By Brecken Branstrator, Ashley Davis and Michelle Graff
The resurgence of hoop earrings was National Jeweler's favorite trend of 2016. Pictured here are Eva Fehren's 18-karat black gold hoops with diamonds.
The resurgence of hoop earrings was National Jeweler's favorite trend of 2016. Pictured here are Eva Fehren's 18-karat black gold hoops with diamonds.
New York--As 2016 draws to a close, the dedicated team at National Jeweler already is beginning to grow nostalgic thinking of the year’s happenings in the jewelry industry.

So, we figured we would award the designers, trends and moments that we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Without further ado, here are the winners of the first National Jeweler “Best of” awards.

Best Gemstone Discovery (That We Know Of): The 404-Carat Diamond in Angola
20160217 Lucapa 404 Diamond EDITED
It was tough to dazzle in 2016 following the discovery of 1,109 and 812 carat diamonds in late 2015. But, this 404.2-carat diamond found in February does a pretty good job.

Australian mining company Lucapa Diamond unearthed the rough gem at the Lulo mining site in Angola. A few fun facts about the stone, according to Lucapa: It’s the biggest diamond ever found (and reported) in Angola, the 27th largest rough diamond in history, and the biggest diamond discovered by a mining company from Australia.

Best Trend: The Hoop Earring
Chokers might have been the piece of jewelry foremost on everyone’s minds in 2016 (and the subject of National Jeweler’s most-read story of the year), but hoop earrings were the trend that we were the happiest to see take off. Unlike chokers, a hoop earring is appropriate for every age demographic, every scenario imaginable, and nearly every designer has one in their oeuvre. Whether large and statement-making, or small and stacked up in multiple piercings, a hoop earring is the epitome of versatility, and therefore, an excellent investment.  

Best of the AGTA Spectrum Winners: Ricardo Basta
20161227 Ricardo BastaThis platinum ring from Ricardo Basta won first place in the Bridal Wear category at the AGTA Spectrum awards this year, but also really represented what’s so great about the contest.

On the inside, the “Royal Blue” ring has a stunning 12-carat blue sapphire accented with diamonds, surrounded by a detachable 18-karat yellow gold “Quilt” jacket with turquoise accented with diamonds and tsavorite garnets, creating a ring within a ring.

High-quality craftsmanship, check.

Beautiful gem, check.

Interesting and innovative design, check.

Best Celebrity Jewelry Moment: Olivia Munn at the Oscars
One expects to see massive diamonds punctuating the necklines, ears and fingers of Hollywood’s elite at the biggest entertainment award shows. As such, it can be difficult to steal the show. But that’s exactly what actress Olivia Munn did at this year’s Oscars when she kept most of her jewels on the diminutive side and allowed a large Forevermark by Jade Trau cuff to take the spotlight, culminating in a modern-day Cleopatra moment.

Best Feud: Tiffany v. Costco
Tiffany setting EDITED
It’s a case that was filed on Valentine’s Day 2013 and ultimately came to a $15 million end this fall.

Tiffany & Co. sued Costco Wholesale Corp. for selling rings labeled as “Tiffany” that were not, in fact, made by Tiffany. Costco clapped back with a claim that the term “Tiffany setting” has become genericized within the jewelry industry, meaning it could be used to describe any diamond ring setting that looks like the one Charles Lewis Tiffany first sketched out in 1886.  

A judge sided with Tiffany in the case in September 2015 and the jury handed down its verdict this October, awarding the retailer $15 million in damages.

Best New Store: Quiet Storms
When Anissa Kermiche, Charlotte Chesnais, Kathleen Whitaker and Shihara appear under the same roof of a boutique situated in a neighborhood that was once about as chic as a can of PBR, New Yorkers take notice. Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based Quiet Storms is a hothouse of established and emerging designers with distinct points of view, a testament to the sharp eye of owner Reshma Patel. Even the jewelry boxes the boutique brought out for Christmas were unlike anything else being made right now. Manhattan is getting a run for its money from this across-the-river gem.

Best Piece Sold at Auction: Nancy Reagan’s American Flag Ring
20161227 Flag ringWhen it comes to the fine jewelry auction circuit, there are a lot of big diamonds. And since 2016 seemed to take its cue from Pantone’s Colors of the Year, Rose Quartz and Serenity, there were a lot of large blue and pink diamonds.

Now, it’s not that none of those diamond were beautiful, because of course they were. But, it’s all the more exciting when pieces with an interesting backstory are sold.

That’s why we chose this Bulgari ring set with set with square-cut sapphires, rubies and diamonds laid out in the shape of an American flag, once owned by Nancy Reagan. It was only expected to sell for $8,000 but blew away the pre-sale estimate when it garnered $319,500 in September. As the sale happened in the middle of a very contentious presidential election, we appreciated this reminder of the American spirit.

Best Party: Hearts On Fire Anniversary Party and Wine, Whiskey & Washington (Tie)
These were two utterly distinct events, but our editors enjoyed themselves immensely at both.

