TOP OF THE NEWS

Jewelry Crime at an All-Time High

Thieves robbed 330 traveling salespeople of $70 million in jewelry last year, a record high, reports the Jewelers’ Security Alliance. “Crime is out of control, and a horror for the industry,” says JSA president John Kennedy. He adds that a salesperson was recently killed by a gang in Wheeling, Ill.

JSA is spearheading a multi-pronged campaign to combat the crime wave. It organized an ad hoc industry coalition that staged a “Security Day” in Washington on March 2. About two dozen jewelers and industry leaders appealed face-to-face with government officials for stepped-up law enforcement. Last November the coalition sponsored an “Awareness Week” that included the mailing of thousands of letters to Washington. And the group has hired a Washington law firm to lobby full-time on Capitol Hill.

The efforts are bearing results. About 20 senators and representatives have sent letters to FBI director Louis J. Freeh requesting intensified efforts to thwart South American jewelry gangs. Newsweek, the Washington Post, and other important periodicals have published stories about the rise in jewelry crime. And after receiving a hand-delivered appeal from a local jeweler during the presidential primary campaign in New Hampshire, even Vice President Al Gore vowed to help the cause.

Meanwhile, JSA is using a $25,000 JCK Jewelry Industry Fund grant to encourage development of technology that would electronically track sales reps’ stolen jewelry cases.—Larry Frederick

Miadora.com Acquires Jewelry.com

The young online jewelry industry has its first major consolidation. Miadora.com, one of the leading designer jewelry sites, announced on Valentine’s Day that it had acquired online jeweler Jewelry.com. Both online retailers are less than a year old. The value of the acquisition wasn’t released.

Both companies will continue to market under their brand names to their respective audiences. The strategy is “similar to other multi-brand retailers, such as Gap Inc.,” says Barry Gilbert, president and chief executive officer of Miadora.

Jewelry.com will remain a moderately priced jewelry seller, with items retailing from $14.99 to $5,000. There will be “significant expansion” of its merchandise (now 2,000 items) in the next few months, to include loose diamonds, watches, estate pieces, and specialty items, says a Miadora spokesman. Jewelry.com will stay headquartered in El Segundo, Calif.

Miadora, based in San Mateo, Calif., will continue to operate in the luxury market with its extensive collection of contemporary, upscale jewelry.

—William George Shuster

Home Shopping Site In Trademark Fracas

The Home Shopping Network’s new online jewelry site, Firstjewelry.com, likely will have to change its name. A U.S. District Court issued an injunction against the name’s continued use following a lawsuit by sound-alike company First Jewellery Company of Canada, a wholesaler.

First Jewellery Company of Canada, whose name is trademarked, claimed in court that it was harmed by the naming confusion. “Their retail customers asked them if they were selling to consumers,” says company lawyer Jeffrey Kaden. The court found that if such confusion arose, the “harm to [First Jewellery] is easy to see.”

The Internet Shopping Network, a division of HSN, argued that it had “spent nine months and millions of dollars in designing, launching, and advertising its Web site. If the Web site is shut down, much of that investment would be lost, along with valuable customer goodwill.” But the court ruled that Home Shopping’s “choice of its domain name may well be the result of its failure to engage in the very obvious and simple precaution of a trademark search.”

Firstjewelry executives, its public relations firm, and its lawyer all declined comment. At press time, Firstjewelry.com is still online, although its home page includes a court-mandated disclaimer that “it is not affiliated with the wholesaler First Jewellery Company of Canada.” Kaden says the name change had to come within 60 days of the judge’s order, which at press time was still being finalized.—Rob Bates

Big Safe Companies In Legal Row

Two venerable New York City safe companies, Megasafe and Empire, are sparring over allegations of slander and libel.

Safe Factory Outlet (SFO), which does business as Megasafe, has filed a $30 million libel suit against Empire Safe Co. and its president, Richard Krasilovsky. SFO claims that last year Empire stated, in handouts and phone calls, that Megasafe products were of inferior quality, were misrepresented by Megasafe, or were used safes sold as new. The suit cites six incidents of slander or libel and seeks damages of $5 million for each. The defendants “intentionally embarked on a course of conduct intended to harm Megasafe,” Elisha Goldman, SFO chairman, says.

Krasilovsky denied the allegations. “Our company is straight and professional in the way we approach the industry, with the ultimate goal of protecting the consumer, and we enjoy a terrific reputation with insurance companies and security professionals throughout the United States,” he says.

At press time, Empire and its attorneys were preparing a response to the SFO suit. No trial date had been set.

