People of Influence 1997

Last December, JCK launched its first annual “People of Influence” list, chronicling the accomplishments of a few dozen individuals who had made a lasting impact upon the jewelry industry. A second list saluted those whose more recent achievements made them “People to Watch.”

This year, the editors profile a new group of high achievers. We also revisit a couple of last year’s people to watch; talk about several retailers who go out of their way to share with their peers; and recognize some usually unsung heroes for their significant, but behind-the-scenes, contributions to the industry.

Honing the list isn’t easy because so many individuals deserve public recognition. But we feel these made the most visible contributions in the past year. So here, in alphabetical order, are our picks for 1997 People of Influence, People to Watch, Retailers of Influence and Unsung Heroes.

SUCCESS, SOUTHERN STYLE

Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry of Baton Rouge, La., has a long-standing reputation for innovation in the jewelry industry. The firm’s humorous advertising campaigns showed that high-end stores needn’t have a stuffy image. Its in-store training programs, educational focus and incentive bonus plans help employees regard the store as a career path, not just another job. It’s clear that jeweler and owner Lee Michael Berg is a powerful motivator for his employees.

Beyond the boundaries of Louisiana, Berg is a formidable leader in the industry at large, as well. He gives tirelessly of his time to further the ideals he believes in and to help other jewelers reach the high level of professionalism and success Lee Michaels enjoys.

Having completed a term as president of Jewelers of America, Berg now is the new man at the helm of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. He would like to help put new teeth in an old watchdog.

JVC will continue to enforce gold stamping and trademark laws, uphold truth in pricing and monitor kiosk operations for underkarated gold jewelry and unauthorized design copying. Its appraisal committee, which sets guidelines for retail jewelers who provide insurance documents, will still review and update or improve as needed. But Berg hopes to increase JVC’s effectiveness by making its directors more active. He wants to set up a series of committees: legal, so JVC can take real action against those who violate laws and trade practices; personnel, to set policies for running the organization; and membership, to recruit new members and reinstate those who have been dropped.

Declining membership has hurt funding, but Berg believes a strong management committee can turn this around. “We are looking at ways of bringing some added value to attract and keep people in the JVC,” he says.

A personal priority of Berg’s is to change the Federal Trade Commission ruling that exempts laser-filled diamonds from disclosure. Jewelers of America opposes the ruling, but Berg admits that getting JVC to do so won’t be easy. Differences of opinion among board members make strong, direct opposition very difficult. Yet Berg wants the JVC to reach a position acceptable to all before taking it to the FTC. Getting a group of jewelers to compromise may seem impossible, but Lee Michael Berg may be just the man to do it.

IN LOVE WITH THE GIA

To hear Bill Boyajian tell it, he was practically born into the Gemological Institute of America.

“The GIA’s always embodied the principles I’ve believed in and hoped I’d find in the jewelry industry when I was growing up,” he says of the institution he’s headed for the past 11 years.

He calls being president of GIA “the best job in the industry.” It lets him stay heavily involved in academics (his first love), while helping the Institute to serve the industry and the public.

Boyajian looks outward, but stays focused on GIA’s three traditional areas: education, research and the Gem Trade Lab, its chief revenue earner. He remains idealistic about GIA’s missions, but knows that some things must wait their turn. His idealism comes through in projects which are fundamental to the GIA mission, but offer little financial reward when staff time and effort are factored in. An example is the 1999 Symposium.

“This isn’t a bottom line thing,” he says. “It may break even, make a little or even lose a little money, but we’ve pledged to pursue knowledge and ideas to stimulate the industry. That goes straight to our fundamental mission, not our earnings.”

Longer term, Boyajian’s dreams revolve around the Carlsbad campus, the culmination of his nearly 25 years at GIA. (After starting as a colored stone instructor, he became a department head, then took the helm in 1986.)

“With Carlsbad we’ve all got the feeling that we’re starting all over with a renewed spirit,” he says, “that the sky’s the limit because we have many more resources than we had in the past. We’ve also got a very special staff that can take these visions and turn them into reality. This is my highest priority now.”

