10 Things Rocking the Industry: June 2014

1. Auctions

The Hutton-Mdivani necklace is often called the “greatest jadeite bead necklace in the world”—and it’s easy to see why. It features 27 translucent, color-matched, bright green jadeite beads, ranging in size from 15.4 mm to 19.2 mm. At two prior auctions, the necklace set a record price for jadeite jewelry; on April 6, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, it happened again. The winning bidder—a company called Cartier (which, decades ago, designed the clasp)—paid $27.44 million after a frenzied 20 minutes of bidding that an auction house exec called “one of the most thrilling salesroom competitions ever.”

2. Conclave

Courtesy of American Gem Society
Magic Johnson shows off a Forevermark diamond lapel pin.

The American Gem Society (AGS) scored a slam-dunk with its opening speaker, basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, at its annual Conclave this year at the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif., April 22–26. The business mogul graciously posed for smartphone pics as he snaked his way around the ballroom while delivering a motivational speech punctuated by anecdotes from his youth, when “everyone told me there was no way I could be 6 feet 9 inches and play a point guard.” He challenged AGS members to reconnect with their passion for business: “All of us have been in business a long time,” he said. “Are you still bringing the fire every single day?”

3. Designers

His full name was Michael Bogosian. But everyone in the trade knew the yellow-­jacketed jeweler as Michael B. And when he died on April 8 at age 64, the industry lost one of its most respected designers. Born in Istanbul of Armenian descent, Bogosian started on the bench at age 12; he immigrated to America a few years later with $50 in his pocket, and through hard work and love of his craft built the bridal business that bore (most of) his name. “Jewelry represents true beauty,” he told CIRCA’s blog, “the earthy metals, the natural stones, but most important, what ­happens when we combine the two to make wearable art.”

Left: the inimitable Michael Bogosian; right: wedding bands from Michael B’s Quintessa collection

4. Fashion

A 2014 Marchesa runway look

“If Fashion Week is like high school,” Vogue wrote recently, “Marchesa is the prom queen. She doesn’t even have to compete…she just prettily reigns.” Now, the celebrity-favored gown and evening-wear brand is trying its luck in the jewelry biz, inking a deal with Prestige Jewelry International to ­create a line of high-end bridal pieces, with $2,000–$20,000 price points. The first two Marchesa jewelry collections will debut exclusively at Macy’s; after that, the partners hope to take the ­collaboration global.

5. Festivals

Ring in 18k white gold with amethyst, blue sapphires, pink sapphires, rubies, and Paraiba tourmaline; price on request; Chopard, NYC; 800-CHOPARD; chopard.com

If it’s May, it means the Cannes Film Festival, along with the debut of a new Chopard Red Carpet collection. For the 67th edition of the annual cinematic ­celebration, Chopard crafted, naturally, 67 pieces with vividly hued gems such as amethyst, emerald, ­sapphire, Paraiba, tsavorite, and, of course, plenty of diamonds. The house said it drew inspiration from “the ­glamour and the voluptuous beauty” of the Italian actresses of the 1950s and 1960s. The guest of honor at this year’s fest? ­Appropriately enough, ’60s Italian screen siren Sophia Loren.

6. Diamonds

Moussa with his missing diamond

A $50 million stone doesn’t just disappear—or does it? Geneva authorities are reportedly investigating South African diamond trader Sylla Moussa’s claim that his 50.66 ct. pink vanished while in the custody of ­shipper Malca-Amit. “I will not leave until I have found my diamond,” he told Swiss TV. Malca-Amit says Moussa knows where his stone is, as he personally oversaw its transfer to another dealer in 2008 in the presence of witnesses.

7. Lawsuits

Karsten Moran/The New York Times
Plaintiffs Nina Shahmirzadi, Christy Meierdiercks, Lisa McConnell, Linda Rhodes, and Dawn Souto-Coons

In March, a federal judge dismissed a 6-year-old bias complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Sterling Jewelers. But the allegations that America’s largest jeweler discriminates against women haven’t gone away. Later that month, The New York Times reported that 12 former and current employees have brought arbitration proceedings against the company; their suit, which seeks class action status, charges that the owner of Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry pays female employees less than their male counterparts and tolerates an atmosphere of sexual harassment. The company says the charges are groundless. “Fairness, equal opportunity, and respect for our female employees, and all employees,” said spokesman David Bouffard, “are central to who we are.”

8. Museums

The lost (and found) New Mexico Museum rough diamond

It was such an unremarkable stone, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque didn’t give much thought to its security. That is, until early April, when a slick-fingered thief stole the 3 ct. piece of diamond rough from a museum exhibit on volcanoes. Once the rock was discovered missing, director of exhibits production Mike Pierce put out the word to local jewelers. Eventually one reported he had bought the stone for $400. The museum has recovered its not-that-valuable exhibit (it’s now tucked away in a safe), and police are investigating. “To take something away from a kid who might want to learn something,” Pierce says, “that’s pretty low.”

9. Discounters

Getting your engagement ring from Groupon doesn’t exactly scream “romance.” Maybe that’s why the Chicago-based e-tailer used the debut of its Wedding Shop to dangle what it deemed a dynamite deal: a princess-cut 1-carater (H-I color, I1-I2 clarity) in 14k gold for $999—a purported discount of $10,300, or 91 percent. Though 30 were sold, JCKonline commenters weren’t buying it, griping that the item’s $11,299 “list price” was inflated. Wrote one: “This makes all of the rest of us look like a bunch of greedy thieves.”

Would you buy a ring like this from Groupon? Thirty people did.

10. Stats

Retail sales saw healthy gains in March, showing a 1.1 percent jump over February, outpacing most projections. Now observers hope that, after harsh weather kept consumers home during part of the winter, sunnier days lie ahead. Said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist of the National Retail Federation: “We remain optimistic that retail sales will continue their positive march this spring.”

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