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Italy’s VicenzaOro Officially Opens the 2019 Buying Season

Buyers from over 130 countries attended.

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Vendorafa Hula Hoop Collection                                                                    Monica Rich Kosann Locket Collection

WHILE MOST RETAIL JEWELERS around the world are still packing away their holiday decorations and going over their inventories, a city in northeast Italy (largely known outside of the jewelry world for its steel production, textile factories and agricultural impact) starts getting ready to welcome the jewelry industry’s elite brands, most successful retailers, and respected members of the international press. Vicenza, despite sometimes being confused by Americans with Venezia (Venice) and Valenza, Italy, is actually one of the country’s wealthiest cities. With a town center that reflects its Renaissance-era history, including 23 buildings designed by famed Italian architect Andrea Palladio, Vicenza offers much in the way of culture, food and sights, which are merely added bonuses for those who have traveled to see what the area has become known for: its jewelry.

Lydia Courtielle Nuevo-Mundo Piece

The January edition of the VicenzaOro Jewellery Boutique Show is the first major jewelry trade show of the year, every year. Buyers are treated to a visual smorgasbord that includes finished high jewelry, fashion jewelry, contemporary jewelry, loose diamonds and gems, watches, tools, mountings, findings and jewelry equipment. There are also numerous seminars, classes and panels covering topics from sustainable practices to buying trends to famous emeralds throughout history and  much more. On top of all of that, there are the small perks that often get overlooked at some of the other major trade fairs. Things like real Wi-Fi (are you listening to this, Baselworld?), nightly cocktail gatherings and a free playroom for children ages 3 and up. Many members of the press (including yours truly) are hosted guests of the show, meaning that our transportation, meals and museum tours (of which there are several) are taken care of, making our trip to the city even more enjoyable.

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January’s edition of the fair was made particularly exciting with the introduction of a handful of new exhibitors to the show’s “Design Room,” including American jewelry designer Monica Rich Kosann, who showcased her popular locket collection, as well as Parisian designer Lydia Courteille, who brought along pieces from her Nuevo Mundo collection, which was inspired by her travels to Guatemala. Courteille uses a variety of brightly colored gemstones to replicate the embroidered fabric patterns of the Guatemalan culture in pieces like her Worry Doll ring, which was a show-stopping adornment that included a large, pear-shaped maxixe blue beryl. Also exhibiting at the fair was Italian brand Picchiotti, which recently hired Mark Mazzarese – former president of Mazzarese Fine Jewelry near Kansas City – to expand the reach of its U.S. sales team. And the always exciting Vendorafa went for a playful theme this year with pieces from its new Hula Hoop collection as well as editions to the Anaconda and Dune collections.

With buyers attending the fair from over 130 countries, including from the U.S. (shout out to Scott Saunders of London Jewelers, whom I briefly saw as we headed into the fair), there were not many sections of the show floor that weren’t – at times – jam-packed with people. Seminars were often standing-room only, and the multiple cafes throughout the show saw huge lines at lunch hour as well as at “Aperitivo time.” While that might seem nerve-wracking to some, in the grand scheme of things, it’s all good news for those of us in the business, because a busy show is a sign that the jewelry industry is alive, well and even possibly thriving.

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The VicenzaOro Jewellery Boutique Show does a lot of things the right way, and with some trade fairs suffering from recent exhibitor departures, negative reviews or just from bad choices and poor management, it’s a show that should be looked upon as a guide to what successful jewelry trade fairs could be if they just listened to the needs of their exhibitors and attendees. I mean, after all, isn’t that what everyone wants at the end of the day? Whether it’s a customer, a family member, or a co-worker … we really all just want to be heard.

The next edition of VicenzaOro in Vicenza, Italy, will be held Sept. 7-11.

Barbara Palumbo is a watch and jewelry industry writer, journalist and speaker. She manages the blogging websites Adornmentality.com and Whatsonherwrist.com.

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Fashion Jewelry Chain to Close All 261 Stores

3,000 employees could lose their jobs.

