10 Things Rocking the Industry: October 2012

1. Shows

The strength and sophistication of the Latin American jewelry market may come as a surprise to some people, but not to the organizers of LUXURY Privé Panama, a brand new invitation-only buying show from the team at JCK Events. From Oct. 22 to 24, 50 exhibitors—John Hardy, Rahaminov,  and Mattia Cielo, among others—will gather at the Westin Playa Bonita in Panama City to welcome some 150 upscale retailers, representing 900 doors across the Caribbean and Central and South Americas. The show marks the first time such an intimate and exclusive jewelry event has taken place on, or near, their home turf. “With the flourishing economy in this region,” says event director Desiree Hanson, “the need to bring a show of this caliber to Panama and introduce our suppliers and brands to these customers is extremely high.” China, eat your heart out.

2. Fashion

19th-century gold, enamel, and diamond swallow brooch; price on request; Fred Leighton, NYC; 212-288-1872; fredleighton.com

Is it just us, or does Fashion’s Night Out get bigger every year? Stores like Bloomingdale’s always offer freebies and gifts-with-purchase at the annual after-hours kickoff to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, but Sept. 6 in Manhattan, you couldn’t swing a Big Brown Bag without hitting a jewelry event: David Yurman commissioned desserts and drinks based on its classic collections (Cable Car, anyone?); OMEGA touted its 007 connection with a martini-fueled James Bond night; Greenwich Jewelers partnered with manicure maven Sally Hansen for a finger party. But the DIY award goes to Fred Leighton for its hair gem–themed evening. “We have always loved jewels in the hair…tiaras, combs, headbands, or brooches,” says chief creative officer and PR director Rebecca Selva. “Michelle Williams’ diamond headband at this year’s Golden Globes created quite a sensation!” Inspired by a 19th-century bird hair ornament, the estate jeweler created 1,000 paper and feather tiaras—by hand. Fashion’s Night Out may be fun, but it’s hard work.

3. E-Commerce

Lisa Romerein
Lhuillier’s Blue Nile designs

Her wedding gowns, with cascading layers of silk and organza, are a bridal fave—so why wouldn’t Monique Lhuillier’s jewelry inspire the same longing? That’s the thinking at Blue Nile, which recently announced an ­alliance with the Los Angeles bridal couturier. Her Monique Lhuillier Fine Jewelry line of platinum engagement semi-mounts and wedding bands, retailing from $2,000 to $5,000, debuts this month; additional pieces (earrings, necklaces, and pendants) will be unveiled by Valentine’s Day. Not only does the collection let Lhuillier play a bigger role in the lives of her brides, it also gives the embattled e-tailer a chance to prove it’s more than “the Amazon of jewelry,” as CEO Harvey Kanter admitted during a presentation.

4. Leaders

Yancy Weinrich

Yancy Weinrich has been promoted to the top post at JCK Events—group vice president of the JCK brand. Three of her colleagues were also bumped up. John Tierney has been promoted from event director to industry vice president, overseeing LUXURY Events (LUXURY, Elite Enclave, Privé, Swiss Watch). Elizabeth Irving is now group marketing director for the JCK brand. Desiree Hanson was appointed event director for LUXURY; she will ­continue to oversee conferences at JCK Las Vegas and LUXURY at JCK. All this movement was spurred by the ­departure of JCK Events’ former chief, Dave Bonaparte, to head Jewelers of America. Bonaparte said he was “delighted” for his former colleagues.

5. Charity


Thanks to the kindness of strangers, even broke, hopeless romantics may be able to find their happy ending in this economy. Corey Fontenot, 26, recently raked in more than $80 by standing on the side of a Colorado road with a sign reading “In love. Need money for ring. Anything helps.” Although Fontenot has a job, he couldn’t afford to pay for an engagement ring for his long-distance girlfriend. But a magnanimous jeweler stepped in. “I saw the story on the local news and thought I’d help this kid out,” says Michael Nedler, owner of Sonny’s Diamonds & Jewelry in Denver. Nedler found Fontenot through Facebook and gave him a round-cut diamond ring weighing just under a carat. “Corey was very grateful and even tried to give us the $80 he collected,” Nedler says, adding that no good deed goes unpunished: Facebook commenters immediately derided the situation as “pathetic.”

6. Art

Stodgy old Tiffany & Co. doesn’t seem like the kind of company to embrace street art. Even so, this summer, as the 175-year-old retailer constructed its new store in New York City’s funky SoHo neighborhood, it recruited four well-known local artists to decorate the store’s hoarding with original artwork. The artists—­Danielle Dimston, Ellis Gallagher, Danny Roberts of Igor + Andre, and Natasha Law—each created a representation based on the theme of “true love.” Some even included a touch of Tiffany’s famous robin’s egg blue.

Nick Bowser
Left: Danny Roberts at work; right: his finished product

7. Majors


Signet Jewelers, owner of the U.S. chains Kay and Jared, recently added another title to its name: Rio Tinto Select Diamantaire (aka sightholder). In a conference call following the release of the company’s second-quarter financial results, CEO Michael Barnes announced that the jewelry giant was now purchasing rough directly from the diamond miner—which owns properties in Canada, Australia, Zimbabwe, and soon India—and having it cut and polished on a “contract” basis. “Our objective is to secure additional, reliable, consistent supplies of diamonds,” Barnes explained, though he admitted it would be a while before all this vertical integration affects Signet’s bottom line.

8. Diamonds


We have all heard people call diamonds a “waste of money,” but we wouldn’t expect someone from the industry to do it—and certainly not publicly. And yet, on Aug. 14, Ira Weissman, a diamond dealer who also runs an information and referral site, wrote a piece for the Huffington Post urging readers “to fight the social pressure to get a diamond ring” and to spend their money elsewhere. Naturally, JCK and JCKonline.com readers were displeased. “I think the question of diamonds being a waste of money or not is better posed to those consumers who already own them,” one wrote. “My experience shows that those people who bought engagement rings 95% of the time come back and buy more.”

9. Mines

It was considered one of the worst outbreaks of violence in South Africa since the end of apartheid, scarring the national psyche and replaying endlessly on the news. On Aug. 10, 3,000 drill operators from a wildcat union struck the Marikana platinum mine in the country’s North West Province. In the six days that followed, 10 workers died in what was termed “interunion violence.” But the situation got far worse on Aug. 16, when South African police opened fire on demonstrators, killing 34 and wounding 78. (News accounts say it was not clear which side shot first.) While at press time there were reports of “peace accord” at Marikana, there also were signs that violence was spreading, with clashes between police and demonstrators at a nearby gold mine.

10. Stats

Men will fork out more for engagement rings if they hear that there are fewer eligible women nearby, according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study had local college students read news articles: One said there were more men than women on campus; the other reported the opposite. It found that when both men and women heard there was a scarcity of single females, they expected the man to pay more for the ring. The same effect was seen with romantic dinners and Valentine’s Day gifts. The study’s lead author, marketing professor Vladas Griskevicius, commented that the subjects “weren’t aware that sex ratio was having any effect on their behavior. They just felt like they wanted to [spend] more money.”

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