Opinion

Live from SIHH: I’m at a Watch Show and It’s So Civilized That I Might Be in Love

Geneva, Jan. 17, 2019. Hello Geneva! I attended the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) Genève, held Jan. 14–17, this week to cover watches, an area I haven’t written about at length in some time. I have covered jewelry trends for 22 years, though, and one of the outlets for which I write asked me to add watches to my beat.

Not a problem, especially since it involves attending this über exclusive fair. I hear the vetting process for journalists to cover it is more restrictive than the jewelry trade fairs I attend because it features only luxury watch brands owned by Richemont, the publicly held group of lux holdings like Van Cleef & Arpels. Of course, not just any retailers can show up, either—they must be invited by brands to attend.

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Thankfully, I made the cut, and with laptop and notebook in hand, I flew to Geneva ready to work. Since it was a new show to me, I reached out to my colleague Carol Besler, a longtime watch journalist who writes for Forbes, Journal Haute Horlogerie, and Watch Journal, among others, for the lowdown. “There’s a master schedule of brand appointments—no need to run from one appointment to the next like you do at Baselworld,” she explained about the process for seeing the new watches. [For those who don’t know, Baselworld is another important watch show that happens in Basel, Switzerland.]

One of the stands at SIHH.
Photo courtesy SIHH @ NENCIOLI Gilbert & MORVAN Alain

I’ve never been much for making appointments at my jewelry shows—you inevitably get thrown off schedule after the first one because you have to stop for so many familiar faces in the hallways—so I didn’t really have an opinion. When I hit the show floor, though, and realized how this master schedule would affect my daily routine, I was wishing that every show would mandate this type of scheduling. It’s so civilized! And while there are admittedly far fewer brands to cover at this show than most others I attend, there’s no running around like a crazy person because you have one appointment an hour, giving you plenty of time in between to find your next booth or have a coffee or champagne (all flowing generously, thank you, Richemont).

A lion watch featuring hundreds of wood chips from Vacheron Constantin.
A lion watch featuring hundreds of wood chips from Vacheron Constantin.

The appointments themselves were efficient, and at times, amusing. All the journalists were escorted into large rooms with ample seating and myriad different themes, from dark movie-theatre-like environments to bright, beach cabana-esque patio-like setups with the heat of 1,000 suns pumping in. (Eventually, somebody found the a.c. unit, thank God.) There were presentations with speakers and videos, and everyone had the same opportunity to handle the pieces and snap photos for social media and get a press kit. It was a pleasant way to cover a show.

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And the amusement? Presentations from the brand representatives who unveiled new works ranged from monotone to corny to distracted—one guy enthusiastically mentioned the word “threesome” at least six times by the time I realized he was hell bent on repeating it. (At least he was talking about a watch.) Some of these folks were comfortable in front of a crowd while others awkwardly followed scripts written for them. Compared to my hurried jewelry presentations where you digest a year’s worth of an artist’s commitment in five minutes in order to race to your next appointment to try to see as many brands as you can in eight hours—whew!—this show had some quality entertainment with time to spare for bubbles. I like that.

The interior of the Richard Mille booth spoke to its
playful new collection surrounding sweets.
Photo courtesy SIHH @ NENCIOLI Gilbert & MORVAN Alain

Anyway, I’ll put these first-world issues behind me and dive into some watch coverage. Not surprisingly, this jewelry editor was most jazzed about the collections that had strong stories and/or lots of jewels. Stay tuned for some of my favorite lines in the days ahead.

 A new Bovet watch
A new Bovet watch shot by yours truly.
Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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Opinion

What a Black Diamond, an Old Dog, and the WJA New York Metro Chapter Holiday Party All Have in Common

New YorkCity. Dec. 7, 2018. Early Wednesday morning, I awoke to the sound of our 15-year-old lab/shepherd mix named Beast having a seizure. It was his second one ever—and within a week’s time—and he wasn’t snapping out of this one as quickly as the first. Jeff and I got him into the car and sped over to the closest 24-hour emergency vet, who quickly assessed the cause: a brain tumor.

Fifteen is great long life for a big dog! But as pet parents know, it’s difficult nonetheless to say goodbye. The vet put Beast on a seizure med, though, which has helped stabilize him, and forbade him from doing stairs anymore. We brought him home, dragged his bed downstairs and set it up in the den, and have been living on the first floor with him 24/7. Correction, I have been living with him in the den, given that he cries for me if I’m gone for longer than a few minutes.

