Supplier News

MAHAR & ENGSTROM MERGES WITH CASKER

Mahar & Engstrom, a material and tool business in Quincy, Mass., has merged with CasKer Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Bob Mahar, principal of Mahar

& Engstrom, is now a sales representative for CasKer in the New England states. All customers will be served from CasKer’s facility in Cincinnati.

COMPANIES OFFER DUCHESS OF WINDSOR JEWELRY LINES

The Jarnow Corp., Long Island City, N.Y., has teamed with Designs by FMC, Brooklyn, N.Y., to become the official licensee for Duchess of Windsor Jewelry.

Jarnow will create a line of 14 karat gold jewelry made with semiprecious gemstones. FMC has created a collection of sterling silver and vermeil jewelry using semiprecious stones and cubic zirconia. The lines are to be sold on cable home shopping channels nationwide and in jewelry stores. Retailers will receive consumer literature, displays and four-color packaging to promote the line. Suggested retail prices range from $99 to $299 for gold and from $25 to $150 for silver. Jarnow Corp., 30-00 47th Ave., Long Island City, NY 11101; (718) 361-0400. Or Designs by FMC, 1533 60th St., Brooklyn, NY 11219; (718) 435-0333.

SPIRIT INTERNATIONAL CREATES ASIAN FIRM

Spirit International Inc., a Dallas manufacturer of display and packaging products for the jewelry industry, has created a new company called Spirit International/Asia.

Spirit International/Asia will include a new factory in China and partnerships with three Asian manufacturers. The high-volume capabilities of the factories in Asia will complement the company’s U.S. production facility, according to Spirit CEO/President Glenn Stewart.

Spirit International’s newest U.S. location is 11420 Ferrell Ave, Suite 307, Dallas, TX 75234; (972) 444-8400.

INDIA LEADS GROWTH IN DEMAND FOR SILVER

India has imported more than 500 million ounces of silver since 1990, leading overall growth in silver demand and challenging supply, says The Silver Institute.

Preliminary studies for the “World Silver Survey 1997” show India’s total silver imports in 1996 rose 30% from the previous year. Good harvests in India prompted a demand for heavyweight silver jewelry, a form of investment among rural populations. There also is rising consumer demand for silverware. In addition, demand for silver jewelry in the U.S. has continued to rise.

This increase in demand was met by growth in imports from Mexico and Italy. Supply and demand statistics were not yet final at the time of the release, because 40% of all jewelry in the U.S. is sold during the holiday season. The “World Silver Survey 1997” is scheduled to be released May 14 in New York, N.Y., and London, England.

The Silver Institute, Suite 240, 1112 16th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036; (202) 835-0155; fax (202) 835-0185.

Mitsubishi hardens 24k gold

As most jewelers and manufacturers know, making jewelry from 24k gold is difficult because its softness is not conducive to machining, design or wear-and-tear.

However, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. in Tokyo has developed harder 24k gold for jewelry and industrial applications.

Scientists add microscopic amounts of chemical elements to pure 24k gold to produce what is called “High Strength Pure Gold.” The Gold Institute says the material is 99.9% gold and can legally be hallmarked as 24k gold, but is about three times as hard as untreated pure gold. If heated further, the material reportedly becomes seven times stronger than pure 24k gold.

The high-strength gold can be welded by laser and plasma torches and machined without losing its hardness. Casting can be done only with argon gas to maintain the gold’s strength.

Mitsubishi makes about one ton of High Strength Pure Gold per year and sells it to Japanese and German manufacturers. It has opened a factory in China and hopes to start marketing the material in Asia soon.

MINING COMPANIES STRUGGLE WITH LOWER GOLD PRICES

Gold prices continue to lie low, fluctuating between $347 and $352 an ounce in March after a year-long

depression below the $400 mark. Analysts predict prices could fall as low as $330 an ounce this year.

North American gold mines are hunkering down to face the paralyzing effects of low prices, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. If prices remain at their current level, about 10% to 15% of gold mining operations might have to be put on hold, said Jeffrey Christian, managing director of the CPM Group, which monitors the market.

