GemGenève Strikes The Perfect Chord

The GemGenève show held from 5th-8th May 2022, was curated with surgical precision, featuring the crème de la crème of the gem and jewellery industry.

After two years of interacting digitally with jewellery designers, auction houses, miners, and merchants, I was thrilled to be on a plane from Singapore to Geneva, en route to attend and speak at GemGenève – a show founded in 2018 by renowned merchants Thomas Faerber and Ronny Totah.

Four years later, GemGenève has blossomed into a mineral garden of paradise, offering visitors not only an opportunity to experience exceptional diamonds, rare gems, and natural pearls but also exquisite jewels with historical provenance, and more.

Let’s talk business. Of the 3,302 unique visitors from 70 countries, 1,548 came back for a second look, making for 4,850 total visits, a slight increase over the 2019 edition. And there was a lot to see, with 201 exhibitors, which included 160 professional traders. The press conference followed by the preview on 4th May was well-attended by journalists and buyers making the most of their VIP access. The show was inaugurated by co-founders Ronny Totah and Thomas Faerber and Fabienne Fischer, State Councillor of the Canton of Geneva.

Inaugurating the GemGenève 2022 show are co-founders Ronny Totah and Thomas Faerber with Fabienne Fischer (centre), State Councillor of the Canton of Geneva. Photo: ©David Fraga

In terms of coloured gemstones, some highlights were spectacular Colombian emeralds I saw at Joseph Gad, velvety blue Kashmir sapphires at Horovitz & Totah, and rubies in every hue at VEERASAK.

The legendary artisanship of Idar-Oberstein was well represented by HENN and HENN of London, with the butterfly koi pendant featuring a single, rich yellow beryl, half facetted and half carved, and a trio of cockatoos carved out of a single piece of morganite, encrusted with diamonds, an unbelievable feat.

The Butterfly Koi white gold necklace features a 50.67-carat yellow beryl that highlights unique hand carving techniques. The stunning visual composition is defined by delicate faceting at the gem’s base and gradually emerges as a carved fish sculpture. The necklace s graced with pave-set E/F VVS diamonds, totalling 2.63 carats. By Henn of London

Precision cut gems are here to stay as customers continue to seek optimum light performance, especially with stones like aquamarine, morganite, garnets, tourmalines. On this front, Arnoldi International, Wild & Petsch Lapidaries, Nomads, and Paul Wild (who also unveiled their book) were present in full force with their gem collections.

I observed a renewed sense of excitement among exhibitors, which manifested in showcasing unique treasures for the first time at GemGenève.

Hans-Jürgen Henn and Alfred Zimmermann, “Heliodor Tree Frog”, Date Unknown. 

Tank Fine Gems brought emeralds in distinctive shapes and cuts for GemGenève. AMTC Diamonds launched a brilliant collection of superbly cut diamonds matched with precision-cut coloured gemstones in contemporary forms. An unexpected announcement and launch that had everyone reaching for cameras was at the ESHED booth, with the unveiling of the Chipembele (rhino) un-cut Zambian emerald, weighing 7,525 carats. Beyond the raw beauty of the emerald, it was fascinating to learn that it contains nano particles (by Provenance Proof), so any emerald cut from this rough can be traced back to the mine of origin – Kagem by Gemfields.

If you were a private collector or designer looking for options, there were plenty at GemGenève. The booth of Valentini was bursting with multiple layouts of old and new material featuring, Burmese spinels, Colombian and Zambian emeralds, along with many collections for earrings and bracelets. First time exhibitor, Claudia Hamann was extremely pleased with the show as she had queries from new clients interested in her double rose-cut gems.

René Lalique bracelet from 1902. Exhibitor: Zebrak London.

On the diamond front, the resurgence of vintage cuts and faceting styles was amplified at GemGenève as I saw many interesting cushion and oval diamonds throughout the show. Even coloured gemstone specialists were displaying important diamonds. It seemed the market has a clear preference for colour in diamonds, well-preserved (or restored) old material, heritage facet patterns applied on freshly mined diamonds, and large stones. Some exhibitors that stood out for me were FIMA, A.A. Rachminov, fancy colour diamond specialists Kunming, and Glajz.

