BaselWorld 2018, insights from a jewelry blogger!
BaselWorld is a yearly event in the jewelry and watch industry. According to many, one of the most important watches and jewelry trade shows in the world. It may be the most prestigious trade show, but when it comes down to jewelry, it all depends on what one is looking for. With just a handful of affordable jewelry brands, this is the playground for the rich or those who aspire to be so. I have worked at BaselWorld myself for many years, but this year I had the pleasure to come back as a jewelry blogger, who accidentally also fell in love with a watch brand...
My first time at BaselWorld
The first time I visited BaselWorld was in the ‘90’s! I remember it as being this huge, overwhelming trade show, filled with booths that certainly were much larger and more glam than I had ever seen anywhere. Since then, I have ‘’done’’ BaselWorld as an agent for several brands and as a buyer. 13 years have passed since my last visit, what has changed and how different is it to visit BaselWorld as a blogger?
Impressions of BaselWorld 2018 © Bizzita.com
A short story of why I am a jewelry blogger today
I have spent over 25 years in jewelry and when I spoke to someone with an even longer experience, we agreed that if the bug bites you, you never ever seem to want to let go! Even when it drove us crazy, even if making a living as an agent or running a store, isn’t always joyful, easy or even profitable. But somehow, when I was at that point of life where I wanted to change my professional life completely, I choose jewelry again.
Carolina Scheufele, Chopard, photo moment © Bizzita.com
After leaving a job I really disliked, I started to blog about jewelry. First in Dutch, but very soon, in English (The Netherlands is simply too small for a niche blog!). After observing that almost all jewelry stores in my own country, were carrying the same (marketing) jewelry- and watch brands. See, my spoiled eyes- having lived in Valenza for almost 10 years, a kind of Mekka if you want, for fine jewelry production- had seen so much beauty, created by so many magnificent designers and small brands and I felt frustrated that consumers were being made to think that these marketing brands were the only ‘jewelry’ available.
De Grisogono Melody of Colours collection 2018
One thing led to another and today I run the Bizzita Jewelry blog and also write for several jewelry magazines. But my main job is advising jewelry retailers and -brands all over the world on collection building, themes and what not. I am also a trainer and give training to jewelry brands and retailers on sales and storytelling and social media.
First experience of visiting a jewelry trade fair show as a blogger? Pffffff.....
When I first went to visit a trade show as a blogger, back in 2014, I was very surprised to find so many brands completely unaware of what a blog was. Even when I tried to explain, many smirked whilst listening. Dismissing the idea of jewelry blogging and social media.Those who knew me for some time tried to convince me to drop the blog and come and work for them. This was at the VicenzaOro show.
Funny detail; I met some blogger colleagues of mine during BaselWorld, who told me they don’t want to visit VicenzaOro anymore and have completely written it off. Why? Because they felt contempt and had seen the same smirks. (VicenzaOro, are you listening?)
BaselWorld 2018, the jewelry blogger from the Netherlands arrives! ;-)
I personally had the experience last year, that still no one really understood what blogging truly was all about, but they all wanted to know my Instagram instead. Weird experience; many saw Instagram as the holy grail, but without understanding the perks and also the flaws of this medium and only a few understood what content marketing, vlogs, blogs and other forms of content creation and -sharing was all about.
Jaquet Droz Paradise Bird Watch 2018
So how was BaselWorld? As a blogger?
First of all, I was impressed with how well the press was looked after. There was a large and pleasant space to work from and a free bar with drinks and food at all times. Enough lockers to put our precious laptops in, whilst roaming the show’s floor. I had read that so many journalists spend most of their time here, with press releases and -kits, to create their stories and meet deadlines, and not going all that much to the floor itself. I had too little time to observe that myself and can’t confirm this. But I did engage with some people working in the press area and had such great conversations!
Chopard Mille Miglia Watches 2018
From what a scandal in India truly means and how little I understood from the reality over there, coming from a small utterly well-organized country myself (The Netherlands). And from a French stand-up comedian, I learned a lesson or two about public speaking, how to adapt a story to your audience. How to use fear and personal flaws and weakness as a tool to break the ice. I loved it!
