 2020’s Covid-19 closures. There were almost no masks in sight, and no virus precautions. The industry, it seemed, was ready to move on.
Yet attendance was light when the show opened on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon. The mood inside was warm, but exhibitors seemed perhaps a little eager as they vied for the attention of small packs of buyers roaming the extra-wide aisles. Booths were brimming with inventory and a few deep discounts, and everyone said they hoped traffic would pick up.
Organizers declined to release specific numbers, but said preregistration for the event was up from the fall 2021 show and only slightly down from 2019. On-site registration had yet to be tallied. Reported exhibitor numbers were also higher than fall 2021, though still below 2019 figures. Prior to the show, some retailers told Rapaport Magazine that they were still cautious about traveling, especially in light of flu season and possible new Covid-19 outbreaks. They also cited online wholesale shopping as an alternative to in-person events, and some indicated that the Las Vegas shows had already filled their coffers for the year.
It was hard to tell if the show would be busy or not, remarked Ken Ghaytanchi ahead of the event. “I don’t have a point of reference yet,” said the president of jewelry manufacturer KGM Industries. “Probably I’ll know better in a day or two. But traffic is not indicative of being busy, because [show organizers] have become much tougher about screening people. They ID everyone, and they won’t let just anybody in.”
In the past, he went on, people would sometimes swap ID cards to get in or show up only for self-purchasing, which padded the show floor with people, but not necessarily retailers. “There were a lot of people getting in. This is a local show, and everybody knows somebody on 47th Street, so they’d say, ‘Do me a favor, get me in.’ No problem, right? So [after organizers] started cracking down [in August], which is what we were asking for for years, I think there’s a lot more qualified people in here.”
Among the dedicated spaces were the Hong Kong pavilion, which spanned two rows and featured three dozen exhibitors; the National Chinese American Jewelry Association (NCA) pavilion; trend, design, and premier areas, mainly showcasing current fashion pieces; and a small Italy section. Toward the rear of the show were approximately a dozen lab-grown dealers, selling stones that averaged $600 to $700 per carat. One notable newcomer to that section was Ukrainian Diamonds, which offered High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) stones. A representative at that booth said its products were gaining traction because sanctions had made Russian diamonds scarce and undesirable, and customers eager to support Ukraine were looking for ethical alternatives.
The show’s only scheduled industry event took place on the second day: an educational session on optimizing in-store events. The host was Elizabeth “Beth Anne” Bonanno, owner of luxury-brand development agency The EAB Project and co-owner of The Gems Project.
A rainbow of looks
If the show trends were any indication, the holiday and travel seasons will be full of heart-shaped pendants and lots of color. Emeralds, blue and pink sapphires, yellow diamonds, and rainbow-hued tennis bracelets and rings were everywhere.
The dainty-jewelry trend, it seems, is not going away anytime soon, either. Delicate necklaces and lariats meant for layering, usually in 18-karat yellow gold, boasted tiny pops of emerald or white diamond. They sat beside skinny diamond bangles and whisper-thin, choker-length chains with tiny dangling stones.
On the other end of the spectrum, large gemstones — particularly opals — were having a moment, especially in diamond-encrusted settings. Massive yellow gold Cuban chains and oversized paperclip pieces, all with diamonds, were also showing up everywhere. The 1990s were back in style, with diamond chokers and flower-power pendants, rings and earrings featuring frequently.
Chokers and flexible bangles were doing especially well at KGM Industries, where Ghaytanchi said he couldn’t keep them in stock. “We sell quite a bit of those types of items, because we’re known for them,” he explained. His booth was also replete with paperclip necklaces and bracelets, which will likely be another big holiday trend.
In terms of metals, the bloom has gone off the rose gold, and yellow is back.
“Rose gold has been soft, and yellow gold has been trending consistently,” said Prateek Nigam, director at jewelry brand Nigaam Jewels. “Color has [also] been a strong performer for us, and in particular, yellow diamonds have done extremely well.” Emeralds and blue sapphires were trending, in keeping with this season’s push toward vibrant shades, he added.
What the labs can’t offer
While traditional styles were selling well across the board, Nigam suggested that fine jewelers were looking for more unusual pieces, too. “Right now, retailers are looking for a value proposition. They want things they can show their customers that are not the classics, because classics, I think, have been hindered [by] the lab-grown diamond section.”
Lab-grown companies are selling many classic styles, such as diamond tennis bracelets and hoop earrings, and shoppers are attracted to the lower prices, leading to smaller sales for stores, Nigam reported. To that end, his clients have increasingly sought out pieces that lab-grown companies can’t duplicate so easily.
“Our main business is more toward what we consider the one-of-a-kind, high-end pieces,” he said. At his booth, extravagant pendant necklaces dripping with diamonds and conch pearls sat beside large green emerald cocktail rings and shoulder-dusting earrings with diamonds and blue sapphires. Recently trending styles like dainty diamond necklaces with small dangling stones, or floating diamonds, are still doing well, he added.
Organizers recently announced that JA New York would no longer hold summer shows and would instead focus its efforts exclusively on fall and spring. A source at the fall 2022 event said summer shows no longer fit the requirements or shopping patterns of retailers, and the decision aimed to help bolster store inventory for the winter holidays and Mother’s Day, respectively. The next JA New York show will run from March 12 to 14, 2023.
The retail landscape has shifted in recent years, and the show has sought to accommodate those changes, explained Mark Lind, group show director at organizer Emerald Expositions. “We are confident that this adjustment to our show cadence will better satisfy the needs of the industry.”
Image: Lucas Botz Photography