10 Things Rocking the Jewelry Industry: December 2013–January 2014

1. Exhibitions

Through March 9, visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Jewels by JAR” exhibition will see the oeuvre of a master ­jeweler to rival the great Peter Carl Fabergé: the Bronx-born, Harvard-educated, Paris-bred Joel A. Rosenthal, aka JAR. The Met is showing some 400 of his works, all of which make clear his remarkable way with gem-setting and visionary use of color. “JAR is in a class by himself,” says François Curiel, Christie’s international head of jewelry. “I’ve stopped giving estimates for his jewels. The pieces are so rare. There are probably 200 to 300 people waiting for one.” Not counting, that is, museumgoers, who can own a JAR original through a special collection he created for the Met. The eight styles of earrings ($2,000–$7,500) and two watches ($600) are sold only at the museum—not online—but given JAR’s reputation, there’s no telling how much they’d earn on the secondary market.

2. Colors

Scoot over, emerald. A bevy of purply-pink stones is about to steal the fashion spotlight. The Pantone Color Institute has named its 2014 Color of the Year: No. 18-3224, Radiant Orchid—“a captivating harmony of fuchsia, purple, and pink undertones,” according to Pantone. For ­jewelers, the color-matching options are rich. From amethyst to purple sapphire to lavender spinel and chalcedony, the gem world has no shortage of shades that fall between red and violet on the spectrum. But don’t count out emerald yet. Green, after all, pairs awfully well with purple.

Dana Rebecca’s sapphire, turquoise, and diamond Courtney Lauren earrings ($7,040, danarebeccadesigns.com) complement Pantone’s Radiant Orchid beautifully.

3. De Beers

At its last sight before moving sales operations from London to Gaborone, Botswana, De Beers held a gala titled the End of an Era. A few weeks later, the company marked the end of another era, when Varda Shine, the Israeli transplant who has long been one of its most powerful executives, announced she was leaving after three decades of service. Shine, best known as CEO of the Diamond Trading Co.—though her most recent title was executive vice president of sightholder sales—will be replaced by Paul Rowley, a veteran exec who has been with De Beers since 1983, the same year Shine joined. “Thirty years is a long chapter,” she tells JCK, “and after concluding the migration to Botswana, it is a good time to move on.”



4. Fashion

Ring in 18k and 22k yellow gold and sterling silver with rainbow moonstone, labradorite, and gray diamonds; $38,200; Nak Armstrong, Austin; 512-383-9197; nakarmstrong.com

Fine jewelers have always had a tenuous bond with their fashion world counterparts, but the connection seems to be growing stronger. In mid-October, the Council of Fashion Designers of America held an inaugural ­Jewelry Showcase at its New York City headquarters to spotlight its jeweler members, among them Nak Armstrong, Mish Tworkowski, and Loree Rodkin. The idea came from CFDA member/jeweler Simon Alcantara. CFDA CEO Steven Kolb says he didn’t need much convincing: “We have a big contingency of jewelry designers, and every year it gets bigger.”

5. Lawsuits

In October, the story of an African-American student who was unjustly arrested after buying a $349 belt at Barneys New York went viral. A few weeks later, a black actor claimed he was racially profiled at Macy’s after buying a $1,350 Movado watch for his mother. In a suit filed Oct. 24 in New York state Supreme Court, Rob Brown, who has appeared on HBO’s Treme, said that after his purchase, he was stopped by police who asked for his ID, searched his possessions, and handcuffed him and placed him in a holding cell for an hour. In a statement, Macy’s said it “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including racial profiling.”

  Ta Craft Photography

6. Auctions

Courtesy of Sotheby’s

There are records and then there are records. At a Nov. 13 sale at Sotheby’s Geneva, the Pink Star, a 59.6 ct. oval-cut fancy vivid pink, sold for an amazing $83 million—meaning it now holds the title of the most expensive diamond or jewel ever sold at auction. (The previous record holder—the 24.78 ct. Graff Pink—went for $46.2 million in 2010.) Four bidders vied for the gem for a frenzied five minutes, but it ultimately went to diamond-cutter Isaac Wolf. His first action: Renaming it the Pink Dream.

7. Diamonds

Hoping to find something at the famed Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Ark.? Bring a teenager. October marked the second time this year a teen made a big score at the park, when ­14-year-old Tana Clymer found a 3.85 ct. canary teardrop-shaped yellow diamond after two hours of searching. She said she was inspired by 12-year-old Michael Dettlaff, who found a 5.16 ct. stone at the park in July.

Arkansas State Parks
Tana Clymer
Arkansas State Parks
Clymer has since named her 3.85 ct. discovery God’s Jewel.

8. Gemstones

Lydia Courteille’s opal, garnet, sapphire, and amethyst Seahorse cocktail ring placed second in the Fashion Forward category.

The American Gem Trade Association Spectrum and Cutting-Edge Awards marked its 30th ­anniversary in October with a Groundhog Day–style announcement. Three of last year’s winners earned repeat honors: Erica Courtney picked up another Spectrum award for Best Use of Color; Deirdre Featherstone won Best Use of Platinum and Color; and James Currens took home the coveted Best in Show prize for the second year in a row. A few observers raised a kerfuffle over the repetition, but most simply oohed and aahed. See what the fuss is about when the winning pieces go on display Feb. 4–9 at the 2014 AGTA GemFair in Tucson, Ariz.

9. Crime

Courtesy of Peter Holland
Payne pictured in the 2013 documentary The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne

Old jewel thieves, it seems, never retire. In October, Doris Payne, the 83-year-old career criminal who has been filching gems for seven decades, has been arrested again. (Her last arrest was in 2011.) This time she is accused of walking off with a $21,000 diamond ring from El Paseo Jewelers in Palm Desert, Calif. “I have to give her credit: She is excellent at what she does,” says store manager Raju Mehta. “I hope I’m her last victim.” Even John J. Kennedy, president of the ­Jewelers’ Security Alliance, can’t believe Payne still is stealing: “She has got to be, by far, the most long-lasting jewelry criminal we have ever had the opportunity to know.”

10. Stats

Overall, the industry is stable, says Jewelers Board of Trade president Dione Kenyon, even as companies continue to consolidate, “but more on the ­manufacturing level than at the retail level.” Kenyon says she’s sensing a little more optimism than in recent years. “I think people are afraid to say things are better because they don’t want to jinx it.” She adds: “The growth in the industry is like the growth in our economy: It is positive, but still not robust.”

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