De Beers Boosts Advertising Budget

In a sign of high hopes for the holiday season, De Beers has boosted its fourth-quarter U.S. advertising budget by a whopping 30% over what it originally planned. “We feel this will be one of the strongest fourth quarters the U.S. trade has ever had,” says Richard Williams, De Beers account director for J. Walter Thompson. “And we felt we should maximize the opportunity.”

The expanded budget reflects the positive reception given De Beers new “Crowds” TV commercial, which links diamonds with the millennium and began airing in late summer. “There is a sense that this is one of the strongest ad campaigns we have ever done,” says Williams. “Eighty-three percent of test audiences who viewed it agreed that ‘Diamonds would be a perfect way to commemorate the millennium.’ That means the commercial is doing its job.” Thanks to the expanded budget, the commercial will air during some high-profile sports programs, including National Football League games on Thanksgiving, the U.S. Open tennis championship, and the World Series.

De Beers is bringing back its “Seize the Day” outdoor advertising program from last year. This year it will be seen in twice as many cities. De Beers will also erect a giant banner on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and a billboard in New York’s Times Square, each bearing the tag line, “What are you waiting for, the year 3000?”—Rob Bates

Millennium Diamond Demand Is Strong

“We don’t sell them off the bat for an engagement ring. We want to make it an additional purchase,” says one jeweler.

Retailers buying the De Beers limited-edition Millennium “branded” diamonds have big plans—and high hopes—for the stones, which started arriving in stores this summer.

R.F. Moeller in Minneapolis is planning a special faux-New Year’s event weeks prior to the real thing, complete with a “midnight countdown,” “paparazzi” snapping photos of customers, and an on-site diamond cutter. Others are planning radio and TV ads. At press time, it was still too early to find out how sales were going, although retailers found strong consumer interest.

Bob Moeller of R.F. Moeller says he’s had success touting the Millennium diamonds as add-ons. “We don’t sell them off the bat for an engagement ring,” Moeller says. “We want to make it an additional purchase for an event.” He says customers are either “really interested and think it’s a fantastic idea or have no interest at all. There’s no middle ground.” El Paso, Texas, jeweler Susan Eisen says customers are mostly interested from an “investing and collecting standpoint. They might be saving it for an engagement ring for one of their kids, and they may have plans to do something with them later.”

Probably the best results so far are from Tivol Jewelers in Kansas City, which sold its 10-stone allotment even before the stones arrived. “It’s one of the easiest things we’ve ever done,” says store president Tom Tivol. The experience has prompted Tivol to launch his own “Millennium” brand.

However they fare at retail, wholesale demand for the stones is strong. Many sightholders say they are sold out of the diamonds and have already put in requests for more. (The run is limited to 20,000.) Generally, the stones are wholesaling for at least 10% over the Rapaport Diamond Report list price.

The Millennium diamonds have been sold mostly to high-end independents. However, many jewelers that are “branded” nationally—notably Tiffany and Harry Winston—have declined to carry the stones. Chains also appearing to be staying away. An exception is Zale’s Bailey, Banks and Biddle.

Retailers are pleased with the stones themselves, which generally have high clarity and fine cutting but often low color grades. Yet some griped about delays with the packaging and supporting materials from De Beers’ London office.

Even so, many retailers express enthusiasm for the role the hallmark “reader” plays in the sale. “It is especially exciting for men,” says Jeff Corey, president of five-store Day Jewelers in Maine. Moeller has even found another application for the reader. “It does a fantastic job of showing symmetry,” he says, noting that he has demonstrated a Lazare Kaplan stone in it.

Although the stones are “hallmarked” with the De Beers insignia, some sightholders are also getting them inscribed at the Gemological Institute of America’s Gem Trade Lab. Unlike the De Beers mark, the GIA inscription can be seen with a loupe. “It’s another check and balance,” says Leon Cohen of Codiam, a Millennium sightholder.

One aspect of the program has proved unpopular with jewelers. Originally, the Millennium stones included a card for customers to register their stones with De Beers. But retailers were nervous about De Beers getting their customers’ names and addresses, worrying that the company might contact them directly.

So instead, several sightholders have signed on with the new Diasure Diamond Registry. Diasure has a consumer-accessible Web site (www.brandeddiamonds.com) and offers insurance for lost diamonds. Diasure cofounder Ben Kinzler says the registry eventually will be expanded to include other “brands” and inscribed stones. He notes that the registry provides added security by giving consumers a permanent, confidential record of their purchase. “We believe a registered stone is a deterrent to theft,” he says.—Rob Bates

South American Diamonds

Thirty kilometers northwest of the town of Coromandel in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, miners are working a diamond-bearing river gravel deposit along a 20-kilometer stretch of the Santo Antonio River valley. If the estimates hold true, this and two other deposits now being explored could finally mark the beginning of South America’s full-scale commercial diamond-mining operations.

