The Year in Review

January

  • Donna Baker, who was appointed acting president of the Gemological Institute of America after William E. Boyajian resigned in May 2006, became GIA’s fifth president.

  • M. Fabrikant & Sons Inc. and its domestic subsidiary, Fabrikant-Leer International, filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

  • Robert Crowningshield, a legend of gemology revered for pioneering work in gemological research, died at the age of 87 after a long illness. Crowningshield was a former vice president of the Gemological Institute of America and one of the two founding leaders of the GIA Laboratory in New York, which was established in 1948.

  • Finlay Enterprises, the largest U.S. operator of licensed fine jewelry departments in department stores, said it would buy privately owned Congress Jewelers.

  • Canadian miner Aber Diamond Corp., co-owner of the Diavik Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories, became the sole owner of Harry Winston.

  • Friedman’s Jewelers agreed to repay $2.15 million to 19 states to settle complaints that its clerks forced customers to unknowingly purchase credit insurance. The legal action required Friedman’s stores to make all financing terms clear to consumers.

  • The World Diamond Council‘s DiamondFacts.org Web site inspired a parody site called RealDiamondFacts.org. It was created by Diamonds for Africa Fund, an Austin, Texas, group that encourages people to donate their diamonds to communities “impacted by the diamond industry.”

  • The Diamond Dealers Club reelected Jacob Banda president. Banda, who ran unopposed, received 85 percent of the vote.

  • The annual Argyle Tender, a silent-bid auction of rare pink diamonds from Australia’s Argyle Mine, took place in Geneva; Hong Kong; London; New York; Perth, Australia; and Tokyo. It comprised 65 stones totaling 61.43 cts.

  • Several Swiss luxury watch brands pledged $1.1 million in September 2006 to support the watchmaking program at Oklahoma State University’s Okmulgee campus for five more years.

  • The founders of Swiss luxury watchmaker Bédat & CoChristian Bédat, chief executive officer, and his mother, Simone Bédat, chairwoman of the board—resigned in October 2006 for personal reasons, said Gucci Group N.V., which bought it in 2005.

  • Luxury Swiss watch brand Franck Muller USA won injunctions from New York federal court permanently barring companies identified as Demas Inc. and Stoneleigh Enterprises Inc. from “importing, selling, or otherwise distributing” in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean any watch with the Franck Muller trademark.

  • Swatch Group laid the cornerstone for a three-story jewelry-making center in Cormondrèche, Switzerland, for its DYB Dress Your Body company, which designs and produces jewelry and fashion accessories for Swatch Group watch brands Breguet, cK, Léon Hatot, Omega, and Swatch.

  • Billed as “the world’s most famous black diamond,” the 67.50 ct. antique-cushion-cut Black Orlov sold for $350,000 at Christie’s New York auction house Oct. 11, 2006. The Black Orlov is surrounded by 108 diamonds and worn with a 124-diamond necklace.

  • A study from Jane magazine revealed that 84 percent of people in their 20s find a way to purchase something they want but can’t afford, and 86 percent said fashion was among their top forms of self expression. According to the Jane 20-Something Study 2006, women spent 48 percent of their disposable income on fashion, beauty, and accessories, and spent just 16 percent on jewelry and watches.

February

  • The majority of independent jewelers polled by JCK reported a good holiday 2006 season. Department and chain stores reported more modest gains, but upscale specialty stores reported strong performance, and online sales of jewelry and watches surged.

  • Four days before the premiere of Blood Diamond, Russell Simmons, rap producer, businessman, and director of the Simmons Jewelry Co., announced the formation of the Diamond Empowerment Fund following a tour of African diamond mines. The fund directs 25 percent of the profits from Simmons Jewelry Co. to African charities and institutions.

  • Blood Diamond premiered at a disappointing No. 5, then slipped to No. 7, and after four weeks had earned just over $40 million, well below expectations.

  • The Indian community in Antwerp expressed concern after a prominent diamond dealer, Nikhil Manilal, 46, died during a raid at his house by the Belgian tax police. Manilal, who had a heart condition, reportedly collapsed during the raid.

