10 Things Rocking the Industry: February



1. Colors

For years, emerald was forsaken by all but the most conventional stylists. Designers considered it too classic, too expensive, too fussy. Then, a few years ago, the stone’s fortunes began to change. Perhaps it had to do with the growing appeal of the green movement. Some spectacular red-carpet and auction appearances didn’t hurt: Angelina Jolie at the 2011 Golden Globes in a vivid green Swarovski-studded Versace gown and Robert Procop emerald jewels; Brooke Astor’s 22.84 ct. emerald ring, which fetched $1.2 million at Sotheby’s last fall. No wonder Pantone named emerald its color of the year for 2013. The hue “brings a sense of clarity, renewal, and ­rejuvenation,” according to Pantone Color Institute executive director Leatrice Eiseman. In other words: Stock up on May’s birthstone, aka the comeback kid.

2. Agreements

© Tiffany & Co.
Elsa Peretti Bone
Cuff in sterling silver and 18k gold

Elsa Peretti and Tiffany & Co. will not go their separate ways. The illustrious Italian designer and even better-known retailer seemed like they were headed for a split last May, when Tiffany told the Securities and Exchange Commission that Peretti might end their 38-year-old relationship, and that Tiffany’s “firm offer” to her had been rejected. That would have been a big blow, since Peretti’s designs account for 10 percent of the jeweler’s annual sales. Well, apparently, the home of the little blue box returned with an even firmer offer, because in January the two sides signed a $47 million agreement that will keep Tiffany selling Bone Cuffs and Diamonds by the Yard for at least the next 20 years.

3. Holidays

Retail results from the holiday season are in and they’re…all over the map. (Jewelers’ results were also mixed.) A MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report quoted by Bloomberg revealed only 0.7 percent sales growth in the month before Christmas, which would rank this holiday as the worst since 2008. The International Council of Shopping Centers, however, found that December same-store sales grew 4.5 percent, a number in line with its forecasts. And while many department stores enjoyed a good season—Costco boasted a 9 percent leap in sales—powerhouses like Target and Kohl’s found the holiday below ­expectations. All in all, many analysts believe things would have been better if not for three major shopping deterrents: Superstorm Sandy, the shooting in ­Newtown, Conn., and fears about the “fiscal cliff.” Those events “took away the feel-good factor,” retail analyst Dana Telsey told CBS, and led to an “it-should-have-been-better holiday season.”

4. Accidents

Bentley the hero dog

Over the holiday, a rescue dog named Bentley returned the favor to his new companion, Shawn Smith, owner of The Jewelers in Lebanon, Tenn. Smith had been working in his office the morning of Dec. 6. When Bentley began ­barking, Smith decided to take the puppy home. Around 11 a.m., shortly after he left, an SUV plowed through the store, pulling to a stop in his back office. Luckily, no one was injured. “I have to give my dog a lot of credit,” Smith says. And although the store suffered more than $50,000 worth of damage, Smith made light of the situation by covering the storefront with a humorous sign: “We’ll help make your Christmas a ‘smashing’ success.”

5. Red Carpet

After recovering from the shock of Lucy Liu’s Scarlett O’Hara–meets–Maria von Trapp gown, we saw a few jewelry trends at the 70th annual Golden Globes on Jan. 13: emeralds. (Hey, didn’t we just mention that in No. 1?) And earrings. Big ones—diamond chandeliers and chunky cabochon danglers that added pop to celebs’ solid-color couture dresses. Taylor Swift, Naomi Watts, and many others looked to Lorraine Schwartz for intricate oversize gemstone drops; Amy Adams’ ears were dripping with Tiffany diamonds; and Salma Hayek added even more va-va-voom with vivid Martin Katz tourmalines. But enough with the in-your-face hair that hides those gorgeous jewels! Claire Danes now has four Golden Globes. Someone send her a can of hair spray.

 
25.14 cts. t.w. pear-shape Paraiba tourmaline cabochon earrings microset with 958 diamonds; price on request; Martin Katz, Los Angeles; 310-276-7200; martinkatz.com  

6. Acquisitions

In December, the Warren Buffett–owned jewelry powerhouse Richline gobbled up another big fish: Rio Grande, the Albuquerque, N.M.–based tools and equipment manufacturer. Company ­principals Alan Bell, Molly Bell, and Eddie Bell will continue to run the company, though president Hugh Bell is retiring. And this wasn’t even Richline’s only notable recent acquisition: Also in December, it ­purchased Findings Inc. and Fuller Findings, two companies that had merged just eight months earlier.

7. Diamonds

Christie’s Images Ltd. 2013
Graff’s “Magnificent Diamond Ring,” set with a 50.01 ct. rectangular-cut diamond, flanked by tapered baguette diamonds, set in platinum

Try as he might, Laurence Graff just can’t quit a certain 50 ct. D-color diamond. The stone, which Christie’s describes as ­“potentially flawless,” was sold in a Graff-designed ring by the auction house as part of its Dec. 10 New York Magnificent Jewels sale. The buyer was Graff himself, who paid $8.37 million, or $167,400 a carat. Making it more intriguing, Graff had previously bought the stone at auction in 2005 for $4.2 ­million, which means in the seven intervening years, its price nearly doubled. “This is the third time that I have owned this beautiful diamond and I am as thrilled today as I was the first time,” Graff said in a statement. “This is one of the finest D-color diamonds in the world and I am delighted to have it back again.”

8. Majors

In January 2012, J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson declared that his company would no longer offer coupons and discounts because they made the brand “look desperate.” One year later, the chain is in a ­situation many would call, well, desperate, given that Johnson’s new policy has been blamed for 20 percent-plus drops in JCP’s sales. So it should come as no surprise that the department store partially lapsed back into its old habits over the holiday: Johnson offered a $10 “gift” to everyone on his mailing list, and the jewelry section of its website touted a 20 percent price cut on all items. Analysts seized on this as a sign the retailer was changing course, but spokeswoman Kate Coultas insists that everyday pricing “has been and will continue to be the cornerstone of our pricing strategy.”

9. Gemstones

John Parrish
Lava ring in platinum with a 12.99 ct. ruby cabochon with 1.47 cts. t.w. marquise-cut diamonds and 7.4 cts. t.w. diamond melee; price on request; James Currens, NYC; 212-944-1222; jwcurrens.com

Colored stone lovers converging on Tucson, Ariz., this month for the annual gem shows are in for a treat. The winners of the 29th annual American Gem Trade Association Spectrum and Cutting Edge Awards will be on display at the 2013 AGTA GemFair, and their makers feted at the Feb. 9 AGTA Dinner Dance and Awards Gala. With nearly 500 jewels and loose stones in myriad categories, judges (JCK included) had their work cut out for them. Popular motifs among Spectrum entries included animals and insects, and Cutting Edge entrants collectively embraced ­cabochons and rosy-hued rocks. “There were a lot more modern looks in the jewelry this year,” says AGTA’s Doug Hucker. Most ­modern—and memorable—of all: James Currens’ 12.99 ct. ruby gobstopper. Little wonder the ring took Best in Show!

10. Stats

Republicans and Democrats don’t just disagree on politics—they have different preferences for jewelry chains, according to a recent survey by Experian Simmons that appeared in the Dec. 4 Wall Street Journal. The poll found Democrats more likely to shop at Zales, while ­Republicans lean more toward Kay. The survey also discovered that Republicans were more likely to shop at Belk, J.C. Penney, and Target, while Democrats ­preferred ­Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Saks.