Bedazzled at International Jewellery London
Yesterday I visited the annual International Jewellery London (trade fair) at Earls Court. This was my first visit to this event and if asked to sum it up I would describe it as a jewellery-lover’s paradise. I was blown away by the sheer choice and gorgeousness of all the jewellery, as well as the creativity of the designers exhibiting there.
There were 560 exhibitors from all over the world and they offered the whole spectrum of jewellery-related items : loose diamonds and precious gems; loose beads, all types of jewellery making materials and supplies; well-known top designers with their latest collections; new talent with their showpieces; exquisite diamond, gold, silver, pearl and gemstone jewellery, as well as costume jewellery in the most stunning, innovative and original designs. There were also catwalk models showing off the latest trends, and thought-provoking seminars, but my real focus was on potential suppliers.
There were various stands offering classic brand watches and other giftware, and some rather intriguing and very expensive-looking statues and other pieces from Russia made from silver, onyx and marble. Everything on display at the fair exuded craftsmanship and quality, and I have to admit that I felt a bit like a sugar-addict in a sweetshop when I first walked in, not knowing where to begin, there was so much of interest, I wondered if a day would be long enough.
As I walked round, there was a myriad of dazzling jewels that caught my eye and I couldn’t help gazing in wonderment at the glitzy crystals and blingy objects of desire. There were lots of those shambolla (friendship) bracelets in evidence which are very popular right now and which I intend to trial in my online shop very shortly.
If you had thousands of pounds to spend, you could easily spend them in half an hour but I was trying very hard to resist being carried away by the urge to try out lots of different types of jewellery on my online store, so I tended to stick to what I know : silver and gemstones.
I eventually succumbed to ordering a collection of silver heart pendants and lockets for my new “hearts” collection. I was also drawn towards the Indian sellers with their silver and gemstone pendants and rings, which they price by the weight. I was very attracted to the real opals from the Australian Opal Mines and although the larger specimens were beyond my price range, I did indulge in buying three small opal pendants.
I had an interesting conversation with one of the Indian sellers. He had two baskets on the table containing rings and pendants in each. At first glance they looked pretty much the same, gemstones set in silver. However, he explained that one contained gemstones mounted on metal that had been silver plated, and the other basket contained gemstones set in 925 silver. On closer inspection I could easily discern which was which – but I wondered if other people would be able to. The difference in price was significant. The 925 silver was almost four times the price of the other. The quality of stones – which were all real – was the same.
He said he was there to promote the less expensive range, and encourage buyers to switch to the silver plated versions instead of real silver due to the high price of silver on the global markets which was harming the silver jewellery industry in the recession. I asked about how long the plating would last before it wore off. He said it was such good quality it would never wear off (but then he would say that wouldn’t he?)
In the end, I bought one item of each to test if people can actually tell the difference by sight. So far, out of the 8 people I have quizzed, none of them have been able to discern the real silver from the silver plate correctly – they always seem to get it the wrong way round. On the other hand, they usually manage to make a reasonable guess at the price of the silver item and get the price differential about right. (Do you think YOU would be able to tell the difference?)
I am personally trying out a number of silver plated items at the moment to see how well the plating lasts – a bracelet, ring and neck chain – so far they all look as good as new but it’s only been 3 months!I don’t think there is any substitute for buying one’s own products and trying things out from a customer’s point of view. I would never ask a customer to accept quality that I wouldn’t be happy with myself.
I wondered if offering a guarantee on silver plated goods would reassure customers that silver plated items can look good for a long time or for as long as they want to wear the item. Do you think it would encourage people to buy silver plated jewellery? If anyone has any views on this, please respond.
Of the designers that really caught my attention I would have to say I was struck by the simple quality of the Lola Rose semi-precious gemstone collection; by contrast, Michael Negrin had some very pretty but complex pieces (though some people might find that kind of style a bit “twee”); I also liked Martick Jewellery who produce unique, collectable designs. I collected many business cards for future reference and came away with bags of ideas for future collections I would like to feature on my website – and very tired feet. All in all it was a successful and very enjoyable day and I just wish it happened more than once a year!