Industry resumes business after terror attacks, seeks ways to aid victims

The U.S. watch and jewelry industries are beginning to develop ways to aid the victims and rescue efforts of Sept. 11’s terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C.

Spokesmen for a number of jewelry industry companies and organizations tell JCK they are pondering what the industry as a whole can do to provide support and aid to families of the civilians and rescue workers killed or injured in the attacks. Meanwhile, some are also acting on their own.

At least 15 watch companies, led by Daniel Mink of Switzerland, have banded together in a project called “A Time to Aid,” which will donate funds to the American Red Cross. The group is aiming to raise at least $250,000, says organizer Mitchell Caplan, president of Daniel Mink (U.S.).

Tourneau, one of the country’s leading watch retailers, will either develop a fund for the Red Cross or to support the rescue workers, with some money possibly coming from a percentage of sales, says Andrew Block, marketing manager.

Zale had the Red Cross set up a station in its corporate conference room so employees can give blood, and it put a link on its website (www.zalecorp.com) to the Red Cross, for people who want to make donations.

JK Jewelers in St. George, Utah, is hosting a three-day event with 50% of sale proceeds going to American Red Cross, plus a “warm-spirit” banner which will be filled out by local people and sent to New York.

Geys-Perry Jewelers in Atlantic, Iowa, donated flag lapel pins to the first hundred people who donated funds to the Red Cross for relief efforts.

Returning to work. Meanwhile, the U.S. jewelry industry returned to work on Monday, Sept. 17, still stunned and grieving with the rest of America in the wake of the catastrophe and human tragedies caused by the terrorist attacks. “This is overwhelming for everyone,” Zale Corp. chairman Robert DiNicola told JCK. While Zale didn’t lose anyone directly to the disaster, “the enormity of this event in a human scale touches everyone, he said. “Everyone has a relative, friend or acquaintance directly affected by this.”

Among the thousands killed or missing was industry leader, Robert Speisman, 47, director of marketing at the New York diamond firm Lazare Kaplan, who was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. He was chairman of the American Gem Society’s Board of Trustees, founding board member of AGS Managers, and a recipient of the Jewelers Security Alliance’s Gold Shield.

At least a half dozen retail and wholesale jewelry businesses in the World Trade Center were destroyed (Sept. 13 story), says the Jewelers’ Board of Trade (JBT), as was the Thai Trade Center, on the 37th floor of One World Trade Center, which organizes travel to various gem and jewelry trade fairs in Bangkok.

Employees of various industry organizations in New York were accounted for following the attacks. All employees of the Tourneau watch store and Tourneau’s Watch Gear store, located in the former shopping complex of the WTC escaped without harm. (However, New York police later arrested two people, including a former corrections officer, looting watches from the collapsed stores.)

Prayer and work. Jewelry industry personnel also took part in Sept. 14 national Day of Payer and Rememberance for victims of the attacks in a variety of ways. GIA, for example, held is own outdoor observance at its Carlsbad, Cal., World Headquarters., while in Las Vegas, AGS director Robert Bridel attended a candlelight vigil at a senior citizens home near the AGS headquarters.

Businesses and organizations like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA)’s Gem Trade Laboratory in New York and New York Campus, the Jewelers Exchange, Jewelers of American and the Jewelry Information Center resumed normal operations on Mon., Sept. 17.

The disaster caused various disruptions and damage to jewelry trade businesses in New York, Washington D.C. and beyond. A number of industry executives were stranded overseas-and were still stranded on Monday, Sept. 17-when the FAA shut down the national flight network on Sept. 11. Matthew Runci, JA executive director, for example, was in London at the time. Uwe Bauer, manager of Miami-based Junghans watches (U.S.) was in Canada. Various trade officials were in Italy for the CIBJO conference.

The American Gem Society (AGS) postponed its annual Fall Board Meeting, originally set for (Sept. 13-14) in Vancouver, Canada, and reschedule for the end of the month. The executive boards of the Jewelers of America and the Jewelers Information Center were scheduled to meet this week. At press time, they were considering rescheduling, too.

Dick Swetz, owner of the Independent Jewelers Organization, said some IJO jewelers have canceled their travel plans for the first of six planned diamond-buying trips to Antwerp, the first being this Saturday. He noted some jewelers are concerned that they’ll “appear cold-hearted if they continue business as usual, including promoting the Antwerp trip. But others say the terrorists want us to halt business, so don’t let them `win’. The majority of our members are feeling very patriotic and displaying flags outside of stores. Some are even offering promotions with proceeds aiding in New York and Washington relief efforts.”

Pearls, gems & gold. Last week’s transportation problems have also interfered with thousands of pearl shipments nationwide and many pearl dealers’ travel plans. The opening of the Pearl exhibit Oct. 10 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York may be postponed because parts of the exhibit haven’t arrived yet. In addition, Devin Macnow, executive director of the Cultured Pearl Information Center, New York, said, “We’re fielding calls from around the world, helping people get in touch with certain pearl dealers they’ve been unable to reach.”

Many fashion magazines are experiencing difficulty in planning future photo shoots, some 70-plus U.S.-based companies were forced to cancel a buying trip to the Japan Pearl Exporters’ Association auction held in Kobe, Japan, September 13-15.

Also canceled were the official fashion shows for Fashion Week, this week in New York. Many designers, though, went ahead with private showing.

In gems, the possible U.S. military strike on Afghanistan could also affect the gem business: Afghanistan is a major source or rubies, emeralds, lapis lazuli and kunzite.

In precious metals, nearly 12 tons of gold are buried under the rubble and wreckage at the World Trade Center (WTC) site, says Reuters news service. The COMEX metals trading division of the New York Mercantile Exchange had stored about $106 million worth of gold bars in an underground warehouse at the WTC.