Opinion

Just in Time for Holiday—RE:FINE at The Store at MAD Is Back, With Even More Fab Designers

NEW YORK. The Store at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in Manhattan knows a good thing when it sees it. That’s why it brought back a jewelry sale event featuring contemporary designers that struck a resounding cord with shoppers last fall, and again in spring 2017. Franci Sagar, vice president of brand and retail development, already had a strong fan base for eclectic store gifts like sculptural ceramics, and decided that fine jewelry, too, should get a present-day boost. So after success with her first two RE:FINE (initially dubbed Redefining Fine Jewelry) sales events in The Store, she enlisted the help of Beth Bernstein, a seasoned jewelry figure—and most important, my friend—and editor of BeJeweledMag.com to co-curate the designers for the holiday 2017 selection.

Like me, Beth is a jewelry editor with a passion for modern design and a desire to help emerging artists succeed. Unlike me, Beth has inked several books on jewelry (she keeps asking me when I’ll write mine!) and is a familiar face in the MAD museum since she lives near Columbus Circle, where MAD is located. Living at the mouth of the Upper West Side, Beth knows something about the neighborhood that may come as a shock to those outside of the city: there’s a dearth of jewelry stores there with forward-thinking inventory mixes. So, when Franci asked her to team up to help curate an event full of some of the industry’s brightest modern masters, it took but a moment for Beth to say, ‘”Yes!”

“Due to MAD’s commitment to championing designers who challenge traditional notions of jewelry, it’s the perfect outlet for designers because there are mainly only conventional jewelry stores on the Upper West Side,” Beth explains.

Leather bracelet with gold ornament and gemstones from Moritz Glik<br /> For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

Leather bracelet with gold ornament and gemstones from Moritz Glik
For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

 

And since The Shops at Columbus Circle—across the street from MAD—and the Museum itself are such tourist destinations, it makes sense to have a store with cool, uncommon jewels.

“MAD attracts people who are really into art and design, so they love the jewelry options brought in for this event, and so do the neighborhood residents,” she adds. “The concept of the event is to blur the lines between what was once considered precious and what is precious today in fine jewelry. When guys buy jewelry for their wives and girlfriends, they’ll buy something like diamond studs because they’re a safe choice, but the pieces in this sale are expressive, often colorful and meaningful—pieces that women would buy for themselves.”

Gemstone earrings in gold from Loriann Jewelry<br /> For purchase: For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

Gemstone earrings in gold from Loriann Jewelry
For purchase: For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

 

Some 32 international artists and designers (think Alberian & Aulde, Moritz Glik, and Loriann Jewelry, among many others)—including eight jewelers with strong alternative wedding jewelry options—will have collections in The Store through the end of January 2018. Some works may stay on after that time, depending on patron interest, but a robust presentation is on hand now through the holidays and New Year.

Engagement rings in gold with colored gemstones from Ruth Tomlinson<br /> For purchase: For purchase: For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

Engagement rings in gold with colored gemstones from Ruth Tomlinson
For purchase: For purchase: For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

 

RE:FINE officially kicked off last night in an invitation-only VIP affair with MAD members, and a press preview happens today (I’ll be there!), where I’ll be able to mingle with most of the artists. For sure, these collections are not ones you’ll see in mainstream jewelry stores, and that’s a relief given that much of what is sold today looks the same. Stay tuned for photos of available pieces on my Instagram account, and look for another story on the event that will appear tomorrow.

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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Opinion

Judging the Annual International Pearl Design Competition of the Cultured Pearl Association of America

NEW YORK. Last Wednesday, I took part in what has become an eight-year-old annual tradition among pearl enthusiasts, the International Pearl Design Competition from the Cultured Pearl Association of America.

It was my third or fourth time serving as a judge, and as usual, it was super fun. My dear friend and fellow pearl fan, Kathy Grenier, the marketing director of the CPAA and vice president of business development for Imperial Pearl, usually enlists me to participate since she knows that I share her passion for pearls. Something about that luster draws us to the organic gems, and their backstories are the best in all of jewelry: beautiful pearls grow in typically pristine ocean and lake environments around the world, and the pearl industry offers employment to myriad individuals who treasure the environment as much as the farm owners. As Jacque Christophe Branellec, a principal at Jewelmer, told me several years ago when I visited his farms in the Philippines, “The pearl farm could not operate without a healthy community and environment.”

