Statement Pieces, A Recap of the 2018 COUTURE Design Awards

Statement Pieces, A Recap of the 2018 COUTURE Design Awards

There’s more than just watches at the 2018 edition of COUTURE. Since the beginning, jewelry has been the main focus of the show. Here’s a recap of the COUTURE design awards.

By Rhonda Riche

Las Vegas has always been a beacon in the desert for glamor, glitz and big dreams. And this year’s COUTURE show attracted some of the brightest lights in the jewelry and watch business. While Watchonista was at the exhibition to bring you the best new timepieces at COUTURETIME at the Wynn, we also paid a visit or two to the jewelry side, where over 200 exhibitors displayed their finest works.

The word on the street from buyers, designers and press was that this year’s COUTURE show was superlative, with makers creating bold pieces and innovating with color, unusual cuts of stones and settings that emphasized movement and flow. And from this huge pool of talent, a panel of judges was able to honor 15 designers at the 2018 COUTURE Design awards.

Best of the Best

Of course, the press always likes to look for theme or a central message for any story, and out in the desert, many discussions were held about the quality of the jewelry pieces presented at COUTURE. One thing that kept coming up was that designers wanted to make an expression of their ideas and their technique.

For example, Heather B. Moore, winner for Best in Silver, explained what her piece — a sculptural cuff featuring a family of elephants — symbolized. “I travel with my kids around the world, I’m on a quest to make sure they see everything they can. When we were in Africa, we were touched by the animals we needed to protect. Inside of this bracelet is high-polished so you can see your reflection, and it says, ‘The Tipping Point.’” Moore adds, “We are all leaders in our communities and our actions are very important and we all need to give back!” 

Buyers Guide

The COUTURE community includes not just designers, but buyers as well. And the current retail mood is that customers are looking for jewelry that serves as an extension of its owner’s personality as well. There was certainly more of a presence on the men’s jewelry side, where Shamballa, best known for its beaded bracelets (which look great stacked with a watch, by the way) took the prize in the in the men’s category.

And because women have more buying power, they are seeking pieces that express the wearer’s voice and taste by emphasize the jewelers’ skills. Some of the most beautiful bijoux on display emphasized delicate settings mixed with bold and usually cut stones or whimsical, figurative elements. Says Jan Mohr, COUTURE’s Retailer Liaison, “Every year I’m blown away by the quality of the craft. It’s really wearable art.”

Case in point, Julez Bryant, who won the People’s Choice award for her layered, tri-colored gold and diamond Sugar Skull necklace. Or Vram Minassian from Vram, who was awarded the Best in Debuting at COUTURE Award for his collection of sculptural and often kinetic jewels.

Another unique feature of the COUTURE show is just how encouraging the community is of one another. “The support the last three days has been incredible,” says Minsssian, “and this award is the cherry on top.” Or, as COUTURE Director Gannon Brousseau said as he greeted the audience of exhibitors, buyers and press from the Design Awards stage, “The longer I get to know the incredible people in this community, and the more I learn about what it is you do, I am increasingly in awe of all of you.”

Winner's Circle

This celebration of community is best expressed through the Cindy Edelstein Award. Originally known as the Human Spirit Award, the prize was renamed for the passionate designer advocate in 2016. The 2018 winner is retailer Paul Schneider, owner of Twist in Portland.

Schneider shared credit for his award with his wife, Lauren. In a touching acceptance speech, He said,

“Everybody actually knows that the creative energy and the power of our store is Lauren, who is very shy. She is the buyer, she's an inspired buyer, she buys from her heart. We love beautiful things. We met in college when she was a weaver and I was a potter. And our life has been devoted to making beautiful things, and the people that make beautiful things. That's what we do, and that's what we always want to do."

Ambiance photos by Sandro Art + Photography'

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