Could anything positive spin out of the shiver-worthy economic free-fall we endured not long ago? A few things come to mind without searching too far. In the fore is the emergence of exotic gemstones as an absolute must-have for stylish jewelry collectors.
Not that many years back, exotic stones were the cloistered darlings in mineral collectors’ cabinets, or a rock hound’s shoebox. When our economy tanked, manufacturers scrambled to produce anything that would yield even a slim margin and cater to their customer’s desire to buy but reluctance to spend. What a conundrum to resolve.
So slices of heavily included stones, and oddball gems became the centerpiece of moderately priced goods that provided a big look for a not so big investment. Drusy, a fun and sparkly gem was already gaining traction when our woes hit. So this inexpensive sparkler showed up in gent’s cufflinks or lady’s pendants in brightly dyed tints.
Write All About It
Whether you went to the Tucson Gem Fair this year or not, you’ve most likely heard of the explosion in popularity with other exotic stones. This time, they are paired to high carat gold, and yes, platinum. Surrounded by diamonds, alexandrite, and other pricey stones, they enjoy acceptance into the rarified world of couture goods.
Gemstone expert Renee Newman of International Jewelry Publications authors numerous gem-topic books. Her layman’s language tomes are the go-to primer for retailers and consumers alike in deciphering exactly what exotic gems are, and how to assess their quality. Her “Exotic Gemstones Volume 1” has been revised in time for the JCK Vegas shows, and will again provide the road map to successful collecting for an appreciative market.
Gem cutter Sherris Shank specializes in creating one-offs for cultivated collectors and designers. Part of her brand’s enduring popularity hinges on a carefully curated assortment of gem rough that begins the process.
“Exotic is different for every client. Chrome tourmaline is exotic to many because of its deep and lush color,” Shank points out. “My favorite exotics though, come from here in the US, like sunstone and fire opal from Oregon. People are amazed to learn that such beautiful gems come from their own country. The world’s best black jade comes from Wyoming. Clients love the gems alone, and adore the fact that they are from the US.”
Designer Claudio Pino has developed a passionate following for his iconoclastic designs and his use of exotic stones selected for each creation. “I am always looking for rare and unique treasures. When people ask me about my favorite gemstones, it is always so hard to reply. Each gemstone has its own beauty, because they are all different.”
Exotic or not, strange moniker or not, ultimately if it’s pretty and appealing, it will find its market, thinks Robin Franklin, designer at Splendid Company. She’s not creating for every jewelry collector. Just the ones who demand something exquisite that no one else will be wearing. Working with out-of-the-ordinary stones like Peruvian pink opal, blue lace agate, and lemon chrysoprase helps Franklin define her brand and her clientele. Her customers may not fully understand the exotics that Franklin selects for her one-offs, but they know what they like.
Mesmerizing the Market
In the men’s category, creating something for stylish gents takes a little extra thought. Since men are not traditionally big jewelry consumers, their items must be well thought out, sophisticated enough to ‘have legs’ that stand the test of time and become a signature piece. Mark Schneider Design excels in strong and innovative design paired with exotic stones that attract an upscale male clientele. It’s Schneider’s master plan for the entire item that drives his design. “I love the use of vibrant colors and contrasting surface treatments of high polish, satin finish, and hand engraving,” he explains.
Designer Loretta Castoro believes that having fun with colorful exotics is serious business. Her couture creations not only mix whimsy with high-voltage color; but her artistic super-powers lie in skillfully combining unusual and exotic stones together on one piece. “What I love about these collections is that everyone has a different trigger for loving the designs, giving each person their own moment in time,” she says. Castoro’s secret formula often creates a mystique swirling around each piece. Customers know they’ll never see this again, anywhere. That revelation prompts an urgency to buy that doesn’t occur with mainstream pieces consumers know they will find elsewhere, and maybe even at ‘a better price.’
Stockpile These Special Stones
Now is the time to add exotics in a range of price-points to your inventory. Many exotics already provide attractive margins for retailers. But we’re seeing a customer pointing to an item catching their eye in a jeweler’s case . . . and it’s an exotic gemstone with an unfamiliar name. That’s enough to start the conversation. You can take it from there.