UpFront

JEWELRY LEADS HOLIDAY SALES

Jewelry was a bright spot in overall lackluster holiday sales. JCK’s own informal poll of jewelry retailers found jewelry sales 10% ahead of the 1993 holiday season. The International Council of Shopping Centers cited an identical increase for jewelry stores, compared with 5.5% for all mall specialty stores. And numerous retail tracking services and analysts credit healthy sales of jewelry, electronics and toys with preventing dismal apparel sales from pulling the overall sales increase under 5%.

Government reports say jewelry-store sales rose only 1.6% during the first 10 months of 1994, but the holiday sales surge should help many jewelers to pull even or slightly ahead of 1993.

Sales are only one measure of success, though. Profits took a beating as many department stores and apparel retailers fought for sales with markdowns in the weeks before Christmas. Many retail jewelers took a different approach, trying to keep profits stable by focusing on higher unit sales of lower-priced, higher-margin goods. That was a key in attracting jewelry buyers this holiday season, say jewelers interviewed by JCK.

“Consumers were in a good mood and ready to buy if you had the right product and a trained staff,” says Ed Bridge, president of Ben Bridge Jewelers in Seattle, Wash., which has 47 stores in six states.

The jewelers who took advantage of this situation and ended up with the strongest sales were top-quality independents and regional and some national chains, according to David White, a researcher for the N.W. Ayer ad agency, and several other market experts interviewed by JCK. Those with the most problems were independents who competed on price alone without distinctive merchandise and those in economically distressed regions.

Reasons: Jewelers who reported higher holiday sales credit several factors, including sales training, more advertising and improvements in customer service, merchandising, inventory control and overall economic conditions.

“We spent a lot of time and energy all of last year in sales training, with emphasis on diamonds, so our people now have a lot of confidence in selling and presenting diamonds,” says John Cohen, president of Carlyle & Co. Jewelers, Greensboro, N.C. The company, which has 84 stores in 11 states, reported a 10% increase in November/December sales for stores open at least one year.”

He adds, “Our buyers did a terrific job of recognizing the merchandise we needed, based on some good scientific data [thanks to computerized tracking of what does and doesn’t sell], not `gut knowledge,’ and then leveraged that knowledge so we were sure to have the product available.”

Heavy advertising and promotion and an improvement in customers’ moods were the keys that unlocked a 25% increase in holiday sales at Traditional Jewelers, located in the upscale Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Cal. Owner Marion Halfacre reported 1,200 customers visited his store Dec. 23 and 1,000 Dec. 24.

At Zale Corp., Irving, Tex., the nation’s largest retail jeweler with 1,245 stores, officials put together a year-end marketing and merchandising plan in late summer and vowed not to resort to any last-minute “knee-jerk” reactions, says President Larry Pollock. That policy helped Zale to record sales increases of 14.2% in November and 15.2% in December.

Sterling Inc., Akron, Ohio, the second largest U.S. jeweler with 870 stores in 39 states, reports that same-store sales rose 3% in November and December. “It was a good Christmas, not a great one,” says Chairman Nathan R. Light. The company faced stiff competition from other jewelers and computer retailers, adds Richard Miller, executive vice president and chief financial officer. But he says the company’s stores that relied on TV and radio advertising more than print ads did especially well. “We will continue to shift more into electronic media,” he says.

Several western jewelers say GIA ARMS (Gemological Institute of America Advanced Retail Management Systems) taught them better buying habits and inventory control. Gary Long of Gary J. Long’s Village Jewelers in Stockton, Cal., for example, says the GIA ARMS program showed him exactly where his sales were, so he could make last-minute reorders and resell the popular merchandise. Long also cites growing consumer confidence in the economy: “There were more smiling faces, people were more upbeat. They were more willing to spend money on themselves.”

An improving economy in the Southeast was good news for A.A. Friedman, an Augusta, Ga., retailer with 115 stores in seven states. “People weren’t in as big of a bargaining mood as last year,” says President Bill Thompson. “We had a lot more cash business – people had a little more money in their pockets.” Friedman’s sales were up 6.3% for the holidays and 4% for the year.