QUALITY-MINDED TV SHOPPER

TV shopping has long been the black sheep of the jewelry industry, selling enormous quantities of jewelry at low prices and mass-market quality. But it looks like John Calnon, vice president of jewelry merchandising, is working to change that image at QVC.

The company’s initials stand for “quality, value and convenience.” Since joining the TV retail giant in July 1996, Calnon has stressed that first part – quality.

Some recent programs highlighted the shift to better-quality jewelry. For example, segments featuring the exclusive 22-piece Arte d’Oro collection of 18k gold Italian jewelry priced between $600 and $3,000 proved a blockbuster. The initial broadcast sold out in less than its allotted two-hour time slot and generated $800,000 in sales.

“Our success with that collection destroys the myth of electronic retail that you can’t sell better-quality merchandise and higher price points on TV,” says Calnon. It proves that QVC can compete on quality as well as price, and opens the door for QVC to promote such once inconceivable offerings as diamonds and platinum. This makes it a serious competitor for the average corner jeweler from middle America as well as mass-market giants like rival Home Shopping Network and Wal-Mart.

These changes are attributable to Calnon’s influence, and hardly a surprise to those who knew him before he joined QVC. As vice president of the World Gold Council, Calnon worked with major retailers, encouraging them to upgrade their gold jewelry programs. He now oversees all aspects of QVC’s jewelry business, including the merchandising of gemstones, gold, silver, watches, design and the Diamonique collection of CZ jewelry. He also manages the QVC jewelry manufacturing operation in Pennsylvania.

THE BID FOR A NEW BREED OF AUCTIONS

François Curiel has achieved some important distinctions in his career. The International Herald Tribune called him “the world’s leading auction house expert on gems.” The Diamond High Council in Belgium honored him with the Antwerp Diamond Career Award. And since establishing the Christie’s Jewelry Department in New York in 1977, he’s sold the gems of some of the most famous people in the world.

Now overseeing jewelry departments in 11 major cities around the world, Curiel has done much to revolutionize the auction market since he started as a jewelry specialist with Christie’s in 1969. Auctions once were clearinghouses frequented by gem dealers and estate jewelry merchants. Curiel, however, saw potential in romancing the stones to private buyers.

Auctions still depend on the wholesale business as well, however, so Curiel listened when trade members began complaining about problems with disclosure this past year. They charged that auction house catalogs were intentionally vague and that private buyers often didn’t know what they were buying. They urged auction houses, as one of the most public institutions in the jewelry industry, to take the lead in disclosing gemstone treatments and the authenticity of estate jewelry.

The complaints gave Curiel what he called “a sense of urgency” in dealing with the issues. Now a page in each Christie’s jewelry catalog warns buyers of possible treatments and enhancements. Christie’s also clarifies authenticity statements and provides a glossary of periods and designs.

Curiel took disclosure one step further. “We clearly identify the enhancements in the descriptions of the products, and then we price the treated stones differently,” he says. “We no longer accept heat-treated stones at the same reserve level as untreated ones.” Christie’s also required all jewelry department employees to attend classes to learn more about gemstone treatments.

The trade applauded the efforts at first, but Curiel says there has been some reprisal since. “We’ve lost a few consignments to competitors because of our disclosure policies,” he says. “I take the long-term view and hope that the few consignments we lose now will pay off in the end.”

He adds that disclosure doesn’t seem to sway private customers. “They read about treatments, and they say ‘fine.’ If they like a stone, they buy it. More dealers seem to be bothered by enhancements than private buyers.”

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

When S. Lynn Diamond took over as executive director of the Diamond Promotion Service in January 1996, she took a lot of teasing about her name. But in her first two years on the job, Diamond certainly lived up to that name.

She proudly points to three accomplishments: galvanizing industry support behind the Diamond Solitaire Necklace; boosting training and education programs for selling diamonds; and rethinking the diamond sales process itself.

