Some quick thoughts from the Vegas show, based on things I’ve seen and some interesting insights people gave me:
– The traditional barriers in jewelry are fading. It used to be there were clear deliniation points between “fine” and “costume jewelry.” But now countless jewelers have embraced silver, and beads. Many jewelers are buying gold who never would have before, and are getting into enhanced diamonds and other products they may have previously shied away from.
Does this “hurt” the jewelers’ image, as many have worried? I would guess not. Recessions are not fun, but they certainly clarify things. And during this recent recession, many jewelers figured they had to expand their product line, out of simple survival. I would guess this is a long-term trend that will probably outlast this downturn.
– Rough diamond speculation is clearly with us again. No matter how good this show turns out to be — and I think we all assume it will be a marked improvement over last year’s — the U.S. market is still recovering (as opposed to “recovered”), and this run-up in rough will likely be disconnected from any gains in polished.
There has to be something wrong in this industry that, every time the industry has even a glimpse of hope, rough speculation starts again. Remember, the last bout of speculation was in the summer of 2008. Even though the economy hadn’t crashed yet, we still were in a recession, and I don’t think anyone would consider that a hopeful time.
I had a brief interview with DTC managing director Varda Shine, and she said the speculation could be related to De Beers no longer stockpiling. Whatever the cause, it feels like the industry keeps having to learn the same lesson over and over agani.
– The Kimberley Process session at the show was a pretty muddled affair, hardly representative of the passion this subject typically evokes. One panel participant even told me later that might be okay, because if people came away with the idea that “this subject is complicated,” that’s a good message. But the discussion was not able to clarify the core issues (again, that might not be possible), and I was surprised there wasn’t more questioning of the Rio Tinto representative on the panel.
More interesting, and troubling, was the session on “conflict gold.” To me, it stirred some not-so-fond memories of the early days of the “conflict diamond” issue, with the gruesome statistics, and NGO threats of protests. The activists behind this campaign were able to scare the electronic industry, and that is a far more PR-savvy industry than ours. Obviously, something must be done about this, or this industry will suffer yet another black eye.