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Upscale Jewelers Finding Some Silver Linings

The rich are still spending when it comes to fine jewelry — it's everyone else who seems to be feeling the pinch.

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Anna Ruth Henriques necklace.

Photo By WWD ARCHIVE

LAS VEGAS — The rich are still spending when it comes to fine jewelry — it's everyone else who seems to be feeling the pinch.

While there continues to be strong demand for one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces that sell for more than $10,000, jewelers are scrambling to hold on to middle market customers as spending slows and job losses mount. Several companies, such as Gurhan, Anthony Nak, M2 by Mary Margrill, Leslie Greene and Stephen Webster, have augmented their 18-karat gold and gemstone lines with collections in sterling silver. Some firms are even signing deals with mass merchants such as QVC, HSN and Target, as Dominique Cohen did last year.

Talisman Unlimited, the two-year-old California fine jewelry firm founded by husband and wife Michael and Lisa Pitkow, has partnered with HSN to develop a line dubbed MichaeLisa. The Pitkows did their first HSN show on April 23, during which they sold 2,000 pieces in 48 minutes. Prices for the line, which is done in Technibond, HSN's version of gold-plated metal, with cubic zirconium looks remarkably similar to the firm's fine jewelry line sold at stores such as Mitchell's of Westport from $560 to $4,000.

"You can't tell the difference between the real and the Technibond," admitted Lisa Pitkow.

Michael Pitkow said the high-end business is doing well, but even at that level there has been a slowdown.

"They might not buy as many pieces [as before]," said Pitkow of his client base. "But they are looking for a great piece."

Robin Rotenier, the Manhattan-based French jewelry designer, is doing a separate line for QVC. The 14-karat gold-plated QVC line is based on motifs in Parisian architecture and ranges in price from $50 to $250. His signature collection retails from $295 to $3,800. Rotenier's Rr 2 Rotenier QVC line made its debut April 3.

Anthony Nak, which launched a silver line called 0108 by Anthony Nak, introduced the Atelier by Anthony Nak Collection on QVC in 2007.

"QVC is the best thing we ever did," said Anthony Camargo, who founded Anthony Nak with women's wear designer Nak Armstrong.

The Austin, Tex.-based brand is still producing its-18 karat and gemstone line, but has tightened distribution.
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