JCK Year in Review

January

  • The Richline Group, owned by Warren Buffett‘s holding company Berkshire Hathaway, acquired gold jewelry company Prime Time weeks after acquiring Alarama, another gold jewelry company.

  • The Tiffany vs. eBay counterfeit suit went to trial. Tiffany sued the auction site for hosting counterfeit merchandise.

  • Famed California jeweler Arthur Gleim, of Palo Alto, Calif., died Nov. 26, 2007, at the age of 91.

  • The Israel Diamond Institute signed a memorandum of understanding with Liberia offering the services of top diamond specialists to conduct a major survey of the Liberian diamond industry.

  • De Beers sold its Cullinan Diamond Mine in South Africa to the Petra Diamonds Cullinan Consortium for $150 million.

  • The American Gem Trade Association board of directors reappointed Douglas Hucker chief executive officer. Hucker had resigned in June 2007.

  • Timex Group B.V. named Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard president and chief executive officer. He replaced Joe Santana, president and CEO since 1999.

  • Indian sightholder Gitanjali Group acquired Rogers Jewelers, one of the oldest family-run jewelry chains in the United States.

  • Victorinox Swiss Army Inc. opened its North American corporate headquarters in Monroe, Conn.

February

  • Many retailers reported that the 2007 holiday selling season was below par as consumer spending tightened up compared with the previous year.

  • Neal Goldberg, former president of The Children’s Place, was named president and chief executive officer of Zale Corp., replacing Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Burton.

  • Two alleged thieves believed responsible for jewelry store distraction thefts in at least eight states over several years were apprehended. Quinton Antoine Garrus, 44, and Dwayne A. Ballard, 48, were arrested by the Maryland State Police State Apprehension Team.

  • Claims for money owed under the De Beers class-action settlement became available at the settlement’s official Web site, www.diamondsclassaction.com, and at the Jewelers Vigilance Committee Web site, www.jvclegal.org.

  • De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company announced a drastically reduced sightholder list, down from 93 to 75. Six new companies were added, and 24 were dropped.

  • Robert May became the new executive director of the Natural Color Diamond Association. He replaced Sam Merksamer.

  • De Beers Diamond Jewelers opened its fifth store in the United States, at Tysons Galleria in the Washington, D.C., area.

March

  • Friedman’s Jewelers went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following a petition by its lenders to force it into Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy.

  • De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company cut its U.S. marketing budget, and 11 people left the DTC account at JWT in New York. DTC cited the “perception that the U.S. market is moving to a recession and perhaps a bad one.”

  • It was announced that NRDC, the owner of the Lord & Taylor department store chain, planned to buy Fortunoff. To effect the transaction, Fortunoff filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

  • Ian Smillie, research coordinator of Partnership Africa Canada and a main driver of the conflict diamond issue, was the first witness at former Liberian president Charles Taylor‘s war crimes trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

  • Six sightholders were dropped by De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company for alleged violations of its Best Practice Principles, a code of ethical guidelines. The six, all Indian-owned firms based in Antwerp, Belgium, were implicated in the trial of Gerard Brenig, who received two years in jail for his role in a scheme involving falsified diamond invoices.

  • Martin Rapaport announced a new price list, a best-price tally that tracks the discounts off his widely used price sheet.

  • Five Israeli diamond workers died in a plane crash near Windhoek, Namibia. Israeli citizens Shlomo Zilberberg, Shmuel Tzuri, Amit Cohen, Ilan Adadi, and Avichai Avaro were killed, along with their pilot, when their aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff.

  • The Aurora Collection of 296 naturally colored diamonds went on display at the London Museum of Natural History‘s permanent gallery, The Vault. The collection was loaned to the museum by diamond collectors Alan Bronstein and Harry Rodman.

  • Tiffany & Co. and the Swatch Group announced a 20-year pact to create new watch collections for Tiffany. The new watch company, Tiffany Watches, is owned by Swatch.

April

  • Zale announced it would close 105 stores and cut 225 staff positions. The company said the closings would save $65 million.

  • It was reported that Lord & Taylor had received court approval for its purchase of Fortunoff. Finlay, the leased-jewelry-department operator that ran boutiques in Lord & Taylor, said it received notification that its license agreements would not be renewed.

