UpFront

JA SHOW: GOOD DESPITE SHOW-SLOWING SNOW

Optimism and good business in the wake of good Christmas sales warmed the JA International Jewelry Show despite the Northeast’s first major snowstorm of 1995. The snow kept many buyers away the opening day of the show, held Feb. 4-7 in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, N.Y. But the halls were crowded the second day, before traffic dropped for the final days. An attendance figure was unavailable at press time, but producer Blenheim Jewelry Shows Inc. estimates it was close to 1994’s figure of 13,986. Exhibitors totaled 1,300.

Some exhibitors were disappointed with traffic. But retailers who did attend were ready to restock after a busy Christmas or to make plans to buy later in the spring, said exhibitors. “We didn’t write a lot of orders, but the ones we wrote were big,” said Stephen Dann of Kabana, Albuquerque, N.M.

Silvio Hidalgo of Hidalgo Corp., Miami Beach, Fla., said he wrote many major reorders for his high-end 18k gold and enamel jewelry line. At the other end of the price range, designer Rage of New York City had an excellent show thanks to “great style at a great price. How can you not spend $8 [wholesale] for a pair of funky sterling silver earrings?”

Loose diamond and diamond jewelry exhibitors did well overall. “Business was steady throughout the show, and volume was surprisingly high,” said Eugene Biro, a loose diamond dealer in New York City. “Many retailers serving the higher quality market did well at Christmas and were in a buying mood. So better qualities were hot at this show.”

The same was true for finished diamond jewelry, said Bharat Doshki of Su Raj, New York City. “Buyers remain very price-conscious, of course, but they are less willing to compromise quality to get the lowest price. Many buyers also want new designs and seem optimistic about [being able to] sell them to their customers.”

The pearl story was much the same. Sales of quality akoyas and South Seas pearls were up a bit while sales of lower to middle-quality akoyas were unchanged. Chinese semiround freshwater pearls also sold well, said dealers, though at a much slower rate than in the past few years.

Design directions: Designwise, a walk through the aisles revealed a major Italian influence. Key styles included dangles, bangle/ chain combinations, heart motifs and charms, all of which have been prominent at the important VicenzaOro show in Italy.

Here are some other design trends from the JA show:

  • A move into high polish by designer and higher-end firms. Matte finishes and texture seem to have reached their pinnacle, having fully penetrated mainstream manufacturers.

  • More tricolor, yellow/rose combinations and green gold. Tricolor, long popular in Italy, is just now gaining popularity in the U.S.

  • Three-dimensional designs rather than flat stamped pieces for charms and pendants. Cut-out designs, like the dough leftover after cookies are cut, were popular.

  • Hearts – three-dimensional, often with cut-outs and even more often hanging from a toggle accented with cabochon ends.

  • A move toward blue and green in colored stones, especially lighter stones such as aquamarine and peridot.

  • Celestial themes, with the sun, moon and stars abounding.

  • As in Vicenza, amber mixed with gold proved that the Jurassic age continues.

  • Intaglios and cameos, especially executed in matte gold medallions.

  • Smaller sizes and more delicate proportions for everything.

The watch scene: Special displays adorned the watch and clock area of the show. A 24-ft.-high clock tower marked the entrance to the hub of the section. Across the aisle, retailers met with vendors in the By Appointment Only section. Nearby Chronos, a showcase watch “store,” featured displays by more than two dozen watch firms. And next door, the American Clock and Watch Museum showcased the watches used by polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd.

In the midst of these special displays, watch vendors introduced new models. Automatic chronographs, especially those featuring transparent backs, seemed to dominate. New automatics from Longines, Akto, Omega, Maurice Lacroix, Paul Picot, Saint Blaise and Mondaine debuted. The last four brands are established Swiss firms with new U.S. offices that unveiled their lines at the show.

Watch vendors also courted independent jewelers with a greater range of watches that retail for $75 or $1,500. Seiko Corp. of America debuted its Lassale Couture collection of 18k and stainless steel watches ($850-$1,495). Bulova introduced new chronographs in its Marine Star line (up to $395) and added 65 watches to its Bulova and Caravelle lines. Tissot showed its new all-titanium Titan sports watch (priced up to $495) and a new line of Bijoux women’s gold-plated and steel dress watches (up to $295). Omega introduced the DeVille line of watches featuring rhodium-plated movements ($1,100+).

