The 2019 edition of the Couture show concluded Monday at the Wynn Las Vegas. Among the trends buyers spotted were color and convertible jewels. (Photo credit: Sandro Art + Photography)
Las Vegas—Color, courtesy of enamel and bright gemstones, denoted a joyful mood at the 2019 Couture show, and buyers were loving the positive feel.

“There’s a ton of enamel,” said Alexandra Lippin, fine jewelry buyer and public relations director of southern California-based chain Elyse Walker. “It is definitely a trend that is everywhere. Melissa Kaye is doing really bright fluorescent enamel. She probably had the most daring enamel, and I loved it.”

Columbus, Ohio’s D.C. Johnson Limited owner David Johnson and Marketing and Merchandising Director Libby Schmitz echoed Lippin’s thoughts on the designer, whose homage to athletic wear and an updated ‘80s color palette was the buzz of the jewelry trade show.

“We saw a lot of enamel last year but not like Melissa Kaye’s new neon pieces,” Schmitz said. “We got orange, green and pink in the new ‘needle’ necklaces.”

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Other designers Lippin mentioned who presented strong enamel collections were Andrea Fohrman, a champion of “fun color,” and Selim Mouzannar, who took a more “elegant, chic” route.

She added: “I loved Marlo Laz’s nod to the ‘70s with her tie-dye charms,” new enamel pendants that are hand-painted to produce a tie-dye effect, each one unique.

Color wasn’t just relegated to enamel, however.

Lippin said she noticed a diverse array of colored gemstones and interesting materials at the show, from tanzanite to rhodolite, and even fossils.
“I can’t stress enough to my staff that taking the time to learn is the difference between selling it and not. If the value is there and the design is there, then the customer falls in love.” 

— Alexandra Lippin, buyer for Elyse Walker
“A lot of designers who maybe I wouldn’t expect to see color from, I’ve seen color from,” she said. “I died for Sylva & Cie. She had this whole dinosaur fossil story that I just fell in love with.”

Sylva & Cie is an important member of the Elyse Walker roster, representing the higher end of a store collection that ranges from easy-to-sell $195 Gigi Clozeau gold and resin bracelets (Clozeau doesn’t exhibit at the show) to a $16,000 Spinelli Kilcollin ring to Sylva & Cie’s one-of-a-kind masterpieces.

Lippin said her staff’s product expertise is key to communicating the worth of these pieces to customers.

“I think a lot of [the sale] is in the product knowledge and really being able to speak from a place of confident knowledge about the designer, the integrity of the stones and the pieces that you’re buying.

“I can’t stress enough to my staff that taking the time to learn is the difference between selling it and not. If the value is there and the design is there, then the customer falls in love.”

Other designers who presented exciting color stories via tonal designs were Vram (“His work is stunning and just unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Lippin said) and Emily P. Wheeler (“Her ombre gradation was just beautiful.”)

Neutrals and Convertibles
But bright color wasn’t for everyone.

Mizuki’s pearls, Sara Weinstock’s baguette diamonds, Spinelli Kilcollin’s new black gold collection and Jade Trau’s stable of round and fancy-cut diamonds all made a case for neutrals, according to Lippin, as did Cadar’s new heart pieces.

“It was very modern and not at all what I’ve seen from Cadar, and really made me look at the collection and take it seriously because it spoke to my customer, whereas before I thought it was maybe a little too mature.”

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Lippin also said coins and medallions were hot, and she saw them from many of the brands she visited, including Sydney Evan and Marlo Laz.

Convertible pieces were another big trend, ideal for giving options to the woman who wants to personalize her look to her style.

“There’s a ton of convertible earrings with components that can be taken off—you can wear a simple huggie or you can wear a full drop with a big statement,” Lippin said.

One of the designers Lippin thought worked the concept most effectively was Robinson Pelham.

“Robinson Pelham is a line I picked up last year at Couture,” she said, “and the way that they’re doing all of their ear charms and reinventing the wheel by putting removable colored backs on them, the fact that you can take this concept and wear it so many different ways I just think is awesome.”

D.C. Johnson’s Johnson and Schmitz also were fans of the convertible styles they saw at Couture.

“We’re really loving that and seeing a lot of that with charms and different things, allowing you to start with one piece and then get separates to add to it,” Schmitz said.

D.C. Johnson is considering adding Nancy Newberg, who exhibits with Muse at Couture, to its designer roster.

Of Newberg's highly convertible earrings Schmitz explained, “It’s one small huggie, and then you can add different hoops and mix metals. It’s a great self-purchase.”

Getting Personal
Johnson and Schmitz, who have revamped D.C. Johnson with the recent opening of a new, luxurious Columbus storefront that would fit right into the pages of Architectural Digest, are also keen to amp up their offerings of personalized jewelry that allows customers to build collections representative of their unique stories, or to give as gifts to loved ones.

“We’ve liked a lot of personalization and initials,” Johnson said, specifically Sorellina’s signet rings and pendants that allow for both initials and motifs. 

