Shades of pink

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Rapaport

While all eyes were on Meghan. Markle as she completed her ascent into the British aristocracy last month, there has been another member of the royal family whose engagement ring has caused ripples in the jewelry world. Princess Eugenie’s padparadscha sapphire ring not only affirmed the acceptance of colored gemstones in bridal jewels, it also introduced this incredibly rare hue of sapphire to the wider public.

“Princess Eugenie’s engagement has definitely had an effect on the growing padparadscha trend,” agrees Niveet Nagpal, head designer and president at Omi Privé and Omi Gems, which have long championed this stone. “Named after the lotus flower blossom of Sri Lanka, the orangey-pink padparadscha sapphire is a favorite of ours and is highly coveted amongst colored-gemstone connoisseurs. These special sapphires are rare in their optimal color and typically demand a hefty premium over fancy pink or orange sapphires.”

The optimal balance of orange and pink remains up for debate in gem circles, as does the relevance of a stone’s origin. “Historically, padparadscha sapphires are found in Sri Lanka, and many connoisseurs still insist that only a padparadscha from Sri Lanka is a true padparadscha,” says Nagpal, although Omi Gems also works with padparadschas from Madagascar and Mozambique. “Supply of padparadscha is always a challenge — now more than ever, since people are familiar with the stone.”…

 

This story was originally published in the June 2018 issue of Rapaport magazine. Continue reading to see layouts and download a full-sized PDF of the feature and front cover. (Main image: Chaumet)

 

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In no way over the rainbow

© Written by Rachael Taylor for The Jewellery Cut

Chase a rainbow all the way to its end and you’re guaranteed a pot of gold, they say, but it would seem that this season the gold and the rainbow are closer than ever as designers use an increasingly innovative arsenal of techniques to bring a blast of colour to precious jewellery.

Rainbow colour mixes dominated the Aw18 runways; most notably at Burberry where exiting chief creative officer Christopher Bailey’s parting gift to the LGBTQ+ community included a rainbow Burberry check as well as rainbow furry capes, flowing skirts and knitwear. The quickest route to such flamboyant flashes of colour in jewellery, which has also been gripped with rainbow fever, is a well chosen swirl of rainbow-hued sapphires.

Step inside Robinson Pelham’s jewellery store in Chelsea, or indeed just click onto its highly chromatic Instagram page, and you will quickly see that it lives up to its tagline of “be bold, be brave”. Though perhaps more famous for the classic jewellery it created for the Middleton family for the marriage of the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, what it really excels in is colour. As well as a cornucopia of exotic gemstones – two out of the three founders are highly trained gemmologists – the brand has mastered the art of the sapphire rainbow. Sapphires can be found in virtually any colour, and a diligently sourced selection can be lined up and blended to create colour wheels that brighten earrings, bracelets and rings…

 

This story was originally published on October 18, 2018, on The Jewellery Cut. Click here to read the full story.  (Main image: The Rock Hound)

Watershed moment?

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Retail Jeweller 

Rarely is a single brand charged with saving a whole industry, and while there are some who dispute just how large a role Pandora has played in the survival of jewellers in the post- recession retail wasteland, none would dispute the influence it has had. From transforming family businesses to reinvigorating jewellery shopping with a playbook lifted from fashion, there is a clear watershed moment in British jewellery: before Pandora, and after it. But as growth softens and the Danish brand shifts away from the franchise model that has fuelled its expansion, is this the beginning of the end for Pandora?

The UK continues to be a major market for Pandora, contributing more than 5% of the brand’s total turnover. Last year, revenue in the UK rose 4% to DKK 2,809m (£330m), but that was – as the brand noted in its annual results – “mainly driven by a strong performance in the UK e-store as well as the acquisition of 23 franchise stores”.

