10 Things Rocking the Industry: September 2014

1. Shows

The Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel hosts the 24 Karat Club of the City of New York gala dinner every January. So it’s possible a few people were disoriented in late July, when 60 jewelry exhibitors colonized the space for the fourth annual LUXURY Privé show, which ditched its former home at The Pierre hotel to make the move. “The venue was comfortably luxurious, and the ballroom at the Waldorf had a great energy,” says Craig Rottenberg of Long’s Jewelers in ­Burlington, Mass. It helped, of course, that business was brisk. Says Lecil ­Henderson of The ­Henderson Collection by Lecil: “We were busy for two solid days.”

2. Wearables

Tory Burch for Fitbit metal hinged bracelet; $195

Six months after the ­partnership was announced, we finally got a look at the Tory Burch for Fitbit ­accessories. It’s a small ­collection, but, fortunately for TB fans, the pieces—which range from $38 to $195 and feature a brass open fretwork bracelet, brass pendant, and ­adjustable silicone bracelet—are very identifiable. (You can preorder now for Sept. 30 or Oct. 30 shipping at toryburch.com or fitbit.com.) But you still need the Fitbit Flex: The wireless tracking device, which comes with its own wristband, pops into any of the Burch pieces. All told, tallying up your steps Tory-style could cost $295. Fitness is expensive!

3. Acquisitions

John Hardy classic chain bracelets

John Hardy had been rumored to be for sale for a while, and in July, the ­company finally found its new owner. Private equity firm Catterton ­Partners—which has been a part owner of Build-A-Bear Workshop and Outback Steakhouse—purchased the popular sustainable luxury jeweler in a deal that appoints Robert Hanson, former head of American Eagle Outfitters, as new CEO. Hanson says he will expand product lines and price points, boost e-commerce, and tell the ­products’ story. Meanwhile, Guy Bedarida will continue to serve as creative director and head designer; Miles Graham is staying on as president and chief operating officer; and Damien Dernoncourt, who has been CEO since 2007 and retains a stake in the company, has been named nonexecutive chairman.

4. Luxury

Stephanie Keenan/Getty Images

After 15 years as Tiffany CEO—and 31 years as a Tiffany employee—Michael J. ­Kowalski plans to step down in 2015. The 62-year-old Harvard MBA, who will continue to serve as nonexecutive chairman, is credited with shepherding the retailer’s global expansion, updating its image, and taking its stock from $20 to $100. His replacement is Frederic Cumenal, the current president and a relative Tiffany newcomer (he joined five years ago). Analysts suggest that Cumenal, who formerly headed an LVMH Champagne company, was brought on to turn the house of the Little Blue Box into a modern global luxury brand.

5. Rubies


Lead glass–filled rubies have made the news again—and not in a good way. On July 28, the Today show broadcast a report from consumer reporter Jeff Rossen that criticized J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, and Littman Jewelers for selling the treated stones as genuine rubies—a month after a similar piece aired on Inside Edition. (The Jewelers Vigilance Committee recommends they not be called “natural.”) Most of the retailers copped to at least some error, but gemologist Antoinette Matlins, who appeared on both shows, says the problem lingers. Lead-glass rubies, she says, are “the most misrepresented product ever sold in my lifetime in this industry.”

6. Auctions

You may need $17 million to pocket this watch.

In 1925, New York City watch collector Henry Graves Jr. commissioned Patek Philippe to create the world’s most advanced timepiece. Eight years later, the Geneva watchmaker produced the Henry Graves Supercomplication. With 900 individual parts, it’s considered the most sophisticated watch built solely by human hands, with a perpetual calendar and chart of the New York skyline. In 1999, Sotheby’s sold what author Stacy Perman calls the “Mona Lisa of watches” for $11 million, a record that’s never been topped. This November, the Supercomplication is back on the block in Geneva, and Sotheby’s predicts it may fetch as much as $17 million. Yet Perman isn’t so sure: “Who knows what will happen? No one thought it would come back on the market.” As ­Facebook might say, it’s Supercomplicated.

7. Synthetics

Lab-grown diamond producer Pure Grown (formerly Gemesis) has big news: The 3 ct. K SI diamond it has grown is believed to be the largest diamond ever produced by machine. And Lisa Bissell, the Fabrikant veteran recently appointed Pure Grown’s president and CEO, says it’s up for grabs. “I don’t run a museum,” she says. She estimates the rock could fetch as much as $21,000.

8. Watches

A Ulysse Nardin marine chronometer

Another luxury brand is joining the Kering stable. Ulysse Nardin, the 168-year-old Swiss watch brand known for its advanced marine chronometers, has been acquired by the French luxury giant, which also owns Boucheron, Girard-Perregaux, JeanRichard, and Gucci. Current management will stay in place—but some lamented yet another name being gobbled up by a conglomerate. Said watch blogger Ariel Adams: “Independently owned companies which can compete on an international level with the ‘big boys’ are becoming more and more rare.”

9. Diamonds

The walnut-size 122.52 ct. discovery

In what may be one of most significant diamond finds of modern times, a 122.52 ct. blue gem—the size of a walnut—was discovered at the Cullinan mine in South Africa. Blue diamonds are ultrarare—as are diamonds over 100 carats. To have both qualities in one stone is “virtually unheard of,” says Cathy Malins, ­spokeswoman for mine owner Petra Diamonds. Thomas Gelb, educational ­director of the Natural Color Diamond Association, believes the resulting polished gem may be the largest blue diamond ever—eclipsing even the 45 ct. Hope.

10. Stats

According to statistics compiled by the Jewelers Board of Trade, the amount of jewelry business closings increased, but openings stayed flat in the second quarter of the year—and, as has become (sadly) standard, closings outpaced openings, a sign of the industry’s continued consolidation.