10 Things Rocking the Industry: March 2013

1. Ceremonies

The FLOTUS’ fashion choices are a subject of never-ending fascination and scrutiny, but none more so than her Inauguration evening wear. And this year, although she took a few hits for selecting another Jason Wu gown—a rich ruby-red halter, as opposed to 2009’s ethereal white one-shoulder Inaugural style—she earned major huzzahs for her bold diamond jewels, courtesy of in-demand designer Kimberly McDonald. Not only did Mrs. O don McDonald’s signature geode-outline diamond earrings and bangles with natural color mixed-cut diamonds, but she also wore a custom diamond-embellished gold ring, which cinched the neckline of Wu’s velvet and chiffon confection. The edgy jewels provided the perfect counterpoint to the gown’s soft, flowing fabric—and, for a few hours at least, everyone stopped critiquing the first lady’s bangs.

Diamond bangle; price on request; Kimberly McDonald, NYC; 646-205-9994; kimberlymcdonald.com Kimberly McDonald for Forevermark diamond bangle; price on request

2. Trade Fairs 

At the VicenzaOro Winter 2013 show in January, an abundance of price-point–driven styles in vermeil, silver, and even bronze revealed much about the state of economic affairs. The most exciting trend: Kliar, a nanoceramic e-coating developed by Legor’s plating division in Bressanvido, Italy. Garavelli, among other brands, was coating its karat gold numbers in Kliar’s variety of hues, which range from black to bright pink and more. The material is ideal for use on precious and base metals alike.

Globo collection pendant in 18k gold and nanoceramic Kliar coating with 1.10 cts. t.w. colorless diamonds; $6,130; Garavelli, Valenza, Italy; 39-013-194-1350; www.garavellialdo.com

3. Diamonds

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Here we go again: Another lab has found a parcel of undisclosed synthetic diamonds, this one with more than 200 pieces of yellow melee. New York City–based Analytical Gemology and Jewelry—which is able to screen small stones to determine if they are treated or synthetic—received a 4,000-stone submission containing no fewer than 243 synthetics. More troubling, the lab-grown stones perfectly matched the natural ones. Says AG&J CEO Dusan Simic, “It seems they were deliberately trying to fool people.”

4. Leaders

Back in 2000, when the Kimberley Process was just a glimmer in NGOs’ eyes, heads of the major industry associations—looking for a way to respond to the conflict diamonds issue—formed the World Diamond Council and drafted Eli Izhakoff as its leader. The ex–president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses led the WDC from blood diamond (the reality) through Blood Diamond (the movie) through recent arguments over Zimbabwe. Now, the Israeli-born dealer is stepping aside June 30 after 13 years of service. “It’s been a tremendous responsibility and there were a lot of uphill battles,” says Izhakoff. “I enjoyed it, but I’m happy to move on.” The group hasn’t named a replacement, but its structure may be radically revised, which Izhakoff supports: “Reforms are a good thing at the KP, and they will be a good thing at the WDC.”

5. Apps

Is it that hard to propose? All you have to do is say “Will you marry me?” right? Not according to Helzberg Diamonds’ Proposal Pro. The app advises fiancés-to-be to get down on one knee (“it’s classy”); touts romantic places to ask (with help from Yelp); offers sample proposals (a limerick!); and, naturally, features jewelry advice, including a feature that determines someone’s finger size by dropping a ring on the phone. It seems to answer every question about popping the big one—except maybe the most important: Will she say yes?

 
Is putting the ring in a champagne glass a good idea? Ask Proposal Pro!

6. Jewelry

Picture it: your Instagram pic on a gold ring

Instagram users can now wear their filtered snapshots as accessories, thanks to JewelGram. Using a photo-printing technique called sublimation, Italian jewelry designer Michele Marzotto and engineer Gianpiero Riva create rings and pendants from customers’ Instagrams. “The intention was to be able to share photos in a completely different way,” Marzotto says. The jewelry ranges from $16.99 (for plastic pieces) to $1,999.99 (for gold). JewelGram plans to expand its models to include bracelets, earrings, and cufflinks.

7. In Memoriam

“Jerry” Sisk Jr.

From its humble beginnings in 1993 out of a Greeneville, Tenn., studio with a single camera, Jewelry Television has morphed into one of the world’s largest sellers of gemstones. And no one deserves more credit for building the cable TV channel than cofounder Gerald D. (“Jerry”) Sisk Jr., who died in his sleep Jan. 13 at age 59. After his untimely passing, online memorials attracted not only members of the trade but also grieving viewers, who credit Sisk’s on-air appearances with igniting their passion for gems. “After many years of JTV watching, I have gems, jewelry, and rocks everywhere,” wrote one. “Thank you for your enthusiasm, caring, and joy.”

8. Websites

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Sure, ogling celebrity engagement rings is fun. But you know what’s even more fun? Ogling real people’s rings! That’s why we can’t stop clicking through the Twitter/Instagram photo feature “Show Off Your Engagement Bling!” at ­yourturn.people.com. We found solitaires upon solitaires; princess, Euro, and trillion cuts; black, cognac, and canary diamonds; vintage and heirloom settings; pink sapphire center stones; blue sapphire side stones; and enough halos to make Beyoncé’s head spin. (We even found a couple of Wendy Brandes originals, posted by the designer herself.) Next, may we suggest a “Show Off Your Statement Earrings!” gallery?

9. Research

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Here’s something to raise jewelers’ blood pressure: someone telling them their job isn’t that stressful. In January, CareerCast.com ranked jeweler as 2013’s fourth-least-stressful job. “The most successful jewelers are entrepreneurs with their own outlets, while most still have lucrative opportunities to buy and sell precious metals for a profit,” wrote the site. Needless to say, JCKonline.com readers did not take this calmly. “They’ve obviously not walked a single step in our shoes,” commented one. “Working for CareerCast.com has got to be the third-least-stressful job.”

10. Stats

While industry consolidation continued in 2012, Dione Kenyon, president of the Jewelers Board of Trade, says the year-end stats don’t paint such a bleak picture. In particular, bankruptcies fell to their lowest point in at least a decade, and most of the business closings were retirements or mergers. “People are looking for exit strategies,” she says. “But they are going out of business in an orderly way.” She thinks 2013 will probably bring more of the same. “The fundamentals of our economy are a little bit better,” she says. “With the housing recovery will come jobs. Corporate earnings are pretty good. Overall, we seem set for another year of very slow growth.”