Other new items: Citizen’s Regent Sport Collection for women ($295+); Daltron Inc.’s Zioba (under $100) and Pronto series (up to $450), Sector’s remodeled ADV 4500 and 2500 ($295-$575), the David Yurman Cable Watch Collection (from $1,890) and Swiss Army Brand’s new Victorinox Watches ($75-$175) and its new Striker sports watch line ($100-$125). CSC Time Corp. debuted a 50-item line of Luger Swiss watches for jewelers ($65-$125), while Gruen debuted the Red Cross collection ($48-$55) and a new silverplated line (under $60).

ZALE COMPLETES MAKEOVER OF EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT

Zale Corp., the nation’s largest retail jeweler, has completed a restructuring of its executive management team, ended its test of Diamond Park leased jewelry departments in Sears Roebuck stores and, for now, dropped plans to add more Exclusively Gold stores.

The management restructuring began a year ago with the appointment of Robert DiNicola as chairman and Larry Pollock as president, following Zale’s exit from bankruptcy protection.

In January, Zale named Merrill Wertheimer, 55, a long-time Zale employee, executive vice president and chief financial controller. He had been company controller. Wertheimer replaced John Belknap, who is now a strategic planner for Zale. DiNicola said Wertheimer’s experience in finance, distribution and operations sectors will enable Zale to “further sharpen its corporate direction.”

Paul Leonard, 39, was named president of Zale’s Fine Jewelers Guild Division, replacing Joe Keifer, a 20-year Zale veteran who left the company. Leonard joined Zale in 1994 as vice president of corporate merchandising.

Jo Ann Connelly, 47, replaced Leonard as senior vice president of corporate merchandising. She formerly was vice president of merchandising for the division.

With the management changes completed, “we are now prepared to accelerate our plans and compete even more aggressively in the jewelry business,” says DiNicola.

Meanwhile, a pilot program operating Zale’s Diamond Park leased jewelry departments in 15 Sears Roebuck stores ends this month. Though the departments were successful, says DiNicola, Sears decided to operate them itself. Meanwhile, Zale will open 14 leased jewelry departments for Mercantile Stores Inc., a national department store chain based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Expansion of another pilot program – Exclusively Gold stores, dealing only in gold jewelry merchandise – has been shelved temporarily. Zale opened its first two Exclusively Gold stores last year and will continue to operate them. But no more stores will be added in the near future, says Pollack. “We want to concentrate on building up our Zale, Gordon, Guild and Diamond Park divisions and making sure they are running on all cylinders before we look at other growth possibilities,” he says.

Zale operates 1,209 retail outlets (including 205 leased departments) in the U.S.

JAPAN’S PEARL TRADE WEATHERS KOBE QUAKE

The devastating earthquake in Kobe, Japan, is expected to have no effect on supplies or prices of akoya and South Seas pearls.

However, most of Japan’s pearl business will be conducted through Tokyo for several years while damage to downtown Kobe is repaired. Most Kobe pearl exporters and the Kobe Pearl Inspection Office moved to Tokyo within two weeks of the Jan. 17 quake.

“The 40-second earthquake has messed up Kobe and the industry for years to come,” says Andy Muller, president of Golay Buchel, Japan. “One-third of all downtown buildings are gone, and many others, including ours, have been condemned.

“My office was like a battlefield. We had nearly $10 million in inventory in three huge safes, each about 7-ft. tall. Two of the safes were knocked flat on the floor and the other, on wheels, rolled and broke through a wall.”

Muller says he and his workers were allowed in the building for only two hours the first day to sift through rubble for business records and inventory. They spent the next several days re-sorting and cataloging inventory.

Meanwhile, Devin Macnow, spokesman for the Cultured Pearl Associations of America and Japan, says the earthquake didn’t hurt the pearl farms at Ago Bay, about 100 miles from Kobe, and that the cleanup and inventory transfers to Tokyo went smoothly. As a result, there should be no pearl shortages or price increases related to the earthquake.

PEARL INDUSTRY PITCHES IN TO HELP

The pearl industry has mounted two relief campaigns to aid the more than 200,000 victims of the Jan. 17 Kobe earthquake.

American pearl dealers have created the American Pearl Importers’ Kobe Relief Fund, while dealers from all over the globe have begun the International Cultured Pearl Industry Relief Fund.

“The earthquake destroyed more than 50,000 houses and buildings and killed more than 5,000 people,” says Avi Raz of A&Z Pearls, Los Angeles, Cal. “Hunger and cold are daily facts of life there.” The initial goal was to raise $100,000 by Feb. 15, then start a long-term campaign.