Pearl shot from GIA.edu

Pearl shot from GIA.edu

 

Pearls have a long and storied history worldwide as a beloved gem among ruling classes, a status that has ebbed and flowed over centuries. In the U.S., pearls hit their stride after World War II when American soldiers returned home from war with Japan with akoya strands in hand for loved ones. Those bland white strands went on to both champion and sully the pearls’ image stateside for decades. Today, after years of growing innovations and investment by farmers, pearls are anything but boring, but that is an ideology espoused only by in-the-know pearl disciples. For sure, pearls are a niche product within jewelry that elicit strong feelings of either adoration or intense meh—there’s truly no in between.

The CPAA’s annual contest serves to inspire both sides—hard-core fans and belittlers alike—through creative designs where the pearl is center stage. And we’re not talking the boring white strand; pearls of all types are celebrated here, from coins to baroques to carved pearls and more. Like the wedding ring category, it takes big inventiveness to create memorable pearl designs.

Judges included myself; designer and past winner Brenda Smith; designer Deirdre Featherstone; Jean Francois Bibet, workshop director of production for Cartier in the U.S.; and fellow journalists Severine Ferrari of Engagement101.com and Cheryl Kremkow of Gemobsessed.com.

Judges for the 2017-2018 CPAA design contest, from left: Cheryl Kremkow; Brenda Smith; Kathy Grenier; Deirdre Featherstone; yours truly; and Severine Ferrari

Judges for the 2017-2018 CPAA International Pearl Design Competition, from left: Cheryl Kremkow; Brenda Smith; Kathy Grenier; Deirdre Featherstone; yours truly; and Severine Ferrari

 

As usual, there were a lot of entries—134 to be exact—from all over the world. According to Bo Perry, who organizes the contest for CPAA, entries come from dozens of countries (19 this year) in the form of sketches, CAD-CAM drawings, or photos if pieces are already made (they needn’t be for this contest). Winners are typically asked to make pieces for display at future trade fairs. Judges consider entries based on uniqueness of design, wearability (Will it be comfortable to wear?), salability (Will somebody want to buy it?), and perceived comfort of wear and/or aesthetic upon completion (not always easy to estimate).

To judge more efficiently, we paired up with a person whose skills complement our own. My partner? Deirdre, a thoughtful, laidback, motorcycle-riding master platinum-smith with long blond locks who makes dreamy one-of-a-kinds for a devoted clientele and who would never be mistaken for a minimalist (hint: she wears a lot of what she makes). Deirdre is also known for her design chops, having won 10 American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Awards (a tony and high-profile design contest run by a trade group that represents ethical and high-end American colored stone dealers) in just four years.

Sitting side by side, judges pore through hundreds of pages of designs (entrants can submit up to five views per piece) to narrow down selections to a minimum of 20. Being a seasoned jewelry market editor—which means looking at lots of jewelry every day—I only selected about 26 pieces. To me, this small lot represented the most remarkable or uncommon designs submitted. Deirdre and I talked about the merits of possible construction and aesthetics (she loves bold animal motifs, but I’m less of a fan because they limit the appeal of pieces to specific tastes), and while we agreed on many selections, our final choices were not identical. After each judge’s list was complete, Bo placed all the images of selected items on a long table and handed us criteria for category selections. This is where all the opinions in the room collided, and the judging process got trickier! But compared to years past, this process went much more quickly because so many of the judges agreed with each other about certain pieces from the start.

We debated for about an hour and a half on winning designs across nine categories, including fashion, fantasy, bridal, and more. During discussions, the finer points of finishing are noted (according to Deirdre, the use of French wires in earrings “means that the person doesn’t understand finishing”), as is the pretty factor—is the piece good looking? Granted, this is a hugely subjective term, but it’s still talked about since the pearl-loving public will scrutinize our picks. In the end, we chose the nine styles that we could best agree on across the different categories, selecting a top President’s Trophy piece by a unanimous vote.

At the time, Bo and Kathy weren’t sure if the winning pieces would be manufactured due to myriad reasons within the organization, so we’ll have to stay tuned for word on that. As for the winning pieces and their makers, they have not yet been announced. Again, stay tuned.

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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Opinion

Everything You Need to Know About Red Carpet Jewelry Placements (Hint: Some Are Ads)

NEW YORK. Shortly after the 69th Emmy Awards took place, a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to an article from HollywoodReporter.com: “More Stars Are Getting Paid to Wear Jewelry on the Red Carpet.”

One of my snarkier friends had this to say about the news: “Duh.”

I don’t disagree. Seriously, who doesn’t know this by now? Many jewelry placements on stars are paid ads.

