More than 800 retailers and suppliers converged on Philadelphia for the American Gem Society?s annual educational Conclave. AGS officials said the March event drew about 8% more visitors than last year?s in New Orleans and had the largest attendance in 14 years. ?There?s a resurgence of interest in the AGS,? says the organization?s marketing director, Adam Graham.

Of the four-day session?s 58 classes and four keynote speeches, one of the most compelling was on the topic of branding by Harvard marketing expert David Shore. In an opening-day talk, he warned retailers that ?outstanding products alone won?t bring success? and that they needed to build a ?power brand? to attract a steady stream of customers over time. ?Branding is a competitive advantage without equal,? said Shore, who teaches at Harvard University?s Center for Continuing Professional Education.

Shore defined a power brand as the ?visual, emotional, and cultural image that surrounds a business?s products and services.? He urged retailers to develop and reinforce their store brands through a coordinated campaign of name, slogan, communications materials, and related spin-offs that work together to highlight a differentiating concept.

?Think how you want to be perceived,? he counseled his listeners, some 500 strong. ?Consumers are increasingly making buying decisions based on emotion, so you need to build an emotional attachment to your customers through your marketing campaign.? One specific thing a jeweler?s marketing should stress, he said, is quality.

In another session, Florida jeweler Craig Underwood reported that AGS is surveying thousands of people in the jewelry industry to determine how the organization should proceed with its ambitious effort to create a fancy-cut grade for diamonds. The survey, which started last September and is continuing, has already gone to 3,000 retailers, suppliers, and AGS members as well as the 2,000 members of the Diamond Dealers Club. The fancy-cut grade project is underwritten by a $65,000 grant from JCK magazine and The JCK Shows. Underwood serves on the project task force.

Chinese freshwater pearl sales are soaring, Devin Macnow, executive director of the Cultured Pearl Information Center in New York, said at a session on ?Pearl Market Revolutions.? Some jewelers are now selling more Chinese pearls than Japanese akoya pearls. But there?s some good news out of Japan: The long slide in production has come to a halt and has even reversed. Indications are that there will be 10% more gem-quality akoyas on the market this year than last year, Macnow said.

?Slaying Sales Killers,? a seminar presented by Shane Decker, Shane Decker Diamond Co., Franklin, Ind., was one of the Conclave?s highlights. In his address, Decker told the audience they could conquer any sale killer, including customers who are ?just looking,? salespeople who prejudge customers, and not having enough passion for the product (not wearing enough jewelry).

Decker reminded jewelers to smile at customers, ask them questions, and ?wow? them with the jewelry store experience by enthusiastically showing pieces that they themselves like. ?Customers come in to give you money and have fun,? said Decker. ?Reassure them it?s okay to make a purchase.?

Seminars focusing on e-commerce were a big part of the Conclave this year. Many retail jewelers at the show expressed concerns about Internet diamond suppliers and their prices, particularly customers brandishing diamond quotes and bringing in Internet-purchased diamonds for appraisals. The Diamond Promotion Service had advice for them. In a special morning presentation that featured role playing, retailers were told to praise consumers who?ve researched prices on the ?Net, not scold them. Then tell them they?re ready to complete the next step of their diamond education, said the ?actors.? At that point, retailers should sell customers on their product knowledge and expertise?something they can?t get from a faceless Internet supplier.

Retail jewelers not only can compete with e-commerce but also can join the revolution, Gemkey editor Russell Shor said at an another retailing session. But he warned, ?You have to make as much of a commitment to your site as you would to an additional store.?

The winner of this year?s prestigious Robert M. Shipley Award was announced on the Conclave?s closing day: Alabama jeweler Frank H. Bromberg Jr. As the chairman of RJ Bromberg & Co., Birmingham, Ala., Bromberg oversees five stores in four cities, serves on the board of Jewelers of America and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, and is the chairman of the AGS Grievance Review Committee. In addition, the busy Bromberg serves on the board of trustees at the University of Alabama and is involved with the Crippled Children?s Foundation.

New AGS officials were introduced at the Conclave. Among the new officers are Ellen Lacy, Lacy and Co., El Paso, Texas, who replaced Tom Gorman, Keppie-Kiger, Pittsburgh, as president; and Andrew Meyer, Andrew Meyer Jewelry, Fort Washington, Pa., the new vice president/president-elect.

Next year?s Conclave will be held in Nashville, Tenn., March 28-April 1.?Larry Frederick and Jennifer McClure


The inaugural edition of Style Palm Beach, a consumer luxury goods show held Feb. 25-29 in West Palm Beach, Fla., was deemed a success by its sponsors, International Fine Art Expositions. More than 50 well-known fashion designers, jewelers, automotive dealers, and luxury accessories companies exhibited their wares at the International Pavilion there.

Attendees were treated to a non-stop round of parties and fashion shows. The five-day event helped to raise funds for the American Heart Association, the Hope House in Quantum Children?s Village for children with HIV and AIDS, the Phoenix Foundation for Children, and Win for the Kids, benefiting disadvantaged children in Palm Beach County.

Participating jewelers included Aviva and De Grisognono, both of Geneva, Switzerland; Robert Bruce Bielka, Henry Dunay, Piranesi, Slane & Slane, and Ilias Lalaounis of New York; Richard Jarvis, Fred Rich, Jocelyn Burton, McCabe McCarty Ltd., Rowlandsons Ltd., D.A. Soley, Edwin Solomon ? Sceptre Jewels, Stephen Webster, Adam Godfrey, Leo De Vroomen, Henn of London, Dianoor Jewels, Moira of Bond Street, and Chatila, all of the United Kingdom; Roberta Apa and Fulvio Maria Scavia of Milan; Simayof Diamond Cutters of San Francisco; the Union Joyera de Bergdondo, a collection of jewelers from Spain; Perles de Tahiti G.I.E., Viviane Debbas Joaillerie of Paris, and Yvel of Israel. International pearl jeweler Mikimoto and Roberto Coin of Vicenza and New York were represented by Hamilton Jewelers, which has stores in New Jersey and Palm Beach, and designer Stefan Hafner of Bologna, Italy, was represented by Cellini of New York. High-end accessories retailer Hyman Landau represented Fabergé, Kathrine Baumann, and Vivian Alexander.

David Lester, president of International Fine Arts Exhibitions, said the first show?s strengths and weaknesses will be assessed to produce a better show for 2001.


The Midwest Jewelry Expo, a regional exhibition for jewelers from Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota, has outgrown its present facility and will move to larger quarters next year. The 2001 edition of the show will be held March 24-25 at the Dane County Exposition Center in Madison, Wis.

For information, contact show manager Mary Kaja at (608) 257-3541.