Here are some observations from the first days of the Las Vegas shows:
- Traffic was solid and the mood good as JCK Luxury, Couture, the Antique Jewelry & Watch Show, and JCK Las Vegas began at various stages between Wednesday and Friday. That was somewhat surprising considering the depressed state of the market in the past few months.
- Expectations remain that orders won’t match the shows of the past two years, reflecting that the market is not projected to equal the records seen in 2021 and 2022.
- The jury is still out regarding sales as it’s too early to tell the level of business being done. Booths were busy on Friday, the first day of the JCK show, and Luxury has seen steady interest since it began on Wednesday.
- US jewelry exhibitors are more upbeat than international diamond dealers. Buyers are looking at jewelry collections. Saturday and Sunday will be more telling for loose diamond traders.
- Well-established legacy brands are doing well.
- Origin is the main topic of discussion, and De Beers is pushing the agenda with the launch of its Origin suite of services.
- Sustainability is a close second, with several talks and panel discussions conducted to understand what it means and how companies can formulate their sustainability strategy.
- Lab-grown is facing its own challenges. There is some recognition of those issues as lab-grown diamond prices are spiraling downward. The market is oversaturated with goods as a result of the rush to get into synthetics while the going was good. Demand continues to rise for the product, and there is a relatively large lab-grown pavilion at JCK.
- Tension between De Beers and the Botswana government appear less intense in person than it does in the news. A large delegation from Botswana is attending the show, with a genuine willingness to understand what US jewelry retailers require from them. In turn, there is tangible interest from the US jewelry market to tap into Botswana’s positive diamond story.
The NDC Gains Confidence
It was a slow burn, but the Natural Diamond Council (NDC) is now a well-established part of the industry. That was evident in the preshow announcement that eight midstream companies are helping to fund its programs, and in its overall presence at the show.
In addition to filling the funding gap left by Russian miner Alrosa’s withdrawal when the Ukraine war broke out, the NDC’s biggest and most important challenge is to partner with retail jewelers — and for jewelers to understand how they can help the NDC drive demand for natural diamonds, and vice versa.
The NDC has a booth at the JCK Luxury and Couture shows. With its focus on content creation, it just published its first print magazine. The NDC is featuring at JCK the six designers participating in its Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative (EDDI). It is well worth the visit to meet designers Amina Sorel, Bernard James, Gwen Beloti, Jessenia Landrum, Rosario Navia, and Symoné Currie.
Diamonds Do Good
In the greater context of the diamond market, the Las Vegas shows really begin with the Diamonds Do Good (DDG) awards dinner, which took place Thursday evening. The organization, established at the behest of former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, honors those who have used their positions in business to raise social awareness and to make a positive impact on community.
This year, DDG honored Lorraine West with its Inspiration Award, Valérie Messika with its NextGen Award, Rosy Blue with the Visionary Award, and De Beers with its Good Award.
The awards event is an apt opening to the show because it demonstrates the main purpose of the diamond industry — to connect people across all walks of life, segments of the supply chain and positions in society.
Connecting people is also the primary purpose of the trade fairs. The Las Vegas shows present a unique networking opportunity for the industry. That was on full display from the start of this year’s event, evident in the positive atmosphere during the opening days.
Whether that will translate to buoyant sales remains to be seen. But at least it has given some respite from the downbeat sentiment evident in the market so far in 2023. Even if trading doesn’t boom out of Vegas, there is at least some evidence that the US market is working.
Image: Las Vegas Strip. (Shutterstock)