Low gold prices have particularly affected the value of gold in Canada, where the Toronto Stock Exchange’s gold stock index has dropped 8.5% since November as investors turn their heads from the shaky investment. According to the on-line journal Mining Week, the gold-mining industry made up about one-third of Canada’s merchandise trade surplus in 1995 and employs more than 340,000 people.

Canadian companies recently began taking action to salvage their operations, according to The Wall Street

Journal. For example, TVX Gold Inc. in Toronto closed its Quebec-based Casa Berardi mine, which had operating costs of more than $350 per ounce.

In the U.S., companies such as Pegasus Gold and Echo Bay Mines Ltd. are cutting back to save money. Pegasus, based in Spokane, Wash., announced it would reduce its exploration budget by 27%, freeze senior-management salaries and postpone new projects in Montana and Chile. Echo Bay of Denver, Colo., eliminated plans for a gold project in Alaska and halted common-share dividend payments. Also, Coeur D’Alene Mines in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, laid off 4% of its staff, halted charitable donations and sold its company jet.

Interestingly, as some companies cut back, others are charging ahead to invest in new exploration and take control of smaller, up-and-coming companies to build their reserves and stimulate investor interest.

fourth-generation jeweler moves to new location

Women often approach Burton and Diane Taxin Beifeld to show off their jewelry bought from the first generation of Beifeld Jewelers. “People always say, ‘Oh, my original engagement ring came from Beifeld’s,’ and it turns out they bought the ring from Burton’s grandfather,” says Diane. “The store has developed quite a reputation over the years.”

That solid reputation comes from 97 years of service to the greater Philadelphia, Pa., area. Beginning as a watchmaking business on South Street in downtown Philadelphia in 1900, Beifeld Jewelers and Gemologists continued to evolve in customer and product focus. The headquarters moved to another city location, then to suburban Bala Cynwyd, Pa., in 1972. Later yet it branched off into a Jenkintown, Pa., location that is still run by cousins of the Beifeld family.

Four generations of Beifelds have seen the company through its long history. “I used to work in the store running errands when I was a kid, and my son used to crawl along the edges of the cases to look for fallen stones when he was three years old,” says Burton, grandson of the store’s founder. He and Diane today run the store with their son, David, a gemologist and certified appraiser, and daughter, Margie Beifeld Fuiman, buyer for the gift department.

The business recently reached another turning point when it moved to a new location in the upscale suburb of Haverford, Pa. Burton knew for a while that he wanted to leave the Bala Cynwyd location, which was in a strip shopping center set back from the road and surrounded by empty shops. One day he spotted a quaint brick building on a side street near a village of designer shops in Haverford. He knew the 65-year-old building, then used by a real estate company, was the perfect spot.

The Beifelds tore out all the divided offices to leave a wide-open room for its display cases. They brought all of the furniture – rustic cabinets of weathered wood, chairs upholstered with richly colored floral patterns, wide mirrors and bronze chandeliers – from the old store. But the openness of the space and the bright sunlight from the large picture windows helped customers rediscover the treasures within. “Nobody noticed our furniture before, and suddenly everybody is saying ‘Oh, where did you get this?’” says Diane. The space and attention to detail in the new store emphasize the richness of the merchandise, mostly 18k and Italian gold and diamond jewelry, high-end estate and antique jewelry, and a large selection of giftware.

Because there are several miles between Bala Cynwyd and Haverford, the Beifelds had to let their customers know they moved. That was not as easy as it might sound. “We have a mailing list of 3,500 people,” says Burton. The Beifelds sent announcements to all customers and are still considering the best way to welcome them to the new location. Actually, many of their customers have already found them, the Beifelds say.

Burton and Diane say they have high hopes the Beifeld family tradition will continue at the new location. “Our grandchildren (Margie’s sons Jonathan and Daniel) are 3 and 4 years old,” says Diane. “We’re hoping they’ll be the fifth generation to run the store.”