With more time inside I have been looking at articles about what the future of the jewelry industry and retail will look like. The articles and videos I have seen have almost dreary existence for retail. In an earlier post I mentioned some of the changes stores like Nordstrom were making to adjust to the pandemic. What I have found to be troubling is that these are short term trends and how people are interpreting them and applying them to their brand is misguided. I will look at a prediction from the past and see how you should evaluate it for your brand.
McKinsey published a trend report for the jewelry industry on Feb. 1, 2014 titled, ‘A multifaceted future: The jewelry industry in 2020’. Looking back, it was good about identifying a key trend that I will focus on in this post, branding. Below are the predictions leading up to 2020:
In about 10 years their will be a growth in branded jewelry. Reading the report, you will realize that they are talking about big brands like Prada and Louis Vuitton doing more with jewelry. There is another way to interpret this trend and that is branding will be more important to even smaller businesses. This is evident now with everyone seeming to have an Instagram account and articles telling you how you need to show the ‘personal’ side of your brand for others to relate to.
With recent events the jewelry industry is using their business platform as a political forum and losing sight of the purpose of a business account to share about your business. If you use your account to win a popularity contest or be in with the in crowd you risk diminishing what you built.
People need to see a product not a statement. If you attract only people that agree with you that can work but what happens when you don’t share those same opinions’, or your workers don’t all agree on the subject? Boycotting products or bullying others online to support your cause is not a good way to live; many people work at making those products and may not share those views. It will be hard though to buy from an artisan that is disrespectful as you know who the money is directly going to.
One Direction you can go
In my opinion you should focus on the quality and value your brand embodies. If you can build on that you will be ahead of many small jewelry brands who try and say that ‘I am just like you buy from me!’ There are lots of counter arguments and I have heard many, but it should be the individual that makes the decision not a business dictating their stance. That is where real change will happen treating others kindly that you come across.
If you need help refocusing you brand please reach out to me: email@example.com. Stay safe and I will be writing again next week!
Well the fall auction season has begun! I spent my Sunday checking out the Skinner lots in Boston. If you were in New York you could head over to Bonhams to look what they were offering. For this post, I am highlighting a few pieces to watch for the auction tomorrow. Then later in the week I will do a more in-depth analysis of how the auction did overall. I will start with Skinner since I got to see the pieces first hand.
There were plenty of opals, diamonds and colored gems to grab your attention but for me I am interested in the less flashy items. I am going to be watching the Georg Jensen items like the lot below. Photos from Skinner.
Another item that I am curious to see how it does is the Antique Natural Pearl pendant. Photo courtesy of Skinner.
It is estimated to go between $50,000-$75,000. Natural pearls have had some moments of bringing in good sales at auction so this is another trend that I am looking at. For more items see the lots here.
Looking at this auction there is so much variety. That won’t be covered here but 3 pieces caught my eye. One for the story, one for its style and the final one for its scarcity. Photos courtesy of Bonhams.
If you have been following some jewelry bloggers the big story was this brooch bought at a garage sale for $8. You can read more on it here.
It is a fun story and one I’ll be following to see if the publicity helps the sale.
Another trend I have been seeing is the return of jewelry trends from the 1960s and 1970s. This unique brooch by Cartier from the 1960s is an interesting lot compared to all the diamonds and gems dominating this auction. A collector of Cartier is hopefully eyeing this piece, I know I am.
Now this is a rare black opal pendant estimated to go between $200,000-$300,000. My interest is to see if the estimate is right and someone is willing to pay for this beautiful stone.
This is a small sampling of what to look for. I can’t wait to share my thoughts on the auction results. I also would love your thoughts on the auctions coming up. Did you like my picks? Is there a piece you are watching? Or maybe bidding on? Check back later to see if your predictions were right. Check out my Instagram for more pictures!
Above: Vogue photo with Buccellati necklace and Bulgari watch added by me
September is here and some of my favorite things are popping up; halloween candy, new collections of clothes/ accessories and the September issues of fashion magazines! How many make the annual trip to your local newsstand or bookstore to purchase several of the magazines out now? I have several subscriptions but there are a few magazines I only like to get once a year. A major reason I shy away from the subscription is too often the magazine is not consistent with the articles I like, jewelry trends and upcoming collections. For this post I am mentioning the jewelry related articles. I am also posting highlights of the jewelry from the top magazines and some articles online related to jewelry.
