National Jeweler Network

Trade Shows

Southern hospitality at its finest (jewelry)

By Lilian M. Raji

August 18, 2014


Lilian M. Raji is a strategic marketing and public relations adviser for luxury lifestyle companies in the areas of fine jewelry and watches, luxury fashion accessories and cosmetics. Contact her at lilian@lmrpr.com.

Click through to see jewelry from vendors that stood out to the author, as well as pieces she’d like to see magically appear in her jewelry box.

Atlanta is legendary for two things: its fondness for everything peach (there are more than two dozen streets named “Peachtree”) and its Southern hospitality. 

While there weren’t any peaches on display at the Atlanta Jewelry Show, there certainly was more than enough Southern hospitality to make up for it.  It is, in fact, this legendary hospitality that many vendors and retailers say is their main reason for continuing to come back to the show. 

Now in its 64th year, the Atlanta Jewelry Show has become an important trade show for many Southeastern vendors and retailers, some of whom only exhibit here and, in the case of retailers, only attend this trade show, even foregoing the Las Vegas shows. 

Up 10 percent in attendance since last year and 5 percent from the May 2014 edition, 40 new exhibitors joined longtime show veterans Vahan, Frederic Duclos and Pink Diamonds. New exhibitors were added to the recently created “Point of View: A Designer Gallery” promenade, with six handcrafted jewelry artisans premiering in the “Handcrafted Studio” space. 

Busy all three days, the show offered Southeastern retailers a wide-ranging assortment of designer jewelry, costume jewelry, diamonds, pearls, gold, silver, estate jewelry, gem merchants, packaging companies, gift items and more. 

“This is one of the reasons we love this show,” said Flower Gattone of Fountain City Jewelers in Knoxville, Tenn. “It’s small enough to do over a weekend, yet you can still get everything you need:  higher-end bridal, unique designers and smaller fill-in items from sterling vendors. Plus, it’s a busy show, but not so busy I can’t get a vendor to speak to me at length.” 

I asked Gattone what designers she recommended, and, in the spirit of true Southern hospitality, she walked me to Bora Jewelry and personally introduced me to the designer. She pointed out her favorites as his various Byzantine-inspired locks, all done in oxidized silver, with variations studded in black spinel, multiple colored gemstones, or simply with a gold embossed fleur-de-lis.

“Another reason we come to the show,” Gattone added, “is to find something unique and different. Our customers really look to us to find something they can’t see everywhere.” 

On that note, she left me with Bora, but only after insisting that afterward I stop by Nina Nguyen.

At Nina Nguyen’s booth, I found a common theme for my remaining show journey: druzy.  

Whether it was in the multi-colored druzy geometric designs from Nguyen or the array of druzy pendants, earrings and bracelets from Frederic Duclos (another Gattone recommendation) or the pops of druzy here and there in the handcrafted jewelry of Susan Saul, druzy’s glittering effect was on trend for the Southeast.

Also on trend: diamonds. And not just white diamonds--any color diamond will do for the Southeastern customer, as long as they’re diamonds. 

“My customers don’t want sapphires or rubies,” said Len Pickett of Pickett Brothers Jewelry in Jacksonville, Fla. “But they’ll happily take a yellow, brown or pink diamond.” 

“White gold is also in demand,” added Steven Gilbert of Gold Hills Jewelry, another Jacksonville-based retailer. “Yellow may be coming back, but white gold is still very strong for us. Halo pieces likewise are still very popular for our customers.”

For Pickett and Mark Enix, also of Fountain City Jewelers, their estate jewelry business is booming. 

“A lot of our customers want vintage handmade pieces,” said Enix. “They like the idea that a certain type of craftsmanship is no longer being done. For them, a 1940s ring is more attractive because they know it can never truly be duplicated using today’s technologically driven methods.”

Asked what his customers expected for the holidays, Louis Brody of Rossville, Ga.’s Brody Jewelers pointed to diamond and duo-tone gold and silver company Vahan’s booth, which, coincidently, Gattone and Pickett also had urged me to visit. Brody said his customers come to him mostly for estate pieces, bridal and diamonds.

At Vahan, Carole Greenberg, vice president of sales, summed up the Southeastern woman’s preference for diamonds: “Diamonds go with every color!”

Leaving Vahan’s booth, Julie Atkinson of Cortes Jewelers in Macon, Ga. pulled me to Zeghani. 

“You must see this ring!” she insisted, and had David Ramirez of Zeghani pull out a rose and white gold filigree ring, also on trend for the Southeast. “Our customers love this filigree vintage look.” 

While there were quite a few items I really wish would magically appear in my jewelry box, three companies at the show stood out for me simply because of their originality: 

--Momma’s Jewels is a Greenville, S.C.-based company that produces naturally antimicrobial sterling silver jewelry that doubles as a teether and rattler for babies. For anyone who’s ever carried a baby only to have to negotiate the surrender of your necklace from their vice-like grips, Momma’s Jewels is made specifically with this scenario in mind. 

--Raffaele Crispino of Crispino Art Cameos, from Torre del Greco, Italy, spent time educating me on the lost art of cameo production. I, for one, never knew the importance of selecting not just the right seashell, but also carving the cameo from certain sides of the seashell, and not always the smooth side. Seventh-generation carvers, Crispino’s family has produced cameos for Pope Francis and provide scholarships for students to study carving. 

--Philip Stein surprised me with their Horizon Bracelet Collection, debuting at the Atlanta Jewelry Show.  The leather bracelets incorporates their Natural Frequency Technology disc, which creates a positive mind-body balance by picking up natural frequencies to help relax and de-stress the wearer. When worn before bedtime, the Philip Stein Sleep Bracelet is said to improve sleep quality, falling asleep faster, sleeping deeper and awakening more refreshed.  Given the immense popularity of fitness-related technology such as Fitbit and Jawbone, I’m sure this will be in hot demand for the holidays. 

Lilian M Raji is a strategic marketing and public relations adviser for luxury lifestyle companies in the areas of fine jewelry and watches, luxury fashion accessories and cosmetics. Equally passionate about writing as she is developing and executing business strategy, she’s been published on Forbes.com, Luxury Society.com, as well as in Canadian Jeweller, Harry Norman Home and many others. Contact her at lilian@lmrpr.com.