Contributions may be mailed to the American Pearl Importers Kobe Relief Fund, 321 E. 53 St., New York, N.Y. 10022.

Meanwhile, the international effort is seeking $1 million for the International Hospital and Medical Services Association, which provides housing and medical care to earthquake victims, says Richard Torrey, publisher of Pearl World, an industry newsletter based in Phoenix, Ariz.

Contributions in any currency may be sent to the International Hospital and Medical Services Association Fund, Citibank, Kobe Branch, 69 Banchi-Kyomachi, Chuo-ku Kobe 650, Japan.

An additional $1 million is expected to come from a charity auction organized by Paspaley Pearling Co. of Australia, a major producer of South Seas pearls. Paspaley has donated two large South Seas pearl strands – together valued at $700,000 – to be sold March 8 at a ball in Hong Kong’s Grand Hyatt Hotel ballroom. Additional money will be raised at a preauction dinner sponsored by Cogent Trading of Hong Kong, Assael International of New York and Hamaguchi Pearling of Japan.

The special auction corresponds with the March auction of South Seas pearls. Buyers at this sale will be asked to contribute 1% of the invoice value of their purchases to the Kobe relief fund. Salvadore Assael, president of Assael International, promises to make up any shortfall of the $1 million goal.

SHOW OWNERS NEGOTIATE MERGERS, JOINT PROJECTS

There’s no business like show business – or so it would seem from a recent spate of changes in ownership and operations of trade fairs in the U.S., Italy and Asia.

In the U.S., much of the news centers on consolidating the winter Las Vegas jewelry shows, whose proliferation had raised concerns among exhibitors and retailers.

PJS sold: Blenheim Jewelry Shows Inc., producer of the JA International Jewelry Shows in New York City and Las Vegas, bought the California Jewelers Association’s Spring Pacific Jewelry Show. Blenheim will merge PJS with its Las Vegas show, which debuts Jan. 9-11, 1996.

Blenheim created its Las Vegas show after buying United Jewelers Expo, a brand-new Las Vegas show held in January with about 500 exhibitors and 2,000 buyers. The 1994 PJSspring show had roughly 200 exhibitors and 1,431 buyers. The last PJS spring show will be held March 4-5 in San Francisco.

The California Jewelers Association will “actively sponsor and support” the new JA show, says Hugh Caille, executive vice president of CJA, which has more than 1,600 retailer and 350 associate members. “We’re confident our exhibitors and members will benefit from participation in the Las Vegas event [which is] a prime location on the West Coast for manufacturers and retailers.”

Under the deal, CJA will receive a percentage of the proceeds Blenheim earns from its Las Vegas show, says Ralph Ianuzzi Jr., executive chairman of Blenheim Group USA, which owns Blenheim Jewelry Shows Inc. Merging the two shows will create a “strong West Coast show for the second selling season [and] help unify the industry and consolidate the proliferation of trade shows,” says Ianuzzi.

Blenheim plans to move its JALas Vegas show to late January or early February beginning in 1997.

Blenheim/Miller Freeman: Blenheim and the Miller Freeman Jewelry Group, parent of National Jeweler magazine, began talks in early February on combining their two Las Vegas winter shows into one. (Miller Freeman announced in late 1994 that it would launch a show called Jewelry World in Las Vegas Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, 1996.)

Blenheim and Miller Freeman hoped to reach a “positive unified solution” by Feb. 21. While there were no plans for Blenheim to buy the Miller Freeman show, the goal is a joint venture to operate a single show, says Howard Hauben, group publisher of Miller Freeman and publisher of National Jeweler. A Blenheim spokesperson says the talks would involve such issues as scheduling dates, location, name and how such a joint venture would operate.

Plumb Club concerns: Directors and members of the Plumb Club – representing many major firms in the U.S. jewelry and watch industries – met several times together and with officials of Blenheim in January and February on the issue of winter shows.

Though the club hadn’t endorsed any winter show at press time, it was “exploring the possibility of only one show during that [January-February] time period,”says Michael Kaplan, president of the club. “And if it came down to a choice, the one in New York would have our preference. We feel the industry needs a show at this time period, but not two or three. Additional shows fragment buying and increase [manufacturer-exhibitor] expenses.”

MACEF in Italy: Officials of Fiera Milano International, a 50-50 venture of the Blenheim Group and Fiera di Milano, owner of the Milan Exhibition Center, unveiled plans for the 1995 fall edition of MACEF Oro-Argento. The Sept. 1-4 fair will be the first one that FMI organized since the joint venture was created last year.

