10 Things Rocking the Industry, December 2015–January 2016



COLORED STONES

It was a big year for the 2016 American Gem Trade Association Spectrum and Cutting Edge Awards: 492 entries total. But the record number of contenders wasn’t the only outstanding aspect of this year’s competition. Craftsmanship, originality, and jewelers’ use of color were all noticeably improved. “Designers are not haphazardly putting colors together,” says AGTA CEO Douglas K. Hucker. “They are creating complementary and analogous combinations and pieces of jewelry that reflect what’s coming off the racks in clothing.” The Campbellian Collection’s Bella Campbell earned the award for Best Use of Color for a pair of gold statement earrings with blue-green tourmalines and emeralds (above), while A. Kleiman & Co.’s Allen Kleiman took both Best of Show and First Place in Carving honors for a daring suite of carved Paraiba nautilus shells. Color us impressed!

AWARDS

Slit-up-to-here, micro-mini, back-baring, sliced-up-bodice, show-your-undies-sheer gowns? It must be the American Music Awards—the only awards show where the host (Jennifer Lopez) seems to dictate the dress code. And the jewelry was just as edgy as the couture: long finger rings on celebs such as Ariana Grande and Julianne Hough (that vertical five-stone milky emerald piece by Lorraine Schwartz!); diamond ear climbers and ear cuffs (Alicia Silverstone rocked a Casa Reale chain-link design); even a diamond handcuff (you go, Meghan Trainor!). Golden Globe nominees, you could do a lot worse than bejeweling yourself like Gigi Hadid.

(Above) Hadid’s ear cuff with 2 cts. t.w. rose-cut diamonds in 18k rose gold ($5,000; sutrajewels.com)

 

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DIAMONDS

And you thought kids at the American Girl store were spoiled. On Nov. 10, Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau bought a 16.08 ct. pink diamond at Christie’s for $28.5 million, setting a record for a fancy vivid pink. He dubbed it Sweet Josephine, after its new owner, his 7-year-old daughter. One night later, he bought the 12.03 ct. Blue Moon diamond for $48.5 million at Sotheby’s and named it the Blue Moon of Josephine. That set both a world record price for any diamond at auction, and a new benchmark for the World’s Most Indulged 7-Year-Old. Lau’s other daughter, Zoe, seems comparatively neglected: Daddy only bought her a $32.6 million 9.75 ct. blue and a record-setting ruby.

 

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LAWSUITS

After 11 years of litigation, a New York federal judge has negated the lawsuit between the international European Gemological Laboratory network and EGL USA. Judge Paul Crotty struck down the former’s claim that EGL USA breached its licensing agreement as well as EGL USA’s complaints that the international network’s poor reputation was hurting its business. Since the 2013 trial, RapNet banned all EGL reports, citing the network’s mixed standards and seemingly bolstering the U.S. lab’s case. But director Mitch Jakubovic appears over it: “While the judge was deliberating, life and work moved on.”

 

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CAMPAIGNS

Designer Kara Ross has finally unveiled Diamonds Unleashed—a jewelry brand, women’s empowerment platform, and, if Ross has her way, worldwide movement. “Women, just like diamonds, are brilliant, multifaceted, and unbreakable,” said Ross at the launch. Pitched squarely to the self-purchaser (and marked by a chic geometric interlocking-diamond logo), Ross’ collections—an 18k gold vermeil and diamond line for HSN and a higher-end line for Neiman Marcus—will benefit two carefully chosen organizations: Girls Who Code, which provides computer science education to the next generation; and She’s the First, which awards scholarships to girls in low-income countries. Said Ross: “I like to call it ‘profits with a purpose.’?”

Diamonds Unleashed by Kara Ross for HSN ring in 18k gold vermeil with 0.027 ct. t.w. diamonds; $429.90

 

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RETAILERS

Is Diamonds Direct becoming more indirect? The seven-store Charlotte, N.C.–based chain, once owned by a sightholder, has been acquired by Blackstone Tactical Opportunities, a division of the Blackstone Group, the renowned private equity firm. No price was given, but president and co-owner Itay Berger (pictured) will become CEO and retains an ownership stake in the business. “It is very positive news for the industry that a company like this is interested in our business,” Berger says. “They believe in the concept of Diamonds Direct.”

 

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MINING

If your mine unearths a 1,111 ct. diamond—the second largest ever discovered, next to the 3,106 ct. Cullinan—you’re having a pretty awesome week. If that same mine, Botswana’s Karowe mine, coughs up an 852 ct. stone just days later—the sixth largest ever discovered—you may end up like Lucara Diamond CEO William Lamb, who told one reporter he’s “waking up at 4 a.m. every morning completely stunned.” (That same week, Karowe also produced a 374-carater, but given its predecessors, that barely rated a mention.) So who will buy the monster stones—and will they fetch an equally huge price? We’ll find out when the stones go on sale next year.

 

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GIA

The case may not get the same attention as the hackings at Target, but when unauthorized users gained access to GIA’s database, the security breach was just as momentous. Earlier this year, after GIA’s lab flagged some grading “discrepancies,” it opened an investigation in conjunction with its database support contractor, Tata Consultancy Services, and found that at least two former Tata employees broke into its system and made unauthorized grade changes, requiring 1,000 reports to be invalidated. In turn, GIA notified Indian authorities; the two employees have since been arrested. In an unusual move, GIA also listed the 19 companies, mostly from India, that submitted diamonds that received grade changes. Those businesses have been banned from future lab submissions, pending further investigation.

TCS offices in Hyderabad, India 
 

PROFESSIONS

Yes, many jewelers are seeing tough times, but is the profession “endangered”? CareerCast thinks so; the job site recently placed jeweler on its list of endangered jobs for 2015, alongside such not-particularly-promising careers as logging and newspaper reporting. Its rationale: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that jeweler jobs will decline by 10 percent in 2022, ranking jewelry in the bottom 10 of the careers the site tracks. Yet it’s a long way from there to endangered, in view of the considerable number of jewelers who remain in business. And earlier this year, CareerCast put jeweler on its list of least stressful jobs. You’d think if jewelers’ jobs were in such jeopardy, they’d be more stressed out.

 

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STATS

After contracting a bit, the rate of industry consolidation has increased again; the latest Jewelers Board of Trade stats show that more than 200 jewelers—more than two a day—called it quits in the third quarter of 2015. Still, JBT president Dione Kenyon says we should all remember that the number comes from a high base. “The jewelry industry is not seeing a huge rate of decline compared to other industries,” she says. “There are still a very large number of independent sellers.” She adds that there were many more closures in the dark days of 2008 and 2009, mostly because of poor sales. But today, many closures are happening because aging owners have decided to pack it in.
 

Emerald earrings: Photograph by John Parrish/Courtesy of AGTA. Scale: Alex Slobodkin/Thinkstock. Blue diamond: Courtesy of Sotheby’s.