People of Influence 1996

JCK salutes some innovative, dynamic and hard-working people who are poised to lead the industry into the 21st century

Year’s end brings with it a desire for reflection and a need to catalog what has gone before. The editors of JCK are not immune to this yearning. While chronicling the intricate, sometimes volatile but always exhilarating jewelry industry, the staff felt a need to recognize players who make the business hum.

In a series of sometimes volatile but always exhilarating staff meetings, criteria were developed for this year-end list we’ve dubbed “People of Influence.” To qualify, an individual had to demonstrate a commitment to the industry and have made a lasting impact on it. On the following pages, we have profiled – in alphabetical order – those who made the cut this year.

As we winnowed the list, several people were nominated who this year have made the news for achievements that make them “People to Watch.”Many are already industry veterans who each year do more and more to influence our industry.We salute them as well.

This is the first installment of what we hope will be a periodic round-up of the personalities shaping the past, present and future of the jewelry industry. For the next edition, please send your nomination for both categories with an explanation of his or her influence to: JCK, People of Influence ’97, Chilton Way, Radnor, PA 19089; e-mail pdonahue @chilton.net.

DESIGNING THE FUTURE

He brought designer jewelry out of the craft fairs and into the mainstream

Mort Abelson is one of the driving forces behind the success of contemporary American designer jewelry. Abelson – senior vice president of the jewelry division of the Blenheim Group USA – was the man who brought designer jewelry out of the craft show tents and into the vision of mainstream American jewelers.

“I used to see every line that went into the [Jewelers of America] show. The similarity of merchandise was boring after a while; there was very little innovation,” he says. “Then I went to Rhinebeck [a craft fair in upstate New York] and saw very talented people who I thought I might be able to bring to the JA show.”

Abelson’s New Designer Gallery debuted in 1977, helping to launch the mainstream careers of designers such as David Yurman, Sandy Baker, Beth Moskowitz and Susan Michel. Subsequent years brought such designers to the fore as Penny Preville (1978); Etienne Perret, Charles Krypell, Barry Kieselstein-Cord (1979); and later Steven Lagos, Whitney Boin, George Sawyer, Chris Correia and others.

It took per-severance to keep these designers in the show long enough for retailers to get used to the new looks and start buying them, says Abelson. JA helped, focusing much of its show promotion on the designer gallery. “The trade press really picked up on it and focused most of their coverage on what was new – the New Designer Gallery,” he says. Today, upscale and distinctive jewelry retailers all over the U.S. focus on designer jewelry as the product category that sets them apart from the competition.

Abelson’s career in the jewelry industry spans decades. He ran his own chain of stores for 27 years until selling to Zale Corp. in 1969.He headed up Zale’s catalog showroom and leased departments until leaving in 1973 to join Retail Jewelers of America (predecessor to Jewelers of America). At RJA, he brought trade show operations in-house, chaired the show committee and was then named show director. When JA sold its shows to Blenheim Group USAin 1991, Abelson joined the Blenheim Group.

Many of America’s foremost jewelry designers credit Abelson with boosting the contemporary design movement. Indeed, all important jewelry shows around the world now have designer sections.

– by Hedda T. Schupak, fashion editor

RETAIL REJUVENATION

Robert J. DiNicola steered troubled Zale Corp. back to prominence

When Robert J. DiNicola took the reins as chairman and chief executive two years ago, Zale Corp. was reeling from an 18-month bankruptcy reorganization that shut 700 stores to erase a $1.6 billion debt. It also lacked clear marketing strategy and direction.

At the 1994 stockholders meeting DiNicola made a brash promise: “We will restore Zale Corp. as the preeminent retail jeweler in the country.” Many in the retail and financial industries expected the turnaround to take several years. DiNicola himself suggested it might take three. But in just a scant two years, Zale has been restored as an industry leader and important business barometer.

