10 Things Rocking the Industry



1. Watches

In the watch business, the term limited edition carries an ambiguous meaning, making it susceptible to misuse. There is, however, no mistaking the limited nature of the 40 one-off timepieces in the Only Watch auction, which took place in Monaco on Sept. 23 and raised $6.3 million to support research on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The models—donated by the world’s best watch­makers—included a fanciful Flying Panda timepiece by MB&F in collaboration with Chinese artist Huang Hankang, the sleek black-on-black Richard Mille RM 027 Tourbillon worn by Rafael Nadal when he won the 2011 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tennis championships, and the ultimate collector bait: Patek Philippe Ref. 3939, a minute repeater and tourbillon that brought in $1.9 million alone.

2. Auctions


With this ring, Marilyn wed the Yankee Clipper.

Can’t make it to New York City for Christie’s Elizabeth Taylor jewelry sale Dec. 13–14? Hit the West Coast to buy a bauble owned by another silver-screen star. The wedding ring Marilyn Monroe received from hubby No. 2, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, will be sold in Profiles in History’s “Icons of Holly­wood” auction Dec. 15–17. It’s a platinum eternity band with 35 baguette-cut diamonds; even with one gem missing, the piece is expected to fetch $300,000–$500,000. Also on the block: Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, which are estimated at $2 million–$3 million. And they aren’t even real rubies!

 

3. Politics

When an actress flaunts $1 million in designer diamonds at the Oscars, it’s de rigueur. When Michelle Obama dons three borrowed bracelets that together probably cost less than the average SUV, it’s a mini-scandal. At a Democratic National Committee fund­raiser in New York City Sept. 21, the first lady dressed up her tuxedo-style gown with Katie Decker diamond bangles—and was promptly dressed down by conservatives for wearing so much sparkle. The upside to this kerfuffle? All the press for Houston-based up-and-comer Decker. Next thing you know, she’ll be doing a line for Target.

4. Television

Jeff Green
Mordechai Yerushalmi

There seems to be a reality show about every career under the sun, so why not one about a jeweler? Get ready for Vegas Rocks, which recently filmed a pilot for ­Lifetime. Centered on the day-to-day goings-on at Las Vegas retailer The ­Jewelers, the series “will look at the creation of special orders,” says owner Mordechai Yerushalmi, who ­previously appeared on Storage Wars. Yerushalmi’s store Rocks the Jewelers in Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel was featured in the December 2010 issue of JCK.

 

 

5. Diamonds

iStockphoto

The Kimberley Process, already deadlocked for two years over whether to allow the export of goods from Zimbabwe’s Marange region, was dealt yet another blow Sept. 22 when the participating Civil Society Coalition announced it would boycott the KP’s November Plenary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An email from the coalition, which includes Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada, said members were considering “a range of options…including complete withdrawal from the scheme.” The NGOs fear the meeting will end “all meaningful oversight” of Marange, and are further disappointed by the scheme’s reluctance to adopt institutional reforms. Even so, the groups said they remain committed “to [improving] the lives of people in diamond-mining communities.”

6. DeBeers

For decades, De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company has been synonymous with its stately headquarters on London’s Charterhouse Street. But on Sept. 16, De Beers announced that the entire DTC—including its famed 10-times-a-year sights—will relocate to Botswana by the end of 2013 as part of a new 10-year agreement between De Beers and its largest producing partner. (The legal, accounting, and Forevermark departments will remain in London.) DTC managing director Varda Shine says the move will impact about 150 employees. But the DTC’s new home will require adjustments as well; capital Gaborone currently lacks enough hotels to house the clients due to make regular visits.

7. Celebs

Last year Lady Gaga arrived at an amfAR gala with pearls covering her (poker) face. Now she’s gone and blinged out her incisors. The singer/style icon unveiled a diamond-encrusted smile in a short film at Thierry Mugler’s Spring 2012 Paris Fashion Week show. No word on whether Gaga kept her two iced-out choppers, but for any Little Monsters hoping to emulate her, be warned: Your dental plan isn’t likely to approve them.

8. Demographics

No company knows the American middle-class consumer better than Procter & Gamble. However, according to an article in the Sept. 12 Wall Street Journal, the consumer-goods powerhouse recently reached a ­shocking conclusion: The U.S. middle class is fading away, with this country’s income inequality ratio now comparable to Mexico’s. Economists call this the ­“hourglass economy”—big on top, big on the bottom, but not much in between. In the jewelry industry, the phenomenon has manifested itself in the disappearance of so-called “mass affluent” shoppers. These customers, with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000, were once major buyers of luxury goods. But no more, says a recent study quoted in TheStreet.com, which claims the purchasing power of this group has “all but disappeared.”

9. Bourses

For those who think democracy in Washington, D.C., looks dysfunctional, behold the mess at New York City’s Diamond Dealers Club . Moshe Mosbacher—who served as president of America’s largest bourse for two years—resigned Sept. 20, ­following the publication of a scathing article in the Israeli newsletter Diamond Intelligence Briefs, which charged him with, among other things, ­receiving a $100,000 loan from the board at a time when the bourse was ­running a ­deficit. Mosbacher called the furor “all politics,” but said he was resigning for the “good of the club.” Meanwhile, new president Reuven Kaufman, elected by the board days after Mosbacher’s departure, swears the 47th Street institution can right itself. “The DDC is here to stay,” he says. “We are not giving up.”

10. Stats

Source: Unity Marketing and the Bureau of Economic Analysis

The jewelry business has recovered from the recession, says Unity Marketing president Pam Danziger, with overall consumer spending hitting pre-2008 levels. Still, the luxury expert cautions the market has changed dramatically, with more pieces sold via nontraditional venues. “Independent and chain stores have lost market share,” Danziger says. “Consumers are turning more to the Internet, as well as discounters like Costco and Walmart.” The answer for mom-and-pops, she says, is to shake things up: Bead line Pandora “has been successful because…they thought outside the traditional jewelry paradigm.” ­Jewelers, she adds, “can’t continue to do business the same old ways. You have to think differently.”