  • Swiss luxury watch brand Hublot announced it’s building an $8 million watch factory in Nyon, Switzerland. Annual production will increase from 20,000 watches to about 30,000.

  • Franck Muller USA won federal court rulings permanently barring companies from “importing, selling, or otherwise distributing” watches with the Franck Muller trademark. Affected companies included Avianne Watches, International Watch Exchange Inc., Motion in Time, and VIS Jewelers, all in New York City.

  • A $1 million advertising campaign from World Gold Council coincided with “Fashion Rocks,” an entertainment special celebrating the relationship between fashion and music that kicked off New York’s fall Fashion Week. Nelly Furtado wore jewelry from the Gold Expressions collection during the event.

  • The Swarovski Group announced the acquisition of Golay Buchel‘s share of the Signity Group, known for precision-cut genuine and created gemstones. The acquisition raised Swarovski’s stake in Signity to 100 percent and includes all of Golay’s assets associated with production and development of synthetic stones and marcasite.

March

  • Samuels Jewelers, a 97-store chain based in Austin, Texas, was acquired by Indian jewelry manufacturer Gitanjali for $45 million. The firm, a DTC sightholder and one of India’s largest exporters, owns 750 retail outlets in India.

  • Jewelers Vigilance Committee and nine other industry trade associations asked the Federal Trade Commission to amend its Jewelry Guides to disallow the term cultured as a description for laboratory-created diamonds. They said the proposed amendment would be consistent with the regulatory approach taken in other countries.

  • The Diamond Trading Company unveiled Supplier of Choice 2, which stresses a need for a more cooperative partnership with sightholders, greater emphasis on ethical business practices, 12-month extension of intentions-to-offer (which estimate sightholder allocations), simplified application process to become or remain a sightholder, and greater human involvement in the selection process.

  • Fred Levinger, the former CEO and owner of Colibri, acquired certain assets of Speidel, the East Providence, R.I., manufacturer of watchbands, watches, and other accessories. Speidel’s men’s and women’s jewelry and identification bracelet assets were excluded from the sale but its three retail stores, operating under the name Providence Watch Hospital, were included.

  • Ed Zwick, director of Blood Diamond, gave a speech at the Rapaport Diamond Conference in January that sharply criticized the diamond industry. He argued that the industry owed restitution for the events portrayed in the film.

  • Ronald R. Harder, chief executive officer of Jewelers Mutual Insurance, was honored by industry leaders in advance of his retirement in May. Harder had been with Jewelers Mutual since 1973, and served as its president and chief executive officer for 23 years.

  • In December the History Channel aired a two-hour documentary on conflict diamonds. Blood Diamonds presented a detailed history of the wars in Angola and Sierra Leone and informed viewers about the Kimberley Process and the Diamond Development Initiative.

April

  • Lawyers who brought the class-action suit against De Beers for antitrust violations said the diamond industry—including retailers—would be entitled to claim a share of the $300 million settlement.

  • Online retailers Blue Nile and Amazon reported significant gains for holiday sales. Blue Nile reported fourth-quarter net sales of $90.7 million, a 23.9 percent increase over 2005, and Amazon said its fourth-quarter 2006 jewelry and watch sales more than doubled.

  • James Shigley, the longtime director of research at the Gemological Institute of America, was given the new role of GIA Distinguished Research Fellow.

  • Journey, the newest product concept from JWT, De Beers’ U.S. marketing firm, was a hit after its first Christmas at retail. Journey jewelry has at least four diamonds of different sizes, arranged in a graduated pattern.

  • The European Commission ended its investigation of De Beers’ Supplier of Choice policy, based on what it calls the “increased transparency in De Beers’ distribution arrangements.”

  • Blood Diamond had minimal impact on the 2006 holiday selling season. That was attributed to the diamond trade’s unified response, the fact that the conflict-diamond problem had diminished considerably, and the failure of the movie to capture the public imagination.

  • The Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation collection of Fabergé items began a five-year run at the Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art in Nashville, Tenn. The 57-piece collection includes three Russian Imperial Easter eggs and 18 floral items.

