10 Things Rocking the Industry: April 2015

1. Awards

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2015 is the Year of the Sheep. But after the Feb. 22 Academy Awards, we’d like to officially declare it the Year of the Necklace. From Cate Blanchett’s Tiffany Blue Book turquoise, aquamarine, and diamond bib to Scarlett Johansson’s 2,000-crystal Swarovski collar, from Zoe Saldana’s $1 million 100 ct. Neil Lane platinum and diamond dazzler to Viola Davis’ Van Cleef & Arpels dangly pearl choker, their variety was even more impressive than their abundance. Not a necklace person? No problem. Margot Robbie’s Van Cleef & Arpels sapphire and diamond Zip Antique Colombine jewel transforms into a bracelet with a tug of the zipper.

2. Celebrities

Fans have been going, um, gaga over singer Lady Gaga’s engagement to actor Taylor ­Kinney—particularly over the very un–Gaga-like ring: a heart-shape solitaire from designer Lorraine Schwartz. The undercarriage features an open metal heart and diamond accents; plus—on the diamond-studded band—the couple’s initials, T?S, also in diamonds. (Little Monsters may not know Gaga’s first name is ­Stefani.) The “Bad Romance” singer called the ­personalization “my favorite part.”

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Samsung

Stewart Cook/Rex Features for AP Photo
Lady Gaga can’t keep a poker face when she’s with Taylor Kinney—or when she’s talking about her engagement ring!

3. Trends

The names Stormy Weather and Dried Herb sound more like candle scents than ­colors—though they are ­actually trending hues for fall. Pantone picked 10 shades in its semiannual Fashion Color Report, which also included Marsala, the 2015 Color of the Year. (Desert Sage, Oak Buff, and Reflecting Pond are a few of the other autumnal hues.) Pantone Color Institute ­executive director Leatrice Eiseman calls the palette “truly unisex,” adding that the choices nod to a range of inspiring decades (from the 1920s to the ’60s and ’70s) while remaining “innately easy to wear by both women and men.”

Earrings in 18k gold with 15 mm–16 mm golden South Sea pearls, 3.37 cts. t.w. yellow diamonds, and 4.29 cts. t.w. diamonds; price on request; Yoko London, NYC; 212-819-9400; yokolondon.com  

4. Diamonds

Each year, diamond-hunting visitors flock to the 37-acre Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Ark., hoping the odds will be in their favor. They were for Dean Filppula, an offshore steward from Shreveport, La., who found a 2.01 ct. ­yellow diamond on Feb. 3. As it turned out, the diamond field had been recently plowed and a rainstorm had churned things up further. “Anyone could have found it, but Mr. Filppula was in the right place at the right time,” said park interpreter ­Wayman Cox. The stone, which Filppula named the Merf Diamond after his mother’s initials, was the park’s 20th diamond find of the year and the largest so far. More than 75,000 diamonds have been discovered since the park opened in 1906.

5. Auctions

For about $20 million, this Ultimate diamond could be yours!

It’s being billed as the Ultimate Emerald-Cut Diamond—and it just might be. This month, Sotheby’s is putting a 100.2 ct. D internally flawless up for sale in New York City, making it the largest classic emerald cut ever auctioned. (It’s also one of only five diamonds of that size and quality to ever hit the block.) Gary Schuler, head of the Sotheby’s jewelry department, raves about the gem’s transparency: “I can only compare it to a pool of icy water.” The gem is expected to fetch $19 million–$25 million.

6. Retailers

Janet Goldman at Fragments

Two well-known independents—and industry institutions—are closing up shop (literally). Fragments, the New York City store that for years nurtured and developed young design talent, closed in February, as founder Janet Goldman was ready to move on. “There is never a good time to do something like this, but I figured this time was as good as any,” she says. “It took a lot of soul-searching, but I knew it was time for a change.” We heard much the same from Gary Gordon, the gregarious CEO of 111-year-old Samuel Gordon Jewelers in Oklahoma City. “This is my 46th year,” he says. “It’s just time.”

7. Lab-Grown Gems

The 5.11 ct. man-made diamond

Synthetic diamonds still may not be that much of a factor in the ­marketplace, but the technology behind them seems to be improving. In February, Russian lab-grown diamond manufacturer New Diamond Technology announced it had grown a 5.11 ct. diamond, which it bills as the largest man-made polished near-colorless stone ever produced. The radiant-cut type IIa diamond was produced by the high-pressure, ­high-temperature (HPHT) method; the company called it a K SI but had not yet sent it to a lab. Still, while experts called growing a diamond that size an impressive achievement, they wondered how repeatable it is and whether the stone is commercially salable.

8. Advertising

A spoon! You shouldn’t have!

We believe most women prefer diamond-ice to the cream variety. Yet Dairy Queen’s new commercial—which premiered during Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl—is a near-perfect parody of jewelry ads, featuring a by-the-fire couple, tinkling soundtrack, and surprised bride-to-be, who instead of a piece of jewelry receives the chain’s familiar red spoon. (She cries and calls her mother regardless.) Many viewers, including those in the industry, found it hilarious, though one tweeter discerned a far colder message: “Dairy Queen to viewers: Him sharing an ice cream cake with you is the same as getting engaged. Accept your fate.”

9. E-Commerce

Blue Nile’s Truly Zac Posen bezel-set pavé halo diamond engagement ring; starting at $4,050

Blue Nile, which once told consumers, “You’re too smart to shop at a jewelry store,” now says it’s actually smarter to open one. The e-tailer, which recently experimented with boutiques in two Nordstroms, will soon debut its first brick-and-mortar store. While the company hasn’t made details available, CEO ­Harvey Kanter told analysts the “showcase store” will have a “unique format” and will be located in “one of the top malls from a top developer.” Despite this, he swore that Blue Nile, which has seen profits hit by low margins, will keep “overhead costs low and [maintain] our superior price advantage.” Perhaps, but skeptics say the company will have to be awfully smart.

10. Stats

Consolidation continued in the jewelry industry, as business closings skyrocketed some 30 percent in 2014. But very few of these were bankruptcies, says JBT president Dione Kenyon. “People are choosing not to go through the bankruptcy process,” she says. “It’s expensive, and why do that if you don’t think you are going to come out the other side?” Instead, many businesses just figured it’s time to call it a day, she says.