Diamond calls the DSN the most significant new diamond product trend in 15 years. It has revitalized the entire neckwear category.

In the area of education, DPS has established localized programs about selling diamonds in new formats that are more adaptable to individual jewelers’ needs.

But Diamond’s efforts on the Diamond Quality Pyramid, the DPS’s new quality-based training program, draw the biggest kudos. The Diamond Quality Pyramid is the first serious departure from traditional diamond selling techniques based solely on the four C’s. It combines the four C’s with the concept of rarity to help jewelers justify the price of better quality diamonds. The program was conceptualized, designed and built in the U.S. and launched at The JCK Show in Las Vegas. It will be introduced soon in other consumer markets around the world.

In the coming year, Diamond wants to see “a Pyramid in every jewelry store in the U.S. and Canada” and to help every part of the jewelry industry understand the benefits of the De Beers and DPS diamond selling programs. Looking further ahead, Diamond’s DPS already is researching the product to become “the next Diamond Solitaire Necklace.”

WILLING TO SHARE

Gary Gordon, third-generation president of Samuel Gordon Jewelers, is becoming an industry legend. This energetic jeweler took a relatively staid, traditional, three-store family jewelry business and transformed it into one 12,000-sq.-ft. ultra-hip superstore. Ahead of his time in image-building and merchandising, he was an early and staunch believer in designer and branded jewelry.

Gordon is one of the most innovative marketers in the industry. Where other jewelers might launch a new store with champagne, caviar and quiet classical music, Gordon dished up hot dogs and beer for 2,000 of his closest friends at a rollicking, rowdy, rock ‘n roll bash in the parking lot. In 1994 he was the first jeweler selected to host the Platinum Guild International’s traveling multimedia fashion show (held indoors, with champagne and caviar). His in-house designer Valerie Naifeh is steadily gaining industry recognition with two Diamonds Today awards and a final mention in the International Pearl Design contest.

But what makes Gordon an inspiration to others is less his bells-and-whistles business than his willingness to share. Whether it’s addressing an audience, as he’s done at many an industry conference program, or being totally open and forthright in a magazine interview, Gordon will give fellow jewelers step-by-step instructions and cost breakdowns for anything from inventory control and pricing to advertising strategies and planning a blow-out promotion. Jewelers crowd his presentations because beneath the whirlwind exterior, Gordon is a CPA and a very sound business planner with a practical, no-nonsense approach to profitability.

He has become a local celebrity in Oklahoma City, and has a can’t-miss-him presence in the jewelry industry. But his Midwest-friendly, open and engaging manner makes fellow jewelers feel perfectly comfortable approaching him for advice.

COMMITTED TO COLOR

Debbie Hiss-Odell has had a colorful career – literally. Her passion is educating the world about colored gemstones through her roles as teacher, writer and advocate.

Hiss-Odell has experience in almost all aspects of the jewelry industry, from the basics of jewelry manufacturing, learned as an apprentice silversmith, to retail sales and resident appraiser at Crescent Jewelers in Westwood, Cal. But it was her seven years as an instructor at the Gemological Institute of America that served as the true foundation for the rest of her career development.

In 1987, she left GIA to join Jewelers’ Circular-Keystone and cover, of course, colored gemstones. Her next step was director of information at the American Gem Trade Association, which further cemented her belief in the importance of education and colored gems.

In 1993, Hiss-Odell came full circle and rejoined GIA as manager of association training, coordinating educational efforts for various industry organizations and events. Her academic and practical experience has prepared Hiss-Odell to educate retailers on the benefits of selling colored gemstones and colored stone jewelry.

BRINGING EDUCATION HOME

Jewelers are caught in a bind. They need and want continuing education, but often can’t leave their stores to go where courses are being held.

Now, thanks to the efforts of Beverly Hori-Ankrom, they won’t have to. Hori-Ankrom, director of education for Jewelers of America, is busy revamping JA’s education program to make it practical, relevant, effective and, most of all, accessible. In fact, she wants to make education so pervasive that jewelers practically “smash into it” wherever they turn.

