10 Things Rocking the Industry: June 2015

1. Shows

Change is coming to JCK Las Vegas. With a new floor plan divided into 21 neighborhoods designed to give more space to the most-trafficked areas—including a fashion jewelry pavilion dubbed Now/Next—the show, which is celebrating its fifth year at Mandalay Bay, is evolving to reflect the new realities of the jewelry business. Trend-conscious buyers should be on the lookout for ear climbers, yellow gold, and perennially popular blue stones such as turquoise and tanzanite. Thankfully, some things never change.


2. Beads

To jewelers, it felt like Danish charm manufacturer Pandora had opened the famed mythical box of unpleasant surprises. In March, the company debuted an e-store that sells direct to U.S. consumers. And unlike other jewelry brands, it isn’t giving participating retailers a cut of the action. The e-store is also selling Pandora’s Disney line, unavailable to independents. Despite all their success with the brand, some retailers told JCK they don’t find the whole thing so charming.

Pandora silver bangles with Disney collection Cinderella-inspired charms; $250–$295

3. Pearls

You don’t see that many natural pearls around anymore, so when they appear, people take notice. They certainly did at Christie’s April 14 ­Magnificent Jewels auction in New York City, where a four-strand ­natural-color pearl necklace—featuring 289 pearls—sold for $5 million to an Asian private collector. The sale topped the jewel’s $3.8 ­million–$4.5 million estimate and set a world record for a natural pearl necklace.

The clasp boasts a 3.03 ct. D-internally flawless cushion-cut diamond surrounded by old European–cut diamonds set in silver-topped gold.

4. Speakers

When Diana Nyad was a 9-year-old living in Florida, her mother would point to Cuba and say it was so close you could almost swim there. “A flutter of the imagination” is how the long-distance swimmer described the birth of her dream to swim the shark-infested waters that separate Havana from Key West, which she did on her fifth attempt in 2013, at age 64. At April’s American Gem Society Conclave in New Orleans, Nyad told a rapt audience about the moment she decided to pursue her lifelong goal: “I turned 60 and was whacked upside the head with existential angst: What are you doing with this one wild and precious life of yours?” The address earned her a standing ovation.

Courtesy of American Gem Society
Diana Nyad

5. Lifesavers

Janeice Frisbee of Humboldt, Tenn., was shot point-blank in the chest during an attempted bank robbery in March, and by all accounts she survived because her necklace stopped the bullet. “No one can believe that bullet didn’t go through that necklace,” Frisbee told WMC Action News 5. The $45 Tree of Life necklace (pictured below) by Colorado-based designer Amanda Toddings, made of sterling silver wire and small gemstones, was a gift from Frisbee’s son and daughter-in-law. It is currently in evidence with the FBI, but is reportedly still intact. “The things that we choose to do for other people, like giving them a gift—you really never know what the ­far-reaching effects are going to be,” Toddings said.


6. Watches

On the March 31 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the host ­presented his father-in-law, Marine Corps veteran William H. Juvonen, with a ­special-edition Bremont watch. The Bremont MBI, produced in partnership with British aviation safety-equipment company Martin-Baker, is available only to ­survivors of Martin-Baker ejection seats for jet fighters. “It is probably one of the most exclusive watches in the world,” says Nick English, who cofounded Bremont with his brother, Giles, in 2002. “Giles and I would love one, but we can’t have one.”

Fallon had the watch engraved with his father-in-law’s call sign, Cosmo.

7. Crime

Everyone says April’s massive robbery in London’s Hatton Garden jewelry district would make a great movie, but those affected see it as more of a horror show. Over Easter weekend, six men armed with heavy-duty drills snuck into a building packed with safe deposit boxes. They broke through at least 50 and escaped with a potential $300 million haul—ranking this among the largest jewel thefts in history. “This was a particularly ambitious burglary, to say the least,” a local detective told the BBC.

Radharc Images/Alamy
Hatton Garden

8. Diamonds

In early March, about 20 major Indian manufacturers posted their diamonds on RapNet priced at full “list” price, in what was widely seen as an attempt to skew the site’s influential price index—and by association the even more influential Rapaport Price List. A few weeks later, a group of Israeli dealers endorsed the tactic and announced they were following suit. In response, the man behind both RapNet and the list, Martin Rapaport, adjusted the index’s algorithm, so it now filters out the highest-priced stones. The index still dropped in March, as did the flagship Rap list, with some price categories falling as much as 7 percent. So it’s not clear what this tactic accomplished—other than likely costing the companies some sales.


9. Retailers

Spence Diamonds, the seven-store Canadian retailer known for its ­innovative brass-and-glass format, has been ­purchased by investment fund Lion Capital LLP for a reported $125 million. George Jones, a former CEO of Borders and Saks, will replace CEO Sean Jones (no relation), longtime star of Spence’s commercials. (He’ll remain on the board.) Spence tried to enter the United States five years ago, when it purchased three former Robbins Brothers stores in Houston. The experiment didn’t last, and Robbins Brothers eventually bought two of them back. Now that Spence has bigger financial backing, it plans to expand in Canada; reports suggest the company might even give America another go.

Spence in Edmonton, Alberta

10. Stats

Sales of diamond jewelry in the United States rose 7 percent during 2014 to hit a record $37 billion. America has long been the biggest diamond market in the world, but last year, it was also—rather unexpectedly—the fastest growing, beating recent champs China and India. “We were surprised,” says Stephen Lussier, executive vice president of the De Beers group of companies and CEO of Forevermark. “America never ceases to surprise as far as its ability to consume diamonds.”