Not everyone enjoyed higher holiday sales, of course. Howard Sherwood of Sherwood Management, a 34-store chain based in Bell Gardens, Cal., was among those whose sales stayed even with the previous Christmas. But Sherwood was happy to report a 6% increase for all of 1994, despite tighter credit restrictions in his largely credit operation.

Politics even played a role. The uncertainty of government jobs under the new Republican-controlled Congress put a damper on jewelry sales in the Washington, D.C., area. “There seemed to be a reluctance to buy big-ticket items and fewer applications for credit than usual,” says Bert Foer, president and chief executive of Melart, a 19-store chain based in Silver Spring, Md. His sales for Christmas and all of 1994 were flat, following a 10% increase in 1993.

And some jewelers were disappointed that strong sales in November dissolved as Christmas neared. “There was probably a little bit of apprehension as people saw some of their year-end finances,” says Andy Johnson of The Diamond Cellar, a Columbus, Ohio, company where sales were good but not as good as expected.

What sold: The big sellers were diamonds – especially tennis bracelets – and gold jewelry. The most popular pricepoints for all types of jewelry and watches were in a medium range generally described as $500 to $2,500.

“It wasn’t a big-ticket Christmas,” says Jeff Fox, manager of Barnes Jewelry in Amarillo, Tex. Adds Tom Tivol of Tivol’s in Kansas City, Mo.: “This wasn’t an easy-money boom season. People had money to spend, but there was a lot of bargaining and price comparison, so psychologically it was tough. People were looking for value, not for show as they did in the 1980s.”

The tennis bracelets selling ran the gamut from inexpensive promotional versions at Sherwood Management’s stores to more elaborate custom designs with stations of diamonds and gold at Lester Lampert Inc., Chicago, Ill. “We were surprised by the demand for tennis bracelets and were still setting them on Dec. 24,” says Helene Fortunoff of Fortunoff Fine Jewelry and Silverware, Westbury, N.Y. “In fact, a lot of customers got bracelets so freshly made they were literally the first ones to put them on.”

Also selling well were diamond stud earrings, pendants, engagement rings and anniversary bands. A number of jewelers report success with designer jewelry lines that allowed them to offer pieces not available in competing stores. In addition, some jewelry designers have launched major advertising campaigns that make it easier for retailers to sell their products, says Susan Eisen of Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry in El Paso, Tex.

The most popular colored stones were ruby, sapphire, emerald and tanzanite. But colored stone jewelry sales were weaker than some jewelers had expected. Watch sales also were weak. There were exceptions in both cases among those we interviewed: colored-stone bracelets were popular at Fortunoff’s, while watches were strong sellers for Ben Bridge Jewelers; Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry; Siegel Jewelers in Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Tapper’s Jewelry in Southfield, Mich.

Outlook for 1995: Some business analysts have expressed concern that retail sales could suffer this year because so many consumers bought their holiday gifts on credit. Thus MasterCard International authorized 32.5% more transactions using American Express, Discover, Visa and MasterCard from the day after Thanksgiving through Dec. 24 compared with the same period of the 1993 holiday season. And Visa Holiday Spendtrack reported a 25.6% increase in sales paid with Visa cards at all U.S. retailers from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day.

The analysts agree that some consumers will feel the pinch of credit-card payments and higher interest rates this year. But changes in credit card usage make it unclear just how retail sales will be affected. First, many consumers who could pay cash for their purchases now opt instead to use credit cards that offer discounts on cars, gasoline and air travel for each credit purchase. Second, Visa reported a 6% increase in the number of stores that accept its card and a 21% increase in the number of Visa cards in circulation in 1994. And a growing number of credit-card transactions take place at grocery stores and don’t typically involve Christmas gifts.

For their part, jewelers appear confident that sales will rise this year – though moderately. “Everybody is upbeat; they’ve just had a major shot of adrenaline,” says Tom Dorman, executive director of the American GemSociety.

Michael D. Roman, chairman of Jewelers of America, shares that enthusiasm. “People are very optimistic,” he says. “Because jewelers went into Christmas with lean inventories, they now have to restock, and this is good news for the entire industry.”