FMI says it has undertaken several improvements at the fairgrounds, including better signs, more rest areas, an area for VIP visitors, improved air conditioning, an Exhibitors’ Club and travel packages. The goal is to make the fair “pleasant, functional and more productive in business contacts,” says Massimo Bianchedi, marketing director of Fiera Milano International/Blenheim.

The twice-a-year international show of gold and gem jewelry, silverware, watches and giftware is one of the largest in Europe, rivaling the huge Frankfurt fair. Bianchedi says FMI wants to increase MACEF’s foreign attendance and boost foreign exhibitors from 11% now to 50% within three or four years. The September 1994 edition had 2,960 vendors (343 were from 40 countries) and 115,000 visitors (13,000 from 100 countries).

Headway in Asia: Officials of the United Newspaper Group, which owns Miller Freeman, bought Headway Trade Fairs Ltd., a leading Asian trade fair company. The acquisition occurred in January, though a formal announcement from Headway wasn’t expected until the end of February. Details of the transaction weren’t available at press time.

Headway annually operates five international jewelry fairs in Asia (out of 12 trade fairs in Asia, Europe and America).The Asian schedule comprises two fairs in Hong Kong and one each in Bangkok, Thailand, and in Guangzhou and Beijing, China.

No immediate changes were expected in Headway operations. Denny Yung, Headway’s long-time managing director, was expected to continue in that position.

CLARIFICATION

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus did not disagree with all the claims made in ads by Leach and Garner International, Providence, R.I., as may have been inferred in an article on page 190 of the January issue of JCK. After investigating, NAD recommended that Leach and Garner modify two of three claims it made in print ads.NAD also suggested the company modify four of seven claims it made about Eterna Gold on the QVC home shopping show. The number of claims that NAD investigated and substantiated was unclear in the January article.

LYNN RAMSEY LEAVES DIC TO BECOME JIC CHIEF EXEC

Lynn Ramsey, a vice president and manager of the Diamond Information Center at N.W. Ayer, was named president and chief executive officer of the Jewelry Information Center, succeeding Steffan Aletti.

JIC Chairman Laurence Grunstein, president of Citizen Watch Co. of America, said Ramsey’s “depth of experience in our industry along with her marketing and public relations skills make her an ideal person to lead JIC into its second half century.”

Before joining Ayer in 1988, Ramsey was a vice president at Cunningham & Walsh Public Relations, where she managed a variety of consumer product public relations programs, including the launch of Swatch watch.

Ramsey is active in the Women’s Jewelry Association and received WJA’s Award for Excellence in Public Relations in 1993.

JIC’s mission is to promote the sale of all types of jewelry product through consumer publicity.

GIA TO BREAK GROUND FOR CARLSBAD CAMPUS

The Gemological Institute of America’s long-anticipated move of its California headquarters from Santa Monica to Carlsbad will move toward reality this month with ground-breaking ceremonies at the new site. Most of the move will be completed by this fall, with the final stages taking place by spring 1996.

The relocation will be financed by a $40 million bond issue handled by the investment banking house of Alex Brown.

GIA officials anticipate that 75%-90% of the staff will make the move to the new headquarters, located about midway between Los Angeles and San Diego.

KIRCHNER SUES ZALE OVER TRADE NAME

Kirchner Corp., a jewelry manufacturer in Minneapolis, Minn., has sued Zale Corp. and its Gordon subsidiary to halt the retailer’s use of Kirchner’s registered trade name Mother and Child.

The suit, which also seeks damages and legal fees, was filed Nov. 29 in U.S. District Court in Minnesota. In the suit, Kirchner says Zale and Gordon used the Mother and Child name on gold jewelry to “willfully cause confusion and to trade upon the good will of Kirchner represented by the trademark Mother and Child.” Kirchner’s jewelry is a pendant available in two sizes in 14k gold or sterling silver. It may be custom-mounted with a diamond.

Laura Moore, corporate communications manager for Zale, based in Irving, Tex., says the company has no liability and is defending the case “vigorously.”

Kirchner registered the trademark for Mother and Child in 1982. President Doug Kirchner says his attorneys have successfully stopped other retailers from using the trade name. “In fact, Gordon agreed to stop illegal use of our name last Mother’s Day,” he says. “To our surprise, they have again used our registered name knowing full well it is our property.”