For vintage jewellery, GemGenève had marquee dealers starting with co-founders Faerber Collection and Horovitz and Totah along with Belperron specialist Pat Saling, and other veteran names such as Morelle Davidson, Paul Fisher, Humphrey Butler, Golay Fils et Stahl. One of the best vintage jewellery displays was done by Alex Rieunier and Orpheo, who recreated a wonderful world of art and beauty with jewels and gouache paintings galore.

12.45-carat flamingo pink Conch pearl with intense flame displayed at Ocean Flame, an exhibitor at the show. 

But what made attending GemGenève a feast for the senses goes beyond the treasures on display. It was the refined setting of the show, welcoming nature of the exhibitors, and foresight of the organisers who had thought of every little detail well in advance. For exhibitors, the show had a concierge service, which allowed them to provide buyers with refreshments at the booth without lifting a finger. The organisers arranged mid-day snacks for exhibitors, and assisted them with administrative requirements, trying to remove all their pain points (including Covid testing for departure flights) so they could focus their precious time and attention on business. For visitors, GemGenève had fully stocked complimentary refreshment stands at multiple locations, along with lounge areas to rest and recuperate.

The Chipembele (rhino) large uncut emerald. Photographed by Richa Goyal Sikri

There are many facets that distinguish GemGenève as a show that has truly broken the mould. At its core is education, and this year, Estelle Lagarde conducted 7 workshops at the show on the art of gouache (jewellery renderings in paint). The show once again featured masters of their craft who presented and discussed a diverse array of topics: ‘How to enhance the value of jewellery heritage’ by eminent historians Vivienne Becker, Amanda Triossi, Vanessa Cron, Juliet de la Rochefoucauld; ‘The Glyptic Arts’ by Philippe Nicolas, Master of Art, engraver and stone sculptor from Cartier, and Olivier Segura, Gemologist and Scientific Director at L’ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts in Paris.

Aline Debusigne showing the fluidity of her exceptional necklace with diamonds. Part of Designer Vivarium. Photographed by ©Richa Goyal Sikri 

Vivienne Becker additionally made a presentation on The Modernist Movement in Jewels (1920s-2020); and Amanda Triossi provided an overview of the necklace from antiquity to present day. Other notable speakers included journalist, Marie Chabrol, jewellery influencer, Katerina Perez, and artist-jeweller, Frédéric Mané.

Given the display of rare gemstones, I was honoured to make a presentation about my upcoming book – a collection of short adventure stories based on true events and figures related to coloured gems from Africa, and moderate a panel discussion on ‘The Value in African Gems’ featuring, 6th-generation gem cutter & merchant, Dharmendra Tank of Tank Fine Gems, award-winning gem cutter and merchant David Nassi, David Bennett, former Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery and co-founder, Understanding Jewellery, and Tony Brooke, Chairman, Gembridge.

The show featured 3 exhibitions: the Art of Fire & Colours on enamel in collaboration with the Fabergé Foundation; another on the work of students at Geneva’s University of Art and Design (Head), in collaboration with the Grand-Théâtre of Geneva, and the third was Gender Fluid, an exhibition by students at the École Technique de la Vallée de Joux (ETVJ) and the Professional Training Centre of Arts (CFP Arts de Genève).

A special section was created for upcoming jewellery designers under the Emerging Talents pavilion and Designer Vivarium (curated by jewellery historian Vivienne Becker). Both sections featured incredible talent.

The section that stole my heart was ‘Strong & Precious’. Two weeks before GemGenève, Olga Oleksenko reached out to Thomas Faerber, co-founder, GemGenève, expressing a desire to help jewellery designers from Ukraine who had fled from the horrific war that has engulfed their country. The organisers of GemGenève immediately provided Olga a complimentary section at the show, where Strong & Precious could display jewels by 11 designers from Ukraine.

As I reluctantly said goodbye to industry friends on the last day, I had this feeling that GemGenève was no longer on probation. With the success of this 4th edition, the show has cemented its position. Now, it’s not a question of whether GemGenève will happen again, but when? Some are requesting the organisers to bring the show to Asia, others want a winter edition in Europe. Whatever the GemGenève board decides, one can be sure they will do so in consultation and collaboration with exhibitors. Because, at GemGenève, the organisers are equally vested in the show’s success, standing next to and as exhibitors themselves.

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