Associations

JEWELER’S ADVISORY GROUP FIGHTS AGAINST DECEPTION

The industry’s newest watchdog organization is about to mark its first full year of quietly but aggressively providing support for jewelers and consumers stung by deceptive practices.

The non-profit Jeweler’s Advisory Group was born &endash; almost unexpectedly &endash; Jan. 1. A few days earlier, Jay Mendenhall, a retailer in Beaverton, Ore., put a note on the Polygon computer network asking jewelers interested in stopping deception to respond. Within a few hours, he had so many responses that he spent the next few days compiling a 13-page portfolio outlining how they could band together to fight deception in their cities or their regions.

“People reviewed the portfolios and started to ask what they could do to help,” says Mendenhall, a 25-year industry veteran who studied jewelry design and gemology in Thailand and now specializes in custom design. “So many of them had the same complaints.”

The association has a simple goal: to be pro-jeweler and pro-consumer. The path to reaching that goal, however, branches in many directions. JAG activities include the following:

· Helping jewelers to defend themselves against competitors who use deceptive advertising. When a retailer continually advertises jewelry at an unrealistic percent off, JAG places an ad explaining legitimate and deceptive pricing tactics and listing a toll-free telephone number that consumers may call for a customized brochure with more detailed information. The JAG members in that area research the details of placing the ad (cost, size, etc.) and forward them to JAG headquarters, which develops and places the ad. The ads are signed by the Jeweler’s Advisory Group; neither the local JAG jewelers nor the alleged deceptive advertiser are named. “We’re not here to destroy advertisers; we’re here to educate,” says Mendenhall. “It’s an ad with a lot of punch, but it focuses on consumer awareness.”

· Exercising the Lanham Act, a federal law that gives any retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer the legal backbone to sue any other firm that it believes is misleading or falsely representing itself or its goods. Mendenhall says JAG is working on potential Lanham Act cases with the attorneys general in several states, though he declines to give details until the cases become public record.

· Monitoring appraisals. JAG formed an Appraisal Review Committee with representatives of major appraisal organizations. If the committee finds an appraisal to be improper and the person who wrote it is a member of an appraisal association, that association will be notified. If the person isn’t a member of an appraisal association, the committee will offer to help the person learn about appraisals.

· Acting as an arbiter in disputes between a jeweler and a customer or between two jewelers. “We can get them talking and get the issue resolved,” says Mendenhall.

These examples assume the person causing the problem will cooperate. What if that doesn’t happen? “That’s where we have teeth,” says Mendenhall. “We will advise the plaintiff to hire an attorney and we will serve as an expert witness in court.”

JAG also reviews industry standards and works with insurers on appraisal standards.

Growth: Since January, the association has grown to more than 100 members in 40 states and Canada, and has won the endorsement of the Consolidated Jewelers Association of Greater New York and the Caribbean Gemological Institute of Naples, Fla.

“One thing that impresses me is the number of volunteers from all areas of the industry who want to help with absolutely no gain for themselves,” says Mendenhall. “None of us are being paid for this. We just want to do something to help out with problems.”

That motivation was in question in the early days of the association. Mendenhall says he and the organization were the subjects of considerable criticism on the Polygon Network’s open forum. “These people gave us a black eye before they even knew what we were doing,” he says. “We learned we had to stand alone and not worry about them.

“What drives me? I want to leave my industry better than when I found it. It’s that simple.”

Mendenhall hopes to take that message to state jewelers’ associations in coming months in an effort to gain acceptance of JAG and boost participation in its programs.

JAG is funded by a $75 per person membership fee, proceeds from an auction channel on Polygon and donations from members and organizations that help non-profit groups. Membership is open to anyone in the jewelry industry who agrees to abide by a code of ethics and uphold JAG standards.

Mendenhall is the president and chief executive officer; William Lieberum, an appraiser in Boca Raton, Fla., is vice president and divisional executive officer; and Stan Lynn, Ph.D., a retailer and appraiser in Saratoga Springs, N.Y, is secretary-treasurer and association director. The officers are part of a seven-member board of directors. JAG also has two national coordinators, who oversee regional coordinators who work with members seeking help from JAG.

Jeweler’s Advisory Group, 4130 S.W. 117 Ave., Suite 337, Beaverton, Ore. 97005; (800) 379-3571.