  • Jewelry manufacturer and distributor Stuller, Lafayette, La., reduced its workforce by 45 employees in a realignment of its management team. Among the dismissed were Joseph Buttross, Stuller’s vice president for diamonds, and Ray Weiland, vice president of manufacturing.

  • Wire services reported that Friedman’s Jewelers, in Chapter 11, won bankruptcy court approval to sell off its assets.

  • Longtime gem and jewelry writer Ginger Dick died Feb. 10 at the age of 62.

  • Miner BHP made a second unsolicited offer for rival Rio Tinto, but the offer again was rejected.

  • After suspending six sightholders, all Indian-owned firms based in Antwerp, Belgium, for their alleged role in a scheme involving falsified diamond invoices, the De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company rescinded the suspension, and the sightholders went back on the list.

  • The Gemological Institute of America opened its first laboratory in South Africa.

  • Citizen Watch Co. Ltd. completed the $250 million acquisition of Bulova Corp. from Loews Corp. Citizen said it would operate Bulova as a separate organization, maintaining its current offices and operational structure worldwide.

  • The last of several court judgments barring gray market trafficking in watches with the Franck Muller trademark was issued.

  • Swiss luxury watchmaker Roger Dubuis S.A. and former U.S. distributor Helvetia Time Corp. (which did business as Roger Dubuis North America Inc.) dropped legal actions against each other.

May

  • Friedman’s Jewelers announced it was liquidating the majority of its stores.

  • A federal jury in New York convicted Bradley Stinn, the former chief executive officer at Friedmans and itsCrescent Jewelers affiliate, of securities fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy. The jury also returned a forfeiture verdict against Stinn for more than $1 million.

  • The Kansas City Star reported that Helzberg Diamonds cut 21 positions at its North Kansas City headquarters, a 9 percent reduction.

  • ABN AMRO announced that its diamond and jewelry division would go to Fortis, a member of the consortium that bought ABN AMRO, which includes the Royal Bank of Scotland.

  • PhotoScribe Technologies, a manufacturer of equipment for laser-inscribing diamonds, won a patent-infringement lawsuit brought against it and the Gemological Institute of America by Lazare Kaplan International. The jury found that PhotoScribe and GIA did not infringe on any of the 10 patent claims asserted by Lazare Kaplan.

  • The Diamond Trading Company Botswana opened its sorting facility in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.

  • The Movado Group announced it would reduce U.S. wholesale distribution of Movado, its largest watch brand, by 35 percent by Jan. 31, 2009, from 4,000 stores to 2,600.

  • Some 90,000 counterfeits of 10 Swiss watch brands were seized in Mexico City in a raid by the Federation of Swiss Watchmakers FH and Mexico’s federal authorities. Police also found weapons, drugs, and a workshop to reproduce pirated CDs.

June

  • David Sherman, chief executive officer of Paraíba.com, filed a lawsuit against the American Gem Trade Association, Gemological Institute ofAmerica, Brazil Imports Inc., and several individuals over use of the name Paraíba for tourmaline found in Mozambique and Nigeria.

  • Jewelers’ Security Alliance reported that overall crime in the jewelry industry fell by 9.2 percent in 2007 compared with 2006 statistics. Dollar losses fell 11.9 percent to $97.1 million.

  • Whitehall Jewelers acquired the assets and leases of 78 stores from Friedman’s and its subsidiary Crescent Jewelers for approximately $14.3 million. Whitehall said it would operate the stores under the names Whitehall or Lundstrom.

  • The court-appointed restructuring officer for the New York office of L.I.D., operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, said the company planned to sell most of its assets and did not plan to remain open.

  • The Republic of Madagascar temporarily suspended exportation of precious gemstones. The ban stemmed from the exportation of an emerald the government believed should have remained in the country as a national treasure.

July

  • Flooding from torrential rains at the Merelani Hills tanzanite mines in Tanzania killed at least 57 miners. It was the third time in 15 years that floods killed tanzanite miners.

  • Saying it was “without merit,” the American Gem Trade Association moved to dismiss the $120 million lawsuit targeting its use of the phrase Paraíba tourmaline.

  • LVMH purchased the Swiss luxury watch brand Hublot from owner Carlo Crocco.

  • Birks and Mayors signed a deal to become the exclusive distributor of Botswana-branded diamonds in North America.