At the brand’s concept stores still controlled by independent retailers, sales have been less robust, with some reporting annual percentage declines in double-digit figures. At the same time, the cost of doing business with Pandora has increased…

 

This story was originally published in the June 2018 issue of Retail Jeweller magazine. Continue reading to see magazine layouts and download full-size PDFs. (main image: Pandora)

The trade’s young dream

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Retail Jeweller 

The jewellery business has a rich history of embedding young people in the trade, from the medieval apprentices of The Goldsmiths’ Company who were quite literally tied to the benches (they had to sleep beneath them and were only released on Sundays for church) to the well-known boot-straps success stories of some of the most famous jewellers in the world. Stephen Webster, Shaun Leane, Glenn Spiro, Laurence Graff and the Queen’s personal jeweller Harry Collins all started out as teenage apprentices in Hatton Garden.

This tradition has continued, and even gathered pace in the past few years, as government levies make taking on apprentices more attractive for businesses, and jewellery and watch educational establishments expand and improve.

The British School of Watchmaking in Manchester become the first educator in Europe to offer the WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program) 1,800-hour course, which welcomed its first students this January. General manager James Robinson says the one-year full-time course, which it now offers alongside its more advanced 3,000-hour two-year WOSTEP course, has been gaining a lot interest from retailers that can perhaps afford to lose a member of staff for a year, but for which a two-year absence would be “unsustainable”…

 

This story was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Retail Jeweller magazine. Continue reading to see magazine layouts and download full-size PDFs. (main image: The Goldsmiths’ Centre)

2018 jewellery trends

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Tidlrs

While the undefeatable champion of jewellery trends this year is the statement earring, there are other ways to make sure your jewellery game stays on point. From brand new technology creating rainbow hues to ancient techniques reviving yellow gold, 2018’s key styles are an eclectic mix.

Yellow gold 

The latest high jewellery collection from Chanel, L’Esprit du Lion, is a celebration of one of Gabrielle Chanel’s favourite motifs, the lion. While this is a tried and trusted motif for the house, what is unusual is the use of yellow gold; usually Chanel’s most luxurious collections are restricted to white gold and platinum.

Though clearly a perfect match for the lion’s majestic mane, this prominent embrace of yellow gold is also part of a wider trend shift away from cool white metals. In the bridal market, couples are now more often favouring yellow gold over the more traditionally sought-after white shades, with the metal making a beautiful contrast with white diamonds, rather than trying to blend in…

 

This story was originally published on November 6, 2018, on luxury platform Tidlrs . Click here to read the full story.  (Main image: Chanel)

 

Royal engagement rings

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Tidlrs

Somewhere, lodged in the deepest recesses of our hearts, there is a much-suppressed princess dream, with all the castles and fairytale princes that go with it. Perhaps this is why whenever there is a royal engagement, we go into utter meltdown. And the British monarchy has been generous of late, giving us not one but two royal brides-to-be, and therefore two brand new styles of engagement rings to swoon over.

Next month, American actress Meghan Markle will follow in the footsteps of Grace Kelly and swap the production studio for a palace as she lives out the real-life princess dream when she weds Prince Harry. Though her ring – three diamonds set on a yellow band – might seem like a simple choice, and it is indeed a classic design, it has already altered the fate of many a fiancé this year.

The first thing to know about this ring, known as a trilogy, is that the central largest diamond was sourced by the couple in Botswana, a place that has captured both their hearts. The second – even more touching detail – is that the smaller stones were lifted from a tiara belonging to Prince Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana. This makes it a ring with a story…

 

This story was originally published on April 17, 2018, on luxury platform Tidlrs . Click here to read the full story.  (Main image: Garrard)

Seal of approval

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Rapaport

Once a hallmark of the upper crust, signet rings have become democratised and are now signifiers of an allegiance to fashion rather than family tree.

Worn on the pinky by both men and women, these gender-neutral adornments deliver a look that is at once insouciant and considered. In place of traditional crests, today’s signet rings sport simple initials or modern talismans, such as star signs.

Gemstones play a key role, with diamonds outlining where an onyx slice might once have gone, or completely smothering the gold, reawakening the signet ring’s original role as a symbol of wealth and influence.

 

This story was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Rapaport magazine. Continue reading to see layouts and download a full-sized PDF of the feature and front cover. (Main image: Rebecca Notkin)

Hunting for the best

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Rapaport

With a store in London’s most prestigious retail borough, a design partnership with actress Sarah Jessica Parker, and access to some of the world’s rarest gemstones, it would be natural to assume Kat Florence comes from a well-entrenched jewelry family. But that’s not the case. In fact, just six years ago, the Canadian designer was working as a teacher.

During a stretch of educating young children in Thailand, Florence stumbled across the country’s jewelry manufacturing hub and fell swiftly and deeply in love. Not long

The Sex and the City actress has also modeled for Florence via the photographic prowess of legendary photographer Peter Lindbergh, who described his experience with the women as “literally working with two gems.” Now, though, Florence is moving gently away from celebrity partnerships, gradually accepting that she no longer needs a face to sell her jewels — including her own.

Florence has made her home in Thailand, where she lives with her two dogs, although she also spends a quarter of the year at a second home in Rome. In bustling Bangkok, she presides over her own atelier, staffed by 25 craftspeople. These skilled artisans transform her “terrible” sketches into glittering jewels, the majority of which are one-offs. She designs her pieces around unusual gems unearthed by a global network of dealers (she also has an office in Jaipur, India). About 90% of these stones are then recut in-house…

 

This story was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Rapaport magazine. Continue reading to see layouts and download a full-sized PDF of the feature and front cover. (Main image: Kat Florence)

Noble achievements

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Rapaport

When it comes to heritage, there are not many jewelry brands that can compete with Garrard. None, in fact, if the British jeweler’s website is to be believed. With the starting pistol for its race into the history books officially sounding in 1735, its story is a saga rich with monarchs, diamonds and intrigue.

“The jewelry and the history are part and parcel for us,” says Garrard creative director Sarah Prentice, as she settles back into a plush sofa beneath a spectacular chandelier in the brand’s flagship store on London’s Albemarle Street (just a hop, skip and a jump from the city’s premier shopping promenade, Bond Street).

“We’ve got this amazing history that some people know about and others don’t. We want to tell people about it, so in every collection since I joined [in 2012], I’ve tried to relate it to some element of Garrard’s past. I felt the Britishness of the brand needed to be celebrated.”…

This story was originally published in the April 2018 issue of Rapaport magazine. Continue reading to see layouts and download a full-sized PDF of the feature and front cover. (Main image: Garrard)

Breaking the mould

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Rapaport

The use of 3D printing has revolutionised jewellery design, making impossibly complex shapes as simple as the push of a button (well, that and hours of going cross-eyed in front of a CAD program).

This technology is moving forward again. Not only can jewellers print moulds for casting, they can now print directly in gold, silver and platinum by using precious-metal powders that solidify and build up layer by layer.

Fans have praised the productivity boost it enables, and heralded the end of waste and mess — though pieces still need to be finished by hand. Detractors, however, have declared it too expensive, with some choosing instead to add precious flourishes to 3D-printed nylon designs.

This story was originally published in the April 2018 issue of Rapaport magazine. Continue reading to see layouts and download a full-sized PDF of the feature and front cover. (Main image: Boltenstern)

 

Candy jewellery

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Tidlrs

In the month of the year that is always a record breaker for new gym memberships, it is perhaps not the moment to celebrate the glory of calorific treats, but these sweet jewels are completely guilt free.

Candy has been a tempting source of inspiration for jewellery designers of late, with smooth and juicy cabochons and saccharine shades of enamel proving too much to resist. And as well as delivering a hit of sweetness, this new trend also embraces the lighter side of life, encouraging us to live a little and be playful.