Kimberly Diamonds necklace in platinum and diamonds © Bizzita.com
Wednesday @ BaselWorld: Press day!
I attended the first press conference with the curiosity of someone who visits an event for the first time. Don’t you love that feeling?
Picchiotti marvelous gemstone jewelry © Bizzita.com
CEO’s of the big Swiss watch brands were giving their view on BaselWorld whilst Sylvie Ritter, managing director of BaselWorld seemed to feel the need to defend decisions made. She told the press about knowing that the fair is facing challenges, but that it all comes down to making a choice between two options. Either expand or concentrate. Obviously, they have chosen the latter. I know that the BaselWorld show has been criticized for many reasons: too expensive, too pretentious, excluding the smaller brands and so on.
Sylvie Ritter speech BaselWorld 2018 © Bizzita.com
I could sense this in the defensive tone of Sylvie Ritter, but it's a fact that trade shows, in all industries have been facing a lot of challenges. I totally believe in making clear choices, but choices are always good or bad in hindsight and not always easy to take when the outcome is unsure. Once again, I think that trade shows can learn a thing or two by observing another industry and how they organize their shows. Also again, I would like to see much more opportunity to network, but also much more relevant workshops for visitors.
Chopard Jewelry 2018
Friedrich Karl Scheufele announced their ambition to go 100% fairminded gold by July this year, Tissot talked about the creation of smartwatches and less expensive watches for a younger generation. Obviously, all of them were enthusiastic about the show, but are part of the organization so not a too objective voice. I really missed the voice of a jewelry company. Yes, Chopard was there, but their focus was clearly on watches too.
Gucci @BaselWorld 2018
Afterward, we were invited to visit the show, just opened for the press, with a big drum roll. Not everyone was ready for us, but it was nice to wander around and discover the first new pieces. I had a lovely meeting with Gucci and discovered their new watches and jewelry. Heard about how a solid gold feline bracelet was sold to Elton John before even being brought on the market. Sara, the pr lady of Gucci, was kindly showing me around and explaining me all that was new. She pointed out that most of the jewelry contained some kind of feline head detail. I thought that especially their smallest jewelry was cute and could easily picture a market for that.
Gucci, mono earrings and feline details. And the return of the logo mania.
I also went for a quick look to Jaquet Droz, as some of their watches are simply spectacularly beautiful. After I promised that I wouldn't publish their latest models before tomorrow, how tempting ;-) but of course, I did not...I just wandered around. Open eyes, open mind...taking it all in. I knew that I wouldn't have time for this in the upcoming two days!
Thursday @BaselWorld: Opening day
Hurrying from my little French town to Basel, obviously, I did have to do something clumsy, of course, and made quite the entrance into the local tram heading to the fair. Stepped into the tram, onto my own coat and BAM! ….on the floor. So that happened...
With a very full day ahead and a freshly bruised leg and -ego, I rushed immediately to meet with someone I hadn't seen for such a long time, great to catch up! Afterward, I went to the congress center where Chopard invited the press to come and attend their announcement about going 100% fair-mined gold. Not only have I honestly loved this message, but the promise of the presence of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars had its appeal :-) I told you all about this conference in the blog about Chopard’s efforts to create a better and fairer world in last week’s blog. After taking the selfie, my friends requested whilst they knew how self-conscience it would make me feel (definitely not from the selfie generation ;-) )I went back to the showground, where the rest of the magic was waiting for me!
Alessio Boschi @BaselWorld 2018
Alessio Boschi. For me, to visit my personal heroes is, of course, the bonus of an event such as a jewelry trade show. I mean, I love each and every one of the brands I visited, but you always have your darlings, don’t you? Alessio is one such darling. And although we never actually met in person, he and his sister were so warm and welcoming, with hugs and kisses and crazy enthusiasm, showing me around their booth and through the collections and ideas.
