Has it truly been a year since Y2K? It seems like only yesterday we were anticipating the party of a lifetime (or the end of the world, depending on your view). When 1999 became 2000 without a single disaster of either cyber or human origin, we breathed a sigh of relief and went back to business as usual, not realizing the real excitement was yet to begin.
What a year this has been! Taking a quick look back, last fall e-tail jewelry sites were springing up like mushrooms after rain. Like a pioneer wagon train heading west, some of the industry’s best and brightest left long-held positions to carve-or click-out a new world order. Just one year later, two promising dot-coms are already not-coms, and others are rumored to be close behind. Meanwhile, the second wave of cyber-pioneers are busy trying new routes to success.
Lazare Kaplan’s high pressure/high temperature (HPHT) diamond whitening process was hailed as a tremendous breakthrough, but the potential consequences of having undisclosed HPHT-treated diamonds leak into the general supply were sobering. By the end of last year, a few of the stones had already been found with the identifying GE-POL marks removed, so the Gemological Institute of America, De Beers, and other gem labs raced to find a detection process before some dishonest dealer gave the whole industry a black eye. This year, Gübelin Labs in Switzerland found a way to detect whitened stones, but by then the entire HPHT issue had taken a back seat to the more troubling news coming from Africa.
JCK first reported the actions of violent rebel groups in Sierra Leone and Angola in the late 1980s, but the situation simmered quietly below the surface for more than a decade until Global Witness and other international nongovernmental watchdog organizations took up the cause. Last December, a small item in JCK‘s Up Front section reported that De Beers had stopped buying stones from Angola, but even then relatively few in the jewelry industry-let alone the general public-were fully aware of the horrors going on there or in Sierra Leone and neighboring Liberia. This fall, gruesome pictures of children maimed by the rebels are on prime-time network television.
Last year, between millennium hype and the booming economy, most jewelers posted their best holiday sales figures in history. This year the economy is already showing signs of a slowdown. Dot-com dropouts notwithstanding, a telling sign that Christmas 2000 may not top 1999 was weak back-to-school apparel sales-one signal of a drop in consumer confidence.
These tough issues must be addressed, particularly those that concern human suffering. But dealing with them can also teach all of us a valuable lesson in gratitude and the power of positive thinking. While we as an industry are making it a global priority to keep diamond profits from becoming blood money, we as individuals can do our part locally by buying only from diamond dealers who follow the Antwerp resolution to certify that their stones come from conflict-free areas. We can engage in open dialogue with customers and ask them to help join the fight against those horrors and all violations of human rights and dignity. We can speak out in our own communities against domestic violence, street crime, and child abuse and work to help victims.
If you’re worried about the economy or the Internet and what either one might do to your holiday sales, remember that even if your numbers are down from last year, if you and your loved ones are healthy and safe, you’ve been blessed, not cursed.
Whether you observe Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or none of the above, take a moment to reflect on what you have, not what you don’t have, and try to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Even if all you can muster at the moment is a simple smile for someone else, it’s a beginning. If you pray, meditate, or just occasionally pause to think, make a resolution to begin with “thank you” instead of “please.”
And from all of us at JCK to all of you, thank you for your ongoing support, and our very best wishes for a happy, healthy, and positive New Year.