  • Former sightholder L.I.D. Ltd., which folded after months in Chapter 11, auctioned off its diamond and jewelry inventory in April for almost $69 million.

  • Whitehall Jewelers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

August

  • The former House of Taylor, more than $11 million in debt, executed a peaceful possession of collateral with New Stream Secured Capital. House of Taylor owed New Stream nearly $11.2 million plus other fees and charges.

  • The Jewelry Channel Inc., launched in April 2007, in Austin, Texas, announced it would cease operations and lay off its staff of 106. It was owned by VGL Group, Jaipur, India.

  • Osvaldo Patrizzi, former chairman of Antiquorum Auctioneers, and members of his former management team started a new watch auction house, Patrizzi & Co. Auctioneers.

  • The Rapaport Group acquired a controlling interest in the Web-based Watch Dealers Network, a members-only business-to-business electronic marketplace for watches.

  • U.S. watch industry veteran Stacie Orloff, the former president of luxury brand Corum USA, was appointed president of luxury watch brand Bell & Ross USA.

  • Hearts On Fire sued Blue Nile for trademark infringement and unfair competition, Bloomberg News reported. Hearts On Fire said Blue Nile used keywords on search engines to misdirect those searching for Hearts On Fire Diamonds.

  • Jacob Arabov, 43, known in the hip hop world as Jacob the Jeweler, was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison for lying to investigators looking into a multistate drug ring, the Associated Press reported.

September

  • Less than two months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Whitehall announced it was liquidating.

  • President Bush signed the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008, designed to punish Burma’s ruling regime by banning the importation of rubies and jade from that country into the United States.

  • The Federal Trade Commission said qualified use of the term cultured diamonds should be allowed to describe laboratory-created stones.

  • The Colibri Group said it had completed financing that included an equity investment by the company’s major shareholder and simultaneous recapitalization of the company’s bank lines.

  • U.S. watch companies Genender International and Skagen Designs filed legal actions against each other over the design of Genender’s Hamlin watch line. Skagen alleged infringement of its trade dress rights, and Genender claimed Skagen’s design patent was invalid.

  • Regional department store chains Mervyn‘s and Boscov‘s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

October

  • Australia’s Michael Hill International announced plans to buy 17 stores in Illinois and Missouri from Whitehall Jewelers, in liquidation. It marked the Brisbane, Australia, company’s first entry into the U.S. market.

  • The International Colored Gemstone Association criticized the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008, which bars Burmese gemstones from entering the United States, saying it could hurt independent miners.

  • Moissanite manufacturer Charles & Colvard received a notice of possible delisting from Nasdaq because the bid price of the company’s stock had closed below $1 for 30 consecutive days.

  • De Beers said it would spend extra advertising money in the U.S. market on “a special allocation” of co-op marketing funds for the holiday season.

  • The De Beers retail chain opened a store in Honolulu and announced plans for stores in Naples, Fla., and Santa Mesa, Calif.

  • Jewelers Vigilance Committee, Manufacturing JewelersandSuppliers of America, Jewelers of America, and American Gem Society argued to the Federal Trade Commission that the word platinum should not be used to describe an alloy that combines platinum with metals not from the platinum group.

  • Richemont Group acquired 60 percent of Swiss watch and jewelry brand Roger Dubuis, leading to the departure of its chief executive, Carlos Dias, who was replaced by Matthias Schuler, previously chief operating officer of IWC.

  • Signet Group shareholders approved the transfer of its primary listing from the London Stock Exchange to the New York Stock Exchange and the relocation of company headquarters to Bermuda.

  • Tiffany said it would appeal its court loss to eBay after a judge ruled that Tiffany, not eBay, bore the burden of policing counterfeit Tiffany items on the auction site.

November

  • Southeastern jewelers were hit hard by Hurricane Ike on Sept. 13 and 14, but there were no reported deaths or serious injuries among jewelers or their families.

  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Sterling Jewelers for allegedly discriminating against women in the areas of pay and promotions.

  • Hong Kong retail jewelry group Chow Tai Fook took over hundreds of watch stores and two manufacturing facilities of the bankrupt Hong Kong watchmaker and retailer Peace Mark (Holding) Ltd.

  • The Indo Argyle Diamond Council announced it would close in December after 15 years of operation.

  • The Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008, barring importation of jadeite and rubies of Myanmar origin into the United States, took effect in September.