10 Things Rocking the Jewelry Industry: September 2013

1. Shows

When LUXURY Privé debuted in summer 2011, it was hailed as the long-awaited luxury component of New York City’s jewelry market week. Three years in, the invitation-only show, which took place July 29–31 at The Pierre Hotel, upped the luxury ante with a new Designer Balcony featuring eight exhibitors, including BG Art—a fine and fashion collection by the master craftsman Boris Goynatsky—and newcomer Lisa Black, an American based in the far-flung Australian beach town of Byron Bay. But what really gave the event a bona fide luxury vibe was the Great Gatsby–themed cocktail party kickoff, complete with feathers, (faux) pearls, and derby hats provided to guests for an extra dose of glamour.

2. Crime

AFP/Getty Images
Police cars surround Cannes’ Carlton Hotel.

It’s still not certain if July’s French jewel heist set a world record for most valuable theft ever, but it surely set a new standard for the most amount stolen ($136 million) in the shortest amount of time (under one minute). ­According to reports, on July 28, a masked gunman walked into the Carlton Hotel in Cannes and forced employees to fill several bags with 72 Leviev gems on display. The guards on duty were unarmed—leading some to question the venue’s security. “To have this extraordinary value at a hotel and invite the public—and have no armed guards and no police notification—is extraordinary by U.S. standards,” says John J. Kennedy of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance.

3. Auctions

On June 26, Christie’s scored big with a legendary timepiece related to Bond, James Bond. A Breitling Top Time watch, worn by Sean Connery in the 1965 movie Thunderball, sold for $160,175 at ­the house’s Pop Culture sale, far outpacing the original estimate—between $60,500 and $90,750. What makes the story even more striking is the fact that, according to ­Christie’s, the watch was originally bought at a boot sale (i.e., out of a car trunk) for $30.

© DPA/Courtesy Everett Collection

Christie’s Images Ltd. 2013
Left: Connery, Sean Connery, in Thunderball; right: the $160,175 Breitling

4. Awards

18k gold cuff with Lightning Ridge opal and pavé diamond; $52,180; Irene Neuwirth, Venice, Calif.; 310-450-6063; ireneneuwirth.com

Looking for 30th-birthday party ideas? Take a few cues from the Women’s Jewelry Association, which marked the big 3-0 at its July 29 Awards for Excellence with a DJ, dance party, and decadent dessert spread. And, of course, plenty of awards, to winners such as Irene Neuwirth (design, fine jewelry and watches) and Amanda Gizzi of Jewelers of America (marketing and publicity)—who are probably still arguing about which one has the best job in the world. Let’s call it a draw, shall we?

5. Diamonds

Twelve-year-old Michael Dettlaff is a Boy Scout, but even he wasn’t prepared for what he found at the Crater of Diamonds state park on July 31. After just 10 minutes searching at the Murfreesboro, Ark., park—which lets visitors hunt for diamonds and keep what they find—he noticed something that stood out from the gravel. It turned out to be a 5.16 ct. “honey brown” diamond, the 27th-largest gem ever found at the park. “If it can be cut and is valuable, I’d like to sell it,” the Apex, N.C., teen told ABC News. “And if not, it’s a great souvenir.”

Courtesy of Crater of Diamonds State Park

Courtesy of Crater of Diamonds State Park
Michael Dettlaff named the 5.16 ct. “honey brown” diamond he found at the Crater of Diamonds state park God’s Glory Diamond.

6. Majors

Paul Thompson/Getty Images

The Wall Street Journal dubbed Sears’ new retail strategy “counterintuitive.” And it’s true: You don’t expect to see the traditional home of power tools pushing $30,000 Rolexes and $10,000-plus jewels. Yet the retailer’s online Marketplace does sell such items, from third-party vendors like Bob’s Watches and Luxstyle4u. Sears wouldn’t say how the high-end pieces were doing, but says it now stocks 85 million items in all prices. Is a larger strategy afoot? Reported WSJ: “Luxury vendors said Sears representatives have stressed that the company was trying to revamp its image and become more hip.”

7. Gold


You may know that gold is rare, but a new study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics casts some light on just how rare. Researchers now theorize that everyone’s favorite yellow metal is produced by violent star collisions that occur once every 10,000 years. These cataclysmic clashes can produce as much as 10 moon masses’ worth of gold, some of which finds its way to Earth—and, eventually, to your cases. “Remember this,” said a spokesman at a press event. “Next time you are touching a piece of gold, you are touching the stars.” As a sales pitch, that’s golden.

8. Retail

Julien de Wilde/Getty Images

At a recent standoff at a British retailer, someone was rude—but not everyone agrees who. According to London’s Daily Mail, shopper Jo Clarke was in line at a Sainsbury’s market when a checkout clerk told her she wouldn’t handle her groceries unless she stopped talking on her phone. Clarke described herself as “dumbfounded” and the chain later apologized, though it didn’t discipline the clerk. After the event sparked widespread media coverage, a spokesman told BBC: “We are also pleased that this specific story is leading to a wider debate on politeness.” Most JCKonline commenters expressed sympathy for the cashier. “This isn’t about checkout etiquette,” wrote one. “It’s about social media/phone etiquette and the appalling lack of [it].”

9. Media

Some jewelers still fail to disclose clarity enhancement in diamonds, according to ABC’s The Lookout, whose July 10 episode spotlighted some purported unsavory sales practices in New York City’s Diamond District. In the segment, ABC news correspondent Dan Harris and gem expert Antoinette Matlins visited three ­jewelers on 47th Street and were shown three clarity-enhanced diamonds. Two were reportedly sold without proper disclosure—and carried inflated appraisals. (One seller did disclose and was commended on the air.) Embarrassing as it was, Matlins says the industry got off easy: “We visited six jewelers all together. In five, the representations were unreliable. Some blatantly lied. The show could have been much more scathing.”

Sean O’Riordan/Getty Images
(Right) ABC news correspondent Dan Harris and gem expert Antoinette Matlins went incognito in New York City’s Diamond District.

10. Stats

The second quarter stats from the Jewelers Board of Trade show the ­industry is undergoing slow but steady improvement—similar to the economy at large. “It seems like things are going in the right direction,” says JBT president Dione Kenyon. “But there aren’t any huge moves. Anecdotally, we hear things are getting better.” Still, as the numbers show, the industry hasn’t stopped contracting. It’s just doing so at a slower rate.

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