I felt pretty good about the jewelry covered in HB when I saw that the Editor’s note on pg 80 had a red bead statement necklace by Dries Van Noten. I wasn’t disappointed. From the What’s In/Out section to articles focusing on the jewels, which is the title of one section; there was a good mix of fine and faux. Included were traditional jewelery designs you could easily find in your own collection and pieces of a more wow factor to inspire you to look for other ways to use your jewelry. My favorite example was with the Cartier bracelet below, Harper’s Bazaar had it styled in the models’ hair as something like a cover for the models’ bun of hair. Next to the cuff by Cartier, is a gold collar by Maiyet and Sidney Garber earrings at the end.
Another great read for updates on what is new in jewelry was the InStyle Magazine. InStyle is pretty good about putting accessories with outfits to complete the look. One section was dedicated to showing a few necklaces that were very appropriate for work and layering with sweaters and turtlenecks. The looks can easy be replicated in a less expensive piece and look good, which I like to see. Also seeing Bulgari’s new cake rings in the magazine was a perfect clip to introduce me to this new collection.
The Start- Sweet Rings Pg 117
Collar Me Pretty Pg 296
Accessories- Astro Effects Pg 310
Accessories- Shoulder Duster Earrings Pg 312
The Pick Pg 344
Not a jewelry article but related was a focus on gold makeup and skincare. I have some gold infused products that I need to try and report back!
I found this in a local magazine rack. I am in Boston but seeing a California based magazine in a New England book shop had me take a second glance. If you thought California was laid back in their style their jewelry makes up for it! Though not article heavy what was plentiful were the jewels in the Jewelry Box section. A page dedicated to green gems like emerald and malachite. Also, the more surrealist art of the eye jewelry. The Fresh Picks article had top pick of places in or near Los Angeles by jewelry designer Rebecca de Ravenel. Overall worth the look. Earrings by Jane Taylor, cuff by Arman Sarkisyan and necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Not a magazine that can be bought on newsstands, I get this with my subscription to the Wall Street Journal. It is relatively consistent about having good articles on designers, new collections and just appreciating the art of jewelry itself. If you look close at its choices you can learn a lot from a photo. Not many articles were in this issue about jewelry but a top pick had me curious on a new collaboration. The necklace below is from the Marc Jacobs Fall 2017 runway show that he paired with Urs Fischer to design some jewelry. The look Jacobs was going for was a hip hop urban look and this gold jewelry amped up his look to the desired effect. The image below as with the other pieces from the collection is of a sculpted mouse. I’m just going to let you read the article on Elle from the show.
My favorite piece came later with the Personal Charms article. I couldn’t find the jewelry online but Cartier has a new collection that is taking everyday items like a pillbox and perfume bottle and reimagining them as jewelry. Imagine a small perfume bottle with a stopper that is triangular on top as well as the body of the bottle having a slender pointed shape. Cartier has this as a pendant in rutilated quartz and diamonds!
The WSJ Five Pg 80
Jewelry Box- Personal Charms Pg 108
Some magazines were pretty but not enough was there for me to say they represented jewelry well.
Although a leader in fashion it was lacking a chance to display some fun gems. First off the cover needed to have earrings that were more of a statement. What Lawrence had on were nice but hard to see the details and appreciate the design. I will say that this was my favorite cover due to the beauty of the scene. I said the price on the newsstands was worth it to frame it.
Another cover inside had a fun ring that was better as a cover jewel than the earrings (from that distant angle). I looked to see a designer, none listed for the ring, earrings on cover by Cathy Waterman.
The last look section was the best in using jewelry, once you got through all the Happy 125th Anniversary ads. David Webb did it best spelling Vogue with its jewels and wishing Vogue the best.
I don’t subscribe anymore but they do have a short article or two on jewelry happenings. This month it was 3 on Cartier, Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Magazines that fell short
These magazines did not just fall short they left me disappointed. I am a subscriber to all 3 as they in the past have been good on representing jewelry and designers.
W Magazine- They are a hit or miss. Some issues have nothing and are quick to be read and discarded. This issue is out the door, the only jewelry focus was a mention of stick pins, no explanation of it trending just a photo of high end stick pins arranged for the page. As I said disappointing.
Elle Magazine-They use to put out a separate magazine in the Spring devoted to accessories. Anyone remember? I still have a few. No real substance for the jewelry in the articles could be found in this issue.