It’s hardly news that diamonds occur in Brazil. Brazilian diamonds have been mined since the early 1700s. But because India was considered the most important source for fine-quality diamonds up until the last quarter of the 1800s, Brazilian diamonds found throughout the 18th and 19th centuries were shipped surreptitiously to India, where they were sold as being of local origin.

South American diamond mining has gone on for centuries, but seldom in commercial-size production. Over the last 50 years, the Santo Antonio area has given up the big ones, often weighing more than 100 cts., mined only by the local garimpeiros. Now it appears that commercial-scale production finally may be coming.

South Atlantic Mining Co. has resumed its testing of the Santo Antonio alluvial deposit. The largest stone they have found, uncovered in 1997, was a 15.8-ct., near-colorless, irregularly shaped stone with an estimated value of $2,000 per carat. In a more recent test of 600 cubic meters of gravel processed, eight diamonds were found, the largest weighing 5.6 cts. with an estimated value of $1,000 per carat.

South Atlantic is hoping that history repeats itself. One of the largest diamonds in the world, known as the “President Vargas” and weighing 726 cts. in the rough, was recovered here by local miners in 1938. A stone weighing 602 cts. was reported in the local newspaper in 1995.

Black Swan Gold Mines Ltd. recently sold the first parcel of diamonds from its Gamela alluvial diamond project, also located near Coromandel, and it was impressive. With a total weight of 32.38 cts., the 18 diamonds were recovered from just 3,918 cubic meters of gravel. Sixteen carats were found in a mere 500 cubic meters of material.

The Black Swan parcel, which was sold for a total of $40,171 (roughly $1,200 per carat), included one fancy green-yellow diamond weighing 6.85 cts. and valued at $34,250 ($5,000 per carat). Excluding this stone, the remaining 17 diamonds were valued at $5,921, or $232 per carat.

Just north of Brazil, the small country of Guyana is also yielding its share of alluvial diamonds. Guyana Diamond Corp. is exploring an area along the Mazaruni River. The color of these diamonds “runs the gamut from D to L. However, a good percentage exhibit E to H,” says Tom Lee, who holds substantial stock in Guyana Diamond Corp. and serves as an adviser. (He is also president of Sapphire River, LLC, a Montana sapphire mine.)

Like the Brazilian stones, these diamonds are being mined from an alluvial, secondary deposit. But Lee believes they may have located the primary deposit. If further tests prove him right, it would be the first of its kind in South America, with the makings of a South African-like strike.—Gary Roskin

In Search of the Perfect Diagram

Still using the old sticker plots for your appraisals? Then you’re stuck behind the times. Jewelers who use plotting diagrams to note inclusions during take-in procedures or appraisals commonly use rubber stamps, stick-on diagrams, or preprinted forms. None of these methods provides you with all the common diamond-cutting styles, so jewelers end up modifying the diagram by hand or writing complicated descriptions of the diamond.

Now, thanks to appraiser William Hoefer of Hoefer’s Gemological Services in San Jose, Calif., you can get “unglued.” With a software program called “Perfect Diagram,” you can print any of the more than 300 diagrams provided on the disk directly onto your own stationery.

If you wonder whether it really works, consider this. The American Gem Society Laboratory uses Perfect Diagram for its diamond-grading reports. AGS is suggesting that its entire membership use the program.

The diagrams include round brilliants, cushions, heart shapes, marquises, ovals, pears, rectangular cuts, square cuts, triangles, step cuts, patented cuts, and even rose cuts. Need a briolette diagram, a Firerose, or a seven-main pear with a French tip? It’s all right there.

The software runs with any program that can support a .wpg extension. The software costs $160, which includes shipping. You can find out more about Hoefer’s Perfect Diagram at his Web site, appraiserunderoath.com.—Gary Roskin

Misrepresented Diamonds Rampant on the Internet, Experts Say

Diamond misrepresentation is widespread on the Internet, said Jacques Voorhees, president of online network Polygon, in a session entitled “Diamonds on the Internet” at the recent JA New York show. Voorhees showed attendees a diamond-selling site that posted counterfeit Gemological Institute of America grading reports and said that there were many sites making similar misrepresentations.

Jewelers Vigilance Committee executive director Cecilia Gardner noted the same rules apply to online retailers as to “bricks-and-mortar” ones. She said her group was working with the Federal Trade Commission to clamp down on misleading claims on the Internet.—Rob Bates

Borsheim’s Puts Pegasus on the ’Net

One noted retailer has become proactive about informing consumers about the Lazare Kaplan-Pegasus Overseas Limited “process.” The “About Diamonds” section of the Web site for Omaha, Neb.-based Borsheim’s (www.borsheims.com) includes information about the controversial “whitening” treatment.

