10 Things Rocking the Industry

1. Las Vegas

For an industry that has ­historically resisted change, the JCK show’s move to Mandalay Bay went over rather well with attendees, 20,000 of whom descended on the new venue—a 16 percent increase over 2010. “Demand for diamonds and finished jewelry was undoubtedly the highest in years,” noted GIA senior industry analyst Russell Shor in his post-Vegas wrap-up in the GIA Insider, citing optimism about the fourth quarter, long-depleted inventories, increased cash flow, and inflationary fears that spurred many jewelers to buy now rather than wait for prices to rise later. Exhibitors up and down the Strip reported similarly strong results, but the strength of market week 2011 was born out, most persuasively, by anecdotal evidence. “It was our best JCK ever,” says designer Alishan Halebian, a show veteran. “Seeing people in the elevators, they were smiling.”

Beverly Poppe
A busy hallway at Mandalay Bay

2. Gold


At JCK Las Vegas, many moaned about the high price of gold. But if researchers at ­Standard Chartered Bank have it right, we may soon consider $1,500-an-ounce gold a bargain. The bank’s widely publicized report, “In Gold We Trust,” predicted the metal’s price could hit $5,000—more than triple its current level—by the end of the decade. The bank’s rationale: The mining industry has done little to bring on new gold mines, meaning supply will grow only 3 percent a year. When weighed against the “insatiable” hunger for gold from China and India, as well as increased demand from central banks, the per-ounce price has nowhere to go but up.

3. Nonprofits

Courtesy of JFC
JFC chair Ed Bridge speaks at the Facets of Hope gala

Come March 2012, any member of the industry will be able to raise money for ­Jewelers for Children, thanks to a monthlong promotion designed to simplify the donation effort. “We’re calling it a ‘program in a box,’” says JFC executive director David Rocha. The March for a Cause campaign was unveiled at the nonprofit’s annual Facets of Hope dinner in Las Vegas in June. Participants can go to jewelersforchildren.org starting in September to download press and advertising materials “generic enough for [everyone] to use,” Rocha explains. When March rolls around, they’ll simply need to designate a tie-in product or collection and decide what they’re willing to donate from each sale, whether it’s a discrete percentage or $10 from each watch sold during the month. “A few years ago, we started to dip our toes into cause marketing, but we struggled to find a way for everybody to ­participate,” Rocha says. “With this campaign, we’re trying to remove the barriers.”

4. Engagements

And you thought you had trouble keeping up with the Kardashians before! On May 18, the famously curvaceous socialite/reality TV star/model/jewelry designer/perfumier received a marriage proposal—and, ahem, a 20.5 ct. diamond ring—from her NBA boyfriend Kris Humphries. And the New Jersey Nets forward is no dumb jock: He went straight to Kardashian’s favorite jeweler, Lorraine Schwartz, for a ­personalized piece. (On her Facebook page, Schwartz revealed that there’s a “coded message of love for Kim engraved in the ring—along with a K ? K.”) Even Schwartz herself couldn’t resist gushing over the gobstopper-size jewel—worth a reported $2 million. After ­posting a message wishing the happy couple “the best life has to offer,” the designer added the P.S. that we were all thinking: “What a rock!”

5. Lawsuits


In December 2009, the 19-store Jewelry Exchange started seeing negative notices posted about its California stores on review sites such as Citysearch, most of which steered customers to the “downtown” Jewelry Mart in Los Angeles. On May 26, the company alleged that ­competitor Inta Gems, located in that Jewelry Mart, was behind the bad-mouthing; in legal papers provided to JCK, the Jewelry Exchange dubbed the reviews “false” and “libelous,” asserting its stores “do not sell junkie stuff, they are not a bunch of stiffs, they are not a scam or over-rated.… their prices are not sky high and their diamonds are not dirt-like, nor does the place completely suck.” A spokesman for Inta said his company still hadn’t seen the complaint in mid-June and therefore had no comment.

