There was a certain “SIHH-ness” about Palexpo, a contemporary elegance in the muted grey carpets and floral arrangements that led up to the security scanners at GemGenève. Once through, a dazzling sight awaited. Glittering diamonds, Kashmir sapphires, Burmese rubies and Colombian emeralds took pride of place, beautifully displayed by the 147 exhibitors that made up this inaugural edition. “Ronnie Totah, myself and the others who’ve joined us are all passionate about what we do and have been attending the same events, such as Baselworld, for decades. Slowly but surely, we became tempted by the idea of a more intimate gathering where we wouldn’t be lost among the crowd of exhibitors at a huge trade fair. Our clients’ wishes also encouraged us in our project to create something different. And that’s how GemGenève came about,” says co-founder Thomas Faerber.
Carefully chosen dates
Both Totah and Faerber emphasise that GemGenève wasn’t created with the aim of luring custom away from Basel. Their motivation came from a desire to launch an event in keeping with their way of thinking and adapted to their network of gem dealers and experts in antique jewellery. The diamond and jewellery trade is well-represented in Geneva, where several often family-owned, inner-circle companies have been doing business for decades. The city also enjoys a reputation for luxury and prestige in general. The event was timed to immediately precede the spring auctions that bring in collectors and dealers from all over the world. Indeed, Geneva continues to dominate diamond sales, and public and media interest in record-setting jewels will inevitably benefit GemGenève too.
While jewellery may be a thriving industry, the fair maintained a deliberately subdued atmosphere with the organisers insisting there should be no one-upmanship between booths. For the carefully curated line-up of exhibitors, this was very much a place to do business but also catch up with colleagues – all part of an independent ecosystem that makes a perfect complement to the watch industry, a point made by Pierre Maudet, Minister of the Economy and Security for the Canton of Geneva, in his speech at the opening ceremony. Exhibitors were also keen to communicate on their environmental and ethical responsibility in a sector that has often drawn criticism in this domain.
2019 already on the cards
Showcases included the work of students from the Geneva School of Art and Design – HEAD on the theme of pearls. More up-and-coming talent was on display in the Emerging Talents gallery which gave exposure to four jewellery designers starting out in the industry. The Contemporary Designers Showcase provided yet another highlight for which the respected jewellery historian Vivienne Becker chose nine jewellers from Europe, the United States and Russia. Visitors could also view the latest creations in the Style of Jolie collection, a collaboration between Californian jeweller Robert Procop and actress and director Angelina Jolie.
GemGenève isn’t just about striking deals. The fair is also designed to further gem and jewellery culture, and therefore included a programme of talks and masterclasses led by historians Vivienne Becker, Vanessa Cron and Amanda Triossi, and Michaël Krzemnicki, director of the Swiss Gemmological Institute laboratory in Basel. From curtain-up, the air was buzzing and the aisles were busy with top-flight professionals. After such a promising debut, the organisers, who were expecting around 10,000 visitors, have already announced a repeat performance next year.