Bright, bold colours, like those of the gemstones selected for Harry Winston’s first ever collection dedicated solely to cocktail rings, are key. Winston Candy, a collection of one-off rings, launched in November at a customer event in London, which was decorated with enormous sweet jars filled with childhood sweet-shop favourites like rhubarb ‘n’ custards and kola cubes. In some slightly more secure glass cases across the room were the rings, set with huge hunks of aquamarine, spessarite garnet, red spinel, Paraiba tourmaline and pink sapphire…

This story was published on Tidlrs in January 2019. Click here to read the story in full. (Main image: Origin 31)

The state of luxury: USA

© Written by Rachael Taylor for The Future Laboratory

The US maintains its position as the world’s biggest luxury market, but disruption from discounters, failing malls and Made in America have changed the sector.

Sales of luxury goods in the US continue to be robust and American consumers, although left divided and uncertain by political turmoil, are also confident, with more than half (43%) of Americans describing their economic situation in 2017 as ‘healthy’.

  • The luxury market in the Americas posted sales of £75bn ($95bn, €84bn) in 2017, and is expected to achieve between 3% and 5% growth in 2018 (source: Bain & Co)
  • How consumers buy luxury goods is changing, with more than 20% of US malls expected to close by 2020, and an estimated 47% of all online luxury sales made in the Americas in 2017 (sources: McKinsey & Co, Bain & Co)
  • The fervour behind Made in America is encouraging reshoring, with 70% of consumers believing it is important to buy American, but price sensitivity is high with 37% unwilling to pay any extra for American-made goods (source: Reuters/Ipsos)

Once the gateway for major retail in the US, the iconic American shopping mall has suffered in recent years with McKinsey & Co reporting that more than a fifth of all US malls are expected to close by 2020. Department stores have fared little better, and falling sales have pushed them into discounting luxury goods to boost sales, with many launching dedicated discount offshoots – Saks OFF 5TH, Neiman Marcus Last Call and Nordstrom Rack, for example…

This story was originally published on The Future Laboratory on August 17th, 2018. Read the full report here. (main image: From Dust to Gold, Palms Casino, Las Vegas)

Spinning tales: Reena Ahluwalia

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Jewelry Connoisseur

It is 11 a.m. in Toronto, but Reena Ahluwalia has already been at her desk for more than six hours, and her day won’t end until well after midnight. Such is the daily routine of this energetic — and brilliant — artist, lecturer and jeweler.

While Canada has been her home for nearly two decades, Ahluwalia started her life and career in India, where she was soon identified as a star on the rise.

“I went to a really amazing school, The National Institute of Fashion Technology [in New Delhi],” she says. “India has more than one billion people, so for art school, there were 10,000 applicants, seven sets of exams, and only 12 students were selected. I was too young to know this was such a privilege, as I thought I was so good. In hindsight, I look back and think how fortunate I was…

This story was originally published on Jewelry Connoisseur on August 15, 2018. Read the full story here. (main image: Reena Ahluwalia)

Recasting the outcasts

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Rapaport

De Grisogono founder Fawaz Gruosi takes credit for rebranding black diamonds from dank hunks of unsellable carbon into the glamorous gemstones we see on red carpets today. Once he breached that barrier by blessing the overlooked carbonados with his favour and influence, grey and brown diamonds soon followed suit in the luxury market, and demand has surged as consumers continue waking up to their lower prices.

While it was considered disruptive or offbeat to choose these so-called imperfect stones over clear, bright white diamonds, jewellery designer Diane Kordas believes this is softening. “I find that customers with both traditional and non-traditional personal style are now all buying black, brown and grey diamonds,” she says. “Fine jewellery has really evolved in terms of design, and it has become more adventurous, making coloured diamonds popular in the current market.”