Alessio Boschi Pompei Collection
My background in jewelry is all about sales and marketing, it’s also the filter in my head that I use when observing brands and jewelry. I think about: is this well made (will it last, worth the investment)? Is it targeted at a special consumer, what is the story to tell when a retailer sells this to a client, what is the idea behind it and is a collection consistent, does it make sense for this particular brand. I overheard some bloggers not being crazy about his micro mosaic jewelry belts, but I loved them.
Alessio Boschi ....2018 © Bizzita.com
It made sense. Because Alessio jumps up and down, whilst explaining his thoughts and ideas. And going wild on something so difficult to sell as a belt, is -IMHO- just perfect. Crazy, but perfect. And there is enough to balance the collection. This is not a collection for every retailer in the world. But if you have the reputation of proposing clients something very unique and beautifully detailed without ever compromising the quality, then one must check out Alessio Boschi!
Christiaan van der Klaauw @BaselWorld 2018
My next meeting was with a Dutch company that I heard of, but as watches aren’t so much on my agenda (yet) I never went on exploring more about this company. That changed the day I saw the watch they created for Van Cleef & Arpels. I was mesmerized by the sheer beauty of it and since then, I have quietly followed the company a little.
When I found out that they were exposing on Basel, I booked an appointment and loved the couple running the brand, their enthusiasm, their vision and their fresh approach was, to say the least, refreshing. And I rarely fall in love with watches, but on day one, I actually did with a Jaquet Droz bird watch and now it happened all over again in this little booth of Christiaan van der Klaauw. The details on their watches are so beautiful, the 3D moon, the tides, the position of the planets, each detail is gorgeous to just observe, and incredibly accurate. They told me that more than one watch today has astronomical features, did I see the one at Jacob & Co?
That was all for show, nothing technically genius behind these watches, and many other watches, when it comes to the astronomical features. This watch is for true connoisseurs. But it's also a watch for me and you. yes you and I might not care about it all being perfect, just perhaps liking the moon and some features of the stars. However, it remembered me of what I try to do with the blog.
By telling stories, sharing views, visions and insights, and pointing out features of a piece that makes it beautiful or unique, or extremely precious or even just plain fashionable, I hope to bring enthusiasm and opening minds and hearts towards jewelry in general. During their explanation, I started to care and appreciate the accuracy and dedication to perfection of Christiaan van der Klaauw watches and their splendid team.
If I would wear a watch this would be it! A watch by Christiaan van der Klaauw today retails from €8000,- to €100,000 (the Van Cleef and Arpels & Christiaan van der Klaauw watch starts at around €200.000).
Giovanni Ferraris @BaselWorld 2018
Giovanni Ferraris jewelry 2018
I went on to visit Giovanni Ferraris. A brand from Italy that I would highly recommend to all those retailers (and you of course, our beloved readers!) that are looking for stupendous jewelry, well made, from affordable pieces to high-end jewelry, and with some very interesting designs in titanium! Loved it!
Butani @BaselWorld 2018
After this meeting, I had to visit Butani. I must admit that I wasn’t very much informed about this company based in HongKong. I had heard about them and placed their jewelry in some of my blogs, but I just wasn't familiar with their collections all that well. The family running Butani is Indian, but it did not reflect in their style at all. The collection was high-end, very impressive pieces and clearly a more Western style than Indian or Eastern.
Palmiero @BaselWorld 2018
Palmiero BaselWorld 2018 Dancing Soul necklace with patented moving details
Palmiero is one of my other darlings. I know the company from back in my days in Valenza, Italy, where Palmiero is also based. You know, people talk a lot and you hear so much more when you go down to the ''piazza Italia"'. I have always and only heard great things about this brand and the designer Carlo Palmiero enjoys the admiration of his peers in this small town in Northern Italy.
The use of colors and gemstones, but even more, the fluid, slightly organic movement of his jewelry has caught my heart. This year he presented a beautiful necklace, with a patented movement called; Moulin Rouge, and I went through the magnificent animal jewelry collection. Soon more about that on Bizzita.com for sure!
