European travels

Welcome to my May blog.

I hope you are all enjoying this change in the weather, and although it is beautiful I know there are many people wanting lots and lots more rain. I have recently been to the Clare Valley for a family party and everybody was commenting on the dry conditions and how they were hoping the weather would change to replenish ground water and fill the dams which are mostly empty. We have had the tease of rain, so let’s hope the wet continues.

This made me think how much I love the changes of weather and the signals for each season’s varying climate. Also, how baffling it is when you travel overseas, in particular Europe, where you have the opposite to what we experience in Australia. It’s quite hard to acclimatize especially if you’re travelling from very hot weather to very cold conditions. It takes a while to adjust.

Speaking of Europe, recently I posted some photos on Instagram (@nicholaspikeartist) of the trips Helen and I have had to the Basel Jewellery Fair in Switzerland.

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It is the largest and most spectacular jewellery exhibition in the world and is held in April each year in a historic part of Basel near the Rhine River. They carpet the streets, which they close off to traffic, and the group of buildings they use are dressed for the event with a different colour theme each year. It is Spring and everywhere there are huge tubs of flowering plants – hyacinths, tulips, daffodils and many more –  each planted on mass, creating an amazing atmosphere. The fair attracts thousands of travellers globally and it is ‘jewellery overload’. Helen and I found we would devote half days only to viewing all that was on show and then return the next day. This way our tired brains were fresh again and able to take in the extraordinary things we were seeing. At times we were just overwhelmed.

The most famous jewellery houses in the world choose to showcase their latest designs in Basel and the higher priced spaces they rent are transformed into signature areas – some as classic rooms, others as extravagant jewellery ‘boxes’. All of them are designed to attract and seduce the visitors into spending time at the company’s stand and viewing their designs, and hopefully buying.

The budget for the décor used in the salons of the higher priced brands within the Grand Hall seems limitless, each year surpassing the previous one. The use of marble, natural stone, glass, lights, audio visual and contemporary furniture creates amazing surroundings and give each jewellery house a distinctive look.  The idea is to stop people in their tracks!

The second year we visited, we were gobsmacked by the Brietling watch company stand – it took up four of the standard spaces, and the company built multiple floors which they filled with their watches. Stainless steel balconies curved around forming a half circle – it looked like the cabins of a luxury liner. It also featured the biggest fish tank we have ever seen. It was several stories high and filled with schools of silver fish of all sizes – absolutely amazing and everybody was talking about it. In contrast, Chanel created an enormous box of geometric imaged glass which flashed and strobed, and as you walked across the glass floor it changed colours – again, amazing! And all of this expense for one week!

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The last time we attended Basel we also spent time in Paris and again the famous jewellery houses are grouped together and mostly surround Place Vendome. The stores all have press button doors and have very few items in the windows – all the goodies are inside. The list of well-known brands include Cartier, Gucci, Vendome, Chanel, Dior, Dubail, Fred, Martin Du Daffoy, Mikimoto, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Piaget, Boucheron, Rolex, Buccelatti, Chaumet, Repossi, Lorenz Baumer, Jaubalet, and Louis Vuitton.

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There was an amazing diversity although some stores were awaiting a lot of their stock to return from Basel. Having absorbed the prices of some of the items on show it proved jewellery buying in Europe is very different to the purchases in Australia.

We saw the biggest diamonds and other coloured gems and there seemed to be no limit to the designers’ imaginations. Each company appears to use a different theme each year and at the moment the overall look coming out of Europe is a ‘floral’ theme. Elaborate multi set pieces with every surface covered in gems. The mixture of diamonds in every colour and precious stones of contrasting colours know no bounds and they are amazing from a manufacturing perspective as there are techniques of stone setting which we haven’t seen used before, like the Wendy Yue piece below

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and these Van Cleef and Arpels timepieces – fascinating!

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One thing is for certain, I have found that travel opens up your mind and in some cases makes the unbelievable believable! With all that we saw, I still feel very proud of the quality of jewellery we design and manufacture and offer our clients in Australia. We can hold our heads high!

I will share more stories in my next blog, thank you for taking the time to read my May edition.

Love Nicholas

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