These stones are also less expensive. A Diane Kordas Heartbeat ear cuff set with black diamonds is more than 25% cheaper than the same design set with white diamonds. This can be a draw for shoppers on a budget, particularly when it comes to big-ticket items like engagement rings…

This story was originally published in the March 2018 issue of Rapaport magazine. Continue reading to see layouts and download a full-sized PDF of the feature and front cover. (Main image: Diane Kordas)

Believe in unicorns

© Written by Rachael Taylor for VO+

When a privately owned company reaches a valuation of more than $1 billion, it is referred to as a unicorn. With an impending flotation on the stock market that has it pegged at £4 billion, Farfetch has some serious horn; one that it is using to expand its reach into the fine jewellery market with a dedicated watch and jewellery hub that launched in May.

This online aggregate for fashion boutiques across the globe – it now gives shoppers access to designer goods at 900 stores, carrying no stock but taking up to 30% of every sale made through the site – was founded in 2008, and has 2 million customers from 190 countries on its books, whose average age is 36.

With online sales of luxury goods up 24% last year and the majority of growth driven by under 40s, according to consultancy Bain & Company, this makes Farfetch’s mailing list prime hunting ground for jewellers desperate to connect with a younger generation. Not to mention that Farfetch’s own sales have been growing at 50% a year. Therefore it is little wonder that De Beers, Chopard, David Yurman, Pomellato and Tiffany & Co have all signed up. Farfetch chief commercial and sustainability officer Giorgio Belloli tells us more…

This story was published in the September 2018 edition of VO+ magazine. Click here to access a digital version of the issue and read the story in full (starts page 186). Main image: David Yurman jewels, shot by Farfetch. 

Paris Couture report, July 2018

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Adorn Insight

There was more than a hint of whimsy at this July’s Paris Couture Week jewellery shows, with fairytales and lore forming central themes at presentations from Van Cleef & Arpels, Messika and De Beers. Yet there was also a willingness to embrace the future, with Chaumet delivering a strong collection inspired by contemporary African art, Atelier Swarovski promoting lab-grown gemstones, and Boucheron pushing technical boundaries with its new lifelike floral designs that use patent-pending technology to incorporate real blooms.

Demand from customers for this type of one-off high jewellery pieces continues to be strong, despite the price tags, with many pieces selling throughout the week, and some even finding buyers beforehand, straight from the gouache. Transformability of pieces (allowing for more than one look) continued to be a key theme, as did asymmetric and solo earrings. Diamonds were the dominant stone, followed by green gemstones such as emeralds, tsavorites and tourmalines – the latter appearing more frequently in large sizes and a spectrum of rare shades in place of more traditional central stones throughout the Week’s collections…    

 

This story was published on Adorn Insight in July 2018. Click here to read the story in full (subscription required). Main image: Atelier Swarovski. 

The Jewellery Cut Showroom: September 2018

The debut The Jewellery Cut Showroom, organised by Rachael Taylor and Andrew Martyniuk, at London Fashion Week took place in Bond Street to showcase fine and fashion jewellery brands, along with a range of jewellery masterclasses and a VIP launch party. The ticketed event, which drew more than 300 visitors over the two days, was open to press, buyers and the general public, offering jewellery on sale with special showroom prices and offers.

Speaking at the showroom, The Jewellery Cut editorial director Rachael Taylor said:  “Jewellery doesn’t get much love during London Fashion Week, and we’re glad that this is something we’ve managed to change this season with a bustling The Jewellery Cut Showroom that drew in a strong crowd of industry professionals and interested consumers who wanted to learn more about, and buy, jewels. This hybrid approach has helped the designers taking part to tick multiple boxes with one event, which is so important in an age when money and time pressures are so intense. And from the consumers’ perspective, the Showroom was an opportunity to learn about some of the highly creative, diverse jewellers we have here in the UK and to purchase quality jewels that you won’t find on the high street. A new jewellery event that has the energy to inspire and educate consumers has been long overdue, and we feel that The Jewellery Cut Showroom has been the perfect experience for jewellery lovers who are ready to do more than just like a picture of a ring on Instagram. We look forward to running regular Showrooms and events throughout the year to complement our digital presence.”

