10 Things Rocking the Industry: November 2014

1. Holidays

Christmas is just about here, and everyone is wondering if customers will come with it. In September, Deloitte released its 2014 holiday sales forecast, predicting that retailers will see a bit of yuletide cheer. November and December sales will rise 4 to 4.5 percent, said the report—up from last year’s 2.8 percent increase. As to what those customers will buy, jewelers can’t go wrong with the trends du jour: rainbow palettes, geometric shapes, and celestial motifs, plus those now-ubiquitous ear cuffs and climbers.

2. Auctions

From Wallis Simpson to Sarah Brightman to…you?

Like animals on Noah’s Ark, these jewels travel as a pair. In the late 1950s, the fabulous feline brooch and bracelet, set with onyx and diamonds, with blazing emerald eyes, went from Cartier to ­Wallis ­Simpson—a gift from her husband, the Duke of Windsor. In 1987, at a landmark sale of the duchess’ jewelry collection, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber purchased the tiger pieces for his muse-turned-wife, Phantom of the Opera star Sarah Brightman. Now, the Cartier cats are at Christie’s Geneva, where they’ll be sold on Nov. 11—wait for it!—as a set. (Combined estimate: $1.8 million to $2.5 million.) Of course, once they’re in your jewelry box, feel free to wear them separately.

3. Colors

The Pantone Color Institute did an about-face in its Fashion Color Report for next season, which it unveiled at the start of spring 2015 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City in September. On the horizon are lighter hues—in stark contrast to fall’s rich palette—that reflect the “growing movement to step out and create ‘quiet zones’ to disconnect from technology,” says executive director Leatrice Eiseman. The color forecast is downright cool (think Lucite Green, Glacier Gray, Aquamarine, and Strawberry Ice, among others). But what to make of Eiseman’s use of the dreaded “M” word (“minimalistic en plein air theme”) to describe spring’s chilly, detached sensibility?

These Dani by Daniel K earrings (646-278-7278, ext. 7202; danielk.net) are a delicious match to Pantone’s Custard.

 4. Celebrities

Everett Collection/Alamy
Joan Rivers in 2009, bejeweled to the max

Given that Joan Rivers—who died Sept. 4 at age 81—famously reinvented herself later in life as a snark-fueled fashion critic, it’s not surprising that she was as big a jewelry fan as frequent target Elizabeth Taylor. The pioneering female comic had her own line on QVC, keynoted the 2006 JCK Las Vegas show, and was credited with this little gem: “I don’t work out. If God had wanted us to bend over, He’d put diamonds on the floor.” She even can-we-talked about her love for jewelry with JCK in 2006, saying the best thing about jewelry was its adaptability: “You’re never too young to wear it and look wonderful,” she said, “and you’re never too old to wear it and look wonderful.”

5. Bridal

J.C. Penney rings for the Modern Bride

Part of J.C. Penney’s ongoing campaign to reestablish itself after the failed Ron Johnson era is a concerted effort to appeal to higher-end bridal jewelry shoppers. The retailer’s new ­Modern Bride Signature collection of diamond engagement rings has 20 SKUs in karat gold or platinum ranging in retail price from $2,500 to $10,000—the entry prices are more than double the average ticket price within the existing ­Modern Bride line. Complete rings will feature diamonds with ­certificates from Independent Gemological Laboratories, and customers can also access an online vault of loose diamonds to create finished jewelry—all of which signals a new era, indeed.

6. Banks

Sebastian Kaulitzki/Thinkstock

The list of banks servicing the diamond industry just got smaller. The Antwerp Diamond Bank had been up for sale since 2009, the result of an agreement owner KBC struck with the European Union in return for a financial bailout. Last ­December, China’s Yinren Group was declared the new owner (baffling, given that the Shanghai-based real estate company had no prior lending ­experience). In September, the story took another strange—and sad—turn when KBC announced the deal had fallen through, and it had no choice but to shutter the 80-year-old Belgian institution. The Antwerp World Diamond Centre, however, wasn’t ready to give up, saying in a statement it hoped someone would swoop in to give the beleaguered bank a “fresh start.”

7. Fashion

Iris Apfel, fashionable as ever at age 93

The Metropolitan Chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association knew that fashion icon Iris Apfel would be a big draw for its second annual Jewelry Night Out. On Sept. 18 in Manhattan, Apfel—whose signature glasses are hardly her only concession to conspicuous style—captivated a packed house with gems like “Coco Chanel said take one thing off.… I always said put another one on.” Though she’s spent her career in interior design and fashion, her devotion to jewelry is clear. “I love clothes, but given the choice,” she said, “I put the bulk of my money into accessories.”

8. Diamonds

The 232 ct. rock

It’s not every day that a single stone sells for $27 million and people call the result a disappointment. Then again, it’s not every day that someone finds a 122 ct. blue piece of rough, as Petra did at the Cullinan mine in South Africa last year. Many thought the walnut-sized gem would fetch $40 ­million, which would have been the highest price ever paid for a piece of rough. Even though the sale fell far short of that goal, Petra shouldn’t feel all that blue—in September, it found another major stone at Cullinan, a 232-carater that it describes as D-color and potentially flawless.

9. Reports

Martin Rapaport

With Nashville, Tenn.–based Genesis Diamonds ­facing considerable heat—including at least three lawsuits and a series of critical news stories—for selling stones with EGL International reports, the issue of how grading standards differ among labs continues to reverberate. In September, Martin Rapaport announced his RapNet trading network would stop listing reports from EGL labs. (This raised objections from EGL USA and EGL South Africa, both of which claimed they are independently managed and have different standards from other EGLs.) Shortly after, Polygon announced it was banning EGL International reports—other EGLs were still welcome—while IDEX and GemFind said they were keeping things as is. Rapaport hopes his action will focus the trade’s attention on what he calls “a culture of misrepresentation”: “When consumers try to resell their diamonds or send them to the GIA for regrading and discover significant quality differences, there will be hell to pay.”

10. Stats

From January to September, more than 10 percent of consumers said they spent more on jewelry than in the previous year, according to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, which credits the increase to more confident consumers indulging in more “selfie spends” after years of frugality. “As Americans feel more secure about their jobs and finances, they tend to spend more on personal items [and on] big-ticket items that they may have deferred during the last few years,” American Express’ David Rabkin said in a statement.

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