DiNicola spearheaded several initiatives to make this happen. A new management team of Zale veterans and newcomers set out to revitalize the company’s major divisions: Zales Jewelers, Gordon’s Jewelers, Guild, and Diamond Park (leased departments).

Sales and marketing focused on 100 key items among best-selling merchandise. Inventory management was improved to ensure the items are always in stock. Shipping capacity increased almost 50% to 100,000 items a day. Key items now account for a third of Zale Corp.’s total business.

Separate management, buyers, marketing and merchandising strategies were initiated for Zales and Gordon’s, which had formerly been one corporate division. Stores were renovated, and credit approval processing improved and accelerated.

Marketing has become more aggressive, with em-phasis on year-round “gift-giving occasions” in addition to Christmas. Advertising media have been narrowed to TV ads, direct mail and newspaper inserts.

By late 1995, Zale was “stable, focused and back on track,” says DiNicola. Now on firm footing once again, Zale – with about 1,200 retail outlets across the country – is expanding. It bought New England’s 20-store Karten Jewelers and the 25 Parisian leased jewelry departments. The company has gone public after a decade’s absence from the stock market.

DiNicola vows to continue the progress. In his report to stock-holders this year, he says the challenge is to “‘raise the bar,’ to set still higher goals … [to make Zale] the symbol of excellence … that others look to for leadership and achievement.”

– by William George Shuster, senior editor

PLATINUM RECORD

She’s raising the profile of this precious metal

One chart in the Platinum Guild International’s 1996 Market Report tells the story of Laurie Hudson’s quest to make platinum a household word. From 1990 to 1995, the U.S. went from politely consuming 20,000 ounces of platinum for jewelry to devouring a whopping 65,000 ounces.

Not a bad record for a woman who still battles widespread resistance to the metal from jewelers, many of whom don’t carry enough platinum jewelry to fulfill growing consumer demand. That desire has been whipped up through PGI’s glamorous and clever ad campaigns in chic consumer magazines and major marketing events.

Hudson continues to rally jewelers, however, with the determination of Gen. Patton, coordinating one of the most popular events at the JCK International Jewelry Show in Las Vegas each year: her platinum breakfast. At the breakfast, she not only provides Las Vegas-caliber entertainment, but retailers come away with solid facts about why platinum is steamrolling toward them and their customers.

Hudson’s work has paid off. It’s hard to talk with a jewelry manufacturer or look at a magazine without noticing platinum’s stronger profile. The numbers back up the anecdotal evidence:

  • Brides, one of the strongest markets for platinum, have tripled their interest in platinum wedding jewelry, reports Modern Bride magazine, from 10% in 1992 to almost 30% in 1996. Once they don platinum an unbelievable 97% of brides say they’d buy platinum jewelry again.

  • Ninety-six percent of manufacturers surveyed who produce platinum jewelry say that in the past five years, they’ve increased the number of platinum designs they make, with fully a third of all lines available in the metal.

  • Retail interest has risen also, though Hudson would like to see more. PGIresearch shows while only 850 retailers carried any platinum in 1992, 8,300 retailers now actively stock and sell it. To support this growth, Hudson broadened PGI’s sales-training outreach to retailers in 10 key U.S. cities this past fall. She also plans to roll out several thousand platinum boutiques within retail stores, nudging jewelers to learn how to merchandise platinum as a category.

Hudson will continue to reach out to jewelers who know the importance of value to consumers, with the message that platinum doesn’t have to be a wildly expensive purchase. She’s not talking about 585 platinum, a lower content alloy. Hudson hopes to convince jewelers to stock 950 platinum products, available for as little as $150, along with the big designer pieces. Patton forges on.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue, editor in chief

THE DIAMOND’S VOICE

He’s earned the media’s trust and the industry’s confidence

The future of the diamond business may well rest with those who write or air news reports about diamonds, so it’s up to the trade to provide accurate information about the diamond world. So believes Lloyd Jaffe, who for 15 years has been a prime source of that accurate information as the soft-spoken director of the American Diamond Industry Association.