Palmiero Design from Valenza
I was booked from 9 am till 6 pm and by the time I arrived for a drink at the Picchiotti booth to meet up with Duvall O'Sheen of the Luxury Brand Group and my own peers Katerina Perez and Bérgere Like, I was experiencing aching feet and a wonderful headache :-) and still had a couple of meetings with people ahead. I arrived at my French family, where I slept, and off came my shoes, jumped into the bed and after Facetiming with my son and hubby, I fell into a deep sleep.
Friday @BaselWorld 2018 meeting De Grisogono
At 9.00 am I went to visit de Grisogono. Shortly before, a colleague of mine informed about their difficulties in Congo and that it would affect the popularity of the brand for sure. I kept an open mind and went to see the jewelry, so upstairs we went! A few years ago, the brand was one of the first in the high-end jewelry industry, to engage truly with social media and bloggers and so-called social media influencers, but I had seen lately that things had changed. A shift of priority or .......
I was greeted by not just the PR of the company, but also someone who would assist her in bringing the right trays and another person who brought me one of the best coffees I had in days!
The whole experience was professional but pretty rushed, I got the idea that they were meeting journalist after journalist. The jewelry, however, was beautiful. I know that one of their bestsellers for a long time is the Allegra collection and they added some new versions to the collection. My personal favorite is and always has been: Melody of Colours. And it did not disappoint.
Yet, I missed the heart and soul. I missed genuine enthusiasm, I was led to the 25 years exposition, but left alone without someone telling me, engaging me, opening my eyes to the love, passion, and vision of the brand.
I had a certain expectation of this visit perhaps, and I can't say that people weren't nice at all, they all were! Perhaps I searched authenticity and engagement. A few years back, they held a sort of Q&A online. Perhaps it was too early days to do this back then, but it was something that felt authentic at the time.
Yoko London @BaselWorld 2018
Yoko London was a pleasantly informal meeting. Beautiful pearls, open communication, lovely stories, and laughter. I tried on some of their pearl necklaces but fell secretly in LOVE with their pearl choker from the Royal Wedding Collection. Although abroad we do get a little hint that there is a marriage coming up between an actress and a prince, in the U.K. it’s the only talk of the town, or so it seems :-)
Yoko London Royal Wedding collection, this necklace is inspired by Princess Diana's pearl choker
But the Royal Wedding Collection was absolutely gorgeous. It’s the kind of jewelry, little girls dream of wearing when imagining themselves as a princess, but then extremely well made, with the most gorgeous pearls! The luster and the glamour...ahhh. I never dreamed of being a princess or a bride, hehe, but adored the jewelry all the same.
It was great to see that there is a renewed appreciation for colors in pearls (as I noticed is happening with diamonds and other gemstones too) Not just the amazing Tahitian and pink pearls, but all shades of yellow, brown and purple that weren’t perhaps premium choices before, are made into wonderful jewelry.
The reason why I loved to see this new appreciation for less perfect materials, and I did contemplate on this because I couldn’t quite grasp the why immediately, is that I find it friendly, more down to earth, more approachable. Perfect white, perfect round, perfect gemstones, and high-end jewelry are always bewilderingly beautiful.
The pure aesthetic value alone is immaculate. Something to look up to. And I enjoy that so much. But using grey and yellowish diamonds, warm colored pearls, slightly imperfect, yet they perhaps resonate with me and other people because we are the same.
As perfect as we want to appear as humans (not just on jewelry shows, although it does tend to push one to appear more successful, confident and brilliant than one might actually feel) we all know that we aren’t. We have quirks and imperfections and often go to great lengths to hide them. The combination of well manufactured and designed jewelry with these slightly ‘’imperfect’’ (in this case it only means less valuable in terms of appreciation and money) gemstones, caught my heart.
Picchiotti @BaselWorld 2018
Remember how they talked so well about Palmiero in the Piazza in Valenza, Po? The same goes for Picchiotti! This company is known for their classic, but extremely beautiful jewelry. It is all about gemstones, but with their Xpendable collection, they really invented something that actually helps to sell more jewelry. Both diamond rings and colored gemstones rings of this collection have the capacity to stretch. So, size isn't an issue anymore. Think about buying a ring for your loved one and not having to care about which size she has!