  • TimexGroupB.V. reorganized its Callanen International division to add a new worldwide company called Sequel to take over from Callanen the global marketing and distribution of the Guess and Guess Collection fashion watches, sold in 114 countries. Sequel, headquartered in Zug, Switzerland, will also handle Guess jewelry.

  • Fine-watch auction house Antiquorum acquired TimeZone.com, the largest English-language community Web site for wristwatch enthusiasts.

  • Gucci Group N.V. appointed William Devine chief executive officer of its Swiss luxury watch company Bédat & Co.

May

  • Jewelers’ Security Alliance reported that jewelry crime hit new lows but said grab-and-run incidents were on the rise. Dollar losses, crimes against jewelry salespeople, and jewelry-related homicides all dropped during 2006.

  • New York diamond firm L.I.D. filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. L.I.D.’s parent company is a DTC sightholder in Israel and the second sightholder company to have declared bankruptcy within months; in November 2006, M. Fabrikant & Sons filed for Chapter 11.

  • Thieves stole $1.5 million worth of diamonds from Benelux DiamondsN.V., a Belgian diamond dealer, during the Amberif International Fair of Amber, Jewelry, and Gemstones in Gdansk, Poland.

  • Bradley Stinn, former chief executive of Friedman’s and Crescent Jewelers, was indicted for allegedly lying to shareholders about Friedman’s financial performance. Charges included conspiracy, securities fraud, making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, mail fraud, and certification of a false financial report.

  • Alyce Alston, chief executive officer of De Beers Diamond Jewellers North America, left the company to return to publishing. Alston, the former publisher of W Jewelry, took a position as division president for the Reader’s Digest Association.

  • VH1 aired Bling’d: Blood, Diamonds, and Hip Hop, a 90-minute documentary that took several rappers to Sierra Leone to show them the impact of its diamond-fueled civil war and the conditions in its present-day diamond trade.

  • De Beers won its lawsuit against Jayam, a sightholder based in Antwerp, Belgium, in a case that could have declared Supplier of Choice legally invalid.

  • Timex Group introduced its upscale TX, a German-engineered, Italian-designed, midprice, multifunctional brand in a new category Timex called “TechnoLuxury.”

  • In February, Swiss luxury watchmaker Raymond Weil sued Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron—whom it had promoted as the “new face” of its global watch marketing—in the New York Supreme Court, for allegedly wearing another watch brand.

  • Maximilian Büsser, former longtime managing director of Harry Winston‘s Rare Timepieces division, formed a new watch company and brand called MB&F.

  • Clothing designer Ralph Lauren announced plans to collaborate on a fine jewelry collection with Richemont, the luxury goods group that owns Cartier. Jewelry from the new venture—dubbed The Polo Ralph Lauren Watch and Jewelry Co.—was to be made in Switzerland and its debut was set for fall 2008.

  • The 2006/07 edition of the CIBJO Blue Books defined Paraíba as any green-to-blue tourmaline colored by copper, regardless of country of origin. Copper-bearing elbaite tourmalines are found in Brazil (Paraíba and Rio Grande del Norte) and Africa (Nigeria and Mozambique).

June

  • British bank Barclays agreed to buy Dutch bank ABN AMRO, a leading lender to the diamond and jewelry industry that is estimated to hold one-fourth of the diamond industry’s financing portfolio. Analysts called the offer of $91 billion one of the largest bank mergers ever.

  • Joan Parker, a 30-year veteran of the Diamond Information Center, joined Gemesis, the Sarasota, Fla., manufacturer of synthetic diamonds, as an ambassador and advisor.

  • India’s largest jewelry brand, Tanishq, announced plans to open stores in the United States. While reports said the company planned a 10-store chain, starting with stores in New Jersey and Chicago, a company spokesperson confirmed the locations but said it may open more than 10 stores.

  • M. Fabrikant & Sons asked a judge for permission to auction its assets. The Associated Press reported the company would sell all its assets and then file a liquidation plan.

  • Luxi Group, a private holding company in New York, acquired certain assets of luxury online retailer Ashford.com from Odimo for $400,000. The group said it would relaunch Ashford.com with a large selection of designer and brand-name watches and other luxury products.