6. Copyrights

Courtesy of Stevie Koerner
Stevie Koerner’s United States of Love pendant

When Stevie Koerner griped about Urban Outfitters on her blog and on Twitter May 25, she had no idea the lament would soon be heard ’round the world. After years of selling her United States of Love jewelry line on Etsy.com, someone sent the Chicago designer a page from the 140-store chain’s site with the very same design. “Not cool, Urban Outfitters,” Koerner wrote. “I understand that they are a business, but it’s not cool to completely rip off an independent designer’s work.” She then added: “Feel free to pass this link on.” Many did, and eventually Koerner’s cri de coeur became the talk of Twitter. The Washington Post picked up her story; even Miley Cyrus joined the bashing. Urban Outfitters responded with evidence that others have created similar designs in the past, but the damage was done, and the piece is no longer listed on the company’s website. Meanwhile, Koerner’s business is booming. In June, she wrote that she had to temporarily close her store “to catch up on orders.”

7. Retail

In the past 10 years, no retailer has been more talked-about, studied, and flat-out envied than Apple, whose sales-per-foot ratio outranks even Tiffany & Co. On June 14, J.C. Penney announced that beginning next February, the man generally credited with having started and nurtured Apple’s gadget-selling sensation, Ron Johnson, will be its new CEO. With the market share of big mass merchandisers in decline, Johnson could be the person to provide a new blueprint for business. Wrote Doug Stephens of Retail Prophet Consulting: “The most important task is to get the people of J.C. Penney to STOP thinking like the people of J.C. Penney and, in fact, to stop thinking like retailers entirely.”

8. TV

© Lifetime Entertainment
Model/Project Runway host Heidi Klum

When we saw a casting call for ­Project Accessory—a reality show from the executive producer of Project Runway, which begins its ninth season July 27 on Lifetime—we couldn’t help but get a little giddy at the prospect of watching up-and-coming handbag, shoe, hat, belt, and jewelry ­designers claw each other’s eyes out in the hopes of launching their own lines. There’s no word on air or production dates, whether Heidi Klum will be there to say auf Wiedersehen, or if Tim Gunn will be helping the contestants “Make it work!” But if there’s any justice, there will be a few cameos from designer/PR judge Michael Kors, so we can hear some of his ­trademark bons mots. Two of our faves: “She looks like a trans­vestite flamenco dancer at a funeral” and “Next thing you know, it’s big button earrings and you’re on The Facts of Life.”

9. E-Commerce

There have been two major online ­bandwagons lately, and Amazon—the ­biggest name in e-tailing—recently jumped aboard both. On May 3, the Seattle-based Web giant launched its first flash sale site, MyHabit.com, which it says will offer “up to 60 percent” discounts on designer merchandise, including jewelry, and is accessible with an Amazon ID. A month later, it launched the daily deal site AmazonLocal, which for now mostly reposts offers from Living­Social (the Groupon competitor in which Amazon invested $150 million). While the flash sale and group deal sectors have been attracting plenty of ink, some question their staying power: In June, The New York Times reported that many brands use flash sale sites such as Gilt, Rue La La, and the like for the exposure—they don’t actually make money from those sales. As for retailers who use daily deals, according to a recent study, less than 20 percent of consumers who redeem a voucher from Groupon or a similar site ­eventually return for a full-price purchase.

10. Stats

“It does look like things have fallen back a little bit,” says Dione Kenyon, ­president of the Jewelers Board of Trade. “Things are still positive, but the momentum is slowing. Perhaps that’s the reflection of what is going on in the economy in ­general.” The big sales in the jewelry business seem concentrated at the high end, she says. “The average lower-end consumer is still worried about their job; they are under water on their mortgage and paying more for fuel and food. So those low price points remain difficult.” On the bright side, Kenyon says that bankruptcies are down and that she heard good things about the recent JCK Las Vegas show. “More people were willing to buy and take on a little risk with their businesses.”

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