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They’re also big fans of Andrea Fohrman’s moon phase pendants (pictured above).

“It’s personalization that isn’t so obvious,” Schmitz said. “We love those. Those are ones you can add to, too.

“If you have three kids, you could have a moon phase for each of their birthdays or your anniversary. I think people feel like it’s a secret sentimental piece because no one will know what it means unless you tell them.”

Regardless of the meaning, Schmitz said some of their clients will buy an Andrea Fohrman moon phase pendant just because they like the specific shape or enamel color.
“It’s fun to … let people know there are trends in fine jewelry because I don’t think a lot of people realize that, especially with opals. I think a lot of people think of them as being their grandmother or great-aunt’s stones.” 

— Libby Schmitz, D.C. Johnson Ltd.
Her color, in both enamel and gemstones, is resonating with their clients, as is Amali, the brand best known for its opal necklaces set in woven gold.

Opals in general were a big part of Couture’s color trend, Johnson and Schmitz said, as was turquoise. Both materials felt modern and refined in the hands of the jewelry trade show’s designers.

“Pretty much all of this jewelry is new to Columbus, so it’s fun to introduce these trends and let people know there are trends in fine jewelry because I don’t think a lot of people realize that, especially with opals. I think a lot of people think of them as being their grandmother or great-aunt’s stones,” Schmitz said.

Beyond Basic
Hoops and chokers, specifically of the 15-inch variety, were also ever-present among designers’ booths, as were interesting chains that went far beyond the basic.

“Unique chains has been a trend that we’ve seen,” Johnson said, “like a classic chain but with a modern interpretation.”

Johnson and Schmitz saw such offerings at Single Stone, a brand they stock, as well as Talkative, a Japanese line that made its Couture debut this year that they are considering for their store. Talkative makes oversized interlocking links the focus of its designs.

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While this trip to Couture was mostly focused on strengthening existing relationships, D.C. Johnson Limited also added some new talent to its showroom.

Silvia Furmanovich’s marquetry jewelry and objects, including new jewelry boxes, are a natural fit for the store, which feels more like an expertly-designed home than a retail location.

One category, however, Johnson said he thought was lacking from Couture designers was clean, unfussy bridal jewelry.
“She’s my favorite. In 25 years, I’ve never seen anyone execute a finish like that.”
— D.C. Johnson Ltd.’s David Johnson on jewelry designer Erika Winters
“There’s a lot of opportunity for designers here to get into bridal and execute it without being fussy—just classic, simple bridal,” he said.

For that, Johnson has two go-tos: Single Stone and Erika Winters.

The brands’ yellow gold, rose gold and platinum styles, particularly east-west set stones, unique cuts and bezel settings, appeal to Johnson's bridal customers.

“Even though Erika has a little bit of a vintage feel, it’s still executed in a modern way,” Johnson said. “She’s my favorite. In 25 years, I’ve never seen anyone execute a finish like that.”

Twist’s Take
For retailer Twist, located in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Couture is essential in reconnecting with the company’s large roster of designers and seeking out new talent.

“This show has a lot of foreign designers and there’s nowhere else I can see that,” said owner Paul Schneider. “There are whole new approaches to jewelry and design from other cultures that are super-sophisticated and modern.”

Schneider was taken with Sandrine de Laage, a French veteran of brands like Cartier, who exhibited in the Design Atelier this year.

The designer is another proponent of convertible jewelry, creating a multi-hoop earring that becomes a bracelet and a ring.

In addition to de Laage, Schneider said Twist picked up two other brands at the show, both of whom also debuted in the Design Atelier this year—Prounis and Aisha Baker, the latter of which was another colorful enamel standout this year.

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“We represent almost 120 designers, and we have really strong commitments to them,” Schneider said. “That’s our DNA. It’s hard for us to get rid of them because we really care about their work so every time we add one it’s like, ‘What do we do now? We’re going to need to add a floor.’”

Schneider said that in the five days they commit to Couture each year—the full run of the show without stops at any other jewelry trade shows—he and his team still don’t get to see every designer they want to.

“As a show, it’s far and away the best show in our world. It’s hard to compare with anything. The worst Couture show would be better than the best any other show.”

Schneider also remarked that the Couture community is important to his business, allowing him to reconnect with industry friends he only sees once a year.

“There’s great networking,” he said. “We love to share with our friends what’s new and hot … It’s such an industry-central place, so it’s the most important thing we do all year.”

Elyse Walker’s Lippin noted how Couture has simplified her buying. She hasn’t been to a market week in Paris for two years because she’s able to find everything she needs at the jewelry trade show.

“I think Couture has done a really good job of curating designers and incorporating the new and different,” she said.

“It’s really changed the way I buy because I used to travel to all markets. I used to go to New York and Paris and now I really don’t have to because Couture really has done a fantastic job [gathering] everything I want to see here in Las Vegas.”

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