  • The BaselWorld fair announced plans for further expansion. René Kamm, chief executive officer of MCH Swiss Exhibition, said it would no longer be able to make a clear distinction between product categories and would adapt its infrastructure accordingly.

  • JWT, De Beers’ U.S. marketing agency, reported that the U.S. diamond jewelry market grew in 2006. Overall retail sales of diamond jewelry increased by 6.1 percent in 2006, to $35.2 billion compared with 2005’s $33.2 billion.

  • The Gem Certification and Assurance Lab began offering a “zero tolerance” guarantee on its diamond grading reports—meaning if its graders don’t deliver the same opinion twice, it will refund the difference in value to consumers.

  • A new nongovernmental organization survey criticized major retailers for not doing enough to combat conflict diamonds. The survey, by Global Witness and Amnesty International, queried 37 retailers listed in National Jeweler‘s Top 100 Super Sellers.

  • A man stole an estimated $28 million worth of diamonds from an ABN AMRO bank in Antwerp, Belgium.

  • Problems were discovered with emeralds that had been treated with “Perma” fillers in the rough or preformed state. Some polished stones fell apart when refilling was attempted.

  • Franck Muller Group acquired majority control (52 percent) of German luxury watch brand Martin Braun.

  • Franck Muller Group and Backes & Strauss of London agreed to create a watch company. The new company’s first diamond watch line was displayed at Franck Muller Group’s annual watch show in April.

  • Watchepedia.com, a Web site for watch companies and watch enthusiasts, was launched in March by hr:WATCHES‘ former publisher Joe Urich and its former editor Natalie Campisi.

  • The International Gemological Institute said it would help launch the Tanzanite Foundation‘s tanzanite grading report. The report includes the traditional “four Cs” and also offers two color-grading scales.

July

  • Investment firm Berkshire Hathaway purchased Bel-Oro and Aurafin to become one of the largest jewelry suppliers in the United States. The two companies will form one new company called Richline, headed by Dennis Ulrich, president of Bel-Oro.

  • Frank Dallahan, chief executive officer of Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America and former publisher of JCK magazine, was tapped to be the president and CEO of the American Gem Society Laboratories in Las Vegas.

  • Marion Halfacre, the well-known founder and owner of Traditional Jewelers in Fashion Island, Newport Beach, Calif., died suddenly in June of a heart condition. He was 58.

  • The De Beers retail chain said it would open stores in Houston; Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco before the end of the year.

  • Corum, the Swiss-made luxury watch, and VaucherManufactureFleurier, a Swiss mechanical movement maker, signed a long-term pact in April to develop movements exclusive to Corum, enabling it to add new categories of complication watches.

  • Victorinox, maker of Swiss Army brand watches, changed its name and that of its watches, packaging, and all brand identification in the United States to Victorinox Swiss Army.

  • Swatch Group opened a $163 million seven-story headquarters in Tokyo for its Japanese market, following a strategy of putting large centers in the heart of major cities.

  • TanzaniteOne Limited, the tanzanite mining and marketing firm, named two new sightholders, AG Color, of New York, and Paul Wild, of Germany, bringing the total number of sightholders to eight.

August

  • Changes in America’s Generalized System of Preferences, which helps developing countries by lowering their import tariffs, resulted in a 5.5 percent duty on jewelry imported from India and Thailand.

  • The Supreme Court ruled that manufacturers may dictate minimum prices at which retailers can sell their products, a practice that was previously considered illegal price fixing. Analysts called it a blow to discounters and Internet retailers of branded products.

  • Douglas K. Hucker resigned as chief executive officer and executive director of the American Gem Trade Association. The former board member had served as the association’s CEO for 10 years. He was rehired in November.

  • Sightholder Pluczenik, based in Antwerp, Belgium, announced it would supply diamonds to French design firm Chaumet for its Attrape-moi … si tu m’aimes (Catch me … if you love me) collection, sold exclusively at Chaumet stores.