“Over the past two decades, diamonds have attracted tremendous media attention,” he says. “At times this attention has been good for the industry. All too often, however, the sensational press focuses on negative things based on isolated incidents. These exposes threaten our stability and adversely affect consumer confidence.”

Jaffe was a diamond manufacturer and dealer who took on this job part-time when the industry created ADIA in 1981. At the time, the industry was in crisis from the collapse of the diamond investment boom. Negative press was everywhere and so were investment scams. The mainstream industry had to speak up. It chose Jaffe for the job.

Jaffe considered restoring and maintaining that confidence so important that he gradually gave up his own diamond business to be the industry’s spokesperson. Today, ADIA is on the resource list of every major news organization and many other bodies seeking information about the diamond industry. Jaffe says ADIA averages 800 to 1,100 press acknowledgments in print yearly. The number of broadcast mentions is harder to track.

When news organizations contact ADIA, they get a well-reasoned, low-key response that puts any negative side of a story into its proper context – the diamond trade and the vast majority of retailers are honest businesspeople. “Sometimes we’ve clarified these issues to the point where the editors eventually withdrew the story.”

The key, Jaffe explains, is to be honest with the media. “First, we understand that journalists approach issues with a degree of skepticism and if we have information that can be attributed to sources outside the industry – the U.S. government, for example – then they are much more likely to use them.

“Second, be candid. Facts are facts and we can’t run away from them. We do acknowledge that things like fracture filled diamonds exist, and that there are people who do cheat, but we work hard to put these things into their proper context and be accurate in what we put out. We do say that the consumer has to be concerned, educated and careful today.”

– by Russell Shor, contributing editor

CRIME FIGHTER

Through clear communication and a punishing speaking schedule, he has heightened awareness of crime prevention in the jewelry industry

He’s a lawyer who can write in plain English and an investigator who knows how law enforcement and crime prevention work. John Kennedy seems a natural to the head the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, educating the industry about preventing crime.

After five years at JSA, four as its president, Kennedy has positioned JSA as an international advocate for the jewelry industry.

He has spread the crime-prevention message among a variety of industry segments, from single-store operations to the largest chains, from trunk-show sales representatives to the sales staffs of the largest jewelry makers.

Kennedy gained valuable crime prevention experience through several investigative positions within New York City and New York state. He uses communications skills sharpened by his experience as a teacher and contributor to trade journals to clearly explain all aspects of crime prevention to retailers with no experience in legal or security jargon.

Extending JSA’s reach is one of Kennedy’s top priorities. A successful seminar for traveling salespeople that Kennedy convened this year in New York City will be duplicated in several cities next year. A JSA seminar for multi-location retail chains, attended by nearly 4,000 security directors in Orlando this year, will be repeated in February with another full day of workshops added.

Other plans for 1997 include expansion that ties well with the jewelry industry’s globalization. JSA will hire regional representatives in Canada and England, adding to representatives it already has in New York, Los Angeles, Boca Raton and Chicago. In addition, JSA will increase its fee-for-service training. This provides on-site security training for security personnel of manufacturers, retailers and distributors. JSA will also add the JCK International Jewelry Show in Orlando to its list of seminar engagements.

To continue to keep the industry up-to-date, the JSA plans to publish a quarterly in addition to its current “wanted” and “advisory” bulletins.

In addition, Kennedy and his staff are revising the JSA Manual of Security, due for publication in early 1998. Smaller pamphlets, based on the manual, will meet the differing needs of different groups such as traveling salespeople and retail salespeople.

On the financial side, this year the JSA’s first-ever capital campaign has already raised more than $275,000. The goal is to reach $600,000 in three years. Kennedy is optimistic the goal is within reach and plans to use the money to update JSA’s communication’s technology to better reach members through a variety of methods.