For example, to become a Certified Store Manager, a jeweler once had to attend a review course, then take the CSM exam at a trade show or affiliate event. Now JA offers a self-study review course and a revised exam, so a manager may study at home, then take the test under a local proctor. This is convenient and also allows managers who don’t pass to retest when they feel they’re ready, not when the next trade show comes around.

Some other changes under Hori-Ankrom:

  • New incentives for the JA/GIA scholarship program. GIA courses taken under JA scholarships had disappointing completion rates. The new system will provide financial motivation for students to complete their coursework.

  • Increased use of technology, such as the JA website.

  • Freedom for affiliates to use JA education funding in ways that best suit their own members. Some affiliates are offering more scholarships. Other are choosing to bring better speakers and seminars to their state conventions.

Hori-Ankrom has been part of the jewelry industry for more than 20 years. She began, as many industry leaders do, behind the counter. She went on to study, teach and manage at the Gemological Institute of America, most recently heading Corporate and Association Education. She joined JA 14 months ago.

Her plans are driven by the way she sees the retail jewelry industry changing. “Traditionally,” she explains, “family members passed their accumulated skills and values from one generation to the next, [basically] the apprentice method. But as apprenticeship and family tradition waned, the responsibility for jeweler education became the province of professional organizations, schools and associations.” These organizations have developed standards and programs that provide the foundation of jewelry retailing as a profession. Education is a critical element in the new world order, she says, and it must be developed in partnership with jewelers to answer their needs.

PREACHING THE GEMSTONE GOSPEL

“The American Gem Trade Association is made up of unique and passionate individuals,” says Douglas K. Hucker, the group’s new executive director. “But they have businesses to run and they therefore look to me as the one who can effectuate their vision. My job is to help them get there.”

Hucker has extensive previous experience in the colored gemstone, diamond and jewelry arenas. He worked for GIA in the late 1970s and 1980s, becoming manager for extension classes. Later jobs with Krementz & Co. and with The Registry Ltd. gave him hands-on experience and polish.

As AGTA’s new leader, Hucker will continue raising the awareness and knowledge of colored gemstones, and helping retailers sell colored gemstones with confidence.

“We have a great resource of passionate, knowledgeable people here, and we plan to make much more use of them in our speakers’ bureau. We want them to get out and preach the gospel of gemstones.”

Many of Hucker’s plans are based on education. They range from publishing a colored gemstone magazine that jewelers can place on their counters to upgrading the promotional materials AGTA already offers retailers.

Hucker is off to a good start. Changes already have been made in AGTA’s Source Directory listing of gemstone dealers. It now includes the Gem Enhancement Manual, a guide to understanding gemstone treatments, and its distribution has been increased. Non-member retailers formerly could buy a copy, but now the directory has been sent free of charge to some 28,000 retailers.

The response to such a simple change, says Hucker, “has been phenomenal.”

Hucker plans to form strategic alliances with strong organizations in the jewelry industry that will further help promote gemstones.

“We can all be more successful through a cooperative effort,” he says. “We all need to be reading from the same sheet of music.”

AN EDITOR AND A SCHOLAR

When Alice Keller became editor-in-chief of Gems & Gemology in 1984, she proved that a scientific journal can look sharp yet remain scholarly. Under Keller’s leadership, GIA’s quarterly journal expanded, improved graphics and photography, and became increasingly rigorous in its search for gemological truth. During Keller’s tenure, Gems & Gemology has published ground-breaking articles on fracture-filled and synthetic diamonds, black pearls, Paraiba tourmalines and diffusion-treated rubies and sapphires.

A string of awards has validated Keller’s vision of a journal that’s both brainy and beautiful. G&G received five Awards of Merit for excellence in printing from the Printing Industries of Maryland between 1984 and 1997; a 1996 Gold Ink Award for printing excellence; and five first and three second prizes in the American Society of Association Executives’ Gold Circle competition for “Journals” between 1992 and 1997.