  • De Beers announced it was restructuring Diamdel, its sightholder subsidiary, which traditionally sells to smaller and medium-size dealers. The announcement caused anxiety in the diamond industry, since De Beers had cited Diamdel in response to criticism that its Supplier of Choice policy hurts middlemen.

  • A group in Panama made plans to set up Latin America’s first fully functioning diamond exchange. The proposed Panama Diamond Exchange would be based in Panama City, the country’s capital, and function as a gateway to the Latin American market.

  • VictorinoxA.G. named J. Merrick “Rick” Taggart president of Victorinox Swiss Army Inc., replacing Sue Rechner. Patty Bentley was named vice president, field sales, North America, a new post.

  • A consortium led by London-based Pallinghurst Resources acquired the worldwide Fabergé brand from Unilever. The brand and all associated trademarks, licenses, and intellectual property are now held by a new company formed by Palling-hurst, called Fabergé Limited.

  • The Watchepedia Co., creator of Watchepedia.com, launched Yooodle.com, a search engine dedicated to watches and watch-related products.

  • A rare pink gold Patek Philippe Sky Tourbillon wristwatch was auctioned in June for $1.24 million, a record for a wristwatch auctioned in the United States.

  • Swiss luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet in June began building a new watchmaking facility in Le Brassus. It’s the first industrial building in Switzerland to comply completely with new Swiss environmental criteria.

September

  • Designer John Hardy sold his stake in his namesake firm in a management buyout headed by company president Damien Dernoncourt and creative director Guy Bedarida. Hardy planned to serve as a “brand visionary” and “brand ambassador.”

  • Internet auction site eBay tightened rules on how sellers can describe diamonds and diamond simulants like cubic zirconia. The changes followed numerous instances of sellers listing as synthetic diamonds stones that weren’t diamond—a violation of the Federal Trade Commission‘s Guides for the Jewelry Industry.

  • Marcelo Cruz, 36, an apprentice goldsmith paralyzed from the waist down, narrowly escaped death in the Aug. 1 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis after he crashed his specially equipped van into concrete barriers along the bridge side.

  • Many jewelers pulled blue topaz jewelry from their shelves after Jewelers Vigilance Committee warned them the stones may not comply with Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. JVC said that while the stones pose no apparent health risk, they were not tested in NRC-licensed facilities, an action required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

  • Cartier veteran Hamida Belkadi was named chief operating officer of De Beers Diamond Jewellers U.S. She was previously vice president of sales and marketing.

  • De Beers increased Botswana’s stake in the company, set up the Diamond Trading Company Botswana, and authorized more local production.

  • South Africa announced it would set up a state diamond trader to distribute rough to local factories and asked that 10 percent of mine output be distributed to local manufacturers.

  • Over 40 New York diamond dealers sued New York’s A. Taub Diamond Co. for $3.3 million, accusing the company of taking dozens of stones on consignment and never paying.

  • The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH voted in favor of asking the Swiss government to toughen criteria for putting “Swiss made” on watches, offering a proposal that 80 percent of a mechanical watch (calculated by cost) and 60 percent of a quartz one be made in Switzerland to qualify.

  • A consortium of businessmen and investment groups acquired 100 percent of the shares of Swiss luxury watchmaker TechnoMarine Group. The new owners include French businessmen Gilbert Ohayon and Jean Claude Yana, Credit Agricole Suisse Private Equity, and investment group COBEPA.

  • Harry Bulova Henshel, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Bulova Watch Corp., died in June in Scarsdale, N.Y., at 88. Henshel was the last family member to head the company, founded in 1875.

  • Swiss upscale brand Longines was named official timekeeper of the Ascot racecourse in England. All Ascot races, including the annual Royal Meeting in June, will be timed by Longines.

  • Jeffery Bergman, a gemstone expert in Thailand, warned retailers and consumers about inexpensive topaz being sold with a color-stability problem. He noted a significant increase in the volume of orangey to reddish to pinkish brown precious topaz on the market in Thailand.

October

  • Price sheet publisher Martin Rapaport and PolishedPrices.com‘s Charles Wyndham called for a diamond futures market, but others in the diamond trade remained skeptical.