– by Michael Thompson, senior New York editor

FATHER OF PEARLS

Through tireless promotion and marketing, pearls are at the forefront of fashion

The hippest spot in New York City’s Soho these days is Pravda, a basement bar and nightclub known for its international selection of vodka. On a warm June evening, groundbreaking jewelry designers shared exceptional wine and caviar with journalists from top fashion magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Mirabella while viewing the Aaron Faber Gallery’s new line of designer cultured pearl jewelry.

The event was part of the “Meet the Designer” series, the brainstorm of Devin Macnow, executive director of the Cultured Pearl Information Center. The series is part of a marketing strategy that has helped pearls to catch fire in the fashion press. When a publication plans a pearl story, Macnow and his staff are prepared to supply plenty of photos or actual jewelry through a loan program with suppliers, retailers and designers.

Macnow joined Tele-Press Associates Inc., a public relations company in New York, N.Y., in 1987 as project director for the Cultured Pearl Associations of America and Japan. With the help of the Japan Pearl Exporters’ Association, Macnow established CPIC there in 1995 to serve as liaison for the cultured pearl industry, the press and, ultimately, consumers.

During his time at Tele-Press, Macnow has developed the national U.S. Pearl Princess Competition; created the Cultured Pearl Quality Reference System and Chart, the first reference system on an easy-to-use card comparing levels of luster, size, surface, shape and color; and published the Sales Professional’s Guide to Selling Cultured Pearls, a handbook filled with marketing ideas and selling tips. Macnow and his staff also organize their own photo shoots, striving for stunning photography of models wearing pearl jewelry in innovative ways.

Macnow is the cultured pearl industry’s standard-bearer, conducting seminars and lectures around the country and acting as a lobbyist in government affairs.

His promotional ideas, along with this year’s collective promotions by other pearl associations and producers, have placed fabulous cultured pearl jewelry on movie stars and supermodels this fall and winter. Macnow’s message: cultured pearls are back in a flamboyant way, versatile as a classic and conservative fashion staple by day, an outrageous, sexy traffic-stopper by night. They’re beautiful, they’re traditional – but they’re not just your grandmother’s jewels anymore.

– by Stacey King, associate editor

RAP SHEET

He says he’s leveling the playing field as the diamond trade cries “foul”

When Martin Rapaport lowered diamond prices in his Rapaport Diamond Report following the 1981 market crash, the New York diamond trade was up in arms. He was ruining their businesses, they screamed.

Rapaport began his price list three years before, when prices were rising almost daily because of a speculative boom. He had the support of 47th Street then because price changes always had plus signs next to them. The problems began when the pluses changed to minuses.

Today, Rapaport’s price list circulates worldwide, well outside the immediate diamond community. Tempers have subsided, but retailers and the diamond trade alike complain that his price list is responsible for keeping diamond margins low.

Rapaport rejects that charge, saying his mission was and is to “democratize” diamond pricing, to level the playing field for buyers and sellers regardless of market knowledge and to create a standard that can be used all over the world.

Before his list, 100 people could sell the same goods at 100 different prices. As he explains: those with the least knowledge paid the most.

“By creating a standard for prices, we’ve increased confidence in diamond dealings all over the world,” he says. “People use the list to know whether they are getting a good deal.” he says.

He also argues his report has made diamond trading more efficient. “In the past, every stone had to be negotiated from scratch,” he says. “Now they have the list as a base.”

Rapaport has aggressively marketed his report to retailers worldwide in recent years. His goal, he says, is for retailers to use it as a buying tool, not as a selling guide. He admits consumers get the list as well, but says it’s the retailers who misuse the list. “Most problems come from retailers copying our list and giving it to consumers,” he says. He calls the list consumer-unfriendly and says it takes a retailer or someone with knowledge of diamonds to show a consumer how to read it.

Smaller dealers and retailers who complain they can’t make any money because of Rapaport are caught in the times, not his report, he says. “The trend today is toward big people – centralization. That’s what De Beers is doing. It’s not Rapaport.”

