By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
While many in the market grumbled about fourth-quarter jewelry sales—sentiments supported by reported data—January 2024 is looking a bit brighter at the start. Colored stone jewelry vendors exhibiting at the Centurion Jewelry show, Jan. 27–31, 2024, in Scottsdale, Ariz., weighed in on sales and retailer mood to date.
Overall, Christmas-season sales were decent but not the best. Brian Denney of Gems of Note maintains that while he sold some important Sapphire and Diamond earrings, he never “felt like there was a rush of sales.” Same for Niveet Nagpal of Omi Privé, a multiple-award-winning AGTA Spectrum & Cutting Edge designer, who says that while sales were not as strong as the last few seasons, buyers at least wanted super high-end material—Paraíba, Rubies, and red Spinel. “Pinks and Rubies are selling because of the Barbie movie,” he says.
For others like Lika Behar of the same-name jewelry collection, year-over-year sales were better because self-purchasers “came out of the woodwork—it was good for us,” explains the maker of layerable karat-gold, gemstone, and cultured Pearl pieces. Yehouda Saketkhou of Yael Designs was pleased as well, selling a lot of pinks and greens, which is why his inventory is chock full of stunning selections of Afghani Tourmaline.
Dallas–based retailer Carter Malouf of the eponymous private jewelry firm explains that his Christmas period was good but short, and he thinks 2024 will be a better year.
“January is always strong for us, but it’s been exceptionally strong this month,” he says. “I think 2023 was challenging for a lot of people because of changes in the economy and political issues.”
Election Year Mood
Of course, the U.S. is in an election year, which typically inspires many to rein in spending. Thus far, Denney’s clients haven’t been bothered by the idea of a change in the political landscape as much as the collapse of the lab-grown Diamond market.
“Our high-net-worth clients in the color space are looking for unique, non-shoppable pieces, like an 8 ct. fancy blue elongated radiant-cut Diamond from South Africa,” he says. “It’s been in a private collection, but we obtained it in the last six months,” notes Denney. “Large yellow Diamonds are also getting a lot of attention.”
These hard-to-find items are also good for sellers. “Clients can’t Google items or price-shop them,” he adds. “This is the best way to change business going forward.”
Others, too, aren’t hearing concerns expressed yet by clientele.
Nagpal knows his buyers are certainly aware of stock market fluctuations, and when that happens, basics don’t sell as well as high-end goods. This most likely occurs because wealthy clients seek to “diversify their tangible assets,” he notes. “Our January was phenomenal—we sold more big pieces this month than in almost any other last year.”
Meanwhile, Malouf and his shoppers have the U.S. border top of mind, a complicated matter that touches on the realm of responsible sourcing—an important subject for young shoppers.
“Shoppers who have responsible sourcing at the core of their requests are asking if questionable jewelry products are making their way across southern borders,” says Malouf. “We only think about people coming over, not necessarily the products, and the journey of the product is becoming important for origin.”
As far as merchandise that’s moving, colored stones across the board are finally achieving momentum in the Diamond-loving USA. Behar sells a lot of Turquoise, Opals, beaded material, and convertible styles like lariats that can be wrapped around wrists. “Classic but versatile does well for us,” she says.
Saketkhou bought a huge production of Brazilian Aquamarine in October which he’s now starting to sell through. At the Centurion show, he unveiled modern Deco designs and multiple trays of Afghan Tourmaline styles. His biggest holiday sale was an 18.67 ct. deep intense green and clean Colombian-origin (Muzo) Emerald that he set into a ring. He’ll journey down to the gem shows in Tucson after Centurion ends, on the hunt for Fire Opals and “anything else that grabs me.”
Malouf’s clients have an increasing interest in single-source material (think Mozambique Paraíba), and he’s on the hunt for good values within that space. One of his best finds this week: an ice-blue 6.7 ct. Sapphire set in a ring.
Finally, with a rising interest in rare color comes the inevitable challenge of education and understanding of rarity, prices, and treatments. Nagpal says he is encountering more clients dropping by his booth without appointments but with fierce appetites to learn about the rare gems he sources and sells.
“Everybody has Diamonds and Rolexes, so retailers want to know what else they can introduce clients to,” he explains. “It’s a new market they can own, but they can also be intimidated because of a lack of knowledge. The key is to ask a lot more questions. Gemstones have great stories, and I’m happy tell them.”
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