Carl Schmieder of Otto Schmieder & Son, Phoenix, Ariz., says he expects a “quite satisfactory” year, though not a boom year. He and others such as Gary Long of Stockton, Cal., will be cautious in buying and focus on what sells. Adds Helene Fortunoff: “We’re being very careful, very conservative.”

Economic barometers to watch this year include interest rates, employment levels and consumer debt, says Terry Burman, president of Barry’s in Monrovia, Cal., which has 163 stores in 16 states.

Adds Susan Eisen: “It’s clear we will have to hustle to stay ahead. Our products as well as the people who sell them have to have personality. As managers, we have to be right on top of design trends and new marketing techniques.”

BLENHEIM TO START JA SHOW IN LAS VEGAS

Blenheim Group USA of Fort Lee, N.J., producer of the JA International Jewelry Shows in New York City, has agreed to acquire the United Jewelers Expo in Las Vegas and will produce it as a JA show starting next year. The first JAInternational Jewelry Show in Las Vegas will be held Jan. 9-11, 1996, in the Sands Expo and Convention Center. (These dates, two days later than those originally announced, avoid overlap with the Consumer Electronics Show.)

The first UJE show, held this Jan. 8-10, drew about 500 exhibitors and 2,900 buyers, said Blenheim, and was produced by United Jewelers Expo Inc., Fallbrook, Cal. At the conclusion of the show, Blenheim announced that from 1997 on, the JA Las Vegas show will be held later in January or in early February, “in order to accommodate requests from exhibitors and buyers.”

Ralph Ianuzzi Jr., executive chairman of Blenheim Group USA, would not disclose terms of the acquisition. But he said the new JA show will provide a buying forum early in the year for jewelers on the West Coast. “We want to offer these jewelers the same opportunities available now on the East Coast with the JA shows.”

The new show will include seminars presented by JA’s Center for Business Studies and will offer jewelers JA’s Certified Store Manager exam.

Exhibitors in this year’s UJE will have the first opportunity for space at next year’s show. Ianuzzi said exhibitors from the Hong Kong Jade & Stone Manufacturers Association have already agreed to participate in the new show.

Ianuzzi said he doesn’t expect the new show to affect business at the spring JA show in New York, held in February. Nor does Blenheim intend to compete with other shows held around the same time, he said. “We are working with the other shows to assure that we maximize buying opportunities,” he said. The early January time period for the show is assured for at least two years, he added, but may be subject to review thereafter.

Blenheim announced its plans about a month after the Miller Freeman Jewelry Group, parent of National Jeweler magazine, said it would launch an annual jewelry show called Jewelry World in Las Vegas Jan. 31-Feb 1, 1996. That means that next year, Jewelry World will close several days before the New York JA International Jewelry Show (Feb. 3-6) and overlap the American Gem Trade Association GemFair in Tucson, Ariz. (Jan. 31-Feb. 5).

Las Vegas already hosts the June JCK International Jewelry Show, started in 1992, and the October Jewelers International Show, started last year.

The number of new shows has created concern among some show organizers and exhibitors.

“AGTA hopes that the agreement between United Jewelers Expo and Blenheim will stabilize trade show activity in the industry for the benefit of all the exhibitors and buyers,” said AGTA Director Peggy Willet.

Matthew Runci, executive director of the Manufacturing Jewelers & Silversmiths of America, said his organization has formed a task force to monitor the “ongoing situation” with new trade shows. He said his announcement of the task force was “hastened somewhat” by Blenheim’s Jan. 5 announcement. MJSAis concerned that designers and small manufacturers may have budgets too small to permit them to exhibit in the rapidly expanding number of shows. MJSA produces two trade shows for the manufacturing industry.

MONTANA SAPPHIRES RETURN TO MARKET

The past year has seen a lot of mining activity in the sapphire-bearing regions near Phillipsburg, Butte and Helena, Mont.Two companies there have emerged as major suppliers of America’s “color palette” gemstone.

American Gem Corp. has obtained mineral rights to 70,000 acres (nearly 110 square miles) in an area historically known to contain sapphires or said to have great potential for sapphire production. Another company, Gem River Corp., plans to begin commercial production this year, based on a successful test program in 1994.

