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TEENS PICK JEWELRY AND WATCHES

If teenagers shopped where they predicted they would, jewelers should have seen more of them over the holiday season than they did throughout the rest of 1996.

A national survey by Channel One Network, a leading provider of news and educational programming to U.S. teens, found this group was expected to control $7 billion in shopping power this past Christmas season. While jewelry stores were not on their usual shopping rounds during the rest of the year, 29% said they planned to shop there during the holiday season.

The “echo boom” generation (children of Baby Boomers) was predicted to spend $4.6 billion on gifts for others and to exercise considerable influence over the $2.9 million worth of gifts they receive. Ninety percent of teens surveyed said they made gift requests at least occasionally, and only one in 10 reported “rarely” or “never” receiving gifts they requested from a parent.

Most teens said they got their holiday gift ideas from television, friends and stores. Some said they also got gift ideas from magazines, newspapers and catalogs. Gift choices for Christmas ’96 included clothes, music CDs and tapes, videos, fragrances, watches and jewelry.

“Our research shows us that teens play an important and increasing role in family purchasing, ranging from personal computers to holiday gift-giving,” says Tim Nichols, Channel One Network’s executive vice president of research. Teens prefer to shop in department stores (30% of respondents indicated this was their favorite outlet), followed closely by clothing stores (28%), discount stores (13%) and music/video stores (11%). The remaining teens said they prefer sporting goods stores, electronics stores, shoe stores and other stores. But when asked to check off the kinds of stores they expected to visit over the holiday shopping period, 29% indicated they would visit jewelry stores. Watches and jewelry were among the top five choices of gifts that teens expected to buy and the seventh choice of a list of 18 gifts teens would like to receive.

Overall, the average teen spends $210 on holiday gifts each year, says Channel One. They buy a total of 11 gifts – seven for family members or other relatives and four for friends or other people. The average teen makes almost five holiday shopping trips, usually beginning in December. Forty-six percent of teens surveyed said they did their shopping the week before or the week of Christmas. For Christmas, the average teen gets cash gifts totaling $132 and spends $92 of it right away.

DIVER DOWN, WATCHES UP

Because even those who wear water wings in the shallow end of a pool proudly don diver watches, it’s easy to forget these beautiful and functional timepieces must serve a deeper purpose. A reliable watch is an essential piece of scuba equipment, timing such things as how long the diver has been under and helping to determine how much air is left in the tank.

In the November/December 1996 issue of Rodale’s Scuba Diving magazine, the TAG Heuer 6000 series was chosen as the best timepiece for real dive use. It was praised for its stainless steel case, quartz movement with low-battery indicator, water resistance, good looks and overall value for its suggested retail of $1,850.

Coming in second was the Rolex Oyster Submariner, what the magazine calls “the one luxury watch everyone recognizes,” carrying a suggested retail of $5,500.

The third choice will appeal most to those who own a wet suit and fins. The Seiko Scubamaster S23287’s digital movement monitors time to the second and depth to the foot. It also compares this important information to U.S. Navy tables to help divers avoid decompression sickness – which can result in paralysis and even death. The watch stores data for 30 dives and retails for $1,000.

Rounding out the top four is the Citizen Hyper Aqualand, another watch that will find a customer base among those with permanently puckered fingertips and water in the ear. The digital movement displays time and date as well as detailed dive information that can be downloaded to the diver’s personal computer. The suggested retail is $495, excluding the PC interface kit.

THE ELECTRONIC HEARTH

The number of microwaves, VCRs, home computers and car phones has grown steadily throughout the decade, according to a new survey by The Conference Board, a business research and consulting company in New York City.

The survey examined ownership and planned purchases of a wide variety of goods and services. The results offer a clear picture of what jewelers face when trying to win consumers’ disposable income from other retailers.

In 1996, microwave ovens were found in more than 85% of all surveyed households, up from 75% in 1990. More than 6% of all families say they will buy a microwave this year. VCRs also have gained in popularity, with about 85% of the households owning them in ’96, up from 68% in 1990. About 40% of the households surveyed have at least two VCRs. The percentage of families owning home computers climbed to 40% in 1996, up from just 22% in 1990. An additional 26% of families surveyed plan to buy a computer this year, making it the most popular planned purchase for the new year. The survey also shows 52% of surveyed families had CD players in 1996, up from a mere 15% in 1990, and 60% had 25-in. or larger color TV sets, up from 41% at the beginning of the decade.

