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Best of Show

We asked leading retailers from stores across the country to pick the best items of the Spring season. As you might expect, we found a lot of interest in entry-level price points. Silver, oxidized silver, bronze, and steel are getting a lot of attention. Jewelers also report a surprising strength in the pearl category, especially versatile long strands. But, although they are carefully selecting every item they buy this year, the retailers we talked to aren’t going back to basic jewelry. Quite the contrary: They are looking for items with the kind of design, craftsmanship, and personality that make them must-haves for consumers. Here’s the consumer catnip these style mavens couldn’t resist this season.

Rings in 18k gold

Rings in 18k gold from left: “Flying Heart” rock crystal ring, “Blue Castle” blue topaz ring, “Romanesque” ring, “Queen” mabe pearl ring with white sapphires, and “Golden Castle” rutilated quartz and citrine ring by Ana Cavalheiro, suggested retail $1,560-$3,080, (310) 804-0076,

Vietnamese akoya strands in natural colors

Karen Bischoff
Earth Treasures, Eatontown, New Jersey

What I'm Buying: “We are very big in pearls and have every kind of pearl possible. That’s why when we saw the Vietnamese akoya multicolor strands in Tucson it was exciting to add something new. We bought 12 strands from Baggins and some larger sizes from Eliko. We are selling a lot of pearl strands in longer lengths. Customers love to play with really long strands to see how many ways they can wear them. We created a huge wall unit for pearls with South Seas, goldens, multi-national strands, all with matching bracelets and earrings. Multicolor strands have a lot of versatility. People like different colors so they’re not stuck wearing them with one outfit.”

How I Sell It: “When the staff is having fun, customers have fun, too. Even though the economy is not great, people need to feel good. People hang out and have fun, playing with the jewelry. If we have jewelry with unusual gems, we’ll have rough specimens and geodes in the case. We make it fun and interesting. We give them an incentive to make a purchase and a lot of people are taking advantage of it. They can sell their gold and buy pearls.”

Vietnamese akoya strands in natural colors from Baggins, suggested retail $400 to $900 per strand, (877) 33-PEARL,

bracelets in 18k gold, diamonds, and steel

Elva Valentine
Valentine’s, Dallas, Pennsylvania

What I'm Buying: “I really like the new collection from Cede of stainless steel and diamonds that’s in yellow, white, pink, and brown. It offers people who want color an affordable version from $500 to $1,500. We do really well with H2 from Henderson in 18k gold and bronze. It has a bold look and yet it’s real. Alternative metals are a strong emergent thing because of the price of gold. We also sell a lot of sterling silver. We sell Elle, Hot Diamonds, Cherie Dori, Pandora, Sara Blaine, and Designs by Joi.”

How I Sell It: “We have items from $10 up. Things are still selling well up to $300. The $300 to $1,000 items are difficult now. People don’t want to spend that much for a birthday. That’s why Pandora has taken off. A dad can come in with the kids and each kid can buy a bead.”

“Creation Milanaise” collection bracelets in 18k gold, diamonds, and steel in three colors by Cede, suggested retail $1,150 each, (800) 289-2643,

Diamond, 18k gold, and mother-of-pearl earrings

David Cohen
Mack & Dave’s, Huntington, West Virginia

What I'm Buying: “In jewelry, we carry high to low. You’ve got to have all prices but be selective with everything you buy. This year we liked styles from Super Bell, Monte Carlo, Emily & Ashley, Fragments, Summit Jewelry, and Roberto Coin. Artistry has nice styles with a large hammered look. Silver always sells well and even more so now.”

How I Sell It: “The main thing is to be extra nice to the customers. You’ve got to listen. Don’t push them to spend more than they want to spend. Welcome everyone. You’ve got to have a positive attitude and make sure all your employees do, too. The biggest thrill is when you get repeat business from the next generation of a family.”

Diamond, 18k gold, and mother-of-pearl earrings from Emily & Ashley, suggested retail $8,400, (212) 327-2765,

Cuff bracelet in 18k gold-plate with light blue agate

Jennifer Kaufman,
Jennifer Kaufman, Los Angeles, California

What I'm Buying: “Two groups of jewelry are selling: the high end and the low end. Up to $300 is easy and above $1,500 is easy but that $650 piece just sits there. Rings by Ana Cavalheiro are great. She understands proportions and color. In the past few months I’ve sold six 60-inch cream to golden South Sea strands. I’m a huge believer in pearls. They are truly timeless and there’s a big difference between the perceived value and the price. There’s also a lot more well-designed gold-plated jewelry. I sell a lot of jewelry by Sheila Fajl. The quality and finish is great.”

