Spanish Company Sets Sights on America

Christopher Columbus discovered North America because it was blocking his way to the Orient. But Tous of Barcelona, Spain, isn’t looking for a faster route to China. The jewelry and accessory company has set its sights directly on America. Its whimsical little bear logo is famous in Spain and soon should be cropping up in better retail jewelers across the United States.

In Spain and abroad, Tous operates a network of retail shops and in-store boutiques in large department stores. Its first U.S. boutique opened in the San Francisco Bay area last year. That’s nothing unusual, but what is different about Tous is a jewelry-business concept that emphasizes the casual—it’s more like a Nine West shoe store than a typical jeweler. “When a young woman [in Spain] buys a new outfit, she then comes to Tous to buy jewelry to go with it,” explains Jordi Cata, who heads the firm’s U.S. division.

Tous’s jewelry is created under the watchful eye of head designer Rosa Oriol Tous and made in its own factory or contracted out to select Spanish manufacturers. Price points range from easily accessible ($100 or less) to privileged (more than $10,000). The product range encompasses thousands of items, but the stores’ inventory mix changes seasonally and includes only a fraction of the full catalog.

Cata says the firm has created a “Tous phenomenon” in Spain, where young women vie to be the first to have the new designs as they’re released each season. Wearing the little bear logo is practically a requirement to be considered “in” among teens and young working women.

Abroad, Tous’s core audience is consumers ranging in age from around 15 to 35. Older women frequent Tous to buy gifts for their daughters, nieces, and granddaughters. Cata says many will walk out with something for themselves as well, especially since some of the firm’s newest collections are geared to an older, more sophisticated, fashion-conscious shopper.

In the United States, Tous is targeting women aged 25 to 40. The firm will also introduce its line of silver accessories, silver baby keepsakes, leather goods, and scarves to American jewelers. Cata says a fragrance is in the works.

Tous’s strategy is to build recognition and desire for a brand name that at this point is virtually unknown here. At press time, the company was working to arrange initial distribution through select jewelry stores and department and specialty stores in major markets, accompanied by an aggressive advertising campaign. Cata hopes jewelers who pick up Tous will establish Tous corners in their stores, with branded packaging and display materials.

Tous USA, 44 Broadway Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94596; (925) 280-5444.

Poetic Diamonds

Throughout the ages, diamonds have inspired legends as well as lawsuits. Today, thanks to a romantic turn of mind and new technology, they inspire poetry. At least they do for designer Eddie Le Vian of Le Vian Corp. in New York. His romantic take on the subject involves laser-inscribing each diamond with a favorite verse that can be viewed through a jeweler’s loupe.

The “Love Sonnets” collection also offers triple protection for the owner: a certificate of appraisal from the Gemological Institute of America, a certificate of authenticity from Le Vian, and a laser photograph that maps the stone’s unique inclusions and internal markings.

The diamonds, in sizes of 1 ct. and above, are available to selected retailers, either loose or set in rings. And for those fickle lovers, Le Vian will take back any Love Sonnet ring in trade for another.

Le Vian Corp., 10 W. 46th St., 19th Floor, New York, NY 10036; (800) 239-9224 or (212) 575-0318.

Making Pierced Earrings Easier to Wear

Sometimes a little piece of plastic can make a world of difference. (Just ask anybody who wears contact lenses!) Now, at last, there’s effective, inexpensive, nonsurgical help for women whose pierced ears have been stretched or torn by heavy earrings.

The Lobe Wonder is an undetectable, hypoallergenic clear patch that’s applied to the back of the earlobe. When pierced by an earring, the patch bears much of the weight, relieving the earlobe of pressure and pull. At night, the patch is removed and discarded.

Right now the Lobe Wonder is sold primarily through mail-order catalogs. Its inventor, Joann Bradvica, says sales have been superb, and she’s ready to make the product available to jewelers. The Lobe Wonder retails from $6 to $7 keystone for a box of 60 patches. A countertop display unit is available for $10.

Bradvica says jewelers can use the Lobe Wonder as an additional sales tool for a customer who’s hesitating about buying heavy earrings. Or they can simply place it on the countertop for incremental sales.

Great minds think alike—a similar product called Ear§pressibles comes in a special dispenser box. The adhesive patch can be worn on the back of the earlobe to help support heavy earrings or stabilize a torn or stretched hole, but Ear§pressibles can also be placed on the front of the lobe as a buffer in the event of a metal sensitivity. Retail for a box of 60 starts at $4.95.

The Lobe Wonder is available from the Bradvica Co., P.O. Box 660442, Arcadia, CA 91066; (626) 447-0065. Ear§pressibles are licensed and distributed by Blue Moon Licensing, 6 E. Main St., Suite 6C-4, Ramsey, NJ 07446; (800) 826-2487 or (201) 236-2223.

War Movie Inspired a Gem-Studded Purse

Beverly Hills handbag artist Kathrine Baumann, creator of the miniature “Titanic” bag and other whimsical, pop-art minaudières, has launched another special collectible. Inspired by the movie Saving Private Ryan, Baumann spearheaded a project to raise funds for a World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

Baumann has created a pure African gold handbag with a 36.5-ct. amethyst heart, surrounded by 64 round brilliant diamonds. The bag made its debut at The JCK Show in Las Vegas and will be auctioned off this fall, with proceeds going to the WWII Memorial Fund.

Baumann was in charge of the design, concept, and supervision of the project. All parties involved donated their time, materials, and talents, with an estimated value of more than $100,000.

The 24k pure gold bullion to make the bag was donated by RA Pure African Gold. The fabrication of the bag was done by David Bolam, a master goldsmith from South Africa. The amethyst was a gift from the International Gemmological Institute, the diamonds from jeweler David Orgell of Beverly Hills, Calif. Gandini of Milan contributed custom-made silk velvet for the lining of a rare, hand-crafted “Red Ivory Wood” presentation box donated from South Africa. Separately, Baumann will introduce a similar 100-piece limited-edition minaudière for collectors.

Kathrine Baumann, 441 North Beverly Dr., Suite 210, Beverly Hills, CA 90210; (310) 274-7441.