—William George Shuster

Noted Jewelry Manufacturer A. Le Vian Dead at 77

Abdulrahim Ephraim Le Vian, chairman of New York-based Le Vian, died in Manhasset, N.Y., on Feb. 7 after a protracted battle with colon cancer. He was 77 years old.

Le Vian emigrated to the United States from Iran in 1950 and founded the American division of his family’s 500-year-old jewelry company. The company has since grown to become a leading manufacturer and supplier of fine gemstone jewelry.

Le Vian was a pioneer both in jewelry branding and in creating brand extensions, such as the firm’s high-end Le Vian Couture line and its accessibly priced Petite Le Vian line. In the 1970s, he built a reputation for the firm’s turquoise jewelry. In the 1990s, he became famous for tanzanite jewelry.

Le Vian was a quiet, behind-the-scenes philanthropist, preferring to help individual immigrants settle in the United States and find jobs, food, clothing, and furniture. He also helped many small startup jewelry businesses.

He is survived by his wife, Pary; three sons, Larry, Eddie, and Moossa; two daughters, Liz Etessami and Suzanna Liviern; and 19 grandchildren. His sons and daughters are all officers of the company. The family asks that any gifts in memoriam be made to The Chemotherapy Foundation, 183 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016.

Samuels Purchases Musselman Jewelers

Samuels Jewelers Inc. has made its fourth purchase of chain stores in less than a year. The Austin, Texas, firm has agreed to buy all assets (excluding inventory) of Musselman Jewelers, a 14-store chain based in Camp Hill, Pa. All Musselman stores are located in regional malls and were expected to reopen in February under the Samuels name.

The acquisition gives Samuels a total of 196 jewelry stores in 27 states and a presence in key malls in central Pennsylvania, the Tidewater area of Virginia, and West Virginia, says Randy McCullough, Samuels’ president and chief executive officer. He says he expects Samuels’ merchandising and marketing strengths, as well as its private-label credit program, to increase the revenues of the former Musselman stores.

Last June, Samuels bought the five-store Hart’s Jewelers in Denver. In August, it acquired the 30-store Henry J. Silverman Jewelers of El Paso, Texas, and in November, it bought C & H Rauch, a 112-year-old, 40-store jewelry chain based in Lexington, Ky.—William George Shuster

FTC Brochures Help Consumers and Jewelers

Two updated publications from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection aim to educate jewelry consumers as well as jewelers.

“All that Glitters … How To Buy Jewelry” teaches consumers to distinguish moissanite from diamond as well as how to identify gem treatments. The brochure also includes information on natural and lab-created gemstones; natural, cultured, and imitation pearls; and gold, silver, and platinum. A checklist reminds consumers to check metal jewelry for appropriate markings—such as karat gold or gold-plated—and to ask jewelers to write information about the purchase on the sales receipt.

“In the Loupe: Advertising Diamonds, Gemstones and Pearls” explains to jewelers that they must describe their products in accordance with FTC’s Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries in both online and traditional ads. The brochure also cites the Jewelry Guides’ requirement that jewelers disclose gemstone treatments to consumers, inform them when a treatment is not permanent, and tell them if a treated stone requires special care. It warns businesses about diamond testers that may not accurately detect lab-created stones such as synthetic moissanite.

The brochures were created with the assistance of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee and are available for free from FTC at www.ftc.gov or by calling (877) FTC-HELP.

—Jennifer McClure

Philanthropy

JCK Fund Gives Groups $400,000

The JCK Jewelry Industry Fund, supported by JCK magazine and the JCK Orlando and Las Vegas shows, will distribute $400,000 this year to support projects by five industry associations. The Fund was established in 1998 and is replenished annually to promote the jewelry industry.

This year’s winners, announced at the JCK Orlando Show in January, are the following:

  • American Gem Society, $65,000 to support the development of a cut grade for fancy diamonds.

  • Gemological Institute of America, $100,000 to find a way to identify diamonds processed by General Electric, the so-called Pegasus diamonds that are now being sold by some retailers.

  • Jewelers’ Security Alliance, $25,000 to combat theft from traveling salespeople by improving their sample cases, with an emphasis on developing a tracking device.

  • Jewelers Vigilance Committee, $150,000 for a project designed to end the widespread sale of underkarated gold jewelry.

  • Jewelry Information Center, $60,000 to develop a shopper’s guide, “What You Should Know About Fine Jewelry.”

Have questions about laws and regulations affecting jewelry? Check out the comprehensive new guide to these topics on our Web site, www.jckgroup.com.