– by Russell Shor, contributing editor

IJO’S ARCHITECT

He works for “his jewelers”

He started 25 years ago with a simple idea: “Jewelers together are smarter and can buy better than one jeweler alone.” On that foundation, Bill Roberts built the Independent Jewelers Organization into the leading jewelers’ buying group.

IJO has almost 100 suppliers with whom its 800-plus jewelers agree to spend at least $25,000 annually (typically saving 5% to 9% on regular wholesale). IJO’s twice-yearly buying show, though small, has a good reputation. For example, Seiko’s batteryless Kinetic Quartz watch made its debut there, while De Beers created a $2.5 million ad campaign for the show featuring jewelry from IJO suppliers.

But it’s Roberts’ commitment to those he calls “my jewelers” that makes IJO special. Long-time services include diamond-buying trips to Antwerp, Belgium, and “IJO College,” where members go to the Westport, Conn., headquarters for intensive reviews of store operations.

The week-long IJO events are more than just buying shows – they seem more like class reunions than business meetings and provide ample opportunity for networking. Along with the shows, Roberts and IJOestablished seminar programs to educate jewelers and help them promote their wares.

As part of the IJO Master Jeweler-Gemological Institute of America title program, Roberts donated $12,000 to set up a scholarship fund in his name benefiting the IJO-GIA program.

IJOlooks after its members in the world marketplace as well. The IJO Diamond Center in Antwerp is located in the original Diamond Dealers Club to help IJOjewelers who travel there.

Roberts is a study in drive and enthusiasm. Propelled by his salesmanship – when he talks to his jewelers, his earnest fervor makes anything seem possible – IJOquickly attracted members and notice from the industry. He has overseen growth, worked with members, met with suppliers and industry leaders and missed only one IJO show. He had a good excuse: he was recovering from heart surgery.

Not content to sit on his laurels, in the early 1990s Roberts and his staff made major changes. About 800 non-active members were dropped, cutting membership in half. More big-name suppliers were added and the Master IJO Jeweler program was created.

The result was a smaller but stronger IJO, says Roberts. Revenue and membership rose, thanks to active recruiting and a new telemarketing service. Today IJO has members in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

Roberts is creating a “new partnership between IJO and its jewelers.” Starting in 1997, its profits will pay for free lodging and travel for members in good standing to every IJO show. “It’s my way of giving IJO back to the members and making it a true cooperative,” Roberts says.

– by William George Shuster, senior editor

JA’s CHANGE-MASTER

In little more than a year, JA’s executive director has made a difference

Rarely has the impact of a new association executive been felt so swiftly. Matt Runci has been at his post as executive director of Jewelers of America barely a year and yet the effect of his operating style and inclusive brand of management can be felt everywhere – not just among JA members, but throughout the jewelry industry.

Runci is quick to credit everyone on his talented JA team, as well as the vision of other industry executives with whom he has consulted, for elevating JA’s profile as a dynamic, future-facing organization. He is, however, a compelling force on his own.

Runci is a change-master and a listener, traits that have led to the action plan for the future JA laid out. He points out that the process for change at the organization began before he came on board in September 1995 and credits JA members for his success. “No matter how much background an association executive has,” he says, “the organization has to have a desire for change and an understanding that change is needed for any efforts to work.”

But clearly it took a strong, active executive to make so much happen for so many so fast. Runci doesn’t take the old-fashioned linear approach to solving one problem at a time. Instead, he tackles everything at once.

Runci says he could not have handled this mammoth task alone, though his work in uniting so many strong personalities throughout the industry was a key. He spearheaded two “Call to Action Forums,” where practically every organization in the industry was represented. During these forums, task forces were formed to work toward change in five general areas:

  • Cohesive public relations efforts by all the participating trade organizations.

  • Professional education.

  • The long-term financial health of the jewelry industry.

  • The stance of the industry on ethical issues.

  • Government affairs.

