10 Things Rocking the Industry: February 2014

1. Auctions

The mines of Golconda, India, have produced some of the world’s most famous gems: the Hope, the Koh-i-Noor—and the appropriately named 52 ct. D-color internally flawless Golconda. On Dec. 10, the eponymous stone hit the auction block at ­Christie’s New York and fetched an impressive $10.9 million, or $207,600 per carat—just the latest eyebrow-raising hammer price in a year full of them.

2. Partnerships

Blue Nile took a surprising step into the non-cyber world with its holiday venture: a Wedding Suite at Nordstrom’s Seattle flagship featuring more than 150 Blue Nile ­engagement and wedding rings. While the e-tailer doesn’t sell diamonds at Nordstrom—a rep directs shoppers to BlueNile.com—the venture may be seen as a tacit admission that brick-and-­mortar stores enjoy some advantages. “Some customers want to get up close and personal with jewelry before buying,” chief merchandising officer Julie Yoakum told The Seattle Times.

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Blue Nile + Nordstrom: a happy marriage?

3. Curses

Behold the world’s “unluckiest engagement ring.”

Comparejewellery.com asked nearly 2,000 divorced or separated women about their engagement rings. Turns out they were most likely to wear a white gold and diamond band with a large square-cut stone, which the site dubbed the world’s “unluckiest engagement ring.” Yet a Pennsylvania man claims his ring is even more fearsome. In a Craigslist post, he said his $1,800 1.5 cts. t.w. 14k white gold diamond ring “leaves a path of destruction behind it.” At press time, it hadn’t sold. His backup plan? Throwing it “into the fires of Mordor.”

4. Awards

You’ve heard us say that yellow gold is back. Apparently Hollywood got the memo as well. At the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 12, the trophies weren’t the gilded prizes on parade. Countless super-chic stars sparkled in yellow gold jewels: Julianna ­Margulies in a Van Cleef & Arpels pinky ring, chandelier earrings, and chain-link tassel bracelet; Naomi Watts in a Bulgari Serpenti bracelet and diamond choker; Julia Louis-­Dreyfus in Fred Leighton vintage drop earrings and a 19th-century Etruscan gold and pearl bracelet; Lupita Nyong’o in Leighton diamond rings; Emilia Clarke in stacked Sidney Garber bangles…and the list goes on. Now, let’s see what we can do about issuing a red-carpet ban on stud earrings, shall we?

Steve Granitz/Getty Images

Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Naomi Watts glitters in a Bulgari gold and diamond collar and Serpenti bracelet.

5. Search

Marina chain necklace in 18k yellow gold; $22,900; Gucci, NYC; 201-867-8800; guccitimeless.com

The oracle has spoken. Google revealed in its annual Google Trends report that Gucci, Kendra Scott, and Sucre were its most searched jewelry brands in 2013. Rounding out the top 10: ­Jennifer Meyer, Jennifer Fisher, Better Late Than Never, Gemfields, Latest Revival, Suzannah Wainhouse, and Winifred Grace. In the apparel category, Kohl’s topped the most-searched-for brands and retailers list, followed by J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, Forever 21, and Victoria’s Secret. Who knows if prime placement on Amy Adams in American Hustle helped boost Gucci’s jewelry profile—but we’re sure it didn’t hurt.

6. Wearable Tech

The proposed smart ring, which creators say will retail for $275

Have smartwatches already become passé? The stainless steel unisex smart ring, the brainchild of engineers from Chennai, India, was introduced in December on crowd-funding site Indiegogo; at press time, the project had raised $300,000—several times its $40,000 goal. While creators admit they haven’t yet produced a prototype, they say their product will let users read texts, control music volume, and check Facebook and Twitter. But is the world ready for a piece of jewelry out of Dick Tracy?

7. Security


Right before Christmas, Target suffered possibly the largest security breach in U.S. retail history when hackers gained “unauthorized access” to 40 million of its customers’ credit cards. As an apology, Target offered shoppers 10 percent off during the weekend before the holiday, but the company clearly suffered an enormous black eye. Jeff Corey of Day’s Jewelers in Maine, whose site was hacked two years ago, blames American credit cards and their easy-to-counterfeit magnetic strips: “Until we are using something that is far more secure, all of us should expect to get breached,” he says.

8. Shows

18k gold-plated silver tiara with 18.66 cts. t.w. diamonds; $11,000; United Gemco, NYC; 212-840-9380; unitedgemco.com

Forgive us if we’re just a little excited for JCK Events’ desert debut Feb. 3–8 at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa—the only finished jewelry show to rock Gem Week. When you’re browsing the 120 exhibitors, don’t miss the themed buying days such as fashion, silver, and luxury, not to mention the end-of-day tequila happy hour. And if you’re feeling guilty about eating all that delicious Mexican food, sign up for the Jewelers for Children: Rings of Strength tour (ringsofstrength.org) on Feb. 5. Walk, run, or bike through the Sonora Desert…then start your buying and tequila-tasting all over again the next day.

9. Holiday

Dougal Waters/Getty Images

Yes, it’s still very much a mixed economy. But consumers turned out for Christmas 2013, with most analysts estimating 2 to 3 percent growth in holiday sales over 2012. Even better, MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse—which compiles data based on credit charges—declared jewelry “the best performing category” for the holiday. And e-commerce continued its dramatic growth spurt: Online shopping jumped 10 ­percent, according to ­comScore, with traffic to jewelry sites ­climbing 23 percent in November.

10. Stats

Gold’s bull run has ended. After 11 years during which only the sky seemed to be the limit, the yellow metal’s price fell 27 percent in 2013, marking its biggest decline in more than 30 years. Most analysts blamed the Federal Reserve’s decision to ease bond buying—as well as a steep April crash that tarnished bullion’s reputation as a store of value. Where the price goes in 2014 is anyone’s guess—analysts are mixed—but sinking savings into bullion now looks a lot more risky. As one strategist told CNBC: “I wouldn’t buy gold with my worst enemy’s money.”