Published: November 14, 2023
Review & Photos by Z.G. Burnett
NEW YORK CITY — The eighth annual New York City Jewelry & Watch Show opened at the Upper West Side’s Metropolitan Pavilion on October 26, and continued through the weekend to October 29. More than 100 vendors brought their very best to show, creating a blinding array in aisle after aisle of cases. These contained jewelry, watches, accessories and antiques that dated from prehistory up to this past season. Produced by the Palm Beach Show group, the show had record-breaking attendance with ticket sales almost doubling from last year. “We have been fortunate to see a steady increase year after year, but were thrilled when the flow of visitors was consistent each day from the moment the doors opened,” said a Palm Beach Show representative. “Participating exhibitors raved about all aspects of the show, praising the Palm Beach Show Group team for providing top-level security, phenomenal foot traffic, consistent sales, show programming and an organized production from start to finish.”
“I am thrilled to report that the past show is positively one of the best New York shows that I have ever done. I already had good feelings about the show being a great start to usher in the holiday season for jewelry, but it truly exceeded my expectations,” reported Grace Navarro of Jewels by Grace, Los Angeles. “People came, and they were keen to buy. The feeling I got was that a vast majority came not necessarily knowing what they will purchase, but they were determined to come home with a pretty bauble.”
And there were many such “pretty baubles” to be had by a diverse range of clients. The international roster of vendors attracted veterans of the industry, seasoned customers and that new category of collectors, influencers. Although photography was strictly prohibited on the floor except to the media, throughout the weekend, Instagram stories were flooded with finds that were permitted to be shared by individual dealers.
Even in this exclusive enclave of beautiful, valuable objects, the tense impact of current events could be felt. On some dealers’ display cases was a little white plaque reading, “No speaking lashon hara in this area,” written in English and Hebrew. “Lashon hara” literally translates into “evil speech,” and is broadly defined as speech that causes harm to its subject. Given the large number of dealers either from the Middle East or with heritage in that area, this was a significant but discreet statement about keeping a businesslike civility among vendors and customers despite the current crisis.
One of the most distinctive selections of offerings was found at the Mahnaz Collection, New York City, which is known for its “mid-Twentieth Century onwards jewelry made by forward-looking, independent jewelers whose work stands the test of time.” Mahnaz also specializes in modernist and contemporary Native American jewelry and brought pieces from Charles Loloma, Verma Nequatewa (Sonwai) and Richard Chavez, to name a few. The Mahnaz Collection produces exhibitions installed in its Madison Avenue showroom, each of which has an accompanying print catalog. Mahnaz’s representatives explained that they take a scholarly approach to the pieces that they sell, which was evident from the descriptions and essays published in their handsome volumes.
Elias Marte, New York City, is a young collector who looks forward to and attends the show every year. “[It’s the] best event to try on so many historical pieces,” he said. Although Marte is on a collecting break for now, there was “tons of stuff” that captured his attention. “I saw a gold Bulgari clutch [from Zagari, Naples, Italy] that was wild. Another highlight was this 18K gold and ebony wood watch by Julia Plana for Schlegel & Plana at the Mahnaz Collection,” he added. “Another item I really liked [from Mahnaz] was this vintage solid gold diamond encrusted Chopard watch.”
Each piece of jewelry at the show had its own unique history, but a belt of cameos from Spicer Warin, London, was one of the most literal examples. Fashioned from meticulously carved shells and hardstones in varying sizes, each of the cameos displayed classical motifs in high and low relief. Collected on its original owner’s Grand Tour throughout the European continent during the mid to late Nineteenth Century, the belt’s chain links were original to the period.
Hughes Bosca, Rockport, Mass., is a contemporary design team that uses materials from many different eras, some predating even the figures these cameos presented by a few thousand years. Materials included an ancient ivory thumb ring, Islamic glass from circa 600 BCE and Swiss pearls. Mary Hughes and Caro-Gray Bosca have been offering their creations at art jewelry shows since the 1980s, but this was their “second or third” time exhibiting at this venue. Hughes Bosca did “fine” at the show, but they would like to see more venues in New York City for art jewelry makers and dealers. “It would be very advantageous to have the two together,” commented Hughes after the show. “It would be more comprehensive of the medium…the pot could be better stirred.”
Those with more aristocratic leanings were also served. Glittering tiaras were spotted throughout the display cases, including one such piece from JS Jewels, London. The 1890s diadem by Garrard & Co was crafted from silver and gold, and adorned with saltwater pearls encircled by white diamonds that also dotted the bands. It was also convertible and could be worn as a necklace. Palais Royal, Hong Kong, showed another impressive piece with a grand history, a circa 1870 medallion commissioned and owned by an Italian duke which showed his family motto. The gold, diamond and enamel medallion featured a large Baroque pearl, was double-sided and came with its original case. Both of these museum-quality objects descended in the families of their owners.
For many, jewelry selection is a deeply personal experience, and few pieces emphasize this more specifically than a charm bracelet. Camilla Dietz Bergeron Fine Jewelry, New York City, featured a few in its display, creating a layered effect with each of the vintage charms overlapping to appear as one heavily charmed cuff. When separated, the gold charms, some accentuated with precious stones and pearls, showed their previous owners’ various interests through figural forms, engraved medallions and other designs. Charm bracelets have come in and out of style in various forms within the past decades, but none could beat these classic examples.
The 2024 New York Jewelry & Watch Show will occur October 24 to 27 in the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 West 18th Street. For additional information, 561-725-7823 or www.nycjaws.com.
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