In Las Vegas, Hearts On Fire threw itself a 20th anniversary party at Brooklyn Bowl featuring a performance by singer Andy Grammer. Andy and his band were fantastic and the event was made all the more enjoyable by the fact that there was a nice IPA on tap, a photo booth with props and a number of handsome young men in the band.

Booze was also flowing at Wine, Whiskey & Washington, as the name of the event would suggest.

Sponsored by Jewelers of America (which happens to own this fine publication), the event took place in Washington just before American Gem Society Conclave and was meant to highlight JA’s legislative advocacy work in the nation’s capital. It was fun and informative and took place at the beautiful Top of the Town in Arlington, Virginia overlooking the D.C. skyline.  

There was a prediction made at Wine, Whiskey & Washington that a woman would win the presidency. That turned out to be wrong, leaving us in more serious need of alcohol than ever. So, bring on the good parties 2017.

Best New Birthstone: Spinel
20161227 SpinelWhat a tough one!

OK, we know that this was the only birthstone to be officially added to the list this year and was, in fact, the first in a number of years. This award really was just to give us (or, more specifically, Senior Editor Brecken Branstrator) the opportunity to wax poetic about this gemstone once more. It’s beautiful, has a wonderful range of colors and still largely flies under the radar, so there’s plenty of upside for it.  

Since the news came out in May that the stone was being added to August to join peridot, we really feel like the spinel hype hasn’t died down (or maybe it’s just Brecken creating the hype herself).

The year, however, did end with one chilling question for spinel: Is peridot aiming to avenge its now-shared birthstone status in 2017?

Best Trade Show Debut: Comme de Musee
In 2016, the Couture show in Las Vegas hosted a slew of up-and-coming designers who possess both creative artistry and technically innovative design. In no brand was this more apparent than Comme de Musee from South Korea-based designer Inhwa Yu. One of Yu’s signature styles entails combining a multitude of the same fancy cut of stone--say, a slew of multi-colored sapphire trillion-cuts--and repeating them to create large, mosaic-like shapes; a mini-sculpture as a ring. Yu’s brand is young and will hopefully embark on more wearable pieces to compliment the larger, one-of-a-kind masterpieces. Either way, we’ll be watching.

Best Couture Design Award Winner: Selim Mouzannar Bib Necklace
20160607 Gemstones Above edited copy copy
Selim Mouzannar’s bib necklace took home the “Best in Colored Gemstones, Above $20K” award at the Couture Design Awards, and was National Jeweler’s pick of the night.

Polly Wales, Stephen Webster and Silvia Furmanovich were some of the other award winners at the show, but Mouzannar’s bib necklace (a style that still holds a place in many designer’s collections amid the more trendy influx of chokers and lariats) was at once skeletal, organic, and luxurious, decked out with vibrant, glowing emeralds. The unique piece was the most eye-catching jewel on display and has us still thinking about Mouzannar half a year later.  

Best Jewelry Crime #Fail: The Facebook Incident
It was a lesson in Facebook Live live from Florida, a hotbed for odd news and ever odder criminals.

According to the Miami Herald, police arrested two men for allegedly breaking into two homes in the tony Miami suburb of Pinecrest and stealing a safe that contained more than $500,000 in jewelry from one of them.

Police tracked down the suspects after they posted a video on Facebook in which they flashed wads of cash they apparently got from selling the stolen goods.

Best Instagram Moment: Boucheron
In the whirlwind of masterful designs and fantasies come to life that are the high jewelry presentations during Paris Haute Couture week, how does one jewelry house possibly stand out from its competitors? If you’re Boucheron, the answer is to present a solid gold cape draped over the shoulders of model Saskia de Brauw. Of all the Instagram posts we saw this year, Boucheron’s images of the Cape de Lumière stood out. Don’t take our word for it, see it for yourself.

Best Editor Trip: East Africa
20161227 Africa
Senior Editor Brecken Branstrator recognizes what a fantastic year this was for her, especially in terms of the fabulous trips she got to take for work.

A trip to Tanzania and Kenya in early January treated her to opportunities that would change her perspectives both professionally and personally: trips to small-scale mines and conversations with artisanal miners, getting to watch as gemstone cutters buy their rough straight from the source, the hospitality of the locals, not one but two game drives in two different national parks, a visit to a Maasai school and so much more.

Next year has a lot to live up to in terms of travel, and we can only see where it goes.

Best Comeback: State of the Majors
We can’t believe it … we’ve won!

National Jeweler has just selected National Jeweler’s 2016 State of the Majors report as the best comeback of 2016. The report, which details sales and store counts at North America’s largest jewelry chains, was published this year for the first time since 2012.

Its publication also marked the first time National Jeweler has produced anything in print since the 110-year-old publication went online only in 2011.

Best Diamond Art: Angie Crabtree
20161227 Angie CrabtreePhoto credit: @angie_crabtree
This is a pretty niche award, but we just really wanted to recognize the talent and skills of Angie Crabtree.

Her diamond drawings speak right to the heart of these jewelry lovers, and now that she’s popping up with appearances at trade shows and events all over, and expanding into accessories like pillows and bags, we’re totally smitten.

And after recently seeing a piece of Angie Crabtree art in a Chopard window on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, we knew this award had to be hers.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.