Fine Jewelry: The Comeback We've Been Waiting For
We all have that piece of jewelry, maybe a couple pieces that are so meaningful. Maybe it’s a ring from an important relative (in my case) or a pair of earrings that have been passed down through generations. Maybe it was something given to you when you were younger at a religious ceremony or maybe it’s your engagement ring. Either way these items are priceless momentos but clearly not actually priceless. Trust me I still mourn the loss of my initial ring I got for my Bat Mitzvah that I lost. But now, I don’t know if it’s just me, my age or my place in life, but I am seeing a lot of gold, real gold jewelry around, and I want in.
In today’s wild world, it’s become the norm for reboots, redos and relaunches. The world has seen so much fashion and media over the last 50 years that it’s become a challenge to create fresh, authentic products that are new to market. So how can we stay in the game?
Bring back what works. Full House? Worked in the 80’s. Netflix staged its comeback. Fendi Baguette Bag? Carrie Bradshaw killed it in the 90’s and Fendi needed nothing more that a flashback of SJP toting hers around. Fine Jewelry? Well let’s just say it’s not staying locked away in the safety deposit box anymore and I wanted to talk to some of Montreal’s young and upcoming jewelers to get their take on the industry...and try on some fabulous jewelry at the same time! I mean, I have a big birthday coming up, so why not?
Keely Goldberg, who heads up the design team at Maison Goldberg knows first hand about the interesting comeback of fine Jewelry. I’ll admit it, this blogger didn’t do her research before meeting her and I didn’t realize I was meeting with Montreal Jewelry Royalty. Keely is the grand daughter of Lou Goldberg, of Lou Goldberg Jewellers , a fixture on the Montreal scene for 70 years before they closed their doors. Together with her father Joel, they are keeping the family name aflame and are continuing to serve their very loyal clients and make a comeback in the modern, ecom world of jewelry.
Keely says the American market spearheaded this idea that women want to achieve a certain look, but also for a certain price. Women are wearing their “good” jewelry every day and are looking to buy more casual, wearable items. The days of dressing up and having statement pieces are behind us but the style points towards wanting a big look with less of a price tag. She says even her customers who used to buy “fake” or silver jewelry for travel are now upgrading to fine pieces but less ostentatious, depending on the customer.
Isaac Mayer of Isaac Mayer Fine Jewelry opened his doors in 2008. Also a third generation jeweler, he started off with loose diamonds and engagement rings and while the core of his business remains bridal jewelry, he is definitely moving with the times and infusing a New York style as he works on building his brand. He has seen the market change in the last few years away from the typical mom and pop jewelers selling 14K gold and diamonds to young and trendy items with a price point under $1000.
He says many jewelers who have been around for decades might tell you it’s a dying business, but check out Isaac’s Instagram page and you will see that it’s anything but.
Isaac says that he sees more and more women buying pieces for themselves, that it's not just a boyfriend or a husband (or a girlfriend or a wife) buying them a gift. They are young professionals with some extra money to spend and would rather invest in a better item then a drawer full of small, look alike pieces. I personally treated myself to one of Isaac’s necklaces last summer but was sure to ask him to make it unique for me as I didn’t want what everyone else had, so we worked together and came up with a pretty necklace that I wear on the daily.
Robyn Gross, originally from Toronto has been living in Montreal for the last 14 years and felt that there was a lack of mid level, real gold options for a younger customer with a smaller budget. Robyn, who got her Gemology degree in 2011 decided that she wanted to turn her hobby of jewelry making into a career. Robyn and I have a mutual friend and I have been following her since I saw the stunning diamond band she made for this friend. Robyn’s designs are clearly fun and fashionable. She wants to make unique pieces that women can wear every day. Robyn works a lot with one of a kind stones and prides herself on finding theses special looking stones and being inspired by them to design the rings. Her pieces are not too dainty as she favors a weightier look and feel.