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Jewellery brands and designers who flew into London from around the world to take part in the event and display their new collections in the showroom, hosted by jewellery specialist agency FACETS, which included Spanish fashion jewellery brand Uno de 50, Sarah Zhuang Jewellery from Hong Kong, C6 by Anne Cohen from Denmark and Icelandic jewellery brand Aurum by Guðbjörg. UK brands taking part included Clogau, GFG Jewellery, ethical jewellers Eden Diodati, Untold and Natalie Perry Jewellery, as well as emerging designer brands Lemuria Jewels, Olivia & Pearl, AS by Akansha, Aureliean and Satta Matturi.

For these times?

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Retail Jeweller 

The numbers attached to Swiss watch and jewellery show Baselworld are usually staggering; be it the expansive square footage, the volume of visitors, or just how many restaurants are secreted within multi-storey exhibition stands. This year, however, the numbers surprise for a different reason. The 2018 edition of the show will be a shadow of its former self, with half the exhibitors it had last year and a six-day show rather than eight, and British retail buyers fear it could be losing its relevance – especially for jewellery.

Baselworld has estimated that there will be between 600 and 700 exhibitors at this year’s edition of the show. Last year, the number of exhibitors was 1,300, which in itself was a 13% drop on 2016. And visitor numbers have been dropping too: 106,000 buyers from more than 100 countries attended Baselworld in 2017, which was down 4% year on year and the fourth consecutive year of decline.

Baselworld acknowledged that the change has been driven by a shift in the watch and jewellery industry. In a statement, it said: “The watch and jewellery market is undergoing a period of profound change – first and foremost, through the increasing consolidation of the market in terms of production and marketing, but also through the challenges and opportunities of digital technology…

This story was originally published in the April 2018 issue of Retail Jeweller magazine. Continue reading to see magazine layouts and download full-size PDFs. (main image: Baselworld)

Who’s driving the UK luxury market?

© Written by Rachael Taylor for The Future Laboratory

Brexit has left the UK luxury sector divided, with a thriving tourist trade driven by the exchange rate and a domestic customer base hindered by uncertainty. Can brand innovation and a Millennial state of mind redress the balance?

Tourists remain the most lucrative consumer base for luxury goods companies in the UK. With visitor numbers at an all-time high in 2017 (source: VisitBritain), this seems unlikely to change. But domestic growth is evident, with 7% of British shoppers claiming to have traded up their buying habits in 2017 (source: McKinsey & Co).

  • 5% of all luxury and 5.6% of all affordable luxury store openings happened in London in 2017, making it one of the most desirable cities for retailers (source: Savills)
  • £1 in every £4 of sales of British luxury goods is attributed to tourists (source: Walpole)
  • Luxury goods in the UK are, on average, 22% cheaper than in China, its main source of tourism (source: Deloitte)

As Britain remains locked in extended negotiations about its exit from the EU, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over its luxury market. Such apprehension comes both from British nationals being unsure of their financial future, and the estimated 2.9 million EU nationals (source: Office for National Statistics) who are uncertain whether they will be allowed to stay in the country…

This story was originally published on The Future Laboratory on July 30, 2018. Read the full report here. (main image: David Morris)

 

Once upon a fashion show

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Jewelry Connoisseur

Fairytales were a popular source of inspiration during Paris Couture Week, with Messika delivering the second wave of its Once Upon a Time collection. Tales such as The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen were interpreted in swishing tails of baguette-cut diamonds and icy pear and marquise combinations.

Meanwhile, Van Cleef & Arpels unveiled Quatre Contes de Grimm, a dramatic and colorful collection inspired by the dark works of those master storytellers, the Brothers Grimm.

De Beers also chose folklore as the core theme of its new Diamond Legends collection, the design of which embraces myths such as that of the sun god Ra, whose power of eternal life was represented on earth in the form of a diamond…

This story was originally published on Jewelry Connoisseur on July 16, 2018. Read the full story here. (main image: Van Cleef & Arpels)