Way back in 2005, the Los Angeles Times ran “Red Carpet Revenue,” perhaps one of the earliest—and best covered, since some brands went on record—pieces addressing the topic. Those paid placements paved the way for today’s social media posts that have often gone unchecked and unmarked as ads and an effort to conceal the truth. Undisclosed paid jewelry placements that masquerade as “news” and “trends” drive me nuts. This is fake news; if you have enough money, you can buy coverage in the form of placements positioned to appear as authentic star style choices that the press writes articles about as if it was all genuine news. Gag.

This spring, the Federal Trade Commission did crack down on some offenders, calling out some high-profile influencers like Kim Kardashian for not clearly labeling paid social media posts as ads. However, aren’t stars who are paid to walk the red carpet in jewelry from big houses and do not reveal those relationships and arrangements offenders, too? Shouldn’t statements be issued to clearly say that someone is wearing a jewelry brand because the brand paid them to do so?

The biggest takeaway from star jewelry at awards’ shows should be the silhouettes and colors—are folks wearing collar necklaces, amethysts, stiletto drop earrings, pink gold, or stack bracelets? Those lengths, colors, and styles will influence real jewelry collectors to make looks their own through inspired purchases. Inspired silhouettes and colors—not design copies—are key; you have your own style, so let it speak for itself.

And while some of the specific jewels worn by stars are worthy of admiration, know the truth about them even if the brand doesn’t want you to: it’s likely a paid placement and a non-disclosure that puts smaller designers at a competitive disadvantage.

And out of curiosity, I asked some of the public relations’ firms handling promotion of jewelry brands worn to the Emmys to tell me if the stars wearing their pieces were paid to do so. Here’s what I found out.

Reese Witherspoon, nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her portrayal of Madeline Martha Mackenzie in the hit Netflix series, Big Little Lies, wore David Webb jewelry. Among her selections: a pair of 18k white gold and platinum cabochon-cut sapphire earrings with brilliant- and baguette-cut diamonds and a crossover ring in 18k white gold and platinum with carved ruby and sapphire leaves and brilliant-cut diamonds.

Was she paid to wear these pieces? No, according to a PR firm for the brand.

Reese Witherspoon in David Webb jewels at the Emmys

Reese Witherspoon in David Webb jewels at the Emmys
Credit: @davidwebbjewels on Instagram

 

Nicole Kidman, winner for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie for her portrayal of Celeste Wright in the Netflix series, Big Little Lies, wore $2 million of jewels from Harry Winston. Among her selections: a platinum link bracelet with 35.16 cts. t.w. diamonds and platinum drop earrings with 13.77 cts. t.w. diamonds.

Was she paid to wear these pieces? In-house PR officials could not comment.

Nicole Kidman in Harry Winston jewels at the Emmys

Nicole Kidman in Harry Winston jewels at the Emmys
Credit: INSTARImages

 

Robin Wright, nominee for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series for her portrayal of Claire Underwood in the Netflix series, House of Cards, wore jewelry from Nirav Modi. Among her selections: Celestial Lineal earrings and three Slim Embrace bangles with diamonds.

Was she paid to wear these pieces? No, according to a PR firm for the brand.

 

Celestial Drop earrings with diamonds from Nirav Modi

Celestial Drop earrings with diamonds from Nirav Modi
Credit: Nirav Modi

Slim Embrace bangle from Nirav Modi

Slim Embrace bangle from Nirav Modi
Credit: Nirav Modi

 

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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Opinion

Safety Pin and Hoop Earrings are Top Style Contenders at the U.S. Open

NEW YORK. While I’m frantically taking notes on spring 2018 attire appearing now during worldwide fashion weeks (New York City’s took place Sept. 7–14), I am still personally stuck on U.S. Open style.

Though my husband and I have taken tennis lessons on and off for years, I’m only mildly interested in watching the sport—I do, however, admire the athleticism of the players. But one morning in late August, a text from a friend who owns a jewelry store reminded me why I care about tennis style if not the game: “I just got a request for safety pin earrings. Off the top of your head, who makes them?” I knew exactly why she was getting this request and which jewelry designers made them.

Maria Sharapova, the Russian tennis player who fell from grace after a doping scandal in 2016, had played Simona Halep the night before in her first round at the Open. Though I didn’t watch the match in its entirety, I caught a glimpse of Sharapova in a follow-up interview. I spied a chic little safety pin earring on her left ear, an understated boss look that perfectly complemented her Riccardo Tisci designed, Nike-made, black-lace-accented tennis dress adorned with Swarovski crystals. Swoon! (I live in tennis skirts in the summer so I was smitten with the frock and the cool earrings.) Sharapova wore them again in a different match with the white version of that Nike dress. I made a mental note to nab a pair of safety pin earrings for myself (see options below).

