Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Visit to Basel World Jewelry Festival in Switzerland

By Star Sosa

Nancy and I recently had the opportunity to attend the fabulous watch and jewelry festival in Basel, Switzerland. I have to say that this show was unlike anything I have ever attended in the US. We first flew to Frankfurt, Germany and took the train down to the town of Freiburg, which is just a short ways from Basel.

Freiburg is a delightful university town in southern Germany and is a 30 minute express train ride from Basel. It allowed us to stay in much more affortdable accomodations with access to great restaurants and shopping. The train station was only a five minute walk from our hotel and a ten minute walk from the convention complex in Basel.

Honestly, the train travel and public transportation in Europe is awesome. It was easy to understand and enjoyable to use. In town there are quiet and convenient street cars to take you to your final destinations.

The show in Basel is housed in six buildings, all huge. The primary emphasis is watches and jewelry but there are also suppliers of loose gems, beads,jewelry parts, displays, packaging, tools and machinery. We were overwhelmed from the start.

Our first stop was to visit the gem dealers who had provided our free passes into the show. Unlike the shows here at home, you have to pay to attend. Also, the Basel show is open to everyone not just the trade. However, at 45 Euro per day per person, it can get pretty expensive. We were grateful to have the passes, even if they were second hand from other jewelry buddies.

Of course, once we stopped in their booth, it was hard to not get involved in perusing their fabulous wares. A word about the boothes, these are really more like buildings than anything one could call a "booth". First, they had hard walls with display windows, second they were HUGE with multiple rooms and comfortable sitting areas and all the amenities. We were invited into a private viewing room to look at gems and beads. The light was excellent, which is unusual, and while we looked someone brought us coffee and cookies. What a civilized way to shop!

So, it was hard to resist and we ended up purchasing some incredible Paraiba Tourmaline beads and some Namibian blue green tourmaline cut gems. What a treat. We couldn't wait to get our package so we could start working on the designs.

We spent the balance of the day visiting the different floors of this one building, just blown away by the variety and quality of the gems and jewelry. I can't get over how many diamond tiaras there were in the estate displays. After all, how many opportunities to do you get to wear one of those? There were incredible suites of gemstones in matching color and graduated sizes including emeralds the size of robin's eggs and fabulous sapphires and diamonds.

The next day we returned to visit the designer jewelry building. This housed mainly german designers and every one was inspiring. Our first visit was with Tom and Bernd Munsteiner. Bernd is probably one of the most celebrated gem designers in the world. His cut crystals and gemstones are in collections and museums around the world. Tom is his son and together with his wife, Jutta, designs some incredible jewelry around the gems they cut. We hope to represent their jewelry in our gallery in the coming year. I really think it will be a good fit.

It was a treat to visit the other designers in this building. The displays were mind boggling. I have to thing that they hired movie set designers to create their displays. There were crystal chandileers, fancy buffets and expresso or wine bars. Many had elegant furnishings and it looked like private parties going on. The glitterati from everywhere were there. We asked around and were told that there were very few American buyers there. The strong Euro has made a dent in our ability to buy European.

I looked at this trip as an excellent opportunity to research and learn more about the international jewelry market. It was an eye opening experience, to say the least. I don't know if I can afford to return next year, but I have every intention of doing business with some of these vendor in the future. I'd like to return with a suitcase full of money, to buy some of the gorgeous creations we saw there.

Next we made our way to Paris for some R&R and for Nancy to get materials for paintings. More about that in another post.


No comments: