The year that was 2020, didn’t spiritually begin in America until March. Anything before that moment when the coronavirus got serious in this country seems like the distant past. Despite the fact that most of us stayed as close to home as possible over the last 10-months a lot happened. Following are just a few of the highlights from our perspective of the jewelry world at The Adventurine.
We Gathered Online to Learn About Jewelry
On March 11, I returned to New York City from my annual extended Awards Season trip to Los Angeles. At that point the danger of the coronavirus was knocking on the door. Major museums closed on March 12. Restaurants shut the doors a few days later. Remarkably, we were still one month away from Governor Cuomo’s state mask mandate.
While many of us were trying to figure out what the heck was happening, the team at Gem X whipped into action. I received an email on March 19 from the founders of the jewelry social club, Lin Jamison and Heidi Garnett, explaining how they were pivoting to an online platform during the quarantine. They already had a few speakers lined up for Zoom presentations and they wanted to know if I could do one.
When I read the email, I thought to myself “What’s Zoom?” I had never heard of it.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to join them because I was still in the heat of working on Beautiful Creatures, but many other speakers did. Over the course of 2020, the GemX Zoom talks archive has become something of a jewelry university. It is worth noting they also raised a lot of money for various causes with the requested, but not required donations, they received from the talks.
While GemX created the most consistent programming, there were other platforms where people gathered as well including Christie’s education program, the 92nd Street Y, L’Ecole in Paris. And New York City Jewelry Week went virtual.
Contributor M.J. Rose wrote about a lot of it in her story Adventures in Learning About Jewelry Online.
We Streamed Lots of Jewelry Movies
As quarantine dragged on in April and June and new Hollywood streaming entertainment ran out, a lot of us watched old movies. I created little festivals with themes and wrote about several of them. I began with 7 Hitchcock films with major jewelry moments. Then I moved on to films made in the 1990s and felt a real nostalgia for the era.
It marked the moment when Penny Proddow and I began contributing to InStyle magazine. The nineties predated the time when social media took over so much of our lives. Jewelry was minimal, but most definitely present. I assembled a story on 6 great films featuring Bulgari.
During this period, New York was being hit very hard by the virus. People were pulling up stakes and leaving town for good. Those of us who stayed and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else felt a deeper love for New York than ever before, including after 9/11. Every night at 7pm, we all opened our windows and banged pots and pans as a message of thanks to the frontline workers. These thunderous moments also provided proof of life. We were not seeing much of each other in the streets and it was nice to hear the neighbors.
The love of the city inspired me to put together a list of 10 jewelry movies set in New York City.
Jewelry Designers Went Back to Basics and Got Creative About Presenting Their Work
Several designers shared videos on Instagram of them drawing. I loved seeing the dreamy drawings of Elie Top and Emmanuel Perrin who were both in Paris where they called quarantine “confinement,” which somehow made it feel more dramatic.
In Australia, the talented twin brothers behind David Michael Jewels put together a delightful video about their creative process.
The vast majority of designers held off on showing their work during the spring and early summer because, due to restrictions, they couldn’t collaborate with models and photographers in studios.
Fernando Jorge who quarantined with his parents in Brazil creatively worked around these issues. He celebrated Mother’s Day by photographing his mother wearing his jewels. While the designer always has stunning photo shoots to show off his work, this one stood out as something special. You could feel the bond between mother and son. It also exhibited the versatility and beauty of the jewelry in a different way.
Black Jewelry Lives Matter and the FIT Art Smith Scholarship
In May, after the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that went on throughout the country many in the jewelry world did some reflecting on the lack of diversity in the field and what they could do about it.
Some designers committed to hiring more Black employees, consultants or models for their campaigns. Many editors created lists of previously overlooked Black jewelry designers for people to shop. And shop they did. Mateo was one of several I spoke with who had a lot of back orders. Lorraine West sold out of everything on her website. Everything.
At The Adventurine, we started a series of profile stories on Black design talent. I felt the format was a way to get to know more about the individuals behind the jewels, their sources of inspiration and experience. I also wanted it to work in a format that could be an ongoing series.
With an eye to the future of adding more Black voices to the jewelry world, designer Brent Neale and the team at For Future Reference including founders Randi Molofsky and Meaghan Flynn Petropoulos, worked with the administrators and jewelry department at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) to set up the Art Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund to support Black students in the Jewelry program.
The organizers quickly raised $50,000. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the effort and the number has far exceeded the initial impressive total.
Brent said in her announcement post about the project on Instagram, “People of color are historically underrepresented in the jewelry industry and our goal is to turn that statistic around—one student at a time.”
We Crossed A Digital Divide
Years ago when some started selling fine jewelry online, naysayers said it would never work. The cynics felt people wanted to touch and feel fine jewelry. They thought it was too personal and precious an item to be purchased in cyberspace.
Of course, jewelry has been steadily being sold online for years, but during 2020 the online component of many people’s businesses became a lifeline.
Early on I began hearing from retailers and designers how people were channeling their funds saved from travel and whatnot into buying big-time jewelry. Clients who could spend in big ways, shopped for some major sparkling pick-me-ups. At Beladora in Los Angeles, a vintage emporium that has been selling online for over a decade, sales hit new heights.
Everyone I spoke with who experienced the good fortune was surprised about it, but also delighted that 2020 had a silver lining.