Academicians and gemologists call Keller’s Gems & Gemology a virtual “continuing education” branch of GIA. Keller herself says, “I am a strong advocate of the importance of gemology – and continuing education in gemology – to the gem and jewelry industry. I am also proud of the fact that Gems & Gemology is not just a forum for GIA research, but that it welcomes and disseminates research from all over the world.”

SETTING STANDARDS FOR BENCH JEWELERS

Mark Mann is intimate with the jeweler’s bench.

He learned repair, casting, setting, fabrication and manufacturing as a teenager in his family’s retail store in Victor, Mont., then ran his own design, model-making and custom manufacturing firms off and on over the years. In 1979, Mann became entwined with the Jewelry Manufacturing Arts program at GIA. There he instructed, developed new courses and eventually oversaw the infrastructure of the entire JMA and gemology education program.

Teaching new jewelers to use a jewelry bench the way an artist uses a palette became Mann’s first love. But as a skilled professional who cared deeply about perfecting his own work, he faced one frustration.

“There was a huge hole in national quality control standards for bench jewelers,” he says. “There was a huge misconception on the part of consumers.” Except for the Independent Jewelers Organization’s Master Jeweler designation, he says, any advertisement of a “master jeweler” on a store’s premises could be misleading. “There are self-proclaimed ‘master jewelers’ whose work is hideous.”

When he became director of professional certification for Jewelers of America’s Bench Jeweler Certification™ program late in 1996, Mann saw a chance to shape the future of his beloved profession. “It enlarged my opportunity to work with experienced people and give the industry something it’s needed for a long time,” he says.

The industry quickly embraced the new program. More than 400 bench jewelers in the U.S. have become or are working to become certified; more than 1,200 people inquired about the program in the first 10 months of 1997. Three chain stores (Fortunoff, King’s of New Castle and Christienson’s Jewelers) use the program to certify their bench jewelers. Schools like the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts have revised their curricula to meet certification requirements.

Those eligible for certification have learned in the classroom or as apprentices. They can test at four skill levels, from entry-level generalist to master-level specialist. Mann not only wants to certify trained bench jewelers, but recruit and properly train future professionals according to the new national standards.

“The bench jeweler generalist workforce is falling short of industry requirements in retail jewelry stores and jewelry trade shops,” he says. “The output of graduates is drastically insufficient.”

He now is organizing a bench educators’ summit to discuss how to recruit new students. He further hopes to develop a distance education program to train bench jewelers at JA member stores across the country. JA offers scholarships to cover the certification test fees. It also is arranging for JA Certified Master Bench Jewelers – those who’ve earned the highest distinction – to mentor bench jewelers seeking self improvement.

BUILDING A GOLDEN FUTURE

Debra McDonough boasted an extensive background in prestige consumer product marketing when she became marketing director for the World Gold Council in 1996. In her 10 years in the cosmetics and fragrance industry, McDonough helped reposition the 80-year-old Elizabeth Arden skincare and makeup brand, and worked closely with Elizabeth Taylor, Valentino, Karl Lagerfeld and the Fendi sisters on their fragrances. Now she uses marketing and education programs adapted from fashion and lifestyle strategies in cosmetics, fragrance and apparel to benefit gold jewelry retailers.

“Gold jewelry and cosmetics have a lot in common,” she says. “For example, gold earrings are like makeup; they draw attention to the face and give it a beauty lift. We have a great opportunity to bring some of the tried and true marketing and merchandising disciplines from ‘across the aisle’ and apply them to gold jewelry.”

Some of the programs McDonough developed this year for WGC focus on sales education. “Gold Focus,” a new bi-monthly market report inserted in leading trade magazines, reports on key trends and issues in the gold jewelry marketplace in a “news you can use” format. The Council also is working with a number of retail partners to customize “Gold Focus” for their sales associates.

“We asked 22,000 retailers in all trade channels for suggestions of topics in future reports. The overwhelming response was for product knowledge and training and motivational information,” McDonough says.

Other new programs:

  • “Rewards of Gold,” a 12-minute video crash course on product knowledge and selling skills.

