10 Things Rocking the Jewelry Industry: June 2013



1. Diamonds

They call it the Princie, but maybe they should call it the Princely, based on the regal sum it fetched at an April 16 auction. The 34.65 ct. fancy intense pink cushion-cut scored $39.3 million ($1.1 million per carat) at Christie’s New York—making it the most expensive jewel sold in the house’s 200-plus year history. It also now holds the record for the most expensive jewel ever auctioned in the United States. The stone had been owned by Van Cleef & Arpels, which named it after India’s Prince of Baroda after he attended a Van Cleef party in 1960 in Paris. But it’s unclear who owns the pink beauty now; the buyer will remain anonymous.

2. Charity

The silver shoe tag, designed by jeweler/runner Daniel Welling

Like millions of Americans, Daniel Welling was horrified by the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon. So the jewelry designer at Welling and Co. in West Chester, Ohio, fashioned a sterling silver shoe tag embossed with the words Run for Boston 4-15-13. “It is something runners can always have with them,” says Welling, a runner himself. All proceeds from the $12 tags will go to Boston’s The One Fund (which also received a big donation from local company Hearts On Fire).

3. Baselworld

Courtesy of Baselworld
The sparkling Swarovski booth at Baselworld 2013

A spaceship from the planet Swarovski? Visitors to the Austrian crystal maker’s 6,500-square-foot booth at Baselworld would have been forgiven for thinking they’d been abducted by fashionable ­crystal-loving aliens. Designed by Japanese artist Tokujin Yoshioka with 23,000 LED lights that ­twinkled like stars, the space—dubbed “Wings of Sparkle”—served as both a destination and a landmark in the redesigned Hall 1. But Swarovski wasn’t the only brand that went all-out this year. Organizers said that of 1,460 exhibitors, 1,000 opted for new stands—not that better necessarily meant bigger. The new layout was 12 percent smaller in square meters, said Exhibitors’ Committee president Jacques J. Duchêne, ­attributing the trim size to an emphasis on “quality over quantity.”

4. Auctions

Courtesy of Bonhams
Trombino ring, circa 1965, with 5.3 ct. fancy deep-blue diamond

We are used to Christie’s and Sotheby’s setting records. But on April 23, auction house Bonhams claimed one of its own when a 5.3 ct. fancy deep-blue cushion-cut diamond in a Bulgari ring sold for $9.6 million. The per-carat price ($1.8 million) is a record for a diamond that color. The buyer: none other than rare diamond specialist Laurence Graff. 

5. Synthetics

Forever Brilliant rings with moissanite in 14k white gold, $3,499–$4,399

The quality of synthetic moissanite being produced by Charles & Colvard is improving—and the company is warning jewelers to be on guard. “Our new ­material is coming in at G–H color and the equivalent of a VS stone,” says CEO Randy McCullough, adding that the company inscribes its better-quality stones with Forever Brilliant on their girdles. “We expect that people are going to try to pawn this stuff off as diamond. Jewelers expect moissanite to have that tinge of green on it so they don’t test it.” Still, experts say moissanite remains ­distinguishable from diamond, as it weighs less and is doubly refractive.

6. Awards

Lester Austin/Universal Image
Bill Boyajian

“I’m not keen on surprises,” Bill Boyajian said, “but this is a good one.” The man who helmed the Gemological Institute of America for 23 years before leaving in 2005 seemed genuinely touched when he received the American Gem Society’s Robert M. Shipley award, the group’s highest honor, at its Conclave in Phoenix in April. Boyajian was joined onstage by his family, including his son, who was snuck in without his knowledge. “I’ve always felt how fortunate I am, and how grateful I am, to have a wonderful career in a great industry that I love, with people that have become friends,” Boyajian said. “I’m so lucky that I got a chance to live the American dream.”

7. Majors

Here’s a big whoops. In late March, a Macy’s catalog appeared with an offer that virtually no one could refuse: a $1,500 diamond-accented necklace, selling for the bargain-basement price of $47. But even in the days of big, big discounts, a 97 percent price cut really was too good to be true. The price was supposed to be $479, but the proofreading gremlins struck, and before the department store realized what was up, a few shoppers scored the deal of a lifetime.

 

8. Gold

 iStockphoto

The headlines proclaimed the end of an era. Forbes declared that “Wall Street suddenly hates gold,” while TheStreet wrote that the metal had been “massacred.” And indeed, gold’s slide the second week of April was momentous, representing the yellow metal’s biggest two-day drop in more than 30 years. After plunging below $1,400—its lowest level in two years—the metal recovered a bit at press time, with most gold bugs unwilling to throw in the towel just yet. Still, for an investment whose main selling point was as a store of value, the recent roller-coaster ride was an unseemly spectacle. As one analyst told The Wall Street Journal: “Bullion’s reputation among the investor community has been damaged beyond repair.”

9. Research

Unity Marketing raised a firestorm in April when it released its latest research: Affluent consumers (those earning $250,000 or more) now prefer Zales to Tiffany & Co. “That’s never happened before in our surveys,” says Unity Marketing president Pam Danziger. “Tiffany has been the leading retailer for as long as we have been doing jewelry brands.” (The poll didn’t include Zales’ high-volume rivals like Kay or Jared.) Danziger says the survey shows that affluent consumers now shop at the same places less-wealthy folks do: “People with incomes of $250,000 and up are in the top 2 percent of income earners, yet they don’t see themselves as affluent.” JCKonline commenters expressed skepticism about the report—not to mention the thought that wealthy consumers would prefer a mall jeweler. Wrote one: “I now prefer peanut butter to caviar.”

10. Stats

“Things are mixed,” says Jewelers Board of Trade president Dione Kenyon. “Not everyone is crying the blues, but it’s the same old story: You have to be innovative, you have to have what people want, and you have to work very hard.” Still, Kenyon points out that the housing market has roused itself and that’s a good omen for the future. “I think the year will get better,” she says. “Or maybe I’m just praying that it will.”