By Michelle Graff
Graff,-MichelleBut, before my last-day play, there was plenty of work. What follows here are three observations from the week that was in Las Vegas.

1) It was a good Vegas. I had the chance to walk both Couture and JCK and I would say both shows seemed upbeat, and busy.

It was my sixth Vegas, a paltry number compared to those industry veterans who have logged decades of trips to Sin City. But, still, I feel like I have a solid basis for comparison after half-a-dozen shows. This year’s “jewelry market week” activity, I believe, exceeded not only the down years of 2008, 2009, but also 2010 and 2011. It’s been the best year I’ve witnessed in terms of attendance and attitude since the downturn.

On the Couture side, some people were saying it was the best Couture ever, which would make sense considering the strength at the higher end of the market. Show organizers say that qualified attendance (retailers and press) was up 11 percent year-over-year.

JCK seemed busy as well, and I talked to one diamond dealer who said he did business mostly in bigger goods, 2 carats and up, while sales of melee slowed due to the number of jewelers sourcing smaller stones by breaking them out of gold buybacks.

2) The millennials are making waves. Dates for this generation vary depending on whom you ask. Some say the genesis of the millennials, also known as Gen Y, is in the late 1970s, while others push it into the early 1980s. In his State of the Diamond Industry presentation, Martin Rapaport defined the millennials as those aged 15 to 30, which would mean they born roughly between 1983 and 1998.

No matter their exact birthdates, it is a large generation (they are, after all, the children of the baby boomers) that is making a big impact on the world around them. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the jewelry industry.

More companies are stressing ethical sourcing these days--can you say where your diamonds come from?--because younger people have expressed that they care about the origin of the products they buy and the ethics of the companies behind them.

There is also a greater emphasis on brands because this is a generation that identifies strongly with the story of the product they are buying and/or the ethos of the company behind it, which also ties back to my previous point about ethical sourcing.

One more note about millennials: this is a generation that wants to have things their way, exactly.

Think about this: Apple’s now-iconic iPod debuted in 2001, when the oldest members of this generation were just 18. The iPod took listening, and purchasing, music to a whole new level, allowing people to buy songs a la carte instead of having to purchase entire albums. It also gave people the option of carrying virtually all of their music around with them and listening to it in any order they choose.

The lesson here for jewelers: millennials might not want exactly what you have in the showcase so you need to have a way of getting them a piece customized to their liking.

3) Supply chain transparency is a hot topic. This is a point that, obviously, ties back into No. 2--there is a large generation coming up that cares about this issue.

During the JCK show, there were sessions on responsible gold sourcing from the Responsible Jewellery Council, the new Diamond Source Warranty Protocol and the ethical “facets” of diamond sourcing  as well as Rapaport’s annual Fair Trade Conference.

It’s becoming a bigger issue for diamonds and gold, as well as colored gemstones, and it’s one of which retailers need to make sure they are aware.

I enjoyed seeing everyone that I had the chance to chat with in Las Vegas. Have a great weekend; I leave you with this brief but Lucky dance lesson to get it started.

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