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS PROBE DIAMOND SALES

Russian officials have launched a criminal investigation into a government agency that supplied a U.S. company with more than $88 million worth of rough diamonds in early 1994 for which it hadn’t been paid at press time, reports the Moscow Tribune, an English-language newspaper.

Komdragmet, the agency that oversees Russia’s huge diamond stockpile, supplied the diamonds in the first and second quarters of 1994 to Golden ADA of San Francisco, a company founded by a Russian and two Armenian nationals.

Investigators for First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais were called in when the rough was not paid for and when rumors surfaced that Komdragmet Chairman Evgeny Bychkov was a silent partner in Golden ADA. Bychkov and Golden ADA denied that rumor.

Industry sources say the company did little or no trading in 1994 because it was still setting up its 60-person cutting factory and because it underwent numerous changes in management.

Jay Howell, Golden ADA’s chief financial officer, said in early February the company had begun trading on a limited basis and would actively market polished diamonds soon. “We’re still getting our manufacturing process on par,” he said. “That will be completed in the near future; then we’ll start our marketing program.”

Howell declined to comment on the Moscow Tribune article or to disclose repayment terms for the rough.

The Russian investigation does not include Golden ADA or any of its executives, says the newspaper. However, the investigators and critics of the Golden ADA deal have intensified the call within the Russian government for Bychkov’s retirement. According to reports, he has refused.

If Bychkov left Komdragmet, the effect on Russian diamond policy could be profound. He is widely believed to be behind recent large-scale sales of Russian rough on the market. And he and his deputy, Leonid Gourevich, are key players in negotiations with De Beers’ Central Selling Organisation for a diamond marketing contract to replace one that ends late this year. At the center of those negotiations is Russia’s huge diamond stockpile. Komdragmet believes these diamonds are outside of the CSO contract while De Beers considers the stockpile part the contract, which requires Russia to sell 95% of its production through the CSO.

DIC OFFERS EDUCATION PROGRAM FOR STUDENTS

The DiamondInformationCenter has introduced an educational poster program designed to teach junior high school science students about diamonds.

Called “A Diamond Is Forever,” the program was created in cooperation with Lifetime Learning Systems, Fairfield, Conn., and was distributed to 2,000 classrooms by late January.

The program features a full-color wall poster with information ranging from the geological origin of diamonds to their intrinsic value. “The poster offers a visual tool for students to learn about the complexities of the diamond,” says Alyse Frankenberg, account supervisor at DIC.

The program also includes three reproducible activity masters and a teacher’s guide. The first activity – “Diamonds in the Rough” – challenges students to explore the geological aspects of diamonds, including their composition, formation and unique properties.

The second activity – “A Matter of Brilliance” – focuses on the properties of diamonds and the 4Cs.

The final activity – “Diamonds Forever” – explores how the unique properties of diamond have affected human history, science and culture.

Diamond Information Center, Worldwide Plaza, 825 Eighth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019-7498; (212) 474-6190, fax (212) 474-5402.

FALLOUT FROM LAWSUIT CREATES NEW AGTA ISSUE

In a spinoff of the dispute between the American Gem Trade Association and Chatham Created Gems Inc., two AGTA directors have sued the association for reimbursement of legal fees they incurred in the case. According to AGTA President Owen Bordelon, the amount in question is about $500,000.

The whole issue started when Chatham sued AGTA in 1993 for the right to exhibit at its Tucson show. He named a number of AGTA directors in that suit.

The association says it offered each of the directors named in the suit the services of AGTA’s own attorneys. Among those who declined were Richard Krementz Jr. of Krementz & Co. in Newark, N.J., and Ray Zajicek of Equatorian Imports Inc. in Dallas, Tex., who hired their own attorneys.

Chatham and AGTA reached an out-of-court settlement of their dispute last summer when Chatham was granted affiliate membership in the association and a booth at the GemFair. AGTA directors involved, other than Krementz and Zajicek, also settled at that time. Chatham exhibited in this year’s February show.

In an emotional meeting during the show, AGTA members spent well over an hour discussing the action that Krementz and Zajicek have now taken against the assocation. Bordelon made it clear the association had no legal responsibility to pay the two men’s legal fees, arguing they had been offered the services of AGTA’s attorneys at no cost. He added that AGTA’s own legal fees in the case came to about $250,000.

Krementz declined to comment, on the advice of his lawyer, he said. Zajicek conceded he deliberately chose his own attorney because he wanted a specialist in anti-trust law but indicated he felt the association had a responsibility to pick up the tab. He said the AGTA attorneys are specialists in real estate.