  • An interactive “Gold Wardrobe Selling Game” that can be incorporated into a retailer’s sales training seminar. “We’re working to position karat gold jewelry to the female self-purchaser as a fashion and lifestyle accessory, so all of our education programs will carry that consistent message,” McDonough said.

  • An innovative program for consultative selling now being market tested. “Women are constantly seeking information and guidance when they shop for themselves. We want to have gold jewelry fashion consultants at every counter, just as there are beauty consultants at the cosmetics counters.”

This year, the World Gold Council developed a Super Seller Quality Strategy and worked individually with select jewelry retailers on programs to maintain gold jewelry sales growth momentum. McDonough is a key member of the WGC’s team of business consultants focusing on the high volume market.

HELPING OTHERS FIND THE HIGH ROAD

Mark Moeller is one retail jeweler who doesn’t mind helping the competition. The president of R.F. Moeller routinely holds retailing seminars in his hometown of St. Paul, Minn., telling how he increased his store’s sales from $1 million to $5 million in six years.

Quite often, however, his competitors don’t even show up.

“Maybe they get demoralized hearing how well I do, then they wonder why I’m beating them,” he jokes. “But seriously, I want them to listen so I can compete with them on my level – on quality and value – rather than have them down in the muck of discounting and price wars.”

Moeller is driven to deliver the message that jewelers must offer service and value to keep their customers, and he feels obligated do something about the rampant discounting that eats profits. His main point is that value is a total package, stemming from total commitment to quality.

He starts with the sales staff. He reminds them to go the extra mile, to give customers special treatment and to do “whatever it takes” to satisfy them. Next comes product knowledge; he claims his sales staff is among the most knowledgeable in the country. Then there’s the quality product that offers value, not price. Vendors are the final part of the package. He makes sure everyone in his operation treats them with respect because quality businesses are built on mutual benefit.

When customers say “price,” Moeller thinks most jewelers don’t realize they really want value. That’s where his total package comes in and builds both loyalty and profit margins.

“When people tell me there are no margins left in this industry, I say that’s BS,” says Moeller. It takes courage to buy merchandise instead of memo it and to move out of the discount rut. But courage is what’s needed to compete in a healthy business environment again, and Moeller stands ready to help any fellow jeweler – even his direct competitors – build that courage.

“The bottom line today is that consumers – especially those in the upscale market – don’t have time to shop twice for the same thing. So if you do right for them the first time, they’ll come back and be your customer forever.”

Touching the Future of Education

If jewelry education were a well-orchestrated Broadway musical, Charlotte Preston would be the stage manager. Standing just backstage, she’d see that the actors took their cues, the leads were in good form and the audience wasn’t yawning through the second act.

Gone are the olden days of jewelry trade show education, when jewelers sat in cold rooms listening to “thinly disguised sales pitches” from vendors or ducked out to play golf instead. Preston, who heads the educational programs for the JCK International Jewelry Shows, AGTA GemFair and AGS Conclave, has designed a circuit of specialized, creative seminars that focus on active learning.

“Attendees expect seminars to be genuinely educational, no matter the presenter,” says Preston. “There will always be plenty of room for the well-delivered, informative solo presentation. But there is now a pressing need for direct involvement and entertainment as part of the education package.”

Her 1998 package of programs is truly interactive. The Touch the Future complex – which transformed visitors to the 1997 JCK Orlando Show into curious students who couldn’t keep their hands off the exhibits – returns this January with its please-touch stations and extemporaneous message boards.

Visitors to the AGTA GemFair in Tucson, Ariz., this February will learn about colored gemstone buying and marketing in “coffee houses,” informal gatherings designed for sharing ideas.

Jewelers may discover kindred spirits when they share time and tables during Colleague Connections at AGS Conclave in March and Food for Thought at JCK Las Vegas in June.