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This family emergency forced me to clear my schedule this week. I missed the Platinum Guild International (PGI) holiday party on Wednesday night, and last night’s board dinner of the Women’s Jewelry Association’s (WJA) New York Metro chapter, of which I’m president. PGI’s Jenny Luker and Kevin Reilly were understanding, as was the all-volunteer board with whom I work. Everyone involved has crazy busy schedules, so it seemed unfair and impractical to reschedule our board dinner, which is an opportunity to thank everyone for their hard work and commitment. I wanted them to enjoy it—and from the looks of the photos, they did!! Margaritas, I believe, were part of the reason.

The 2018 board dinner of the WJA New York Metro chapter sans yours truly (I was home on hospice duty)inner of the WJA New York Metro chapter sans myself (I was home on hospice duty)
Board dinner of the WJA New York Metro chapter sans yours truly
because I was home on hospice duty.

So, from my home base of our dog-filled den (our Golden Retriever, Emma, is serving as a therapy dog to both me and Beast), I’m working on next week’s event schedule. This includes the annual WJA New York Metro holiday party, which will happen at the Yale Club on Wednesday, Dec. 12. Tickets are still on sale (click here).

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The holiday party is super festive and upscale, with an open bar, great food, and the camaraderie of members for which our chapter is well known. The party is also an opportunity to learn about industry firms that support the mission of WJA—“to help women in the jewelry and watch industries advance and develop professionally through networking, education, leadership development, and the provision of member services.” Companies support WJA and events like the holiday party through sponsorships, which defray the costs of hosting pricey events like this one, and raffle donations, which raise money for our chapter’s scholarships and grants.

Raffle items this year are unique! First, there are non-jewelry temptations. Closet vocalist and Senior Counsel at the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, Sara Yood, donated two tickets to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA)—the competition featured in the film “Pitch Perfect—on Saturday April 27 in New York City. Reed Events donated a two-night hotel stay at the Palazzo/Venetian during the JCK 2019 jewelry show, and onetime WJA National President Ann S. Arnold donated several signed copies of the book she wrote with her father, “Together: A Journey for Survival,” about a childhood spent dodging the Nazis during World War II. (Also find it on Amazon.com.) 

Together, A Journey of Survival, is the work of onetime WJA National President Ann Arnold, whose family business is Lieberfarb. Arnold wrote this book with her father, a Holocaust survivor, to tell his story.
Together, A Journey of Survival, is the work of onetime WJA National President Ann Arnold, whose family business is Lieberfarb. Arnold wrote this book with her father, a Holocaust survivor, to tell his story.

Of course, there are also plenty of jewels. Thanks to Metro chapter co-treasurer and jewelry designer Delphine Leymarie, we will have a sterling silver Etoile ring up for grabs. Member and designer Elena Kriegner is also donating a ring, but hers is called Spark and features a massive 20 carat citrine center stone. Eliko Pearl, a longtime dealer in the city and a member of the Cultured Pearl Association of America (of which this author serves as part-time executive director), is donating a pair of dark Tahitian keshi pearls, a pair of stunning pale natural-color blue akoya pearls, and an oversize baroque Tahitian pearl.

Etoile ring in sterling silver from Delphine Leymarie
Etoile ring in sterling silver from Delphine Leymarie

And there’s one final gem that’s of particular interest to me: a round black diamond from Instagem.net.

Black rose-cut diamond from Instagem.net/TBR. International Inc.
Black rose-cut diamond from Instagem.net

AsI enjoy the final days with my own black beauty of a dog, that black diamond reminds me of our Beast through its color, imperfections (it’s a rose cut), and even its size—0.9 carat and our Beasty weighs 95 pounds. I’ll buy a chance to win that stone next week after I find overnight accommodations for my furry baby who needs round-the-clock care. If I win it, I’ll set it into a necklace to keep him close; If I don’t win it, no matter—a lifetime of memories with that big, silly, and loveable dog will live on forever in my mind.

Dogs are a stinky, slobbery, sometimes destructive, and loveable gift to us all, and the joy, laughter, and peace that Beasty, once a stray from rural West Virginia, has given to our family is akin to winning a diamond a day for the rest of our lives. As much of a jewelry lover as I now am, I’d take Beast over a diamond a day every day for eternity.

I hope you will join us next week at the Yale Club to celebrate another year of blessings, even if my year end is a bit bittersweet.

Fifteen-year-old Beasty at home with his 8-year-old pal Emma at his side.
Fifteen-year-old Beasty at home with his eight-year-old pal Emma at his side.

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Opinion

A Close Call with Knockoffs Illustrates Problems in Jewelry

New York City. Dec. 3, 2018. On Saturday morning as I sat sipping my coffee and scrolling through Facebook, I came across a request on a closed trade-only jewelry forum called Jewelers Helping Jewelers (JHJ). Would the group of more than 14,000 individuals please weigh in to help the poster, a jeweler, learn how to copy the handiwork of an established jewelry designer with a recognizable aesthetic since one of his good customers liked it? The designer was Polly Wales, a pioneer in the cast-not-set technique of wax-cast jewelry with gemstones.