Mining activity stops during the winter, when the region is blanketed in snow. But the two companies say spring and summer will see a dramatic change in activity.

Greg Dahl, chief executive and chairman of American Gem, says his company already has some 25,000 carats of cut goods available for sale; an additional 60,000 carats should be available shortly. The company cuts the majority of its material in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, though the finest gems are cut in the U.S.

The company, whose stock is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “GEM,” is negotiating a contract with a major jewelry manufacturer that supplies many of America’s major jewelry chains, says Dahl.

The company’s goal, says Dahl, is to “control the vast majority of known sapphire-bearing ground, to become one of the world’s largest sapphire producers and to be a fully integrated company that mines, processes and markets finished gems to manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers worldwide.” In Montana, the company reportedly controls all of the El Dorado bar, 12,000 acres of Dry Cottonwood Creek and 50,000 acres of the Gem Mountain complex – all of which are known to have sapphire deposits. “In terms of what has been confirmed about the potential of Montana sapphires, we control in excess of 90% of the reserves,” says Dahl.

During last year’s mining season, American Gem produced some 1,000 carats of rough per day, a figure that Dahl hopes to multiply tenfold in the near future. The deposit at Dry Cottonwood Creek is alluvial; the overburden is generally eight feet or less in depth, with pay gravels at an accessible six to eight feet.

Following through on its goal for integration, American Gem recently bought Crystal Research of Pleasanton, Cal., and hired two of its principals, John L. Emmett and Troy Douthit, both experts in the study of heat treatments. A good percentage of the mined sapphires, particularly those from Rock Creek in the Gem Mountain complex, respond favorably to heat treatments. The treatment produces saturated colors and, in many cases, improves clarity, though most of the gems reportedly are of fine clarity from the start. “One of the uniquenesses of the [Rock Creek] sapphires is their incredible clarity,” says Emmett. “In my opinion, they have no counterpart in the world.”

(Sapphires from Montana’s famed Yogo deposit generally are much smaller, are uniformly blue and are not heat-treated – one of their main selling points. But Emmett says sapphires extracted in Montana today, from mostly alluvial sources, tend to be larger and come in a wider array of colors than those from Yogo.)

Meanwhile, Gem River Corp. has hired Behre Dolbear & Co., a mineral industry consultant, to estimate the reserves on its property on Cottonwood Creek. The company has projected a recovery rate of 1.4 million carats for 1995; President Tom Lee says that figure should climb in subsequent years.

“A high incidence of the stones produced in our 1994 testing program are flawless or virtually flawless, with many occurring in very desirable colors and sizes,” he says. Among the colors: blue, pink, orange yellow, green and colorless.

Gem River will grade, sort, heat and cut at its headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich. Lee says the company “plans to market polished goods in order to maximize value-added margins and revenue.”

It’s important, Lee adds, that salespeople “be knowledgeable about the history, mystery and lore of the Montana sapphires. Then this excitement will be transmitted to the consumer.” To help, Gem River plans to produce point-of-purchase materials, videocassettes and other informational material.

American Gem Corp., P.O. Box 4729, Helena, Mont. 59604; (406) 442-4000.

Gem River Corp., 3954 44 St. S.E., Grand Rapids, Mich.; (616) 698-0444.

CELEBRITY CATALOG ENTICES CUSTOMERS IN SEVEN CITIES

Seven top jewelers across the U.S. distributed a holiday catalog featuring portraits of celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Liam Neeson, Melanie Griffith and Bette Midler and pictures of jewelry and watches from upscale designers such as Ambar, Lagos, Mikimoto, Tiffany & Co., Vacheron Constantin and TAG Heuer.

The seven participating jewelers were Johnson Family Diamond Cellars, Columbus, Ohio; Hyde Park Jewelers, Denver, Colo.; Tivol, Kansas City, Mo.; Hamilton Jewelers, Princeton, N.J.; London Jewelers, Glen Cove, N.Y.; Mann’s Jewelers, Rochester, N.Y.; and Orr’s Jewelers, Beaver, Pa. The catalog was created by Muller & Co., a Kansas City advertising agency praised as one of Adweek magazine’s top six regional creative firms.