Preston’s approach has been shaped by 12 years of close listening to jewelers’ needs from an educator’s perspective. Once an assistant professor of English, literature and linguistics at a college in Kansas, she joined the American Gem Society as publications manager in 1985 and later became executive director of AGS’s Jewelers Education Foundation. During that time, she learned what business issues concerned retail jewelers and whom retailers valued most as teachers.

“My wide contacts led me to see that jewelers tend to hold other successful jewelers as the most credible industry speakers, speakers from whom they want to hear,” she says.

Preston believes in packaging information like goody-bags that jewelers can take back to their stores and use. “I try to provide educational opportunities that matter in the day-to-day business lives of the people who make their living in the industry,” she says. Her programs expose jewelers to new and relevant trends in a variety of ways, from her bulletin boards on body piercing to specialized seminars on African-American, Hispanic and gay and lesbian markets.

This behind-the-scenes visionary is perhaps most proud of the fact that she builds these influential programs from the comfort and seclusion of her White Bear Lake, Minn., home. “As is the case for many Americans, I am part of the wave of the future, making my living as an independent contractor from my home office,” she says.

GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT

Last year, JCK pegged Lynn Ramsey as someone to watch. Since then, we’ve watched her grow into a person whose influence benefits every member of the jewelry industry.

Ramsey, president and chief executive officer of the Jewelry Information Center, is dedicated to building consumer awareness of fine jewelry’s value and appeal. An impressive public relations background, most recently as manager of De Beers’ Diamond Information Center, has helped her transform JIC from a small organization placing small stories in small local newspapers to a small organization putting big messages in big places.

Since last year, Ramsey has appeared on CNN and on NBC’s “Today” show with tips on buying fine jewelry and the latest trends in jewelry design. The Associated Press wire service, which reaches 1,500 U.S. newspapers, picked up four JIC stories. Ramsey has developed strong relationships with consumer fashion magazine editors, encouraging and helping them to cover fine jewelry and use it in photo shoots.

Moving forward, JIC plans to:

  • Work with major wire services and syndicates to get the positive jewelry message into newspapers across the U.S.

  • Produce four radio broadcasts to reach an estimated 12 million Americans with information on fine jewelry and watches. The first aired during National Consumer Week in October.

  • Tie into the 1997 holiday buying season through a media tour into 12 major jewelry selling markets via satellite.

  • Distribute a video news release prior to the holidays.

  • Run a four-color page in this month’s Elle magazine featuring designer jewelry and seven reasons to buy it.

  • Prepare responses to issues that arise during the holiday season.

  • Launch a monthly newspaper column focusing on gemstones in January, to be distributed to 6,000 dailies and weeklies.

“In order for our industry to effectively compete with other luxury categories such as travel and electronics, we need to reach the consumer more often,” says Ramsey. “One important and cost-effective vehicle for both manufacturers and retailers is through membership in the JIC, the industry’s publicity arm. The synergy created by the recent JIC alliance with Jewelers of America is an exciting first step in expanding the industry’s consumer publicity.”

TEACHER, AUTHOR, DESIGNER

Alan Revere is a marquee attraction in print and in person, but his contributions to the jewelry industry often are underestimated. As goldsmith, designer and teacher, Revere has been instrumental in bringing European goldsmithing skills to American jewelers and making good design affordable.

Revere founded his Academy of Jewelry Arts in 1979. While studying in Europe, he learned many goldsmithing skills that seemed largely unavailable in the U.S. American education, he says, generally was confined to “artsy-craftsy” jewelry making. Yet there was a crying need to teach basic “real jewelry” skills like stone setting, wax carving and repair. He set out to meet that need.

Obviously hungry for knowledge, local San Francisco jewelers flocked to Revere for private lessons. From this grew the Revere Academy, now a leading study center in the industry.

Revere also teaches in print, primarily as a regular contributor to JCK magazine. His “Practical Goldsmithing” and “Professional Jewelry Repair” columns have given thousands of jewelers step-by-step instructions for handling both common and uncommon in-store repairs and custom design. His lectures at industry conferences always draw a roomful of jewelers eager to learn.