GOLDEN NUGGETS NAME OFFICERS

Mike Daley is the new president of the Golden Nuggets of Southern California. He succeeds Vince Owens.

Other officers are Gene Eaker, first vice president; Mark Mitchell, second vice president; Brett Hallock, third vice president; Mark Dashofy, treasurer; and Rod Candelori, secretary.

Directors are Hugh Caille, Mark Ebert, David Evans, Scott Hallock, Roger Hirsch, Al Jacoby, Bruce Johnston, Jack Murphy, Larry Wilens and Gary Yale.

During its installation breakfast, the association presented its 1995 Meritorious Service Award to John J. Kennedy, president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance. Kennedy was the guest speaker for the event, discussing ways the Golden Nuggets and others in the jewelry industry can protect themselves against crime.

CJA PRESENTS AWARDS, NAMES 2 BOARD MEMBERS

The California Jewelers Association recently presented two awards and welcomed two new board members.

Marion Halfacre was honored for his leadership as chairman of the 1995 L.A. Jewelry Show, which the association sponsors.

The association also presented a plaque to Michael D. Roman, retiring chairman of Jewelers of America. He was honored for his longtime service to the industry.

Joining the CJA board of directors are Richard Hammond of Richard Hammond Jewelry in Tulare and William Bubar of Bubar’s Jewelers in Santa Monica.

Hammond worked in his parents’ store until they retired, then opened his own store in 1994. He is a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America, a Certified Gemologist Appraiser of the American Gem Society, a member of the AGS appraisal and membership development committees, founder of the AGS Central California Guild and a former member of the AGS international board.

Bubar joined his family’s jewelry business in 1960, later became a teacher and administrator in the Los Angeles Unified School District, then returned to the family business in 1985. He is a member of the Jewelers 24-Karat Club of Southern California board of directors and the Jewelers Education Foundation board of governors. He also has been on the GIA CareerFair steering committee since its inception in 1991 and served on the planning committee for the 1995 L.A. Jewelry Show.

PENNSYLVANIA JEWELERS PRESENT THREE AWARDS

The Pennsylvania Jewelers Association presented its annual Jeweler, Salesman and Craftsman of the Year Awards during its annual convention in July.

Gene Wagner, founder of Wagner-Bernstein, a diamond business based in Bear Creek, was honored as Salesman of the Year. Wagner serves on the PJA board of directors and as associate member adviser.

Justus Eigenrauch of Futer Bros. Jewelry in York was named Jeweler of the Year. The company recently opened its first branch store.

James Blair, vice president and custom designer for Blair Jewelry in Pittsburgh, was named Craftsman of the Year. He is known for custom-fitted wedding bands and other creations.

MJSA SEEKS COMPANIES FOR COMPUTER PROJECT

The Manufacturing Jewelers & Silversmiths of America has joined with the Rhode Island School of Design to introduce jewelry manufacturers to computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing.

MJSA and RISD are looking for small to medium-sized jewelry manufacturers from any state to participate. The manufacturers will supply some financing and one or two employees for three to four months. The employees will work with RISD faculty and graduate students to produce models or prototypes.

“This will be a case study approach to working with CAD/CAM technology, says Ed Ferszt, RISD’s director of continuing education in an MJSA Focus report. “Our goal is to produce a level of information that will allow jewelry manufacturers to see what the technology is capable of doing and at what cost.”

MJSA, One State St., Sixth Fl., Providence, R.I. 02908-5035; (800) 444-6572 or (401) 274-3840.

JIC WELCOMES EIGHT NEW BOARD MEMBERS

The Jewelry Information Center recently added eight members to its board of directors.

The new members, announced by JIC Chairman Laurence Grunstein of Citizen Watch, are Jeffrey W. Comment of Helzberg Diamonds, Esther Fortunoff of Fortunoff, Hugh Glenn of Cyma Watch/Glenn Corp., James F. Haag Jr. of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, Laurie A. Hudson of the Platinum Guild International, Lowell Kwiat of Kwiat Inc., Mark L. Seelig of Aurafin Corp. and Peggy Willett of the American Gem Trade Association. The nomination committee was headed by Hans Clapper of Wright & Lato.

The board now has 41 members, divided between manufacturers/suppliers and retailers. “We’re very appreciative of the caliber of our board, which represents some of the most influential leaders in our industry, and the support they have given to JIC over the years,” says Lynn Ramsey, president and chief executive of JIC.