BaselWorld Attendance Up 39%; Jewelry Reflects Cultural Trends

April 22, 2004

BaselWorld Attendance Up 39%; Jewelry Reflects Cultural Trends

BaselWorld, which closed today, announced visitor attendance increased to 89,350 in 2004, up almost 39% over 2003, when the SARS crisis and the Iraq war overshadowed the event. Attendee figures were also up 8.3% over 2002, a more normal year for visitors to the annual fair in Basel, Switzerland.

New jewelry collections at BaselWorld reflected cultural trends articulated by two international trends forecasters who lectured at various seminars during the eight-day fair. The trends noted here are based on their research. Italy-based Paola De Luca is creative director of Trends + Jewellery Forecasting; Dominique Assenat is senior stylist for Peclers, a French trend research company. The key trends:

• India/China. A fascination with Asia, its arts and cultures and the growing economic might of these two countries was reflected in many collections. Carrera y Carrera, for example, introduced a Taj Mahal line inspired by the romance of India. Earrings and pendants featured pink, orange and green gems with lily accents and removable feather drops. The company's other major collection debut was Circles of Fire, a Chinese-influenced line with an iconic dragon as a motif.

• Sporty Chic. Fifties and Sixties styles abounded, with the fresh colors of apparel designers Pucci and Lily Pulitzer influencing many collections. As a result, turquoise and coral were everywhere again, as were other opaque and translucent gems which seem to fit the casual moment. The continued wide use of leather, rubber and other materials are also reflected in this trend. But diamonds are not forgotten, as Italy's Damiani demonstrated with its cheerful Bolle collection rings and Y-necklaces in turquoise and coral with diamond accents. Tamara Comolli contributed her unique interpretation of sporty chic with a Sixties bracelet in colorful gems such as pale amethyst, rose quartz, peridot, rutilated quartz and fire opal.

• Water & Light Effects. The movement and shine of water and light were reflected in many designs. Jewelry that cascades, shimmers, bubbles or drops, using real or perceived movement, was a big hit. The continued popularity of drop, dangle, stilletto and chandelier earrings is just one manifestation of this trend. A prominent promoter of the idea at BaselWorld was Platinum Guild International, which unveiled its Aqua necklace, designed by Orlando Orlandini, the Italian couture designer. The necklace features hundreds of light-shedding platinum droplets meant to reflect PGI's research showing consumers associate water with platinum. It will tour the world over the next year.

• Magic & Fantasy. The combined cultural influence of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are casting their shadows on fine jewelry. Myths, symbols and real or fantastic animals like snakes, lizards, dragons and chimeras were entries into a dark, mystical and enchanted world created with gems and metals. Blackened gold is often the backdrop for these creations, though there were more mainstream diamond and white metal versions, too. The best interpretations featured rich, colored gemstones, however, such as H. Stern's lizard brooch in 18k darkened Noble Gold (the house's signature gold alloy) with rubies and green tourmalines.

• Animal Influences. De Luca calls this trend "animalism" and it is seen in straightforward animal skin designs and feathers, as well as in more abstract stripes and modern prints. African motifs comes into play here, and human-animal combinations are also beginning to appear in design, according to Assenat. Designer Roberto Coin was an innovator of this style, with his Natura line featuring skins of giraffes, pandas, zebras and cobras. This year, Coin added bright versions of these motifs in pink and blue enamel as well as with gemstones.

• Men! The international jewelry design community was emboldened this year to adorn men with various jewels. The trend is driven by celebrities such as P. Diddy and Prince, the latter appearing on Entertainment Weekly's current cover wearing an elaborate diamond earring. These arbiters of what's cool for the male gender are having an influence on other cool men, such as part-time Damiani designer Brad Pitt, who added chunky men's pinky rings with onyx, turquoise and pale coral to his D. Side line. Pitt also created bracelets, cuff links, pendants and men's watches for the collection, which he codesigns with Damiani. U.S. designers Henry Dunay and David Yurman also weighed in with significant men's collections at this year's BaselWorld.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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