How I Sell It: “Have items that are extremely well designed and fabricated. When a customer walks out with the bag on her arm, she should already know what she wants to buy next. I also find it’s important to have what I call the ‘gum and candy counter.’ I have a selection of super cute items like the tiny evil eyes on a cord from iLuck Online that are no more than $40. People are buying something for themselves and they throw in two or three for their nieces. The margin is outstanding and it only takes a second to sell them. The credit card is already out.”

Cuff bracelet in 18k gold-plate with light blue agate by Sheila Fajl, suggested retail $190, (818) 889-0126,

Steel and bronze pendant necklace with garnet, citrine, and tourmaline

Colleen Rafferty
Christensen & Rafferty Fine Jewelry, San Mateo, California

What I'm Buying: “I’m really excited about Rebecca. They have a big fashionable look in bronze and sterling and a generous co-op program. Their marketing materials are beautiful and very fashion-oriented. It’s important to have entry-level price points. We also do well with Breil Milano watches and jewelry. We sell a lot of earrings at $800 to $2,200. I really appreciate Eddie Sakamoto’s earring designs, they have beautiful movement.”

How I Sell It: “There’s something wrong in this industry when we do 18-20 percent of our business at Christmas. How can you live on that? You have to be selling all year long. That means you have to put jewelry in the context of fashion. We do scrapbooks showing jewelry and fashion together. We use the screen in our store to play videos by Yves Kamioner or Breil Milano. I also use the Lustre Lookbook to help put jewelry in the context of the season.”

Steel and bronze pendant necklace with garnet, citrine, and tourmaline from the “Tropezienne” line by Rebecca, suggested retail $705, (310) 319-9600,

cuff in 24k gold and oxidized silver

Alec Denburg
Alec & Company Fine Jewelry,
Haverford, Pennsylvania

What I'm Buying: “I love the heavy 24k gold and oxidized silver look; things that really look handmade. It’s very funky and fresh. I like Lika Behar’s collection. She has great symbols and small pendants but I like the big bold styles. I bought some pieces from Yossi Harari, ‘gilver’ bangles, 24k gold bangles, and earrings. It’s something different and more affordable. Flower rings have also been selling well. I see a nice trend for black and white. Black and white diamonds are still popular.”

How I Sell It: “Oxidized silver and 24k gold is for an artsy, funky customer. It’s not the women who want a pretty flower ring. I explain oxidized silver and that they can wear it with both silver and gold. They really like that they can wear it with white gold, too.”

“Helena” cuff in 24k gold and oxidized silver by Lika Behar Collection, suggested retail $4,900, (201) 933-7200.

necklace with 0.35 carats of diamonds

Gary Long
Gary J. Long Jewelers, Stockton, California

What I'm Buying: “I’m looking at the Steven Kretchmer line and thinking about adding it. At Centurion, I also saw some great pendants from Mark Silverstein that I really like. Today, I don’t just look at product. I also look at support for ads, e-mail, and direct mail.”

How I Sell It: “Price points are important today. Before the holiday season, we had ‘Good Day Sacramento’ in the store. We had all our Hearts On Fire jewelry in the cases and they asked us what we had for under $25. I showed them a golden leaf Christmas ornament, a real leaf in 24k gold left over from the days of golden roses, for $5. They ran that clip all day long. We also had the $100 to $200 hearts in the case. I’m putting together a case now with everything under $500. You have to have the price points people are looking to buy.”

“Gossamer” collection necklace with 0.35 carats of diamonds by Mark Silverstein Imagines, suggested retail $1,500, (800) 993-5900,

Art Nouveau style 18k gold bracelet

Mayfair Diamonds & Fine Jewelry, Woodbury, New York

What I'm Buying: “We are bringing in Mark Maxwell, who represents what my stores are all about: the artful side of jewelry. It’s beautiful quality, everything is hand engraved underneath, and the colors are fantastic. The trend this year is keeping away from trends. Customers now don’t want to hear that what they are buying will be out of fashion in three months. We’re opening two new stores and bringing in new vendors that are artful, high-end, fun, and fantastic, with great stories. At Centurion maybe my favorite thing of all was the chat charms from Old World Chain.”

How I Sell It: “The customer doesn’t have to have everything. Coco Chanel had a few great pieces that became her signature. Real jewelers are going to be appreciated. The person coming in now is half coming in for therapy and half coming in for a purchase. They are going to go to establishments that have been around a long time and will be around a long time. We’re celebrating 50 years and it’s a great time to be promoting that.”

Art Nouveau style 18k gold bracelet with Basse Taille cobalt blue vitreous enamel over reflective hand engraving and a custom double clasp with sapphire cabochons by Mark Maxwell Designer/Goldsmith, suggested retail $30,320, (760) 917-1647,