“The jewelers were thrilled with it,” says Lori Christopher, a senior account executive at Muller. “Customer response was great, traffic was up in the stores and we’re talking about doing another one this year.”

The jewelry and watches pictured in the catalog were chosen at the JCK International Jewelry Show in Las Vegas and then photographed by Kansas City photographer Michael Reigner. The celebrity portraits were taken by Greg Gorman of Los Angeles, a Kansas City native whose work is often featured in such publications as GQ, L’Uomo Vogue, Life, and Vogue Italia.The printing and mailing were done by Graphic Arts Center of Portland, Ore.

The catalog was customized slightly for each of the seven participants, though the overall look was the same. Each of the jewelers mailed 100,000 of the catalogs packaged in envelopes featuring a picture of late pop artist Andy Warhol. Actual sales figures attributable to the catalog were not available at press time.

CSO DIAMOND SALES FALL SLIGHTLY IN `94

Rough diamond sales at De Beers’ Central Selling Organisation fell 2.7% to $4.25 billion in 1994. Last year was the first time De Beers saw real competition, with Russian rough diamond sales totaling an estimated $600 million.

Despite the decline, the CSO says retail demand held up well worldwide, though sales remained “generally weak” in Japan and Western Europe.

CSO sales were strong through the first half of 1994, rolling to a record high of $2.58 billion. But then the CSO cut back sales sharply as Russian sales increased, stocks of Indian goods built up and profits in major cutting centers remained low.

In his New Year’s message, CSO Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer said that despite early optimism, 1994 was a difficult year for the diamond business. “While the world economy has improved, this has not been fully reflected in the turnover of diamond jewelry in the retail stores,” he said.

The good news from 1994, he said, was the peaceful transition of government power in South Africa and the “sensible policies” of the new leaders. “Changes that have taken place are most encouraging for De Beers,” he said. “We look forward to playing an important role in the new South Africa as it takes its proper place in the world.”

This year, he said, will be one of opportunity and challenge. “During this time, we will have to renegotiate our current diamond sales contract with various producers, including Russia,” he said. “The outcome of these negotiations will go a long way in deciding how the CSO will operate in the years ahead.”

WAL-MART WINS SUIT ON PREDATORY PRICING

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 9 that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, did not engage in predatory pricing as three Conway, Ark.-based pharmacy companies had charged in a 1993 lawsuit. The ruling overturned an October 1993 decision by a lower court that Wal-Mart intended to injure competitors as defined in the state’s predatory pricing laws.

In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court said Wal-Mart’s “loss-leader strategy” is justifiable as a tool to foster competition and to gain a competitive edge. The court said the three stores that brought the original suit were still profitable despite Wal-Mart’s aggressive price policies, says The Wall Street Journal.

Had the pharmacies been successful in the suit, retail competitors of Wal-Mart were expected to generate additional lawsuits based on predatory pricing laws in other states, according to the Journal.

The lower court ruling awarded the pharmacies $289,407 and prohibited Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., from selling items below cost. The Supreme Court decision disagreed and said selling items below cost is “markedly different from a sustained effort to destroy competition.”

TWO DISCOUNTERS AGREE TO CHANGE AD PRACTICES

Two discount department store chains agreed to halt certain types of jewelry advertising and to pay $40,000 after the New York Attorney General charged them with deceptive practices.

A state investigation found that beginning in 1992, Caldor and Bradlees stores in New York advertised 14k gold jewelry at 70% off “regular” prices when in fact the jewelry rarely sold at those prices. “Our investigation showed that gold jewelry was perpetually `on sale’ at most of these stores,” said Attorney General G. Oliver Koppell. (Caldor, based in Norwalk, Conn., operates 44 stores in New York; Bradlees, based in Braintree, Mass., has eight stores in New York.)

The state directed the retailers not to advertise a discounted price unless the regular price is the actual price at which the item was openly and actively offered for a “reasonable” time. The retailers also are prohibited from establishing a regular price simply for the sake of establishing a fictitious higher price that can be discounted.

Under the agreement, Caldor and Bradlees didn’t admit to any wrongdoing or violation of law.

AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE ANTWERP GEM THEFTS

Antwerp police at press time were sorting out details of a mysterious robbery in one of the city’s four major diamond bourses.

Initial reports said diamonds valued at $50 million were taken from dealers’ safes on the night of Dec. 14. But that figure was scaled back to $3.5 million after some dealers reduced or withdrew their loss claims.

Belgian press reports named three suspects: Amos Aviv and Alberto Shabao of Israel and T. Baruch of Brazil. Aviv allegedly posed as a diamond trader for about 18 months to learn how to gain access to the vault of the Antwerp Diamantkring, the city’s foremost rough diamond trading center. For several months, he allegedly rented an office in the center to obtain a key to the vault.

Police believe the suspects fled Belgium shortly after the theft.

Neither police nor bourse officials could say how the thieves were able to get past the very sophisticated lock combinations and surveillance and alarm systems in the vault, which holds the inventories of some 1,500 dealers. Police are investigating whether they had help from bourse employees or members.

After the theft, some 21 dealers reported their safes had been emptied. After police questioning, the number fell quickly to eight. Since then, three others have recanted their loss claims.

WJA TO PREVIEW FASHIONS AT FEBRUARY BREAKFAST

The Women’s Jewelry Association will team up with Vogue magazine to preview the 1995 spring designer fashion shows during a breakfast meeting Feb. 7 in New York City.

The meeting, which will start at 8 a.m. in the Jacob Javits Convention Center, will be followed by a video called Runway Report Spring 1995. It features commentary by Anna Wintour, Vogue editor in chief, and will be presented by Nicole Tysowsky, Vogue merchandising editor.

Admission is free to members and their guests; seating is limited. For reservations, call (516) 542-4160.

BABICH, BUBAR, KAHN, LANDAU AND WEYANT DIE

A number of industry notables died late last year. Among them:

Herman Babich, longtime sales representative with such companies as E. W. Reynolds, Calan Co. and Colibri, died Dec. 21. Babich was president of The Jewelers 24 Karat Club of Southern California in 1970 and a past president of the Golden Nuggets of Southern California as well as a life member of the Golden Nuggets board.

Nat Bubar of Bubar’s Jewelers, Santa Monica, Cal., died Nov. 28 after a lengthy illness. Bubar opened his own store in 1945. He was president of the California Jewelers Association in 1969 and served on the CJA board for more than 30 years. He was instrumental in organizing the CJA group block insurance program and was that committee’s first chairman.

Walter L. Kahn, formerly a vice president of Harry Winston’s Wholesale Division, died Dec. 27 while on a cruise vacation. Kahn served with Winston from 1968 until he retired in 1980. Before joining Winston, he was principal of L&M Kahn Co. (later Kahn-Jacobson Inc.), which his grandfather founded in 1872. He was a former president of the 24 Karat Club of the City of New York, served on numerous industry boards and committees, and received many awards for his industry and charity work.

Sidney Landau, one of New York’s premier rough diamond dealers and De Beers’ oldest sightholder, died Nov 20. He was 88. Landau headed a company bearing his name for more than 50 years and was a sightholder for 40 years. Though he was one of New York’s elite “old-guard” diamantaires, he believed that newcomers were the lifeblood of the industry and often offered them his support. For example, it was his idea to launch a “baby-boomer” program that helped younger diamond manufacturers to obtain rough directly from De Beers.

De Beers’ magazine, Insight, said Landau “never forgot the personal side of the diamond business. It was on a personal basis that he conducted all of his dealings – being invariably restrained and polite but insistent when he believed a principle was at stake.”

J. Thomas Weyant died Nov. 18, after a three-year battle with cancer. Weyant served as president of the Pennsylvania Retailers’ Association from 1968 to 1994 and as executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Jewelers’ Association from 1970 to 1994.

DE BEERS UNDERTAKES INTERACTIVE MARKETING

A multimedia package designed to make men more knowledgeable and comfortable about buying diamond jewelry for women will be included with copies of the 1995 Sports Illustrated Multimedia Almanac.

