Amid the browsing, haggling, partying, buying, and selling, exhibitors and retailers had plenty to discuss at JCK Las Vegas. Among the hot topics:
1. The show did go on
This has been a year for disappointing jewelry sales—and disappointing jewelry shows. And yet, on JCK’s first day, the main floors were as crowded as Times Square, the feeling was better than anyone anticipated, and reports said business was brisk.
“The mood is good,” says Uzi Levami, CEO of Sarine Technologies. “People are not jubilant, but it is not 2009. In America there is still good business.”
After talking to sightholders, “we have a sense that…stability has come through,” said De Beers executive vice president of global sightholder sales Paul Rowley at his company’s Diamond Insights forum. “There are a few more days to go, but we are encouraged.”
This is the year lab-grown diamonds emerged from the shadows. Russian producer New Diamond Technology proudly showcased its 10 ct. man-made stone. But with more synthetics being produced and pumped into the industry’s bloodstream, some feared the possibility of nondisclosure had become nonacademic.
“People are worried,” says Don Palmieri, president of Gem Certification and Assurance Lab. “They are worried about appraising; they are worried about accidentally buying them.”
Even so, on the show’s first day, Lisa Bissell, CEO of man-made producer Pure Grown Diamonds, says interest was so high she couldn’t leave her booth. “It’s been a big shift since the last show,” she says. “I understand there is still some fear out there, but the retailers I speak to are not afraid.
“People have heard about the product for a long time,” she adds. “They just want to see it and touch it and believe it.”
3. The mystery color treatment
There was also quite a bit of fear—not to mention head-scratching—about the GIA’s announcement that as many as 500 diamonds had been treated by an unknown process that temporarily improves their color. The initial announcement didn’t add many details; at the show, GIA officials were just as close-mouthed. When distinguished research fellow James Shigley was asked at the Accredited Gemologists Association conference if he had any other information, he said only: “No.”
4. The millennials
The millennial generation now dominates retail—including at jewelry counters. But are they more interested in tech than diamonds?
“They weren’t born when De Beers was doing their big advertising campaigns,” says Jean-Marc Lieberherr, managing director of Rio Tinto Diamonds. “And yet love is universal; the message is universal. We have to find a way to make the link.”
Retailer Linda Horrell, co-owner of MarBill Diamonds & Jewelry in Belle Vernon, Pa., says she has been experimenting with social media and digital advertising to reach younger consumers. “We struggle about how to present to millennials,” she says. “It’s such a different way of doing business.”
On Thursday, Richline Group sponsored a walk-in wearables exhibit, followed by a standing-room-only panel on the topic.
“We are only just starting to scratch the surface of this emerging category,” said Richline chief marketing officer Mark Hanna. “Wearables will become the newest major category in the jewelry industry.”
6. The return of generic diamond marketing?
The world’s leading diamond miners announced the formation of the Diamond Producers Association, a group that would, among other things, promote diamonds generically. But don’t expect a return to the old days.
“The organization will focus on areas of consumer desire,” says Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier, “but we have to recognize this isn’t going back to 20 years ago with $100 million budgets all done by De Beers.
In fact, the initial budget for the group is a modest $6 million. Still, organizers consider the new group a positive step—and long overdue. “Every other extractive industry has its own group—the Platinum Group, etc.,” says Jim Pounds, executive director of Dominion Diamond Corp. “So at last we have got there.”