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Jewelry and accessories retailer Charming Charlie is closing all of its 261 stores in connection with its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed July 11.

Bloomberg reports that over 3,000 full- and -part-time workers could lose their jobs.

The bankruptcy filing is Charming Charlie’s second in the past two year, Bloomberg reports.

Store closing sales are being conducted by a joint venture consisting of Hilco Merchant Resources and SB360 Capital Partners, according to a press release.

Charming Charlie operates in 38 states. A full list of closing stores is available here.

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The liquidation is expected to take two months.

The company’s debt totals $82 million, according to Bloomberg. Its cash on hand amounted to only $6,000  as of the bankruptcy filing.

Charming Charlie is a Houston-based specialty retailer focused on fashion jewelry, handbags, apparel, gifts and beauty products.

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Serena Williams Wears the Most Unusual Ear Jewelry in Harper’s Bazaar Feature

Can you even call it an earring?

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A new Serena Williams feature in Harper’s Bazaar is sure to attract attention.

The tennis player insisted that the photos be unretouched, and the cover shot features her mostly exposed backside.

But what might be most interesting to jewelers is the unique ear ornament she wore in one of the photos. We’re not even sure you can call this Gucci accessory an earring.

Could this over-the-ear look catch on?

INSTORE style writer Becky Stone doesn’t think so, although she likes the concept.

“I can hear the siren song of this piece! It takes the concept of jewelry adorning the body and elevates it by having the jewel actually become the body,” Stone said. “The look is surprising, sensual, and playful – an appealing combination. Serena looks like she might be a golden robot from the future, and I’m into it.

“That being said, I think there are a lot of practical barriers to the gilded ear’s mainstream appeal. Can she hear? Is her ear sweaty? How does that thing even stay on? I imagine it would have to be custom fitted, which is probably enough to price it out of the possibility of true street style success. I’d be very interested to see a scaled down version: maybe a smaller cuff that fits over just the upper cartilage, or a closely fitted lobe piece that’s anchored with a post for wearability.”

Beth Bernstein, also an INSTORE style writer, also felt the look was unlikely to take off.

“It might work for an editorial shoot or a runway show, but I don’t believe it will ever make it as a trend for even the high-end,” she said. “It kind of looks like the ‘Joker’s Mask’ for the ear.”

Jewelry professionals posting in our INSTORE Community group on Facebook had a variety of reactions.

Deirdre Crosse of Cipher Gems wrote, “Serena Williams requires an extraordinary design for it to register with the viewer. It’s a bold choice of adornment for strong subject.”

Deric Metzger, owner of DeMer Jewelry, commented, “This is the ear climber trend taken to its maximum natural conclusion and it’s every bit as unpleasant as I imagined.”

Other jewelry that Williams wore for the photoshoot included Cartier earrings, a Bulgari bracelet, a David Yurman bracelet and chain and an Audemars Piguet watch.

The photos appear with an essay penned by Williams about standing up for herself and becoming the strong woman, athlete and mother she is today. The issue will be available on newsstands July 23.

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Jewelry Retail Chain to Repay Workers Up to $17.5M

A review found that they were underpaid.

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Australia-based jewelry retailer Michael Hill plans to pay staff members up to a total of $25 million AUD (US $17.5 million) to make up for underpayments that occurred over several years.

The review was initiated by CEO Daniel Bracken and conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Yahoo Finance reports. The review found a “historic misapplication” of the retail industry award rate, mandated by Australia’s federal government, for some staff members in Australia.

Rapaport News quoted Bracken saying, “When we identified there was an issue, I mobilized a team, supported by independent external experts, to determine the scale of the problem, identify the individuals affected, and to ensure full compliance with the award going forward.

“We will move as quickly as possible to rectify any underpayments with those team members affected.”

The total cost of the repayment is expected to be between AUD $10 million and AUD $25 million, according to Yahoo Finance.

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Michael Hill has about 2,600 employees in 312 stores throughout Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The company announced in April 2018 that it was closing its nine U.S. stores after failing to find a buyer for them.

Read more at Yahoo Finance

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