Town & Country-They have had some excellent stories on designers and high jewelry trends coming but besides the earrings on cover girl Billy Lourd (which were nice to see) the jewelry was hard to find. I have seen sneak peaks of the October cover online and I think that T&C will make up for this slip.
My take on trends
If you look at the covers I posted, that telling trend is that jewelry is still not the front runner in completing a look. I know some of the articles inside have jewelry worth a king’s ransom but the real sign to me, was it important enough for the cover? Obviously not for these magazines. I picked more mainstream magazines because that is what a regular customer has the most access to and is exposed to. How will this affect the jewelry market? More is needed as we go into the auction season. A lot will depend on how the country and the world looks at the current hurricane crisis. Texas and especially Florida are major tourist destinations. Major work needs to happen to rebuild the communities and businesses that serve visitors. I think this season that will play a large part in the economy for the holiday season. Another indicator will be auctions happening in the next few months. Return to Data in the Rough soon for my looks at auction in the US and abroad.
We will now conclude this series by looking at the 25 years leading up to the 20th century. In the colonial era, we saw jewelry that was available only to the wealthy as much of it had to be imported for lack of skilled labor and need. For the federal period, the innovation in machines created a bigger market for jewelry to be affordable for more people but we see goldsmiths start to grow in confidence about becoming jewelers. Then in the Mid-19th century the jewelry manufacturing start to decline as the people tire of mass produced jewels and jewelers start to grow their business by establishing jewelry stores that we know today. In the next 25 years, 1875-1900, there are major shifts in the jewelry industry. This is of course driven by the trends of the people and what the current climate is like.
Before we get into all the details and history a set of jewelry I saw at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The set was made in France with amazing enamel details from 1900.
Back of the jewelry also enamel:
What was happening in this period?
Queen Victoria ends mourning 1887
100 years of America
United Press starts in 1880 to challenge monopolies
New wave of immigrants
Rise of millionaires ex. Carnegie, Rockefeller
Rise of the press
In keeping this post to a decent length, I will use a couple of examples to try and explain as much of this period affecting the jewelry industry in the late 19th century.
Let’s look at the beginning of this period at around 1876. The country is celebrating 100 years of independence. At this stage in the country’s history we have 2 groups; the established Americans who have a long family history of living in America and those newly immigrated to America. Around the time of the civil war there was an influx of immigrants coming to America. I had family that came to this country from Germany in the 1860s through Ellis Island. As many celebrated their American roots there was a renewed interest in the jewelry of their patriotic ancestors.
Weddings are considered a good time to wear beautiful jewelry either as a bride or as a guest but before the 1880s wedding jewelry was not that common among the public. That changed when the Press started covering society weddings. The trend of jewelry at weddings started with Queen Victoria and then the wealthy started to have wedding jewelry be more common. One wedding listed in Martha Gandy Fales, Jewelry in America book, is the wedding of Lilia Osgood Vanderbilt in 1881. The gifts from family and friends included:
Pearl and diamond necklace
Set of diamonds
Diamond and ruby ring
Diamond clasps to secure lace veil for bride’s silver satin wedding dress
Could you imagine receiving any of these gifts? That was not all. The groom after spending a small fortune on the ring was expected to give each of the bridesmaids a gift and the traditional gift was jewelry. What did the bridesmaids for the Vanderbilt wedding receive? There were four bridesmaids all nieces of the bride, they received a diamond pansy pin from the groom. Small gifts were also given to the attendants and ushers from the bride and groom. The rest of America was being exposed to all this wealth creating a need to copy these trends.
How did these events affect jewelry trends?
Increase in wedding jewelry
Emulating trends of the rich
Increase in imitation jewels
Revival jewelry started to trend because regular people wanted jewels they did not inherit p315
Increase in popularity of silver jewelry
Immigrants bring in jewelry design skills
New styles of jewelry art nouveau and arts and crafts popular to combat the industrial trend of jewelry
Not everyone was a Vanderbilt so imitation diamonds were getting more popular and not everyone had family that came over to America in the late 1700s so copies of antique jewelry were also in demand. Cameos and diamond necklaces, all the trends from the past were being made and sold to those that had no family jewels. This was not limited to ordinary strands of diamonds, a major trend in the earlier times for the country was the Greek, Roman, and Etruscan jewelry. The revival jewelry we see in museums today.
