As 2016 comes to a close, we’re taking a moment to reflect upon some of the year’s most popular products. We dug through our data and sat down with our team of product managers to bring you a list of our top jewelry-making products of 2016. From gemstones, findings and displays to tools and equipment, these are the items that caught your attention this year.
In the world of findings, yellow gold continues to rule. Dawn Nials, the product manager for our findings line, saw demand for the metal rise across all categories, from chain and charms to settings and mountings. Below are a few of our favorite yellow gold additions to the findings line in 2016.
Stackable rings are another trend that continued to rise in popularity in 2016—and they don’t seem to be going anywhere as we head into 2017. From simple styles in silver to gemstone-set varieties in gold, customers are stocking up and stacking them up in inventive new ways. The best thing about this trend is that one is just never enough. Keep a variety of styles available to encourage customers to keep coming back for more.
From bright fabric versions that have a folk-art feel to fluid gold and silver styles that are reminiscent of the ‘70s, tassels took the jewelry world by storm in 2016. Dawn added a variety of new styles to Rio’s collection, including multiple sterling silver finished styles, as well as individual components.
From left to right: sterling silver necklace with chain tassel pendant, sterling silver festoon necklace with flat chain tassel, sterling silver chain necklace with flat tassel, sterling silver earrings with box chain tassels
Bold leather styles continued to rise in popularity in both men’s and women’s jewelry arenas. Our collection of Nappa leather was particularly popular due to its high quality and versatility. The bold new colors introduced in the Nappa line this year helped leather jewelry graduate from rustic to something a little more chic. And a new line of sterling silver charms designed for leather made it easy to create custom designs.
Gemstones & Metals
Kevin Whitmore, the product manager for our metals and gemstones lines, has seen the demand for recycled, responsible, ethically sourced materials skyrocket over the last five years. To this end, we’re always increasing the number of recycled metals we offer. In 2016, we’re proud to say that the vast majority of our fine silver, sterling silver and Argentium® Silver fabrication metals are recycled—the only exceptions are a handful of specialty metals such as mesh and pattern sheet.
Kevin is constantly seeking out new ways to bring customers transparency in the supply chain. He debuted the American Mined™ collection in November to provide gemstone options that allow a jeweler to trace the source of the stone directly from the mine to the bench. The collection launched with fire opal and sunstone cabochons, faceted stones and beads (all mined in Oregon), and Kevin plans to expand the line with additional stones in 2017.
Unusual Cuts and Shapes
The gemstones line saw huge growth this year. Many of our most popular additions fell outside the realm of standard gemstones like diamonds and rubies. Most were artisan or unusual cuts and uncommon stone types, such as bull’s eye malachite. Below are a few of our favorites.
Lehrer TorusGem™ and Quasar™
Two new cuts were introduced to our Glenn Lehrer line of stones—the Quasar™ cut and the TorusGem™. A self-taught gem carver and visionary jewelry artist, Glenn Lehrer creates cuts that emphasize light, literally bending it into hypnotic new forms. The TorusGem and Quasar cut join the TorusRing™ cut, which features a diamond that is set in another gem. Featuring the same faceting as the TorusRing, the TorusGem is not pre-set with a diamond, allowing jewelers to bezel-set it with any gemstone. The Quasar stone is cut to be reminiscent of a radiant, faraway galaxy.
Goldsmith Sherris Cottier Shank’s remarkable Vortex™-cut stones were another popular addition to the gemstone line. Among the world’s most talented gemstone carvers, Sherris creates cuts that convey an organic, flowing feel. In the Vortex, she brings us a sleek, modern looking-stone with her trademark flowing lines.
Bull’s Eye Malachite
Our new collection of bull’s eye malachite cabochons was particularly popular. Malachite is traditionally cut to create the wood-grain banding most jewelers are familiar with. This new cut takes that same material and orients the rough differently to create a “bull’s eye” effect.
Created decades ago by German gem cutter Bernd Munsteiner, the now-patented CONTEXT CUT™ gemstone is an octahedron and features eight facets: four equal-sized planes on a deep pavilion and four on a shallow crown. The CONTEXT CUT is available in a variety of lab-created stones. It’s an eye-catching (and affordable) option for gemstone designs.
Tools and Equipment
Diana Montoya and Patrick Sage, the product managers for our bench tools and equipment lines, are on a constant mission to find products that make jewelers’ lives easier. And 2016 was a year of innovative new additions. From 3D printing to finishing to simple but indispensable bench tasks, one thing defined your favorite new tools in 2016—they’re hard workers!
Ember™ 3D Printer
We’re sure you’ve heard it for years now—3D printing is going to change the way we make jewelry. But until recently, the technology was simply out of the price range of many jewelers. Autodesk changed all that with the Ember™, a powerful 3D printer that is priced under $10,000. It proved so popular that we sold out of our first offering within 48 hours of releasing it!
Murua Electro-Finishing System
Advances in 3D printing technology have allowed jewelers to create ever more complex and detailed pieces. And this has made it more challenging to finish those pieces to the standards we are all accustomed to. Enter Murua, an electro-finishing system that preserves detail, speeds up the finishing process and makes it easy to collect gold and silver scrap from the finishing process. The Murua can condense a traditional mass finishing process into about an hour!
The Rio Bench
One of the most popular tools we introduced this year was the most essential tool for any jeweler—a bench. The Rio Bench combines affordability with sturdy versatility. And it was an unexpected hit!
The Master Stone Setting System
For jewelers who set gemstones in bezel or tube settings, this comprehensive system can make the process so much simpler and faster. Scott Patrick, one of our in-house jewelers here at Rio, demonstrated how to use the system in the quick video below. He loves that the system contains nearly every size you could want and the punches can be used to set stones and to burnish settings.
For years, our classic Sunshine® polishing cloth has been an all-time favorite product among all types of jewelers. This year, we added two new types of Sunshine cloths to the lineup. The new blue cloth is slightly less abrasive than the traditional yellow cloth. The new pink cloth is double-sided. One side is a fine abrasive sanding cloth that leaves a satin finish and the other side is a polishing cloth that is slightly more aggressive than the yellow Sunshine cloth. MariaElena Baca, another one of our in-house jewelers, demonstrates each of the cloths in the video below.
Displays and Packaging
Denise Cabrera, the product manager for our display and packaging line, saw demand for natural textures, fabrics and materials rise in 2016. She looked to distressed woods and metals, natural fabrics like burlap and even twine to satisfy the demand. Below are a few of our favorites added in 2016.
Distressed Wood and Metal
Distressed wood and metal displays remained popular items throughout 2016.
Across displays and packaging products, burlap’s natural, rough-hewn textures were in demand. Denise rounded out our burlap collection with additional boxes, busts, ring displays—even wrapping paper!
These elegant twine displays were introduced at the beginning of the year and remained popular throughout 2016.
Do you have a favorite new product from 2016? Let your fellow jewelers know what it is the comments section!