AGTA GemFair™ Tucson Daily Report
Saturday, February 6, 2010

Designing Optimism at AGTA GemFair

Tucson, Arizona, Feb. 6, 2010-Trade analysts frequently hail bridal the most recession proof category in the industry, but designers creating a spectrum of beautiful jewelry in an array of gems, metals and materials not typically associated with fine jewelry say they cannot complain-business has been good. In fact, the first four days of the six-day American Gem Trade Association GemFair™ Tucson has been very strong for many exhibiting designers.

gfPaula Crevoshay says she met new retailers this year, in addition to seeing regular clients and she has been writing business. "People are here," says the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based designer. "They may be stretching their line of credit a bit, but they are refusing to give up."

Crevoshay, who is known for her bold gem jewels in 18K gold, admits that everyone in the industry has had to step back and rethink their strategies. "It's certainly a time to realign, reevaluate and get real," she describes. "When gold shot up over $1,000 a gram, I decided to go back through my older pieces and the ones that did not speak to where I am today as a designer, I melted the gold to buy new and start fresh. I soul-searched where I needed to focus my time and energy and for me I decided to concentrate on my major pieces."

She mentions how many designers have turned to sterling silver or silver and gold combinations to cut costs. "I couldn't do that, it just isn’t me," Crevoshay says. Yet she realized that many of her retailers needed help to stay afloat. As part of her action plan, she developed a multi-media presentation for her jewelers called the "Colors of Humanity" that integrate her vibrant jewels with model shots and images from the countries where her gems are sourced, set to tribal music with her soft voice echoing words of empowerment. She describes the piece, as Zen like, enlightening, and full of spirit, noting that she has stepped up personal appearances where she orchestrates events like yoga and Japanese tea.

For Crevoshay, nature has always been an important theme in her work and her latest collections explode with large-scale butterflies set with bold gems central to the piece, symbolizing metamorphosis. She is moving even more into flowers as well, like orchids and pansies, and using very rare natural pearls, like luscious conch pearls, as the focal point.

Throughout history, nature has provided a spectrum of design ideas for talented artists, and now more than ever many designers are producing motifs that honor our culture's yearning to be closer to the earth. From butterflies to dragonflies, bees to frogs, leaves to flowers, design themes are symbolic and fun.

gfDesigner Ann Garrett of Tulsa, Oklahoma launched last year a collection that is causing quite a buzz. Decorated with cute frogs and bright gemstones she is working with unconventional jewelry materials like stingray and horsehair to make cuff bracelets and necklaces, earrings and rings. The bracelets and neck wear are formed on flexible stainless steel with additions of silver and 18K gold inlay, while the rings and earrings are crafted in silver and gold set with the leather. There are many removable elements that can alter the look on a whim.

A designer since 1978, she is best known for her 18K gold and gem-set jewelry, yet the challenging economy inspired her to try something more fun and fashion-forward that has undoubtedly put a smile on the faces of many a jeweler at her booth. "We've had a great show," she reports. "I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the price points this line offers (below $300 wholesale)." But she's quick to point out that despite the lower cost materials used with gems like coral, lapis, onyx, and buffalo turquoise-she has not compromised on quality and workmanship.

gfAlso realizing tremendous success by thinking outside the box is Rare Earth Mining Co. in Trumbull, Connecticut. Owner William Heher says that after 35 years of selling gems and now jewelry to the wholesale market he has finally landed on a product that he sells out of every time-pendants, bangle bracelets and rings crafted in exotic wood and set with fine drusy gems and 18K gold.

"Gem quality is number one, and in this business environment, if I can use super high-quality stones and offer a finished product without the gold or even silver price that jewelers can sell with no labor and time invested they will buy it," Heher explains, noting that he currently has 26 jewelry stores selling his designs, with every single one reordering items since Las Vegas 2009 when he launched the line. "I focus on gem quality, knowing that with gem-set jewelry the 'jewel' will sell the piece if the craftsmanship is first rate." Wholesale prices range from $60 to  $150, with most of his retailers tripling the cost without customer resistance.

As many designers report, demand for multi-functional pieces that deliver more bang for the buck is high, and jewelry artisans are responding to the call. The L.A.-based designer Aaron Henry offers pieces that can open up a woman's wardrobe. Partial to brooches, all of his pins can be pendants on necklaces with special jump rings or links to feature one or a cluster of pins, as is the trend in fashion. Most of his earrings offer interchangeable drops, as well. And he even has an amazing five-row latticework bracelet with multi-color sapphires on one side and white diamonds on the other.

gfHenry's latest collection, dubbed "Embrace", focuses on yummy gem centers like screaming spessartite and vibrant green tourmaline. He has been inclined to use orange and green combinations of late, a throwback to his high school and college days during the 1980s, he says. "Those colors just remind me of that time," he quips, noting that they are also great earth tones, which speaks to his love of the outdoors. The shanks of these rings have a garden lattice feel.

Overall, buyers searching for finished jewelry at the GemFair are looking for something different, colorful, functional, and offering great value.

Paula Crevoshay, Natural Pearl Rings
Ann Garrett, Stingray Bracelets
Rare Earth Mining, Wood Bangles
Aaron Henry, Spessartite Ring

Today at GemFair

  9:00 am    Seminars start
10:00 am    Show Opens
 6:00 pm     Show Closes
 7:00 pm     AGTA Spectrum Awards Gala - Marriott University Park Hotel