CUSTOMIZING AN ACCESSORY

Expanding the men’s jewelry and accessories category is one of the more creative challenges the jewelry industry faces. A company in Illinois is taking pen, in this case a Mont Blanc, in hand to create a new market. Devian Diamond Inc. introduces a line of “jewelry” for Mont Blanc pens. The 14k gold and diamond enhancers are sculpted and bejeweled adornments to replace the standard clip on the pens.

“The product is designed to fill a niche in the executive and better accessories category,” says Glenn Thompson, the product’s creator. Thompson got the idea after buying an estate that included a bunch of older Mont Blancs. “They were a bit worn, and I thought it would be cool to decorate them,” he says. He described what he wanted to Chicago-area goldsmith Timothy Grant, who made the wax carvings.

The clips, which screw on to any Mont Blanc, carry a suggested retail of about $500. The standard enhancers are 14k set with a minimum .10-ct. S1 diamond; 18k and platinum clips are available for special orders.

Devian Diamond Inc., Three Golf Center #164, Hoffman Estates, IL 60195; (847) 781-1204, fax (847) 781-1201.

READ ANY GOOD BOOKS LATELY?

From new books to new museum exhibits, 1997 promises to be a banner year for jewelry. Perhaps it was the popularity of the New York Museum of Natural History’s amber exhibit/book or the Metropolitan Museum’s Fabergé exhibit/book that have inspired such interest by the art and publishing worlds. The fall 1996 issue of the American Society of Jewelry Historians newsletter (Box 103, One-B, Quaker Ridge Rd., New Rochelle, NY 10804) was bulging with listings of upcoming events and books. Among the highlights:

The Books:

  • Bulgari, by Daniel Mascetti and Amanda Triossi (Abbeville Press, 1996). The book explores the history of the Italian company and its expensive baubles.

  • Diamonds, A Century of Spectacular Jewels, by Penny Proddow and Marion Faisel (Harry N. Abrams, 1996). The book tells all about the 20th century’s embrace of diamonds. Both authors are members of the American Jewelry Design Council Board of Trustees.

  • Kenneth Jay Lane, Faking It, by Kenneth Jay Lane and Harrice Simmons Miller (Harry Abrams, 1996). All right, they are fakes, but that doesn’t stop the stars from patronizing Lane! The book details his own top 10, as well as other juicy tidbits. Miller is a member of the American Society of Jewelry Historians.

The Exhibits:

  • “The Glory of Byzantium,” March 11-July 6. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y.; (212) 570-3951. This major exhibit of the art of the middle period of the Byzantine Empire (mid-9th to mid-13th centuries) will include jewelry.

  • “The Art of Cartier,” April 7-Aug. 3. The Metropolitan Museum, New York, N.Y.; (212) 570-3951. This comprehensive exhibit celebrates Cartier’s 150 birthday and will feature over 200 examples of jewelry, clocks, watches and other jewelry related items.

  • “The Glitter and the Gold: Making America’s Jewelry,” May 7-Aug. 17. The Newark Museum, Newark, N.J.; (201) 596-6550. Curators are Ulysses Grant Dietz, curator of Decorative Arts at The Newark Museum and ASJH member Janet Zapata, author of The Jewelry and Enamels of Louis Comfort Tiffany (Thames & Hudson/Abrams, 1993) and a contributor to JCK’s “Heritage” section. The exhibit will tell the story of Newark’s meteoric rise to fame as home of more than 100 jewelry manufacturers in the late 19th century. A book that tells the Newark story will be published as well.

  • “The Nature of Diamonds,” November 1997-May 1998. The American Museum of Natural History, New York, N.Y.; (212) 873-1300. The exhibit explores all facets of diamonds, from geological origins to their place in history, art and literature. On loan will be diamonds from collections around the world.

Coming in 1998:

  • “The Jewels of Lalique,” Feb. 3-April 12, 1998. Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design, New York, N.Y.; (212) 860-6868. The exhibit will focus on the French jeweler’s works in jewelry and glass before World War I. Two hundred rare pieces from collections around the world will be on display. Happy reading and museum going. – by Editor in Chief Peggy Jo Donahue, Senior Copy Editor Liz Smutko and Senior Fashion Editor Hedda T. Schupak.