GUEST COLUMN: Valery Demure highlights a shift among top jewellery buyers

Jewellery world dealmaker and founder of personal shopping concept ‘Objet d’Emotion’, Valery Demure, has clocked a shift in attitude among top jewellery retailers… 

During a recent trip to Paris the retailer reactions I encountered were not entirely as I expected — and I’m delighted. I was there for a gruelling schedule of back to back meetings with jewellery buyers from leading luxury department stores and fashion boutiques including Matches, Browns and Bergdorf Goodman and niche luxury boutiques including Dover Street Market in New York and Maxfield and Just One Eye in Los Angeles. I make this demanding trip twice annually to my Paris showroom.

As founder of the Valery Demure Agency, I am the go-between for gifted jewellery designers and influential stores ranging from Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s in New York, to Le Bon Marché in Paris and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong. I curate talent, I champion creativity, I sell and I negotiate contracts. Over the years, I am glad to say I have repeatedly fulfilled my dream of enabling hundreds of talented jewellers to excite new audiences. I am responsible for bringing designers including current jewellery industry darling Fernando Jorge to the American market, where this past summer he scooped the Couture Award for Best Diamond Jeweller above $20,000 while the Valery Demure Agency exhibited the work of designers including French-Lebanese designer Selim Mouzannar and upcoming brand Foundrae at the show. I’ve also brokered deals between Bergdorf Goodman and rising stars of the jewellery world French-Lebanese designer Noor Fares and London-based Melanie Georgacopoulus, whose bold approach involves slicing pearls in half.

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As I headed to Paris in late 2017, I confess I had low expectations of the retailers. All too often, I find retailers completely forget about creative design and true talent because they are so risk-averse and so hesitant about brave design. Against a backdrop of dynamic growth in online retailing, a model which largely removes inventory risk, some conventional retailers have been under pressure to remove their own risk, in many cases while investors pile the pressure on company founders, sales training and merchandising become an afterthought. The result is sometimes a lack of creative design.

But I am encouraged and uplifted. I found the response my brands received was more positive than in a long time. There is a growing set of retailers ready to invest in designers with original ideas, a unique point of view and a long term vision. I pride myself in working with such jewellery creators. Their work may not always be wildly commercial, but I specialise in extraordinary accessories and daring craftsmanship from the likes of Alice Cicolini (vibrant enamel rings designed in London and handcrafted in Jaipur), Francesca Villa (one of a kind whimsical designs, produced in the same ateliers as Bulgari jewellery), Delfina Delettrez (French fourth-generation of the Fendi dynasty) and many more.

One of the challenges faced by so many jewellers today when vying for retail visibility in a department store is the sometimes crushing sale or return dilemma. At the Valery Demure Agency, I have stuck to my guns. I’ve been stubborn on behalf of my designers and it’s paying off.

The buyers we met with in Paris were buying, not just consigning. It has been surprisingly heart-warming to see retailers embracing our concept, one which unapologetically promotes designers who adore making one-off pieces. After over a decade of nurturing, championing and mentoring gifted jewellery designers, I’m delighted that some forward-thinking retail buyers are making subtle changes in their decision-making and appreciating our approach.
My confidence in this market led me to establish, in the second half of 2017, ‘Objet d’Emotion’, a personal shopping service which stages discreet events targeted at jewellery collectors, including evenings at home with designers and glamorous pop-ups at the Langham Hotel and women’s members club Grace Belgravia. My relationships in the jewellery world mean that both global department stores and edgy luxury boutiques on the lookout for new ideas and creators, regularly ask my advice on the top industry trends.

By the same token, individuals sometimes ask me how to start a collection. For me, the emotion associated with jewellery is powerful. The moment of recognising beauty and true craft can be a feeling that is beyond words, an emotional connection to a design, something that I can’t wait to share with others.

I generally recommend people do endless research, starting with the greats of the jewellery world – Suzanne Belperron, JAR, Taffin – then moving to coffee table books, speaking to industry insiders and of course Instagram, which can be a great source of inspiration, and can help connect the dots between one designer and another.
I embrace a spirit of creativity and craftsmanship in many aspects of my life – whether it’s coming upon a third generation family-run restaurant in a Portuguese village while on holiday, or chatting to a 70 year old Burmese weaver – and I believe retailers can profit from doing the same.

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