Picchiotti is a beautiful company, with great potential and although very high-end, it's a company that you might want to check out next time you think about taking on a jewelry brand or when you want to buy a gorgeous piece of gemstone jewelry!
Ps; although I am always falling for the most whimsical pieces, I did fall in love with that beautiful sapphire ring. I was completely fascinated by its color and brilliance. What a ring!
Bulgari @BaselWorld 2018
My last brand related meeting of the day was with Bulgari. I kind of have a love affair with this brand. It’s perhaps those Italian roots(although the original Mr. Bulgari was Greek) the long history, the smart evolution of the brand, the choices they make for giving back and obviously; their always gorgeous, amazing, colorful jewelry.
But in Basel, it’s not about jewelry for Bulgari. Which, in my eyes, is a pity of course. Bulgari presented, with a mixture of pride and showmanship, their thinnest tourbillon watch ever. Piaget did the same a few months earlier but was already beaten by Bulgari obviously. Inside the booth, it was crazy crowded and warm.
Bulgari © Bizzita.com
As it was so busy, I had to share my table with a German journalist. Not a problem, and the kind PR ladies, also both German, spoke English for my sake. Although I do understand German and speak it a little bit, I appreciated the effort.
I enjoyed the watches. I admit, I am working for a long time in the jewelry industry and I have learned this (which is true for many people in whatever industry or matter in life): the more I learn and know, the more I understand how much I don’t know.
Being the jewelry generalist I am, I admit to knowing so little about watches (and I have sold hundreds back in the days) that they have to point out everything to me. Which makes the experience so much better, because I find myself always looking at a watch with fresh eyes. Like when you go to a museum and look at the art. It all begins to live a lot more when someone points out the details to you and you start to look differently, right?
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Watch
I tried on the Snake secret watch with turquoise inlays, which is practically jewelry in my book and played with some of their latest models.
I liked the opaque look and feel of their Octo Finissimo Watch. This watch is the opposite of a flashy Rolex so to speak. Perfect for the man who doesn’t want to flash to obviously his wealth, but loves to be this cool understated chic guy.
Like everywhere today, on the jewelry show there are people everywhere taking selfies, uploading photos, checking their social media and many work seated in a corner or on the ground with a laptop too. The necklace is by Kimberly diamonds © Bizzita.com
Networking and meeting interesting people @BaselWorld
The rest of my time was spent in meetings about business, networking and consulting opportunities. All in all, whatever the feelings about trade shows are, this is still the place to come to and live to see the magic.
Because when working on a daily basis in jewelry, you either work in an office, a workshop, a factory. Maybe you travel a lot, as a buyer or a journalist. Maybe you work from home, like me, as a blogger, or as a designer. Maybe your daily surrounding is a store. When we enter the doors of a big trade show, we enter the world of jewelry in watches, much like in a movie.
To create a movie is hard work, early hours, long days, so much money involved, so many egos, and so much is at stake. But then when the movie is made, after all the long hours on the cutting floor, the magic begins. And even though you have worked on it and know the secrets and the hurdles, you are enchanted and absorbed by the movie: the end result.
This is what happens when one steps into a glamorous jewelry trade show. All the actors are there and all have been working so hard to create an absolute enchanting end result.
Before anyone says that only the big companies can enchant with incredible booths and displays, I want to share that some of the most magical moments happened in the smallest of booths.
The booths themselves could have been nicer decorated, better lightened. yes. But the magic came from the people who weren’t rushing through a collection, who did not (yet) get tired of having to show the whole collection again to a visitor, a client or a blogger.
They told me stories, the twinkle in their eyes and the passion they found hard to contain at times, the ones that almost didn’t want to let me go….they created perhaps even more magic than some of the bigger names.
Is BaselWorld great for jewelry bloggers?
