“The $5000 sale has disappeared,” he says. “The middle-class buyer has reduced their budget. We’ve had to alter our designs to using smaller or bigger stones to fit those ranges.”
Although Europe continues to make headlines, it also appears to be a strong influence among exhibitors, notably Stuller, Inc., and Belle Étoile, who both looked to Italy for inspiration.
Hoping to put a different spin on its new lines, Stuller sent its design team to the Vicenza fair. Not only did they incorporate the architectural lines and curves of northern Italy, but techniques that create the appearance of a solid gold design.
Why turn to Italy and not another part of world for inspiration? “I think those are the designs that eventually end up in the United States,” says Ashley Brown, Stuller’s executive director of marketing services. “That type of Etruscan or Byzantine design seems to be everywhere. The experts are predicting this to be the hot trend for the next few years.”
Jim Grohn, president of Belle Étoile, says targeting the sophisticated woman looking to make a self-purchase was the reason for the Italian flair behind the company’s newest collections. The use of eye-popping enamel, rubber, and resin is geared toward bridging the gap between costume and fine jewellery with what Grohn describes as a “designer fashion brand.” While he says there are challenges with some retailers like department stores in categorizing this emerging sector as either costume or fine, he adds the market is shifting and jewellers are following suit.
“It’s about embracing change,” he notes.
Contemporary metals remain a strong market, which is why Edward Mirell dedicates 12 per cent of his yearly budget to product development and creating new methods for working these materials.