There is a saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Revere, who successfully does both, defies that argument, as does his staff of instructors. His original mission statement was to “bring European skills to American jewelers who are interested, in a format they can accept.” That format involves short, intense and to-the-point classes of three days or less taught by working professionals who take time from their own businesses to come and teach others.

Revere also is an active designer. He offered one of the first designer collections that married good design with affordable prices. His signature line, managed by Anne Devero, proves that great style can be had between herringbone chain and Harry Winston.

Revere is an active member of the American Jewelry Design Council. A founder of the Contemporary Design Group, he received that group’s Most Valuable Player award in 1997.

STRESSING GROWTH

During his year as president, Jeff Roberts has taken the Independent Jewelers Organization through a period of unprecedented growth. After a few stagnant years, IJO’s new member recruitment is now 30% ahead of plan, a trend Roberts expects to continue in the foreseeable future.

He stresses commitment to all members, old and new. Programs like the one providing travel reimbursement for members to attend IJO shows have been especially well-received. The group’s Nashville show in July set records for both attendance and sales, largely due to IJO’s member support programs.

Roberts and his staff are working on new programs to boost member participation, to be introduced in the coming months. He hopes eventually to visit all members’ stores, to generate a constant supply of good ideas and increase the long-term profitability of all members.

Gems for Everybody

Where can anyone, young or old, go for a joyful outing and absorb some education about gemstones and minerals?

Why, to the Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian earns a “tip of the hat” this year with the re-opening of its spectacular Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems & Minerals. (For details on the opening, see Gem Notes, November JCK, page 42.)

It may seem odd to select the Institution as a “person of influence.” We did so because the Hall of Geology, Gems & Minerals builds curiosity about and desire for jewelry in hundreds of people every day.

Several individuals helped make the $13 million renovation a success. Donors included Janet Annenberg Hooker ($5 million), Ronald Winston of Harry Winston Jewelers, the National Mining Association and many more. At the Institution itself, Dr. Jeffrey Post, the collection’s curator, deserves much credit for seeing the project come to fruition.

IN THE WEB

Eighteen months ago, few U.S. retail jewelers used the Internet for business. Today, thanks to Jacques Voorhees, president of Colorado-based Polygon Network Inc., virtually the entire industry has been connected via Polygon’s WebCenter.

In the past year, Voorhees and his staff of experts have created free Web sites for nearly 19,000 jewelers (including 3,000 on its Trading network), plus some 2,000 vendors who belong to industry organizations with whom Polygon has agreements. It also has created and refined technology which not only allows fast, simultaneous downloading of text and graphics from associations, organizations and vendors, but also is secure and has three levels of access (public, trade, group members). Few, if any, other U.S. industries have anything like it.

Now, Polygon is beginning to link up the rest of the world. It has affiliates in Australia and South Africa and recently created a global communications system for the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA). It also is creating web sites for the Congress of the International Federation of Jewellery, Silverware, Diamonds and Pearls (CIBJO) and its member national organizations. Closer to home, Polygon next month will launch MemoTrack™, which Voorhees claims will “’revolutionize the world of memo losses, by coming close to eliminating [them].’”

It may take years to realize the full impact of Polygon’s WebCenter. But its educational uses already are apparent. It offers easy access to information about new merchandise and where to get it or technical help and who provides it. Polygon also has created an industry-wide chat room with its 3,000-member Trading Network bulletin board, also open to other individuals and groups on the WebCenter. Through this business discussion channel, “jewelers all day long ask advice, pose problems and get feedback from each other,” notes Voorhees. “Everyone all over the country jumps in to share information. It’s like an ongoing encyclopedia for the jewelry industry!”

Polygon also helps educate the public. Associations post consumer information on thousands of jewelers’ websites, where the public can access it. This accelerates consumer awareness and makes it harder to mislead the public, says Voorhees. In the long run, he contends the education effects of Polygon’s WebCenter activities will “raise the efficiency of commerce and create more profit opportunities for jewelers.

“That’s why we see this as a survival weapon for jewelers in the 21st century.”