  • Speakers at the 2007 American Express Luxury Summit said a new wealthy class has arisen in the United States with different values and expectations about luxury. Nearly 80 percent of households with an annual discretionary income of at least $125,000 come from the middle class, retain middle-class values, and understand and use technology.

  • The Watch Dealers Network, a business-to-business Web site that lets independent jewelers and professional watch dealers buy and sell new and vintage watches, was founded by Avi Soffer, who expected to have 10,000 members by early 2008.

  • Jewelry designer Katey Brunini became the first American jewelry designer to be invited to the Spoleto Festival in Italy, an international showcase for music, opera, dance, drama, and the visual arts.

  • A New York City federal judge ordered Elini to stop selling three watch lines in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean that allegedly copied Franck Muller luxury watches.

  • Signity, a subsidiary of D. Swarovski & Co., acquired Leslie & Co., San Diego, the manufacturer and distributor of topaz enhanced with Pollak Heat Diffusion.

  • David Federman, award-winning journalist, author, and former executive editor of Modern Jeweler, was named editor-in-chief of Colored Stone. He replaced Morgan Beard, who left the magazine.

November

  • Japanese watchmaker Citizen Watch Co. Ltd. announced that it would buy Bulova Corp. from Loews Corp., a New York–based conglomerate, for $250 million. Citizen was to acquire 100 percent of Loews’ shares in Bulova by Jan. 10, 2008.

  • A national campaign to create hundreds of local crime-prevention networks of jewelers and police was launched by the Jewelers’ Security Alliance in partnership with Jewelers of America and Jewelers Mutual Insurance.

  • Osvaldo Patrizzi, founder of Antiquorum, the international fine-watch auctioneer, filed legal actions against those who took it over and ousted him and other top officials on Aug. 2. Civil and criminal actions were filed in Geneva, site of Antiquorum’s headquarters, in August.

  • Zale Corp. sold the 175-year-old upscale Bailey Banks & Biddle store chain, which it had owned for 45 years, to Finlay Fine Jewelry Corp. for $200 million. Finlay said its purchase of the 70 Bailey locations would nearly triple its stand-alone jewelry stores.

  • Former Vice President Al Gore was the inaugural recipient of the Brand Icon of the Year award from Swiss luxury watch Corum and the Global Brand Forum. Gore was chosen for “unique and valuable contributions in media and the environment.”

  • Edmundo Calhau Filho, international director of the Brazilian Gems and Jewellery Trade Association, died Aug. 17 in Brasilia, Brazil, following a battle with cancer. He was 56.

  • AGTA president Rick Krementz resigned Oct. 5. First vice chairman Barbara Lawrence, president of Boston Gems and Findings Inc., assumed the president’s post and was to hold it through the remainder of Krementz’s term, ending in February 2009.

  • Hedda Schupak, editor-in-chief of Jewelers’ Circular Keystone magazine, was elected a member of The Twenty-Four Karat Clubof the City of New York. She was inducted along with Jerry Ehrenwald, president of the International Gemological Institute, and Glenn Markman, executive vice president of Suberi Bros.

  • An 8,000 ct. diamond reportedly discovered in South Africa turned out to be a hoax.

  • François Delarge, a 16-year LVMH veteran, was named CEO of De Beers Group Marketing, the new division that will coordinate the company’s worldwide marketing efforts.

  • Four-billion-year-old diamond micro-slivers were discovered in Western Australia. The diamonds, no thicker than a hair and of no use in jewelry, are 1 billion years older than the diamonds previously thought to be the world’s oldest, and scientists planned to use them to uncover clues about the earth’s formation.

  • L.I.D., which had been operating under Chapter 11 since March, said its lender banks had agreed to a long-term financing agreement that would allow the New York–based diamond jewelry company to accelerate its growth plans.

  • Stephane Fischler was named chairman of the International Diamond Council, which rules on gemological and nomenclature issues. He replaced Edward Asscher, who had been chairman since 1990.

  • A government crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Burma renewed debate on whether or not to enforce the ban on Burmese gems. Many in the colored stones industry believed a boycott of Burmese gems would not be effective, but Jewelers of America supported a ban.