I saw several of these pieces at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A few of my photos below:
Earrings by Italian designer Castellini, made around 1870-1880, using ancient technique of granulation
Enamel ring from the 19th century created in 16th century style
Gold and Amber Archeological Revial necklace from Italy made around 1880
Elizabethan Revival necklace in silver, gold, pearl, diamonds, emeralds, agate and glass made in England around 1890, cameo depicts Queen Elizabeth I
You think jewelry manufacturing would start to see a revival? That was not the case. I have included the chart from the last post and added more years and removed the jewelry only listings to focus on the trends for the last half of the century.
We see a slight dip in the Boston Jewelry, Watch and Plate listings in 1876 around the time people are looking to grow their own collection without all the money the wealthier Americans have. This remains unchanged for about 10 years. Then something new happens, the trend is more handmade materials. The over saturation of mass produced jewelry has Americans looking for more novel artistic jewelry and this is the beginning of the Arts & Crafts movement. As we get closer to 1900 the trend for more jewelers and a decline in manufacturers becomes clear.
What gemstones & materials were popular in jewelry at the time?
There were lots of new designs and ideas taking off. Art Nouveau was becoming popular. The Arts&Crafts was unique because it used more affordable materials like silver and semi-precious gemstones. Below are some pieces from the late 19th century that are from the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Arizona turquoise, demantoid garnets, and gold pendant, by Marcus and Co made between 1891-1902, New York
Gold, peridot, diamonds, pearls, and enamel brooch, by Marcus and Co in 1900, New York
Gold, plique-à-jour enamel, diamonds, pearl, and ruby pin, made by Riker Bros in 1900, New Jersey
Gold, diamond, and enamel pin, made by Tiffany & Co. in 1890, New York
Silver vest chain made by Unger Bros. in 1900, New Jersey
What was the role of the jeweler and jewelry store at the time?
Rise of artistic jeweler
Price war and low margin for manufacturer
Recession, fire, theft major hindrances to industry
Establishment of Jewelry League of NYC 1877
Wholesales business increase created greater need for reps/salesman
We established in the last post that jewelry stores are starting to come into their own and expand into viable businesses. Jewelry is trending and there were years that were very good but the jewelry industry did suffer from some setbacks. Two notable ones occurred in 1877 and 1882.
In New York City in 1877, on a night in early March a fire broke out at the Waltham building in the center of the New York Jewelry trade buildings. Firemen immediately were at the scene but were unable to save the valuable goods due to how they were stored. The jewelry was stored offices and stores with iron clad safes, doors and windows to protect the building from theft. The fire got so fierce that the building collapsed. The work then began to salvage the wreckage. One company assessed their damage and found that of the $275,000 worth of valuables only about $10,000 could be saved. Some lessons learned, better comparisons between brands of safes. Tests on how safes could handle damage were measured and shared for future purchases.
Other years that were notably bad for the jewelry industry were 1882, 1893, and 1897 due to combinations of recession, fire and theft. Some examples are a recession that happened in 1882. The Spring of 1882 saw a sharp decline in jewelry sales and many in the industry either lost their job or had to reduce the hours worked. Another problem at that time was a decrease in profit for the manufacturing industry. With the increase in competition the prices were lowered. To reduce costs for manufacturers better machinery and techniques were sought as well as using cheaper materials for the jewelry. Some of these attempts were successful but as you see in the present time cheaper materials is not always the best answer. The jewelry industry cannot wage price wars and still have the message of luxury product unique to the individual.
I covered a lot and still could go on for more posts but I hope you started to see the parallel themes from the past to the present. If you want to understand your industry and customers better, you must understand the environment around you and globally what is trending. Politics and those featured in society have a major effect on trends. America still gets inspiration from England and its royal family. Keeping up with what your neighbor has is still going to happen, just look at how people want the latest in technology. Don’t just follow what is happening in your industry, read business articles on retail trends and policies that can affect you customers. This is one of the best ways to keep up or be a head of your competition and if you are in the jewelry industry you need that advantage as I see this as one of the most saturated and fragmented industries to make it in.
If you enjoyed this series and are interested in looking at my take on the business of jewelry I encourage you to join my email list. I am looking to launch a newsletter soon with alerts and other insights from my blog. Please visit Data in the Rough soon for more articles and thank you for reading.
A lot of talk has been made about the future of retail. I cannot walk down a street or look out a window on my commute without being reminded of the shift in consumer spending. Store closing and out of business signs seem to be popping up in Boston and online. Type in ‘store closing’ and see what that search brings you the words: panic, scramble and apocalypse were in the three stories at the top of my list. Much of the retail ‘apocalypse’ talk has been pointing to the apparel part of the industry. The question I ask seeing these stories is what does this mean for the jewelry industry?