Yes. The general attitude towards me was pleasant, professional and open. I did not have to explain, this time, anything about blogging. Although some smaller brands were perhaps a little less prepared.
I love Italians, but I must confess that all companies that weren't too well prepared for bloggers and press, and still showed a little bit of a cynical attitude, were Italian. Such a pity. But I am sure that being surrounded by bigger brands and seeing how they work, will influence them too. Just to make things clear; most Italian brands were wonderful.
My thoughts about BaselWorld jewelry and Watch Exhibitors:
There are some things that always make me reflect on what I have felt and observed and on how the whole experience could perhaps also be improved in some ways. As I sat on the plane back to Amsterdam and the train to my own hometown, I wondered about the differences between BaselWorld 13 years ago and BaselWorld today.
Many of the jewelry brands exposing in 2005 aren't even around anymore. Did I miss discovering something new and exciting? Well, I personally did have my moments but all with brands that I knew already something about.
It wasn't an inspiring show in terms of new brands, new discoveries, and perhaps a truly inspiring breath of fresh air. Not in terms of organization and not in terms of brands. Yet, I was inspired and felt a deep connection to this crazy world, that I once fell in love with so very hard and have never stopped loving.
I reflected on what was different for me when talking to the brands. Sometimes I found that pr-employees were extremely professional and kind, but was it a certain spark that I missed? Those who are selling, those who are creating, those who are the founders of a brand are maybe more ''begeistert"' - that state between excitement -being inspired and full of soul- and happiness.
They have that kind of ''stay foolish, stay hungry'' attitude that Steve Jobs famously talked about, perhaps. Did I miss this? Did I find it less inspiring to deal sometimes with professional pr-people instead of talking to the aforementioned people? I guess that I did. Understanding completely that it isn't always possible to do it in another way.
Opening of BaselWorld 2018
The other thing that struck me again was the way people interact. So often I stood near a booth, but no one came to talk to me. I could have been a client or....but instead, once again, I found employees in small groups gathering (and I know how tempting it is, doing a trade fair...it's exhausting! It truly is) together, which gives a certain message to people passing by.
It's simply not easy to interact with a group of people that seems to be peers, partners, colleagues etc without getting the feeling you are disturbing. Many times, people stood in their own entrance, with their back towards the door.
Booth Pasquale Bruni
Passing by, I smiled and nodded at some people inside their booth and they greeted me but went back to look on their phones or reading their papers. To be fair, I have noticed this way more in Italy last year again, but I also understand it.
I have done trade fairs, I know about the boring moments, the aching feet, the long hours, the anticipation of the event and the sales and disappointment when prospects are not buying and your own clients have not commented too positively on your latest creations.
It's hard to be enthusiastic to someone passing by that doesn't immediately buy or boost your brand. But...you never know, you might just miss a wonderful opportunity.
Trying to get in first...
Much is to be gained when people start to truly interact. Guess what happened with brands in the past that really interacted with me? Those who asked about what I did, and were more open and personal? If I gave these brands more exposure and shared them more often, it may have been the simple consequence of feeling some sort of connection. Remember that people connect with people and rarely with objects.
We are all inspired, but tired, we have almost all traveled and are far away from family and friends. We are all out of our comfort zone and normal routine.....there is enough to listen to, enough common ground to build bridges on...
I think about the many opportunities that are left undiscovered. If anything, I would give communication, training in communication, or measure it somehow (mystery shoppers, asking feedback from visitors), attention and make communication a priority. If it leads to one fan more, one happier client, one more dedicated blogger, one more enthusiastic retailer...it's all worth it, don't you agree?
Events like these are the perfect networking place and that all starts with human interaction.
To Go or Not To Go to BaselWorld:
To any retailer, to anyone working in whatever department and with whatever skill, I would say go! Go to BaselWorld or one of the other big shows and dive into the magic! Learn, network and allow yourself to look at your industry with fresh eyes. Ps. for all those who love to see what the fuss is all about and don’t work in jewelry or watches: BaselWorld is actually open to the public!
See you next year? I will be there, let's have a cup of coffee together, ok?