Borsheim’s president Susan Jacques feels consumers won’t be anxious about the process if they’re informed ahead of time. “We are trying to take a proactive stand, make our customers aware of [the process], and negate the impact,” she says. “I am a firm believer that people should hear from us rather than from the media.”—Rob Bates

L.A. D.A. Visits Diamond Club

Los Angeles district attorney Gil Garcetti, famed for his role in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, recently visited the Diamond Club West Coast to pledge the city’s cooperation in stamping out jewelry-related crime. City attorney James Hahn gave the police department $50,000 for new cell phones for police officers.

DDC Hosts First ‘Jewelers Market Day’

The Diamond Dealers Club recently held its first “Jewelers Market Day.” Retailers attending the Jewelers of America show were allowed admission to the club without the customary sponsor. The result was a busy bourse that made organizers happy. “We even had some people from New York who had never been here before,” says Arnold Gross, one of the organizers. Sylvain Ringer, a member of DDC’s Business Development Committee, said the club wanted to broaden its membership beyond the diamond trade to encompass more jewelers.

Two days earlier, the club welcomed nearly 20 attendees from the JA show’s “Diamond Day Tour.” The tour included a stop at the diamond polishing factory of noted diamantaire Jacques Roisen.—Rob Bates

Enter the Maple Leaf Brand

Canadian diamonds now have a recognizable national symbol as a logo. BHP Diamonds and Dia Met Minerals, major shareholders in the Ekati diamond mine in the Northwest Territories, have chosen the Canadian maple leaf to represent diamonds from the country’s first commercial diamond mine.

The logo was unveiled at a gala event at the Third International Gemological Institute of America Symposium in San Diego. BHP/Dia Met presented 2,000 attendees with a “crystal” candy dish etched with the maple leaf and overprinted with the words “Ekati Diamonds” at the “Nature of Diamonds” evening at San Diego’s Natural History Museum. The announcement kicked off a worldwide marketing campaign to promote Ekati as a reliable source of high-quality diamonds. The Ekati maple leaf logo soon will be appearing in a series of advertising layouts in industry publications.

BHP Diamonds (with a 51% stake), Dia Met Minerals (29%), and geologists Charles E. Fipke (10%) and Stewart L. Blusson (10%) developed Ekati, the first Canadian diamond mine. It’s located in the Lac de Gras area of the Northwest Territories, about 300 kilometers northeast of the provincial capital of Yellowknife.—Gary Roskin

The Definitive Text on Colored Diamonds

C ollecting and Classifying Coloured Diamonds: An Illustrated Study of the Aurora Collection, by Stephen C. Hofer (Ashland Press, New York), is an informative, thought-provoking, and visually stunning blend of gemology and romance. Hofer has combined his knowledge of color science with his love of beauty to give the retail, wholesale, and gemological communities the keys to buying, collecting, studying, and selling colored diamonds. Whether you’re looking for insight on color-grading a fancy colored diamond or on romancing it for sale, you’ll find the help you need here.

The first two chapters introduce and catalog the Aurora collection, a set of 260 fancy colored diamonds gathered by Harry Rodman and Alan Bronstein. (This incredible collection is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.) Each stone was chosen to fill a unique place on the diamond color palette, and the collection represents virtually the entire range of fancy colors. Beautifully photographed by Tino Hamid and presented alongside an E-color round brilliant for reference, each diamond is described scientifically by hue, lightness, and saturation and given a scientifically justified common color name.

The next four chapters explore the complex world of collecting. Here, hard science and cold commerce are juxtaposed with sparkling, often passionate, quotations that transcend facts and figures to get at the magic and mystery of these remarkable gems. The words of Kunz, Bauer, Arem, Winston (as well as Pliny the Elder, Rudyard Kipling, and Henry David Thoreau), and hundreds of other collectors explain the intricacies and delicacies of the fancy colored diamond.

Chapter 6, “Perception: The Art of Seeing Colour,” should be required reading for anyone interested in the subject. Hofer defines color and explains, in clear, straightforward language, exactly how we human beings look at and process color in our minds.

Chapters 7 and 8 address grading and appearance and will appeal to the scientifically motivated gemologist. Nick Hale, formerly with MacBeth Color, collaborated on these chapters, which should satisfy the most learned color scientists without leaving beginners behind. Hale gives the reader a clear understanding of how light and gems react, and why gems do what they do.

Chapter 9 deals with classification. In nearly 200 pages of text, photos, charts, illustrations, and quotations, it details, color by color, how every hue can be modified and how every diamond can be compared against the total visible color palette. Armed with this wealth of information, the reader is well-prepared to examine and classify gemologically, scientifically, and aesthetically the beauty and color of a fancy colored diamond.

In an appendix to the book, Hofer has added one of the finest cut and color compendiums ever assembled. He also has included a detailed 120-page glossary, a 50-page bibliography, 50 pages of colored diamond auction records, and a 10-page index.

Don’t let the price tag of this 10-lb., 742-page compendium put you off. At $300, this book is a bargain. For more information, call Ashland Press at (800) 451-2558.—Gary Roskin

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