10 Things Rocking the Jewelry Industry: July–August 2013

1. Las Vegas

Three ways to describe JCK Las Vegas 2013: busy; buoyant; and back, baby! Not only was show traffic up—5 percent at JCK and 9 percent at LUXURY—but so were people’s moods, resulting in the most positive trade show this industry has seen in years. Viridiana ­Aparicio, sales associate for Van Nuys, Calif.–based Vanna K, was among the exhibitors picking up good vibrations: “The retailers we’ve met with are really excited to buy and are in a great mood.” Retailers rejoiced that real recovery seemed to finally be in the air: “Everyone is very optimistic, in stark contrast to a few years ago,” says Robert Mednikow, owner of Mednikow Jewelers in Memphis, Tenn. “A few years back, we gave token orders just to help our suppliers stay in business. But now we are buying Christmas inventory and placing big orders.” Among the trends spotted: blue hues like tanzanite and Paraiba tourmaline; cabochons; black rhodium; textured metal; diamond and gem slices; and punk rock–influenced motifs.

2. Watches

Christie’s Images Ltd. 2013
Patek Philippe’s first grand complication, an 1898 clockwatch, sold for $2.25 million at Christie’s.

At Christie’s June 11 Important Watches auction in New York City, time truly was money. The $7.9 million sale was highlighted by a record-breaking $2.25 million Patek Philippe clockwatch owned by turn-of-the-­century American industrialist Stephen S. Palmer. The sum—a world record for a Patek Philippe grand complication, as well as the highest price achieved by a watch to date in 2013—reflects its collector-worthy attributes. In a video presentation before the sale, Aurel Bacs, Christie’s international head of watches, pointed to the wooden box holding the 18k pink gold open-face timepiece—manufactured in 1898—and explained: “We believe for over a century it was in this box and did not see daylight,” Bacs said. “I’ve never seen such a mint example in my career.”

3. Beads

Disney Collection beads on toggle bracelet; $495; Chamilia, Minneapolis; 800-495-0977; chamilia.com

Big news in the bead world: Swarovski’s U.S. division has bought Chamilia. The Minneapolis-based bead giant will operate as an independent business unit within Swarovski—which previously had been an investor in the company—and will keep its office in ­Minneapolis. Chamilia also will keep its CEO, ­Douglas Brown, a Swarovski veteran who just took over in February.

4. Labs

Donna Baker

It was a shocking, sudden announcement—and even people inside the Gemological Institute of America are mystified about why it happened. But on June 6, the organization revealed that its president for the past seven years, Donna Baker, was resigning, “due to differing views on the direction of GIA.” (A GIA spokesman declined to elaborate.) Susan M. Jacques, president and CEO of Borsheims, stepped in immediately as GIA’s interim president and CEO, and will stay in that role until a permanent replacement is found.

5. Acquisitions

Pop Star stretch bracelets in sterling silver with freshwater cultured pearls; $70 each; Honora, NYC; 212-371-1515; honora.com

Honora CEO Joel Schechter says he’d been looking for the right partner for his pearl company for some time: “The long-term prospects for a family fashion business are not strong. I wanted to attach to a bigger boat.” But it wasn’t until he read Warren Buffett’s essays—and learned that the billionaire believes in giving business owners autonomy—that he decided to bring Honora to Buffett’s Richline. Honora still will run independently, Schechter says, but he hopes his new owner can get it “to the next level.” As for Richline, “We wanted to get into the pearl business,” says spokesman Mark Hanna.

6. Majors

Zales’ Vera Wang LOVE Collection 0.5 ct. t.w. princess-cut diamond double drop earrings in 14k white gold; $1,399.99

Talk about crossing into enemy territory. Two years after stepping down as CEO of Signet Jewelers, Terry Burman has become chairman of Zale Corp. The venerated executive won’t have a day-to-day role in the business, Zale says. CEO Theo Killion told investors that while he looks forward to Burman “adding to the dialogue,” he doesn’t plan any major changes in its strategy. But vendors clearly thought Burman could energize his former rival. “I’m sure Signet’s not happy,” one company that sells to both retailers tells JCK. “But really, this helps everyone. A stronger Zale will mean an even better Kay.”

7. Cannes

Not among the missing gems: this 65 ct. kunzite and diamond ring from Chopard’s Red Carpet Collection

While Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring stole the spotlight at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, actual thieves were pocketing Chopard gems from a local hotel room. More than $1 million worth of jewels were rumored to have been swiped May 16, but “the value of the pieces stolen is far lower than [what’s] circulating in the media,” said a statement from the Swiss jeweler. Also contrary to reports, Chopard said, the missing jewels “are not part of the collection worn by actresses during the festival.”

8. Platinum

The Editor’s Choice winner for Entry Platinum Engagement Ring: Mercury Ring’s Halo Twist ($2,500; mercuryring.com)

Platinum Guild International decided to go all Publishers Clearing House on us at JCK Las Vegas—surprising the winners of the fourth annual JCK Platinum Innovation Awards at their booths, Prize Patrol–style. “I’m just a bit emotional—it’s very overwhelming,” Sylvie Levine told JCK TV as she accepted her trophy. (Her diamond floral halo ring won Buyer’s Choice for Entry Platinum Engagement Ring—one of 14 awards presented in seven categories.) Sure beats a run-of-the-mill press conference.

9. Trade Shows

Tucson’s lights won’t be the only things twinkling when JCK Tucson debuts in February.

JCK Events may be best known for its show in Las Vegas, but now it’s planting its flag on another Western city: Tucson. On May 24, JCK Events announced it had taken over the B2B G.L.D.A. Tucson Show, with plans to transform it into a fine jewelry–centered event. The first new show, under the name JCK Tucson, will be held at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort on Feb. 3–8, 2014, during ­Tucson’s Gem Week. “JCK Tucson will provide a new opportunity for exhibitors within the built-in audience already visiting Tucson,” says Yancy Weinrich, JCK Events group vice president. In a statement, G.L.D.A. president Arnold Duke called it a “win-win” for both the industry and Tucson.

18k gold ring with diamonds and sapphires; $3,500; Fana, Fort Lee, N.J.; 201-242-8445; fanajewelry.com

10. Stats

Consumer confidence, as measured by The Conference Board, rose again in May to reach 76.2, an impressive jump from the 69 recorded in April. “Consumers’ ­assessment of current business and labor-market conditions was more positive and they were ­considerably more upbeat about future economic and job prospects,” Lynn Franco, ­director of economic indicators and surveys at The Conference Board, said in a statement. Even better were reported consumer confidence numbers from the University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters, which saw consumer spirits rise to their highest level in six years.

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