10 Things Rocking the Industry, May 2016



RECORDS

When Sotheby’s sold a 12.03 ct. fancy vivid blue last November, it was dubbed the Blue Moon because it seemed like the kind of diamond that came around—well, you know. Now, seven months later, Christie’s Geneva is selling a gem in the same rarefied ballpark. On May 18 it will auction the Oppenheimer Blue (pictured above), which at 14.62 cts. stands as the largest fancy vivid blue ever offered at auction. Named for its onetime owner, former De Beers honcho Sir Philip Oppenheimer, the VS1 emerald cut is expected to fetch between $38 million and $45 million. Its provenance might help. “Sir Philip could have had any diamond he wanted,” says François Curiel, chairman of Christie’s Asia Pacific and China, “but he chose this one.”

SHOWS

Visitors to Baselworld may have been surprised to find themselves far from the madding crowd. Known for its bustling hallways, the Swiss luxury watch and jewelry fair felt noticeably emptier in March. Many people attributed the drop in attendance—as much as 30 percent, by some estimates—to the struggling global economy. On the product front, however, energy was high. Titanium, black matte finishes, thin cases, and vintage race-car styling dominated the timepiece trends, as did talk of value for money. “We must always be sure that the perceived value and rational quality must be three times higher than the price,” said Jean-Claude Biver, president of the LVMH Watch Division. “Then we have accessible luxury.”

Inset: Monza chronograph in 42 mm titanium case coated with titanium carbide; $5,200; TAG Heuer, Springfield, N.J.; 855-824-1860; us.tagheuer.com
 

DIAMONDS

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De Beers no longer just sells diamonds; it now buys them. In March, after an 18-month pilot, the company gave the formal go-ahead to its diamond buyback service, the International Institute of Diamond Valuation (IIDV). The New York City–based institute buys diamonds through jewelers and is now allowing consumers to trade in their diamonds via the Web. Tom Montgomery, De Beers’ senior vice president of strategic initiatives, says the service is committed to buying every piece with at least one natural diamond in it. “When I did mystery shopping, a lot of times I was offered nothing for my diamond,” he says. “That is a terrible message to give to consumers. We believe we have to back up the claim that every diamond has value.” So far, the lowest offer the IIDV has made is $25; the highest, $6 million.
 

AUCTIONS

Can we gawk? Comedienne Joan Rivers (pictured) may have lacked the class of fellow jewelry enthusiast (and frequent target) Elizabeth Taylor. But the QVC mainstay, who died in 2014, had quite the bauble collection, including pieces from Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Harry Winston. On June 22, Christie’s will auction the best items from Rivers’ jewelry drawer, and an online auction will also be held that week. Highlights include a jeweled nephrite study of a Lily of the Valley leaf by Fabergé (est. $200,000–$300,000). Proceeds will go to God’s Love We Deliver and Guide Dogs for the Blind.
 

COLORED STONES

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Two years ago, veteran gem explorer Yianni Melas was visiting Africa when he spotted an unusual-looking blue-green stone (pictured) in a friend’s hut. “When I put my light to it, it changed color,” he says. “I thought: Where does this come from? I got the chills.” He was even more stunned when he sent the specimen to GIA and found out he had discovered an entirely new gem, a “bluish-green chalcedony” that he now calls aquaprase (aqua for the blue, prase for the green). Melas says this find “reminds us that nature will only shed its secrets when she is ready to do so.”
 

WEARABLES

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Ringly is no longer just a ring. The wearable jewelry brand—whose eponymous notifier has advanced the smart ring concept more than any other—has branched out into bracelets. In March, the company debuted its Aries bracelets, which notify users of incoming calls, texts, and emails—just as the Ringly does—but also track users’ steps and fitness. The $279 bracelets mimic their predecessor’s simple design: In every model, a faceted stone (covering the actual device) is anchored to a thin, gold-plated bangle. Users can choose a lapis, tourmalated quartz, rainbow moonstone, or labradorite stone—flanked by plain metal studs or a pair of tiny twinkling crystals. 

The Aries Rendezvous with labradorite; $279
 

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

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From March 11 to 13, 150 industry members gave up their weekend to gather at the Fashion Institute of Technology for the first Jewelry Industry Summit. With the aid of a pair of facilitators, the summit—organized in part by the Jewelers Vigilance Committee—hashed out issues of social responsibility and consumer confidence, and discussed how the industry can raise its game ethically. At the end of the summit, participants agreed to an action plan, though attendees had mixed views on how to harness the energy that was generated. “I don’t think it is clear yet where this is heading,” says Andrew Bone, executive director of the Responsible Jewellery Council, one participant. “But clearly there is the appetite for some momentum.”

Responsible Jewellery Council’s Andrew Bone with chief operations officer Catherine Sproule
 

SYNTHETICS

Manufacturing powerhouse Stuller surprised many in March by announcing it would sell lab-grown diamonds. “Our view is that we want to provide customers with options,” says Stanley Zale, Stuller’s vice president of diamonds and gemstones. “This is another stone, another price point.” Stuller will sell the diamonds as loose, with reports from Gem Certification and Assurance Lab, and they will be kept separate from its natural inventory to avoid potential confusion; associates are forbidden to keep them on the same table. “I don’t think this will change the world,” Zale says. “But it could be a nice little business for us.”
 

CONFERENCES

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The Women’s Jewelry Association’s 13th annual In the Know conference—themed “Blurring the Lines”—kicked off March 10 with a dynamic keynote by Randi Zuckerberg (pictured), founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, author of Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives, and big sister to Mark. She spoke of tech trends, from 3-D printing to virtual reality; short-listed her favorite social media channels (YouTube tops her list); and revealed that Facebook’s hacker-friendly company culture was among the keys to its early success. But the most salient takeaway for retailers? Communicate like a media company. “It’s not enough to just put out a website,” she said. “Every single one of us needs to put out content that’s entertaining.”

 

STATS

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The number of crimes against the industry fell 14.7 percent in 2015, with dollar losses falling 10.9 percent, according to Jewelers’ Security Alliance. The stats are “all moving in the right direction,” says the group’s president, John Kennedy. “This is still a very dangerous business, but it’s much less dangerous than it was 10 or 20 years ago.” He credits increased attention to jewelry-related crime by law enforcement, in particular the FBI. Still, he warns that jewelers need to continue to follow proper security procedures: “People shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security. We are seeing progress, but it’s a never-ending battle.”

(Diamonds scoop: Alamy)