To be able to better understand the future it helps to understand the past. A very overused saying but still insightful. For the rest of the month I want to focus on the jewelry industry in America. This will be a return to my book bling series by focusing on one book: Jewelry in America (1600-1900) by Martha Gandy Fales. It is divided into 4-time periods:
 Colonial (1600-1775)
 Federal (1775-1825)
 Mid-19th Century (1825-1875)
 Late 19th Century (1875-1900)
This book is more than just pictures of antique jewelry Ms. Fales looks at trends of the country and how the jewelers and jewelry stores evolved. That is how we will learn and be better prepared for the future by recognizing how trends in the country affect trends in the jewelry and the industry.
Confucius states it best, ‘Study the past if you would define the future’. Why use a quote by a Chinese scholar that lived long before the time America was founded? Because the beginning of this story starts in another country, long before America became a country of their own…
In the beginning
History tells of the Pilgrims that came over from England to worship without persecution, but traveling to a new world was typically for trade or war over resources. In 1608 John Smith was with a crew to look for new resources. Settling in what is now Virginia, Captain Smith thought practically about creating an environment for survival not treasure hunting. Reading Fales stories about Smith reminded me of the 1995 Disney movie Pocahontas. So much of that movie was inaccurate but some of the plot was following history, the villain and leader of the crew, Governor Ratcliffe, is in a mad fever to find lots of gold, but the men have no real experience with it, they are hunters and builders not goldsmiths. But that doesn’t stop Governor Ratcliffe from having the crew devote their time to digging.
Well in real life goldsmiths were sent over with Smith’s crew due to the false hope of their being large amounts of gold found. In fact, the crew included two goldsmiths, two refiners and a jeweler, none of which could practice their craft in the new world. What happened when there are no materials and few customers? The jeweler returned home to England.
Realistically, the crew needed to hunt and settle the land (build shelter, etc) to survive. Like Smith was doing in the movie as he surveyed the land.
Had to sneak of photo Disney’s John Smith in!
Once more colonists settle trade picked up but the role of the jeweler was much different than it is today.
What was happening in this period?
• People were settling in America
• English influence
• Low morality rate
I mention the top two points in my story above but to touch on the last point, with this new land came disease and poor conditions of living that lead to deaths at an early age than we have now. Death was a major part of colonial life a fact that the people embraced and accepted as best they could.
How did these events affect jewelry trends?
As people came to America and started a new life they bought some jewelry with them but the trend in this era was simple jewelry. Colonists did not have a major need for extravagant jewels when they are doing daily chores. Also, many of these colonists had religious influence that did not put a lot of value on jewelry.
With the English being the ones who lead the start of the colonies in America, England held a major influence over the jewelry brought into the country. Colonists had their jewels brought from England and imported jewelry for buying. Jewelry was also still primarily for nobility and the rich. In addition, the trend until the late 17th century was that men wore far more jewels than women. Signet rings, buckles, buttons, etc. all sparkled on men with a high status.
With a low morality rate, memorial jewelry was a major trend. Lockets, rings, cameos, anything to mark the remembrance for those that had passed.
What gemstones were popular at the time?
Cannot fit all the jewelry I’d like to in this post but a great example of garnet jewelry from the time with a famous owner. This necklace was owned by Martha Washington, America’s First, First Lady. Order from London (no surprise there) by her husband George in 1759. Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies Association, Virginia.
What was the role of the jeweler and jewelry store at the time?
Neither really existed at the time. There were not dedicated jewelers or jewelry stores. Silversmiths/goldsmiths doubled as jewelers and sold some wares in their shops. Not much was made with limited materials, skills and customers. Those that could afford the good jewelry bought from England, the most trusted source of jewelry at the time. England also had higher taxes on imports from other countries so English jewelry was what was most commonly sold.
I personally loved reading about a famous American patriot, silversmith and budding jeweler. Paul Revere was a Bostonian that has several silver pieces in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston as well as a ring I got to see on a trip there last winter.
There were a lot of years in this period but not too much happening in the world of jewelry in America. Next, I will look at the Federal Era and America’s freedom from England and how that made great changes for the jeweler and the stores! Sign up for emails and return for more Data in the Rough!
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