10 Things Rocking the Industry

1. Luxury

In Romanov-era ­Russia, Peter Carl Fabergé’s gem-encrusted Easter eggs were the ultimate symbols of imperial glitz and glamour. The October Revolution of 1917 put an end to all that bourgeois extravagance. But the real blow to Fabergé’s legacy came in 1951, when the ­family, unable to afford a protracted legal battle, lost the right to use its name to an American ­corporation. Fans of the legendary jeweler’s work were resigned to living vicariously through the Russian oligarchs—the only ones who could afford to buy the remaining eggs at auction. Or so it seemed. Then in 2007, Pallinghurst Resources, a London-based mining investment company, bought back the Fabergé name and began ­plotting the firm’s triumphant return. In July, ­during Paris Couture Week, the brand unveiled the first ­one-of-a-kind couture egg pendants in a series of 12. Retail salons in London and New York City—where a new generation of Fabergé ­devotees will be able to commission ­personalized pendants—are soon to follow.

2. Marriage

Eternity band with 0.87 ct. t.w. diamonds and sapphires in 18k white gold; $3,590; A. Jaffe, New York City; 212-447-7061; ajaffe.com

When same-sex marriage was legalized in New York state on June 24, local jewelers, regardless of their political persuasions, had the same thought: new customers. In July, the New York City 47th Street Business Improvement District held a press event to encourage same-sex couples to shop in the diamond district. (“We welcome everybody,” executive director Michael Grumet told JCK.) Suppliers have joined the cause as well. A. Jaffe, for example, is making an explicit push for the same-sex market with a ­collection of rings designed for self-purchasers. A report from the New York State Senate Democratic conference ­estimates the state could receive up to $311 million in revenue over the next three years from the flood of gay weddings.

3. Royals

Chris Jackson/Getty Images
The Duke and Duchess display their new Canadian ice.

Courtesy of Harry Winston

On their tour through Canada, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge received many gifts of goodwill: hockey jerseys, cooking lessons, even a fireworks show. But the people of the Northwest Territories went all out, presenting Prince William and his blushing bride, Kate, with almost 8 cts. of diamond polar-bear jewelry. (The arctic animal is the region’s official logo.) The Harry Winston–designed brooch and cufflinks reportedly took 250 hours to craft, and incorporate nearly 700 stones from the Territories’ Diavik Diamond Mine. We’re expecting the QVC knockoff any day now.

 4. Mobile

TAG Heuer will be launching the first Swiss luxury touch-screen smartphone—the TAG Heuer Link—in TAG Heuer retailers. The TAG Heuer Link, which runs on the Android operating system, is composed of classic watch components: Its body is engineered like the case of a TAG watch, and the screws on the handset’s reinforced chassis are similar to the casebacks of TAG Heuer chronographs. Retail prices will range from $6,000 to $24,000; at press time, the company had no official release date. 

5. Beads

Rogan Coles/Getty Images

Pandora Group chairman Allan Leighton had no time for standard corporate niceties in his Aug. 2 teleconference following the company’s decision to fire its CEO and restate its revenue projections. The latest results from the Danish charm maker—which until now has been a darling of the industry—are ­“unacceptable,” Leighton thundered. “There is no excuse for them. They reflect poor execution.” Leighton called Pandora’s problems “all self-inflicted,” and pinned the blame on outgoing chief exec Mikkel Vendelin Olesen and the decision to hike prices at a time when ­consumers remain value-conscious. “This company requires a reset back to its mass-market, affordable luxury ­positioning,” he said. But he warned that any ­turnaround would take time: Whereas the company once projected 30 percent growth in 2011, now it thinks revenues will be flat.

6. Awards

Skipping Stone earrings with 10.40 cts. t.w. diamonds, Australian Jundah opals, and Cocobolo wood in 18k rose gold; $29,800; K. Brunini Jewels, Solana Beach, Calif.; 858-259-8779; kbrunini.com

Every summer, the who’s who of the jewelry industry gather at Manhattan’s Pier 60 for the annual Awards for Excellence gala organized by the Women’s Jewelry Association. In addition to honoring three Hall of Fame Award winners, the organization fetes nine women in categories from design to marketing: Katey ­Brunini Marotta of K. Brunini Jewels was named fine jewelry designer of the year. ­Cartier’s Debbie K. Sloane took honors in the Retail–15 Stores or More division, while Maria Piano of Shreve & Co. won in the Retail– Fewer Than 15 Stores category. In a sign of the times, WJA added a Retail–Non-Traditional category, selecting Diane Irvine of Blue Nile as the first recipient. Women of the jewelry world, we salute you!

7. Pawnshops

Pawngo.com hopes to lure upscale clientele who may avoid brick-and-mortar loan establishments.

The Internet pawn business may be going big-time. In June, the former InternetPawn.com was rechristened Pawngo and relaunched with a glossy face-lift, thanks in part to money from Lightbank, the fund backed by the founders of Groupon. The site works like this: Sellers send in an item description, including a photo; an appraiser issues a preliminary offer; if that’s accepted, the item is FedExed free to Pawngo, which then makes a formal offer. CEO Todd Hills, who owned the chain Jumping Jack Cash, tells JCK he hopes to lure more upscale clientele who may be too skittish to enter a traditional loan establishment. “When I owned shops, I would see affluent consumers on an occasional basis,” he says. “But no matter how nice my stores were, they were uncomfortable.” So far, he says, the plan is working: Pawngo’s average loan is $2,400. In his brick-and-mortar chain, it was $125.

8. Designers

Courtesy of AGS
AGS Lifetime Achievement Award winners Sybil and David Yurman

After watching Lifetime Achievement Award winners David and Sybil Yurman banter playfully for five minutes—at one point mock-bickering over who should get the microphone—American Gem Society president Cathy Calhoun declared, “You should take that act on the road.” But the industry’s “first couple of design” also touched attendees at the AGS Circle of Distinction dinner July 26 at New York City’s Plaza Hotel. Sybil, chief marketing officer of her husband’s company, thanked the ­industry for supporting them. And David likened the jewelry business to a family: “There is an amazing feeling of love and acceptance…that one would never expect to find in an industry, ” he said. “We are honored to be part of this world.”

9. Watches

The new Centigraphe Sport from Geneva’s F.P. Journe

Two years ago, the Swiss watch industry was awash with doomsday prophecies. Exports of high-end timepieces had declined by double digits in six of the top 10 markets compared with the previous year. Suppliers were forecasting a slump on par with the devastating crisis of the 1970s. Judging by the latest figures released by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, however, watchmakers make spectacularly bad psychics. Exports grew again in the first half of 2011 to 8.7 billion francs—a 19.3 percent increase over the first half of 2010. At 24.3 percent, Asia saw the lion’s share of growth, but the United States registered a respectable 16.6 percent increase. “Over $20,000 is very strong,” says Ammar Murad, general manager of Manfredi in Greenwich, Conn. He confirmed that business has improved, but not for the obvious reasons: “We’re in competition with China for goods; availability is challenged, and that’s creating demand.”

10. Stats

Jewelers Board of Trade president Dione Kenyon notes that although the JBT statistics show improvement, she is “a little uneasy.… The numbers are not going backwards. But they aren’t getting better at the same rate that they were, which wasn’t a high rate to begin with.” She continues: “While major retailers are buying and continuing with their plans to put merchandise in their stores, the independents seem more impacted by the uncertain economic news. I am seeing more of a yellow light now than a green light.”

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