10 Things Rocking the Industry: July–August 2014

1. Trends

Subtle, understated ­jewels were the standouts in ­collections unveiled at the 2014 Las Vegas shows. The lean geometry of Jane Taylor’s metal ­silhouettes and baguette gemstone cuts resonated with fans of restrained design, while classic yellow gold pieces at Rina Limor and ARA Collection proved the eternal appeal of pure, unadorned metal. Also of note: the continuation of negative space, Art Deco, morganite as the new opal (though opal is still going strong!), as well as wing motifs, star and crescent silhouettes, and fringe detailing. Not everyone opted for understatement, however. Judging by the bonanza of ear and hand jewelry on display, conspicuous consumption is alive and well.

2. Billionaires

Not many couples can say a world-famous billionaire helped them get engaged. During Warren Buffett’s annual stint manning the counter at Borsheims, his Berkshire Hathaway–owned Omaha, Neb., jewelry store, the first customer was a 27-year-old man buying his longtime girlfriend a diamond necklace. But Buffett declared he would find “something more interesting”: an engagement ring. The man (who had arranged everything beforehand) then got down on one knee and proposed in front of a store full of onlookers and media. When the woman eked out a yes, they celebrated with Champagne, and Buffett told the newly minted fiancée, “You can cry; it’s okay.”

Buffett breaks out the bubbly for the happy Borsheims couple.

3. Deals

Hearts On Fire has a new owner—and what an owner. In June, Chow Tai Fook, widely considered the largest jewelry company in the world with $10 billion in annual sales, announced its plan to buy all the assets of the Boston-based brand for $150 million. As part of the deal, founder and CEO Glenn Rothman will continue to run HOF as an independent division. “Chow Tai Fook has a culture of growth, and they are looking for Hearts On Fire to grow,” Rothman says. “This is the biggest opportunity—the most exciting event in my long career.… It’s beyond ­anything I ever dreamed of.”

The Chant necklace, from Chow Tai Fook’s high jewelry collection, will be auctioned to the brand’s VIP members Oct. 12. It features a 27.65 ct. oval red tourmaline cabochon, rubies, yellow and white diamonds, and tourmaline and cognac diamond slices in 18k yellow gold.

4. Auctions

The 13.22 ct. Winston Blue—the largest fancy blue vivid diamond in the world—sold at Christie’s for $23.8 million.

How hot is the auction market? On May 13, Sotheby’s Geneva raised $141 million with a single sale, taking the crown for the largest jewelry auction ever. (The champ until then: Christie’s first-night sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s baubles, which raised $114 million.) But Sotheby’s didn’t get much of a chance to savor the moment. The very next night, Christie’s snatched the title back with a Geneva sale that raised an even more incredible $154 million—and set four more world records for individual stones along the way. Two all-time milestones over two nights? Now that’s one for the books.

5. Smart Jewelry

It’s plated with 14k gold, set with a precious gem—and it can notify you about calls and emails. It’s Ringly, a new wearable that connects to a user’s iPhone or Android device via Bluetooth and emits important phone-related notifications with vibrations or a small flashing light. So it’s more than a piece of jewelry, but can it be considered a ­full-fledged gizmo? “It’s like a personal assistant telling me what to do,” says ­company cofounder Christina Mercando, a former eBay exec. “There’s something so fun about having my jewelry talk to me!”

The pink sapphire Ringly ($195); it’s also offered in emerald, black onyx, and rainbow moonstone.

6. Awards

With all the fuss over Fashion Icon Rihanna’s nearly invisible gown, you may have missed other news of the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards—including Irene Neuwirth’s Swarovski Award for Accessories win. “After college I decided to go after my lifelong dream,” Neuwirth (above) told the crowd. “Teaching horseback riding.” Fortunately, her father sat her down a few months later and suggested she pursue another goal. Neuwirth’s dad wasn’t at New York City’s Alice Tully Hall, but the designer, wearing her own turquoise and diamond pavé necklace, made this admission: “Dad, you were right.”

D Dipasupil/Getty Images
18k rose gold bracelet with Lightning Ridge opals and rose-cut diamonds; price on request (special order); Irene Neuwirth, Venice, Calif.; 310-450-6063; ireneneuwirth.com

7. Research

Blend Images/iStock

A study by public policy agency Demos found that women in retail make $4 less per hour than men. The average hourly wage is $10.58 for women and $14.58 for men. And of the 7.3 million women in retail, 1.3 ­million live in or near poverty. Demos’ proposed fix? Raise all retail workers’ wages to $25,000 per year for full-time work. That would bring 437,000 women back from the brink of poverty.

8. Designers

In a tragedy that shook the industry, New York City–based jewelry designer Robin Rotenier (above) ­reportedly took his own life just a week before the Las Vegas shows. Colleagues and friends, including the ­Jewelry Information Center’s Amanda Gizzi, recalled the loyalty he inspired in others, reflected in “how long his team of bench jewelers and office staff had been with him,” she told JCK just after his death. “He was truly passionate and good to those who were around him.” His brother, Rémy Rotenier of Rémy Design in Albuquerque, N.M., spoke to JCK about their bond: “In late April, on his last weekend at our country house outside of Paris, he discovered our childhood motorcycles and got one of them running,” Rémy said. “He was beaming as he raced around the property on this tiny bike. That is my best way to remember him.”

Sandro Art + Photography
Cufflinks in silver with peridot from the late jewelry designer Robin Rotenier

9. Trademarks


All signs suggest that Apple wants to introduce a smartwatch—but the Swatch Group isn’t exactly rolling out the welcome mat. When a Delaware company called Brightflash—which tech bloggers believe is an Apple front—tried to claim the term iWatch last year, the timepiece giant’s lawyers stood in its way, arguing that it’s too similar to its registered iSwatch. The U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that iWatch and iSwatch are not similar enough to confuse consumers, but Swatch is appealing, vowing to fight the iWatch registration wherever Apple tries to claim it.

10. Stats

Small business optimism rose in May for the third consecutive month—­hitting 96, the highest since  September 2007, prerecession. But National Federation of ­Independent Business chief economist Bill Dunkelberg says there’s still “no sign of a surge,” and the numbers continue to fall below those of a traditional expansion. In fact, while overall mood has improved, small business job creation and capital spending fell in May.

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