Keely has extensive experience working with gemstones and while she is a certified Gemologist as well, she took a very interesting path to get to where she is today. She spent many years working on the manufacturing end of the business and spent time travelling the world learning her trade. She spent years in Thailand sorting diamonds at a high end factory that supplies diamonds to some of the world's top designers. She learned to look at stones from the buyers perspective and eventually became the head buyer for colored stones. She also spent time in Italy at a design school in Florence where she physically learned to make jewelry herself.
Keely is incredibly knowledgeable and a passionate gemologist and you can see from her designs that she sees what is special about colored gemstones. Now don’t get me wrong, Diamonds and Bridal pieces are still and always will be a very important part of her business but as most retailers in jewelry and beyond have noticed, people’s budgets don’t go as far as they used to with the price of goods, especially diamonds and gold, going up
She says you can go for the biggest and sacrifice quality, or go for something smaller and make it look like a disco ball in the daylight. It’s all in the design and the vision.
One thing that all of these talented jewelers have in common is that they have seen the shift from traditional visits to showrooms or retail spaces, to online sales. 10 years ago, nobody would have considered buying diamond jewelry on “The Internet” but look at super successful brands like Stephanie Gotlieb in New York who completely rebranded herself and is selling hundreds of styles on her website. There’s also brands like Mejuri, Catfbird and Kinn that are selling beautifully designed pieces to eager millennials ready to buy what’s on trend for a fraction of the price of what most branded high end jewelry costs. They are selling direct to customer and with a vengeance. According to McKinsey.com global jewelry sales are expected to grow by five to six percent through 2020.
Keely, after having spent numerous years abroad came back to join forces with her father Joel with 50 years worth of a rolladex. That’s nothing to sneeze at. And while Maison Goldberg is visually not in a store front, their name speaks volumes and their customer loyalty remains as Kelly keeps all of her clients involved in the process of designing or repurposing older pieces. Robyn has a similar say on the matter as she is always working with stones, sometimes stones she found from her mom, to recreate and bring them back to life.
That’s the beauty of Fine Jewelry. Gold, Diamonds and Gemstones can always have a comeback. A simple new design can bring anything back to life.
So what is in store for the jewelry market? Definitely the shift to online sales. There is no doubt that in between designing and manufacturing, these jewelers are in the Social Media game, working hard to get their names out there and stand out in a saturated app we know as Instagram. When I asked them all what their biggest challenge was these days, the answer was the same. Everyone is fighting for a piece of the pie and Instagram often doesn’t make it easy.
Isaac has made some good relationships with Influencers and he can definitely say it has helped grow his brand over the last couple of years. Robyn, who is an up and coming designer is also spending more time making her unique designs available on her website as she loves selling direct to customers and is inspired by their choices.
Keely has a very old school following of course, those that shopped at Lou Goldberg on Greene Avenue and who would put their beautiful baubles away for a rainy day would probably never dream of buying online. But Keely sees where the market is going and right now it is driven by Social Media to ecommerce platforms. Layering is trendy now, so there’s definitely a need for a collection of pieces that are under $1000 so buying multiple pieces can be an option. But Keely also makes a very good point and says while trends fluctuate, she wants her customers to love the jewelry they buy from Maison Goldberg long beyond those trends disappear.
Will Social Media plateau? Who knows but it is definitely an interesting social experiment from all aspects of the world, Fine Jewelry included.
From a personal standpoint, I have definitely seen a shift in myself gravitating more towards finer pieces and wearing way less of the “fashion” jewelry that is loaded up in my jewelry chest. These young jewelers are embracing this shift with a breath of fresh creativity and putting it out there for everyone to see, thanks to their Instagram accounts and Websites. You can buy diamond earrings from the comfort of your home, and know they are coming from a name you trust. It’s not your grandmother’s cocktail jewelry anymore. It’s your jewelry and from the looks of it, your options are endless, so happy shopping!