10 Things Rocking the Industry: April 2014

1. Shows

That Hong Kong is a—if not the—nexus of the global jewelry business was crystal clear at the 31st edition of the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, held March 5–9 at the city’s soaring harborside convention center. Home to 3,850 exhibitors (up from 3,341 in 2013) from 53 countries and regions, the show has grown so big that organizers at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council divided the event for the first time across two venues, with loose stone and pearl dealers moving to AsiaWorld Expo, near the airport. And in a development befitting its place at the intersection of worldwide jewelry supply and demand, the show welcomed a record-breaking Italian contingent, including vendors of tools and machinery, who believe sales to the Chinese market will trump any potential competitive threats. “So we are not competing anymore,” said Corrado Facco, managing director of Fiera di Vicenza. “Well, okay, we compete on products, beauty, collections—but we have to promote the business globally and for that, we have alliances.”

2. Betting

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The safety-scoring (Super Bowl–winning) Seahawks

Before the Feb. 2 Super Bowl, Gardendale, Ala., jeweler Jeff Dennis bet that if either team scored a safety, his store, Jeff Dennis Jewelers, would refund all purchases made in the prior two weeks. So when the Seattle Seahawks scored one in the first 12 seconds, that meant 461 lucky customers would get their money back. And Dennis has had to pay out in two prior bets: in 2012, when Alabama shut out Auburn during the Iron Bowl; and in 2013, when it rained more than an inch on Labor Day. Because insurance covers all of it, Dennis is as happy as his customers: “I was running around like I had won the Super Bowl.”

3. Majors

Zales’ cushion-cut lab-created blue and white sapphire ring; $219

It may be the biggest news to hit the industry in a decade: Longtime ferocious competitors Signet and Zale are getting hitched, in a transaction valued at $1.4 billion. (Signet is paying Zale $21 a share, a 41 percent premium over the company’s Feb. 18 closing.) Signet will acquire all the elements of Zale Corp.—the Zales chain, Gordon’s Jewelers, ­Piercing Pagoda, and Zale Canada (Peoples and Mappins)—meaning it will be not only the leading jeweler in the United States and United Kingdom, but Canada as well. The sale is expected to be completed by year’s end; when that happens, Signet will control 3,653 retail locations—1,974 from Signet and 1,679 from Zale—making it the largest jeweler in the world, and possibly ever.

4. Red Carpet

Blanchett’s earrings—featuring 62 white opals set in white diamond pavé and white gold—gave us a sneak peek at Chopard’s 2014 Red Carpet Collection.

The morning after the Oscars, there’s always one piece of jewelry everyone can’t stop talking about. Last year it was Jennifer ­Lawrence’s backlace. This year, it’s the headband. As soon as she glided onto the red carpet in a custom the-blue-reminded-me-of-Nairobi Prada gown, supporting-actress winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and her twinkling yellow gold and diamond Fred Leighton headpiece emerged as the evening’s undisputed stars. Another big winner: best actress Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), more luminous than ever in Chopard opal drops. And the backlace was back! American Hustle nominee J. Law, aglow in Neil Lane diamonds, turned the beads around once again.

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Left: Cate Blanchett, radiant in Chopard opals; right: Lupita Nyong’o in the famous Fred Leighton headband

5. Colors

These Bochic yellow sapphire starburst earrings ($5,800) coordinate perfectly with Misted Yellow.

The almighty color ­authority Pantone has spoken once again, this time to proclaim the fall color palette. The season will be guided by “an artful collection of colors and combinations not bound by the usual hues for fall,” Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said in a statement. Expect to see the organization’s color of the year, the purply-pink Radiant Orchid, remain in good standing, but be sure to make way for the season’s other top shades: Sangria, Aurora Red, Mauve Mist, Cypress, Bright Cobalt, Royal Blue, Aluminum, Cognac, and Misted Yellow. They don’t call Pantone the color mafia for nothing.

6. Advertising

We’ve heard about ­minimalism in advertising, but the Valentine’s Day billboard from J.R. Dunn Jewelers in Lighthouse Point, Fla.—it ­simply says “Brad Loves Melissa,” next to the store’s logo—may set a new standard. Every Feb. 14, a local man has declared his love for his wife in a public display; this year, he asked to put his ­romantic message on J.R. Dunn’s premier billboard on I-95. The store eagerly agreed, says marketing manager Julie Izanec: “I think it will ­create a buzz. People driving by will think: Who are Brad and Melissa? And where is the Rolex watch?”

7. Environmentalism

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Alaska’s Bristol Bay

Tiffany & Co. has always made clear that it’s not a fan of Pebble, the proposed gold and copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Now, CEO Michael J. Kowalski is calling on his fellow jewelers to oppose the mine, ­citing an Environmental Protection Agency assessment that said it presents “numerous risks” to the area’s salmon and wetlands. “We recognize our businesses depend upon a healthy mining industry for the precious materials we use,” Kowalski wrote in an open letter to industry members. “But we also know there are certain magnificent places where mines should never be built. Bristol Bay is one such place.”

8. Gold


One night last year, a Northern California couple was walking their dog in their backyard when they saw an old can sticking out of the ground. That can—and the five others discovered nearby—contained 1,427 century-old gold coins, all in mint condition, and worth an estimated $10 million. Amidst the ensuing media frenzy, the couple has chosen to remain anonymous, not wanting their property to be overrun with treasure hunters. But in an interview with Kagin, the coin dealer handling the sale, the woman offered this sound advice: “Don’t be above bending over to check on a rusty can.”

9. Diamonds

It’s one thing for a mine to produce one 160-plus ct. diamond. But two—in a month? That’s what happened to Gem Diamonds, owner of the Letšeng mine in Lesotho, which unearthed two mega-rocks in January: a 162.06 ct. Type II diamond and a 161.74 ct. Type I diamond. The rocks are “exceptional,” says spokeswoman Sherryn Tedder, adding that Type IIs from Letšeng have generally resulted in D flawless stones. They were sold in March at a tender for $13 million total.

Above and left: the two 160-plus ct. mega diamonds

10. Stats

The Jewelers Board of Trade’s annual statistics show the jewelry industry is undeniably shrinking, with more ­businesses exiting the trade than entering. The good news is, it’s ­shrinking less. And while business discontinuances dropped 18.5 percent, most of those exits were by retail jewelers, ­followed by manufacturers.

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