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I nearly spit out my coffee—not because somebody else was yet again trying to copy the hard work of another individual but because that person had taken the request to a huge public forum to expedite the offense. By the time I saw the post, it had been online for about 16 hours, allowing ample time for others to weigh in. But instead of posts of protest à la, “That’s not ethical behavior,” they responded with ugly comments about the designer’s signature aesthetic, an organic-looking method of casting specific gemstones securely into precious metal.

A short-lived online discussion ensued before the poster, I imagine, deleted the entire thread. Perhaps he realized that time stamps and motive were present, which could provide evidence that he intended to take money out of the established designer’s pocket and put it into his own. I’m not a lawyer or a policewoman, but as a journalist with 22 years of experience writing about serious industry issues like this, it’s appropriate to point out questionable behavior for the benefit of many. Over the summer, I even helped to organize a conference for the New York Metro chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association where intellectual property (IP) lawyers offered insight into alleged claims of knockoffs—which is where I learned about time stamping and willful efforts to deceive. If the now-deleted JHJ thread became public knowledge, it could be a black eye to many in jewelry. I’m thrilled the jeweler took it down, because its presence lent a measure of authoritativeness to a request that could lead many down a dark path.

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This certainly isn’t the first time IP issues have come under scrutiny, nor will it be the last. But learning from them—quickly—and turning the situation around is always the best course of action for all parties involved.

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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Opinion

Leo Ingwer Redesigned My Mother-in-Law’s Engagement Ring and This Is Why

Flourtown, Pa. Nov. 20, 2018. When my mother-in-law Gretchen decided that she wanted her engagement ring redesigned, we had a lot of decisions to make!

First, there was the look. Gretchen knew she wanted her traditional-looking prong-set round-brilliant diamond center with a trio of side stones flanking either side remade into a more modern ring. Plus, she had a slender band of tiny single-cut diamonds that she wanted incorporated into the new style. Gretchen had acquired her engagement ring at Christmastime in 1958 but stopped wearing it more than 20 years ago after the center stone fell out. Even after the center diamond was replaced, she was fearful of another loss and tucked it away.

My mother-in-law's old wedding set circa 1948

My mother-in-law’s old wedding set circa 1948

After so many years of not wearing it, though, and after the loss of my father-in-law nine years ago, she started getting sentimental; she wanted to wear it again but with a newer mounting. We talked about what she wanted and who among my jewelry friends would make it. Gretchen wanted all the stones bezel-set into a sleek band with a low profile for daily wear, and she wanted all the tiny stones scattered like a constellation, seemingly rotating around her half-carat colorless center. With such a specific look in mind and old diamonds to work with—not every jewelry designer will work with old stones—who would we connect with to do the job? It didn’t take me long to answer my own question: Danielle Ingwer-Cohen of Leo Ingwer.

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My friend Danielle Ingwer-Cohen of Leo Ingwer working on my mother-in-law's remount.

My friend Danielle Ingwer-Cohen of Leo Ingwer working on my mother-in-law’s remount.

Danielle is a treasured friend with whom I have worked on the board of the New York Metro Chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association. She was our chapter president a few years ago, and now I am in that spot. Her family founded Leo Ingwer in 1939. I knew she would work with Gretchen’s old stones and that she would be open to our ideas for design. I adore, respect, and trust Danielle, so it was logical for me to trust her to restore Gretchen’s ring and the memories it inspires. This jewel packed a lot of meaning!

I brought Gretchen’s rings to Danielle’s office in the Diamond District. I also showed her my father-in-law’s band so she would have an idea of the look we had in mind. Gretchen wanted a wider version of his yellow gold band with her diamonds inset. Danielle took some notes, took the rings, and went to work. I was so excited for Gretchen to finally be able to wear her jewelry again! I also knew that Danielle, her sister Ashley, and cousin Todd, the next generation leading the diamond house into a new arena of bespoke jewelry experiences, would do an outstanding job. All of Leo Ingwer’s jewels are made right in New York City, even when so many other firms outsource jobs all over the world. Leo Ingwer keeps its diamond jewelry experiences all in the company’s local family, which includes upwards of 20 employees—most of whom have been on staff for at least 15 years.

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The finished piece? Well, you can see in the photos that it’s fabulous! Gretchen loves it! It’s exactly what she had in mind and also what she has on her finger almost daily. Family heirlooms can only be entrusted to those who will treasure them as much as the owner, and the Ingwer family makes that happen in every client interaction.

My mother-in-law's redesigned engagement ring from Leo Ingwer

My mother-in-law’s redesigned engagement ring from Leo Ingwer

 

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