In addition to the forum groups, Runci has presided over a blitz of in-depth interviews with 63 industry opinion-makers. A survey of JA members, former members and non-members took a quick reading of the industry’s pulse, especially at the retail level. He kept watch over the organization’s consumer market study, which affirmed customers prefer buying fine jewelry from independent jewelers.

Runci saw to it that JA lent support to affiliate pilot programs examining organizational development, education and truth-in-pricing. He also encouraged JA board members to set up internal task forces to tackle governance/communications issues with affiliates, coordinate professional ethics development, technology development and use of the Internet.

These groups are still works in progress. Some have taken decisive action, others are in the process and still others are only beginning to explore their issues. But they share one thing in common – all will share their results with Matt Runci, the master of change.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue, editor in chief

PEOPLE TO WATCH

John Block, who directs the jewelry department at Sotheby’s in New York City, gained national attention early this year when he auctioned jewelry from the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Sotheby’s sold more than $250 million worth of jewelry last year and, along with rival auction house Christie’s, has become one of the world’s leading jewelers. What the auction houses take in for sale – or reject – makes or breaks the market at the top end.

Block has helped jewelry sales at Sotheby’s increase five-fold in the past decade, largely by introducing big, newly cut diamonds and newly manufactured jewelry pieces. He says the market for such goods is shifting inexorably eastward.

“Most big diamonds and big jewelry sold at auction recently were bought by major dealers on behalf of clients from Asia and the Middle East,” he says. “This is where we are aiming most of our marketing and promotion now.”

– by Russell Shor, contributing editor

Francois Curiel, who has directed the jewelry department at Christie’s for some 26 years, has seen the jewelry auctions transform themselves from a wholesale to a retail business, with half its customer base made up of private buyers.

Under Curiel, Christie’s sold $250 million worth of jewelry last year, but he says there’s still room for top retailers to carve their niche in the market, citing Laurence Graff, Fred Leighton and others who have emerged during the past 20 years.

Curiel will no longer offer large diamonds from the trade at auction. He now believes public sales rooms aren’t the proper place for such items. Many buyers complained that having million dollar-plus diamonds in each sale makes them appear common, and watching them go unsold undermines their value.What Curiel decides to include in Christie’s major sales will have a far-reaching impact on the market for these goods.

– by Russell Shor, contributing editor

Anthony J. D’Ambrosio, executive vice president of Tourneau, has helped to build one of the United States’ premier retail outlets for fine watches.

D’Ambrosio joined Tourneau eight years ago when it had 60 employees in three stores in Manhattan. Today Tourneau employs 400 in eight stores in five cities. The company plans to open a large megastore this spring in New York City. This monument to fine timepieces will feature a museum, lecture halls and interactive kiosks.

D’Ambrosio has appeared on CNN promoting fine watches and is the architect of a marketing campaign that focuses on the role of watches in the wardrobe and how they function as an expression of an individual’s style.

– by Michael Thompson, senior New York editor

Joyce Jonas, president of Joyce Jonas & Associates Inc., New York City, has carved a niche in the world of antique, period and fine jewelry by organizing and implementing popular conferences and seminars on the topic.

Jonas owns and directs the highly respected Antique & Period Jewelry and Gemstone Course, held once a year at the University of Maine. She also teaches courses in antique jewelry and coordinates programs on a variety of topics as an adjunct professor of art and a coordinator in the Jewelry Division of the Appraisal Studies Program in Fine and Decorative Arts at New York University.

Jonas also is president of the American Society of Jewelry Historians, a non-profit organization of jewelry experts. She oversees the society’s publications and the planning and execution of lectures, special events and fund-raising.

– by Robert Weldon, senior editor

As director of the International Colored Gemstone Association’s Gembureau, Cheryl Kremkow has been a key person behind colored gem promotions worldwide.

Gembureau is the colored gemstone information and promotion service of ICA, a non-profit trade association with members in 37 countries. Kremkow positioned Gembureau to provide gemstone photographs, research and fact-checking services as well as press releases and articles to the trade and consumer media. She spearheaded ICA’s ruby promotion this year (see “Oh, Heavenly Rubies,” pp. 40-44 of this issue).

