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Florida’s winter fairs scene has undergone many changes over half a century – but last year brought more upheaval than most.

The closure of the Miami Beach Convention Center for refurbishment threw the annual winter pilgrimage to the Sunshine State into flux – and it remains much that way for 2018.

Work at the Convention Center is now close to completion. The $600m changes that will provide the space and modern features the meeting industry now demands are scheduled for completion by the middle of the year. Part of the building was already in use for the recent staging of Art Basel Miami.

However, the pace of construction has not been rapid enough for the Original Miami Beach Antique Show (OMBAS). For the second year running OMBAS – the world’s largest indoor antiques show and a mecca for the international jewellery trade for 56 years – is hosted at the Miami- Dade County Fair Expo Center.

The 80-acre site with four exhibition halls is one of the few remaining public spaces in the region capable of holding a trade bun fight that this year numbers around 550 stands – around 10% of them from the UK.

However, no-one is pretending the environment (a typical rough and ready showground), the location (around 10 miles west of Coral Gables) or the time slot (later than usual at February 9-12) are more than a temporary solution.

Back to the Beach in 2019

For organiser US Antique Shows the challenges have been compounded by significant changes in personnel: former show manager Dan Darby left to be replaced by long-term staffer Katrina Canady.

However, a spokesperson told ATG that the fair will definitely move back to the Miami Beach Convention Center in 2019. Expect an announcement about exact dates shortly.

Last year, a new fair sought to capitalise on the uncertainties: the Miami Beach Jewelry & Antiques Show held at the Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach by the Palm Beach Show Group (PBSG).

Poaching some dealers from OMBAS, it assembled the core of the US, UK and Continental European jewellery trade hoping to attract the big-spending local clientele that are a hallmark of all successful Florida fairs. Most are returning for the fair’s second staging that will see some changes.

It has a new name (the Miami Beach Jewelry & Watch Show firmly designates this as a niche event) but also a new venue. A fire and the wrath of last year’s Hurricane Irma forced the Deauville Beach Resort to close, necessitating a move to a waterfront locale in downtown Miami.

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Mauboussin gemset, enamel and diamond bracelet with milky chalcedony links, 1928 from Symbolic & Chase, London at The Miami Beach Jewelry & Watch Show on February 1-4.

Hurricane damage

A luxury tent erected at One Herald Plaza – the location of two events during Art Basel Miami week – will be home to around 100 dealers from February 1-4.

London’s Hancocks, Symbolic & Chase and Wimpole Antiques are among them. “We were very happy with the fair last year and are looking forward to seeing what the new location will bring,” Sophie Jackson of Symbolic & Chase told ATG.

“[PBSG’s president] Scott Diament’s reputation means that all the players you expect to see at an American fair are there on both the buying and selling sides.”

“The Original Miami Beach Show will definitely move back to the Convention Center in 2019

Lynn Lindsay of Wimpole has been an exhibitor in Florida for 35 years and is among those who have opted to show at two or more fairs this year.

“Last year, contrary to what we expected – that the private buyers would come to Miami Beach and the trade to the showground – it was almost the reverse. The Deauville Beach show attracted major trade buyers while we did equal business between trade and private customers at Miami-Dade.”

The stock that Wimpole takes to Florida is almost purely antique over retro: rules allow for pieces of more than 100 years old to be brought into the state with relative ease but the sale of later pieces is subject to significant red tape.

Over the same weekend from February 2-4 will be the third outing for the Miami Antiques + Art + Design Show at the Miami Airport Convention Center (MACC). The organiser is Dolphin Promotions, which held a show here for over 35 years before selling up to US Antique Shows.

After a three-year hiatus from the Miami market, during which the ‘Airport show’ was closed, the veteran organiser returned in 2016. This year the fair has grown significantly to become a 200-dealer event with the number of exhibitors from this side of the pond rising too.

Returning are 3B Antiques, John Jaffa’s Antique Enamel Company and jewellery dealer Sue Brown. New recruits are Patricia Novissimo, Mahs Antiques, Markov, Lowther Antiques (all from London) and James & Tyree McLeod from Limerick, Ireland.

Palm Beach flagship

PBSG holds three antiques fairs (and a craft event) in South Florida in a matter of four weeks. Its longest-running event still anchors the winter season.

The Palm Beach, Jewelry, Art & Antique Show runs for the 14th year at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on February 14-20. Staged over the Presidents’ Day Holiday Weekend, this is now a seven-day event, having expanded from its former five-day run, and begins with a VIP preview night on February 14.

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Napoleon III ormolu tantalus c.1870 from Butchoff Antiques, London at The Palm Beach, Jewelry, Art & Antique Show on February 14-20.

The 170 exhibitors who stand at this event bring antique furniture, jewellery, Asian antiques and a wide range of fine art. Again, plenty of major UK dealers stand at this show including Butchoff Antiques, Richard Green, Trinity House, William Cook, Willow Gallery, Rountree Tryon and Sylvia Powell.

As usual, some – such as Cohen and Cohen (Chinese export porcelain) and Michael Goedhuis (Chinese contemporary art) – join the American trade in hot-footing it to Florida direct from New York’s Winter Antiques Show.

Finally, for those still with stock to sell or money to spend, the action finally moves south to the Naples Exhibition Center from February 23-27. Palm Beach Show Group’s 60 exhibitor Naples Art, Antique & Jewelry Show, is now its seventh year.

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