Baselworld has long been the place to be for presenting or purchasing stellar watches, jewellery and gemstones each year. The good news is that the famed industry trade show will resume its physical presence at Basel, Switzerland, in March/April 2022. However, organisers are planning several smaller showcases for confirmed exhibitors as a lead-up to the main event, beginning with Geneva from August 31 to September 3, 2021.
What can Baselworld attendees expect? Nothing less than the best, as always, from the world’s top designers who are brimming with the desire to get their masterful creations in front of people once more. The restrictions of the pandemic have inspired a new look at what buyers really want and the creatives have gone all out to meet those needs. With this in mind, Baselworld will offer a digital platform, supplemented by live events available constantly to the jewellery, watch and gems industry. The new format will accommodate smaller watches and jewellery manufacturers as well as gemstone traders. “Everyone will meet on our platform. The brands, the manufacturers, the retailers, the fans and the media,” says Baselworld Managing Director Michel Loris-Melikoff. “We will offer attractive conditions and prices for all brands that want to benefit from this unique platform.”
“Everyone will meet on our platform. The brands, the manufacturers, the retailers, the fans and the media“Michel Loris_melikoff
Online channels stimulate sales
A Bain & Company report, The Future of Luxury: Bouncing Back from Covid-19, notes that global watch sales declined by 30% in 2020, amounting to € 27bn. However, the poor performance was “mitigated by the resilience of the online channel, the China market and the most iconic brands and models… Jewellery saw sustained demand in Asia and benefited from online sales. That category remains polarized with high jewellery and iconic entry-priced items leading the recovery.”
Meanwhile, Bain expects the market for personal luxury goods to grow at 10% per annum between 2020 and 2025. During that time, they anticipate that Chinese consumers will dominate the sector, eventually being responsible for more than 45% of global purchases. According to the report, Generations Y and Z will represent more than two-thirds of global luxury purchases and online will become the leading channel for those.
In 2020, auction houses turned to online channels to achieve some jaw-dropping sales. The Knight Frank The Wealth Report 2021 highlights a few of the top lots from the year. Sotheby’s sold an Imperial green jadeite bead, ruby and diamond necklace for HK$ 80,7m (US$ 10,4m) in July 2020. Four months later, Sotheby’s Geneva brought down the hammer on the 14.83ct Spirit of the Rose, the largest vivid purple-pink diamond to appear at auction, for CHF 24,4m (US$ 26,6m). And Paul Newman’s engraved stainless steel Rolex Daytona Ref. 6263 sold for US$ 5,5m at Phillips’ Racing Pulse sale in New York in December.
According to the report, sales in coloured diamonds were stymied by the pandemic but Miri Chen of the Fancy Color Research Foundation expects them to rally in 2021. “It seems that HNWIs can’t wait to compensate themselves for 2020, celebrate and buy the jewellery that they could not purchase during Covid.”
Drawing inspiration from nature
For centuries, watchmakers and jewellers have used nature as their model in various mediums. While Covid-19 has inspired an even greater appreciation for it, drawing inspiration from nature is an integral part of the Fabergé style. The Russian House’s Secret Garden High Jewellery collection is one of its most magnificent, featuring flowers that symbolise renewal and rebirth. The House describes the pieces as being evocative of Russian artist Marc Chagall’s depiction of flowers and rich bouquets, expressing vivacity and life through an artistic and organic approach. “We love colour at Fabergé and, true to our heritage, we almost always include coloured gemstones or enamel in our pieces,” says Fabergé jewellery designer Liisa Tallgren.
But crafting a flower study in precious metals has its challenges. One of them is scale: the smaller the piece, the more precision is needed. Also, gemstones can’t be cut below certain sizes as they lose their colour when viewed without magnification. By contrast, larger stones in pavé can look clumsy. Tallgren explains that the other challenge is weight. “Gemstones must be set into metal of a certain thickness, so the piece can get heavy, which is not practical – especially for earrings. The claws must be strong enough to secure the gemstones, but if they are too heavy they will ruin the look.”
The natural world is also a source of inspiration for Italian luxury brand Bulgari. With the serpent being a key figure in the brand’s creations, where do jewellers find inspiration for new concepts? Bulgari’s jewellery creative director Lucia Silvestri says it’s about trying to keep up with the times, travelling, discovering new stimuli and incentives, and trying to understand societies and their tastes and trends. “Obviously the designer must be creative but also realistic. Creativity must be supported by feasibility. The jewel, in addition to being incorporated in the design, must be made to be worn – not reserved only for formal occasions but also for every day.”
Master craftsmen at the Graff atelier in London use stone-led design techniques, centuries-old goldsmithing tools, state-of-the-art computerised design technology and laser soldering machines to enhance the beauty of each gem they handle. Their skills are beautifully showcased in a collection of brooches featuring little birds on leaves. Details are highlighted by the careful placement of diamonds, rubies and sapphires, set by hand. Graff design director Anne-Eva Geffroy says each brooch depicts the characteristics and fleeting interactions of the birds in their natural surroundings.
Meanwhile at New York-based Harry Winston, inspiration often begins with what they call “the extraordinary elegance of nature”. The 2021 theme is “Grow Your Garden” with a series of fine jewellery collections that centre on floral blooms.
The Lotus Cluster Collection sees the lotus motif become the focal point for six magnificent pieces worked around a round brilliant in the centre, framed by smaller diamonds. The Winston designers set the individual stones at an angle to create a sparkling 3-D effect.
Then there is the Lily Cluster Collection, which draws on archival sketches from the 1940s. Using round and marquise diamonds – interlaced and set in platinum, yellow gold and rose gold – the designers manage to capture the essence of lilies in bloom.
The Central Park Mosaic is the standout high-jewellery collection in line with this theme. The Winston designers use diamonds, emeralds, aquamarines and sapphires to capture the geometric precision of this famous attraction in New York’s backyard.
Of course, the nature theme translates beautifully to wristwatches as well, from the 2021 novelties added to the Harry Winston Ocean Collection to the enriched Bulgari Divas’ Dream Collection inspired by their peacock muse. Also look out for the Piaget Roses timepieces and the glorious Dior Grand Soir Jardins de Nuit, the new additions to the Grand Soir line, which are all inspiring artworks in their own right.