Among her other achievements at Gembureau are the creation of a photographic library of gems and localities that have appeared in scores of trade journals and consumer publications worldwide. She also created Gem Site, an Internet site that more than 1,500 people visit daily for historical and statistical information and facts about gems and mining localities. She also is editor of the ICA Gazette.

– by Robert Weldon, senior editor

Every consumer in the country will want to buy fine jewelry if Lynn Ramsey has anything to do with it. Ramsey, president and chief executive officer of the Jewelry Information Center, is dedicated to bringing the message of fine jewelry’s appeal to the public. By all indications, her efforts are succeeding.

When Ramsey took over JIC, it mostly focused on placing small ads in local newspapers. Ramsey, fresh from managing De Beers’ Diamond Information Center – and with a strong background in public relations – had bigger ideas.

Ramsey has placed the fine jewelry message in national fashion and women’s magazines, including Town & Country, Good Housekeeping, Ladies’ Home Journal and McCall’s. One of her most visible accomplishments was promoting fine jewelry in a lengthy interview on NBC’s “Today” show. This month, Elle and Elle Decor magazines are running a contest for readers to write why they like fine jewelry. The winner will select $2,000 worth of fine jewelry from a favorite jeweler, compliments of JIC. Ramsey may not have reached every consumer yet, but she’s well on her way.

– by Hedda T. Schupak, fashion editor

Dr. James E. Shigley oversees wide-ranging research activities at the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, Cal.

His current fo-cus is sophisticated research on the identification of natural, synthetic and treated diamonds and colored stones and on the origin and measurement of color in gems. As director of research, he has written and cowritten several major gemological articles for GIA’s prestigious Gems & Gemology quarterly. In fact, he won several of GIA’s Most Valuable Article of the Year first and second prize awards for his writing.

– by Robert Weldon, senior editor

Bradley J. Stinn has been chairman and chief executive officer of Friedman’s Inc., Savannah, Ga., for four years. In that time, Stinn and his staff have turned the formerly low-profile Southeast chain into the third-largest U.S. jeweler, operating over 300 stores in 20 states.

The growth has come by adding stores in power strip centers (a category where it is now the leading jeweler), hands-on management, three public stock offerings, competitive pricing and a marketing policy targeting price-oriented customers.

Now Stinn is applying the same techniques to California’s Crescent Jewelers, which was struggling and, in his words, “a bit out of focus” when he took over as chairman in 1995. (Both companies are owned by Morgan Schiff & Co., a New York City investment banker.)

In the past year, he has overseen a comprehensive refinancing of its balance sheet, improved its inventory and relations with suppliers, caused operating results to pick up significantly and launched an aggressive expansion program (115 stores by Christmas ’96 and 20% to 30% annual growth). The changes are all designed to make it, says Stinn, “the leading West Coast credit jeweler.”

That’s not a bad record for any retail executive, but for Stinn – who is still in his 30s – it’s almost assuredly the prelude to future career achievements.

– by William George Shuster, senior editor

Diane Warga-Arias is the new education director for De Beers’ Diamond Promotion Service. In the post, she will be working hard to gear DPS sales training to today’s retailing realities: ever toughening competition and ever more sophisticated consumers.

For the first time, she says, the DPS will offer diamond selling skills that move beyond the current “shot gun” practice of selling all diamond jewelry the same way. Next year, for example, DPS will offer new programs tailored to specific categories of diamond jewelry because selling engagement rings is much different than selling a diamond solitaire necklace.

Warga-Arias also will offer a consulting service for retailers who want specialized support. She will work with them to design training programs that will be measured by increased diamond sales. The programs will focus on quality and size, with emphasis on diamonds larger than a quarter carat.

She’s also working to make DPS sales seminars more flexible in time and content to give retailers greater choice in both.

– by Russell Shor, contributing editor