10 Things Rocking the Industry: November 2012

1. Forecasts

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—and this ­Christmas is ­beginning to look pretty good. In ­September, ­ShopperTrak, which analyzes retail foot traffic, predicted sales would rise 3.3 percent, a notch below 2011’s 3.7 percent. Still, the company said, “retailers have reason to be optimistic about this season,” adding that, by its count, sales have risen in 34 of the past 35 months. As for ­jewelers, JCK found them stocking up and hoping for the best: Bruce Butler, owner of Deister & Butler in Elmira, N.Y., thinks colored stones and silver will be his strong sellers. But St. Petersburg, Fla., retailer Bruce Watters sees “some sales resistance and hesitancy among customers,” which he attributes to the high price of gold.

2. Emmys

It looks like that unfortunate trend of actresses eschewing award-show jewelry has passed—and not a moment too soon. We were thrilled to see so many well-accessorized celebs at the Sept. 23 Emmy Awards. Not surprisingly, Art Deco styles were abundant: Padma ­Lakshmi’s coral and onyx earrings (from Fred Leighton); Sofia ­Vergara’s 175 ct. diamond-drenched bracelet trio, earrings, and drop earrings (Neil Lane). Earrings were the big stars, such as the massive Lorraine Schwartz black opal, pink diamond, and Paraiba danglers seen on Heidi Klum and Irene ­Neuwirth’s one-of-a-kind rose-cut diamond and Lightning Ridge opal drops, which looked great with best actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Emmy. But the evening’s big winner? Fred Leighton, who bejeweled 14 glamorous gals in an array of 19th-century designs. Well, after Miss Piggy wore Leighton on Oscar night, of course everyone’s going to want to do it!

18k rose and white gold earrings with Lightning Ridge opals and diamonds; price on request; Irene Neuwirth, Venice, Calif.; 310-450-6063; ireneneuwirth.com

3. Crime


Facebook is great for socializing, but for ­catching thieves? Just ask Renn Farmer: The owner of the Renn’s Nest in Monroe, N.C., posted a photo of an elderly woman who’d stolen $500 in jewelry from her store Sept. 18; within two minutes, a fan recognized the 69-year-old. (Farmer found her and retrieved the money for the goods.) This is actually the second time the retailer has used the site to nab a thief: “Facebook has been good for promotion. And it’s been a way to catch shoplifters.”

4. Promotions

Lucky guests at some European Holiday Inns in October found more than just a mint on the pillow. In honor of its 60th anniversary, the hotel chain placed roughly £30,000 ($48,700) worth of diamonds in rooms in Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Holiday Inn’s vice president of marketing in Europe called it “an innovative way to celebrate our anniversary and give ­something back to our guests.” Sweet dreams, indeed.

5. Auctions

Courtesy of Sotheby’s
This $686,500 Bulgari necklace contains 110+ cts. of emeralds.

If you need further proof that emeralds are, were, and always will be in fashion, look no further than Sotheby’s recent $18.8 million auction of property from the late Brooke Astor’s estate: A Bulgari necklace, estimated at $250,000–$350,000, went for $686,500, and her 22.84 ct. Van Cleef & Arpels emerald engagement ring earned $1.2 million. (It was valued at $100,000–$150,000.) In fact, all of Astor’s emeralds—she had about a dozen pieces in the lot of 64 jewels, which pulled in $5.7 million total—exceeded their estimates, most selling for three and four times the predicted prices. That’s a whole lot of green.

6. Lawsuits

Who owns a design—the person who created it, or the company he made it for? That was the subject of a recent lawsuit in Paris, between famed jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels and designer Thierry Berthelot. The 15-year Van Cleef veteran sued his former employer, claiming his work belonged to him. But an ­appellate court ruled in the jeweler’s favor, arguing that the intellectual property in ­question was the result of a “collective” effort. Still, the issue may not be settled; ­Berthelot reportedly plans to appeal.

7. Diamonds

Tony Falcone/© Christie’s Images Ltd. 2012
The Archduke Joseph Diamond

The Archduke Joseph Diamond, due to be auctioned by Christie’s Geneva on Nov. 13, does not lack mystique. There are its specs: 76 cts., D-color, internally flawless. There’s its lineage: It hails from India’s Golconda mine, which yielded such legendary gems as the Koh-i-Noor and the Hope. Finally, there’s its history: It once belonged to Archduke Joseph August of Austria. He gave it to his son, who, during World War II, hid it in a bank vault, where it escaped detection by the Nazis. The stone was believed to be lost, but turned up at Christie’s in 1993, fetching a then-stunning $6.5 million. This time, the price is expected to top $15 million.

8. Synthetics

Washington Diamonds

While the lab-grown diamond sector hasn’t produced as many gems as predicted, it has certainly produced plenty of companies. In September, a new horse entered the race, claiming it can manufacture bigger and better quality colorless stones than those currently on the market. Washington Diamonds, based just outside the District of Columbia, tells JCK it will soon start churning out 150 1 ct. lab-grown “white” gems a month, from G to I color, around SI in clarity. The company, which licensed CVD technology from the Carnegie Institute, plans to sell the stones for about 20 to 25 percent less than comparable naturals, likely on the Internet. Skeptics say the proof will be in the production, though it does have one nice-size stone to boast about: a 2.3-carater, which the AGS lab graded J SI.

9. Gold


After a few incredible years, the price of gold has remained flat for most of 2012. But that could change—in a big way. The yellow metal logged impressive gains in August and September, and some say that the current vogue for monetary easing will drive it even higher. In fact, the only point where analysts differ is how high the price will go. Deutsche Bank predicts gold will pass $2,000 per ounce in the first half of 2013; Citi thinks it will hit $2,400 or $2,500 in the same time frame. But that’s conservative compared to MacNeil Curry, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch bigwig who foresees gold hitting $3,000 in the next few years. If that’s true, the jewelers who enjoyed a breather for most of 2012 may have to once again buckle their seat belts.

10. Stats

In September, the Conference Board’s widely watched Consumer Confidence Index jumped an impressive nine points to hit its highest level since February, following a drop in August. Consumers told the group they were more upbeat about ­current conditions—in particular the job market and their financial situation. “Despite continuing economic uncertainty,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, in a statement, “consumers are slightly more optimistic than they have been in several months.”

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