Bordelon said AGTA is sympathetic toward Krementz and Zajicek but lacks the funds to help them. At the Tucson meeting, Roland Naftule, a director who has settled with Chatham, pledged $5,000 to start a fund for Krementz and Zajicek.

NEW PEARL DESIGN CONTEST

American Pearl Co., Nashville, Tenn., has launched the Vision Award Pearl Jewelry Design Competition. Designers are invited to submit jewelry designs featuring American pearls by May 19. Entries will be judged on beauty, creativity, originality and craftsmanship. Winners of $1,000, $750 and $500 awards will be announced at the JCKInternational Jewelry Show in Las Vegas, Nev., scheduled for June 7-12. For an entry form with complete rules, call Jeannine Nalley at American Pearl Co., (615) 350-6600.

JSA: MUCH CRIME AGAINST JEWELERS IS PREVENTABLE

Last year was a bad one for crime against jewelers: 20 homicides involving jewelry crime; losses for traveling salespeople a third higher than in 1993; more than 250 jewelers victims of violence, including shootings, stabbings and rape; and more than 1,550 burglaries, robberies and thefts.

These frightening figures were reported by John J. Kennedy, president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, at the group’s annual meeting Jan. 14 in New York City.

One crime statistic stands out more strikingly than any of these figures. According to Kennedy, almost two-thirds of all these crimes could have been prevented by proper training, alertness and paying attention to JSA and other crime warnings. “More than 60% of all crime against the jewelry industry is preventable,” he told the meeting. “We can blame the bad guys, we can blame cops, we can blame judges, we can blame Federal Express, we can blame our insurance company, we can blame hotels, we can blame airlines. We blame everyone, except the person we really should blame, who can really make a difference. And that is ourselves.”

Kennedy noted that 13 of those present at the annual meeting had suffered a major loss – some in seven figures – during the year. “Even if you have not directly been a victim, or even if your firm has not been a victim, you all know jewelers who were crime victims last year,” he said. “Let’s admit it, we are all afraid. And, believe me, we should be afraid.”

Turning to his prevention theme, Kennedy said that most in-store incidents such as switches, distractions, sneak thefts, phony credit-card scams and bad checks can be avoided. “Informed and alert jewelers shouldn’t let these thefts happen,” he said. “Proper information and training, and following the right procedures, will reduce these losses drastically.”

Much of the crime against salespeople on the road also is preventable. “Leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise in the trunks of unattended vehicles is wrong,” he said. “Leaving goods in hotel safes is wrong. Casually putting down your bag containing your line at ticket lines is wrong. This has got to stop. This is barely crime; this is giving away your goods to thieves.”

Homicides are preventable, too, Kennedy said. “By far the greatest single factor in all the homicides was that the jeweler had a gun in the store and tried to resist,” he said. “This is why the JSA so strongly urges jewelers not to have guns and not to resist armed robbers.”

Jewelry-related homicides add up to staggering losses. Kennedy reported that in the past 10 years, 225 homicides involved jewelry crime in the U.S. – a total equal to the entire membership of the Iowa Jewelers Association.

DENVER JEWELER INDICTED ON TAX-EVASION CHARGES

Hyde Park Jewelers, a two-store jewelry retailer in Denver, Colo., its owners and some employees were indicted in January for allegedly underreporting sales and falsifying business records so customers could avoid paying state taxes. The indictment names owner Michael Pollack; his wife, Shereen Pollack, treasurer; Steven Rosdal, a director of the company; and Robert Snyder, a store manager.

The Denver District Attorney and the Colorado Department of Revenue allege that the upscale retailer failed to collect $23,000 in taxes in 144 sales transactions between 1990 and 1993. They say the out-of-state deliveries were never made or that they involved the wrong merchandise or empty boxes.

The investigation began more than a year ago when the Denver auditor’s office questioned the jeweler’s records. Hyde Park subsequently paid the city $16,700 in additional sales taxes, according to the Rocky Mountain News.

Michael Pollack says his business has cooperated with the investigation, will pay any tax owed and has set aside money for litigation. “However, it seems the state, in refusing to accept the amount, had other motives than to resolve this issue,” he says. “We are in a strong financial condition and feel positive about our case.”

The indictment generated extensive news coverage in Denver because many of the customers are prominent businesspeople. (The indictment makes no allegations of wrongdoing by customers.) Pollack says his business has received “an outpouring of support” from the community, customers, employees and friends.