Maria Sharapova in a Riccardo Tisci designed, Nike-made, black-lace-accented tennis dress adorned with Swarovski crystals

Maria Sharapova in a Riccardo Tisci designed, Nike-made, black-lace-accented tennis dress adorned with Swarovski crystals

Although the U.S. Open isn’t a major jewelry-watching moment—unlike the Oscars and the Golden Globes—I was interested in the earrings because they were probably ones she owned. I favor real-life looks at folks’ style preferences over the paid-for jewelry placements seen at most red-carpet events. I’m not impressed by jewels that a brand pays someone to wear, because, first, it’s not an authentic occurrence, and second, those jewels are often a snooze-fest to view. All the best jewelry is made by independent artists like the ones I cover on this website; folks who can’t afford to buy an appearance, and their designs are always a thousand times more interesting and innovative. So, I rattled off the name of designers who made safety pin earrings in gold—Sydney Evan, Lauren Klassen, Ileana Makri, Lauren Stewart, and Anita Ko—for my friend and kept my eye on a few more televised matches to see what other players were wearing.

Venus Williams was next up. I adore her—she is elegant, a phenomenal athlete, loves jewelry, is now something of an underdog in her late 30s, and makes her own line of beautiful tennis clothing. After seeing her in a coral, gray, and black abstract-pattern dress with oversize drop-hoop earrings—one of which flew off during a match—I jumped online to order my own outfit. (I’ve already got hoops.) I snagged a lavender, white, and gray floral tennis skirt, and my 80-year-old mother-in-law bought a pair of navy leggings that are as fly as she is. Williams wore these same earrings to another event before the Open, so again, I’m thinking they belong to her. They looked great on her long slender neck, but I can’t help but wonder how a pair of golden pearl earrings and a matching pendant might come to life on her beautiful skin.

Venus Williams in oversize drop-hoop earrings and a coral, gray, and black abstract-pattern dress from her Eleven by Venus line

Venus Williams in oversize drop-hoop earrings and a coral, gray, and black abstract-pattern dress from her Eleven by Venus line

And while other players took home awards—Martina Hingis and Yung-Jan Chan won the Women’s Doubles Final, and Sloane Stephens took home the U.S. Open Title—their jewelry and attire were less than exciting. And the men? Fuhgeddaboudit. I’ll shift gears now to Fashion Week newness, though I may be doing it in a tennis skirt and tee until the weather turns cold.

 

Make the Looks Your Own

Safety Pin earring (single) in 14k gold, $275; Loren Stewart

Safety Pin earring (single) in 14k gold, $275; Loren Stewart

 

 

Safety Pin necklace in 14k white gold with an emerald accent, $607; Lauren Klassan

Safety Pin necklace in 14k white gold with an emerald accent, $607; Lauren Klassan

 

Safety Pin earrings (sold as a pair) in 14k gold with black rhodium and diamonds, $660; Sydney Evan

Safety Pin earrings (sold as a pair) in 14k gold with black rhodium and diamonds, $660; Sydney Evan

 

Safety Pin earring (single) in 18k yellow gold with diamonds, €895; Ileana Makri

Safety Pin earring (single) in 18k yellow gold with diamonds, €895; Ileana Makri

 

Safety Pin earring (single) in 18k yellow gold with diamonds, $2,000; Anita Ko

Safety Pin earring (single) in 18k yellow gold with diamonds, $2,000; Anita Ko

 

Spirograph hoop earrings in sterling silver, $168; Jane Diaz

Spirograph hoop earrings in sterling silver, $168; Jane Diaz

 

Antiope hoop earrings in sterling silver, $255; Jill Platner

Antiope hoop earrings in sterling silver, $255; Jill Platner

 

Mobius Teardrop earrings in sterling silver, $275; Somers

Mobius Teardrop earrings in sterling silver, $275; Somers

 

Reckless Eclipse drop-hoop earrings in 14k rose gold with black diamonds, $4,245; Lana Jewelry

Reckless Eclipse drop-hoop earrings in 14k rose gold with black diamonds, $4,245; Lana Jewelry

 

Drop-hoop earrings in 18k rose gold with diamonds, $6,995; Frederic Sage

Drop-hoop earrings in 18k rose gold with diamonds, $6,995; Frederic Sage

 

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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