De Beers is exclusive sponsor of the almanac, a CD-ROM product available in retail stores now. The almanac features video highlights of the year in sports, a year’s worth of Sports Illustrated magazine, 600 color photos, a record book of sports statistics and a 500-question trivia quiz.

The diamond portion, called The Interactive Guide to Buying Diamonds, uses video, animation, sound and photography to give viewers information on such topics as how to choose an engagement ring, buying diamonds for special occasions, how diamonds are processed and how to determine the quality of a stone.

Specifically, the guide introduces the 4C’s (cut, color, clarity and carat weight); allows users to create a “virtual” diamond engagement ring by selecting the shape, setting and carat weight; and offers a comparison between a 1-ct. round diamond in a plain yellow gold setting and a 1.5-ct. pear-shaped diamond in a white gold setting with tapered baguettes.

Other features include an interactive exercise that explains the two-months’ salary guideline, a history lesson explaining why diamonds are so valuable and a feature on the world’s 10 most famous diamonds.

This is the first time De Beers has entered the realm of interactive marketing, says Matt Schwach, senior vice president and planning director of The Media Edge, De Beers’ media placement company in the U.S.

Phil Polishook, manager of new business development for Sports Illustrated, says the guide is perfectly targeted toward the male buyers of the Multimedia Almanac CD-ROM. About 600,000 of the CD-ROM discs will be distributed through such retail outlets as CompUSA, Egghead and Babbages and via bundles with computer hardware manufacturers such as Packard Bell. The CD-ROM also is available by calling (800) 782-7944. It sells for about $39.95.

JA, AGS TO TIE IN WITH DIAMOND CAMPAIGNS

For the third consecutive year, Jewelers of America will be the exclusive partner in a $2 million-plus diamond engagement ring print advertising program with N.W. Ayer, De Beers’ U.S. ad agency. The campaign aims to increase the average price paid for engagement rings by helping men to feel more knowledgeable and confident about diamonds.

The campaign targets single men ages 18 to 34 and focuses on the two-month salary guideline for spending on an engagement ring. The ads will feature JA’s toll-free telephone number, which readers may call for the names of five local JA member jewelers.

The ads will run from April through December in such magazines as Esquire, GQ, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone and Outside.

In addition, the American Gem Society will work with Ayer on its 1995 women’s diamond jewelry print ad program.

The $3 million national campaign, which runs from spring through Christmas, is designed to give men information they need to make knowledgeable diamond-buying decisions. It features two ads, one showing a diamond heart pendant and the other showing three diamond bracelets. All pieces are provided by AGS supplier firms.

CORRECTION

The brand name of M.A.B. Superfit was identified incorrectly in JCK’s 1995 Jewelers’ Directory Issue. For more product information, contact M.A.B. Superfit, 28 W. Eagle Rd., Suite 203, Havertown, Pa. 19083; (800) 765-7111.

GOLD JEWELRY SALES CONTINUE TO RISE

Gold jewelry sales increased for the 12th consecutive quarter in the third quarter of 1994, says the World Gold Council. They rose 3.2% in dollar volume to $5.7 billion and 5.4% in unit volume to 62 million.

While gold jewelry sales were below total non-auto retail sales growth (which rose 6.2%), council executives are still pleased about the outlook for gold jewelry. “Gold jewelry sales continued to increase throughout 1994, and this trend is extremely positive for jewelry retailers during the upcoming season,” said Michael C. Barlerin, the council’s chief executive officer.

Third-quarter sales were up in all types of retail stores. Discount stores outpaced other retail outlets with a 14.9% dollar increase compared with the same period of 1993. They were followed by chain jewelry stores, +3.2%; independent jewelers, +3%; department stores, +2.6%; and catalog showrooms, +2.2%.

Sales of gold neckchains, the largest classification of gold jewelry, increased 3.4% in dollar volume. But earrings and charms continued to lead the sales growth with increases of 5.9% and 6.4%, respectively. Bracelets, the third largest category, posted a 5.2% increase, gold rings (excluding wedding rings) were up 5.5% and gold wedding rings rose 1.1%.

The statistics are based on sales reports from a national panel of more than 4,000 retailers in all major classes of trade selling gold jewelry. The reports measure sales of jewelry in which gold content provides the primary value.