Gem Trends

by Julian Ryall
wifm_winter10_low-54Jewelers optimistic despite economic slump

Diamonds , as any man can tell you, are a girl’s best friend. Followed closely by pearls, rubies, emeralds and a host of other sparkling stones and precious metals. And therein lies one of the beauties of jewelry: with so many options and permutations, there will always be room in a collection for one or two more choice items.

Like many industries, the jewelry business found 2009 hard going, but several major trade shows are scheduled for 2010 and there is optimism among dealers and designers that consumer confidence may be returning. After all, they reason, if things were so bad then jeweler Ginza Tanaka would not have taken a chance on creating a sculpture of Mt. Fuji out of gold weighing 3kg.

As in any business, it pays to have your wares stand out of the crowd, but Japanese consumers also demand quality, says Alok Rakyan, owner of Infinity Diamonds.

“I mainly have two kinds of customers,” he explains. “There are those who are buying for a major occasion — an engagement, an anniversary or some other event that they want to mark—or women in their forties who have a little bit of extra money and want to spoil themselves.”

Owning a diamond, whether in a ring, brooch, necklace or other setting, has long been “part of the national psyche,” Rakyan believes, although that may be changing for younger women.

Still, he says, the classic diamond is set in a pendant, ring or brooch — necklaces and bangles are less popular with Japanese consumers, he says—as they are less ostentatious and more in keeping with the tradition of understated elegance. And when it comes to the cut, he adds, “the round cut is still the king.”wifm_winter10_low-55

“The first diamond a Japanese woman buys or is given is almost always round,” he says. And if you ever get bored of that, there are always pear-shaped stones or the princess cut for rings.

“The diamond is still the most soughtafter item, although we have noticed that there is a trend towards women wearing more colorful items of jewelry,” he said. “They want something that is fun, not necessarily expensive, and I think this may well reflect a new-found confidence and single-mindedness among this generation.”

wifm_winter10_low-57Veritas spokesperson Yuko Kuroda agrees. She says young women are snapping up large hoop earrings — a change from last year’s fashion for chandelier-type earrings — plus long pendant-style necklaces with colored stone decorations.

“It is easy to give an outfit a completely new look with a pendant and without having to buy new clothes,” she said. “We have introduced a range of new designs for necklaces and pendants with parts that are changed, meaning that they are versatile and can be altered to suit any mood or clothing.”

wifm_winter10_low-60Organically shaped items are in vogue at the moment as is jewelry that has been handcrafted and incorporates rose quartz, lapis lazuli or black diamonds. The mountings for this sort of costume jewelry are 10-carat pink gold, matt gold or silver, partly because they impart a “warm” feeling against the skin, said Kuroda. And even though recent months have not been kind to the jewelry industry, Kuroda shrugs it off as a short-term problem.

“No matter how the economy fares, the ground floor of department stores is still given over to jewelry and cosmetics. It has always been like that and is evidence that these are the essentials for a woman to enjoy her life as a woman.”

Another powerful selling point is the knowledge that an item is one-of-a-kind, says Keigo Mirwald, president of Tokumaru Pearl Co. Ltd.

Veritas: Roppongi Hills Shop“My parents do all the designs themselves and have been doing so for the past 40 years,” he said. “We buy our gemstones in Germany and they are then worked into necklaces, earrings and so on; but my parents do not work in the traditional way of working out a design and then following it; they look at each individual stone and they design around it as they go along.” The result is that each piece created by Gerhard Mirwald or Kinuko Kuribayashi is unique, he says.

The company, which can trace its roots back to a South Seas cultured pearl company in Australia, is opening a store in Futakatamagawa, where the office and workshops are already located.

“If I had to choose a favorite stone, I would go for lapis,” says Mirwald. “It’s because of the color and the history — it’s actually one of the oldest gemstones — and because much of it used to come from Afghanistan, it is becoming much harder to find.”