UpFront

De Beers Millennium Campaign Begins

De Beers will kick off its big millennium marketing campaign at this month’s JCK Show in Orlando, Fla. At an educational seminar and at its booth, De Beers’ Diamond Promotion Service will be showing jewelers how to tie in their own millenium promotions with the one De Beers will conduct throughout 1999 and into 2000. Special kits for retailers will be available for ordering.

The campaign will include extensive media advertising, starting around September, and specially branded diamonds. The company will also develop a Millennium logo – incorporating the company’s famous “A Diamond Is Forever” slogan – which it will make available to interested retailers.

“[The slogan] is something we ordinarily don’t let people use, but we felt the millennium was such a uniquely appropriate occasion for it,” says Stephen Lussier, one of the people in charge of De Beers’ U.S. marketing.

In addition, De Beers is promoting a millennium “time capsule.” Each capsule houses one or more loose diamonds visible through a vitrine. There will also be a parchment for the inscription of messages.

De Beers has selected 10 sightholder clients who will market diamonds that the company will inscribe with a special millennium mark (JCK, January 1999, p. 102) and identification number. Two sightholders are in New York: Leo Schachter and W.B. David. A third is Fabrikant and Salant, the Israeli branch of New York’s M. Fabrikant and Sons.

The diamonds will be called De Beers Limited-Edition Millennium Diamonds. They will be high in color, clarity, and cut, in the 1- to 2-ct. range. De Beers won’t do any marketing for the stones; the sightholders are talking among themselves about some kind of joint effort.

The mark – which will include the De Beers logo – uses the same technology as De Beers’ proposed “brand” and therefore requires a special reader to be visible. Lussier says that sightholders are being supplied with readers, which may be sold to their retail customers. – Russell Shor

Large Stone Turns Up At New Canadian Mine

Just three months after it opened, Canada’s Ekati diamond mine has produced a 47-ct. stone – proof, its owners say, that the mine is a world-class operation.

Gerald Proselandis, a spokesman for Dia Met Minerals, one of the mine’s owners, declines to comment on the stone’s quality or whether it was commercially salable. “The point is there are large stones in the Northwest Territories,” he says.

Located near the Arctic Circle, Ekati became Canada’s first commercial diamond mine when it opened last October at a cost of $700 million (JCK, December 1998, p. 80). The principal owner is BHP Diamonds Inc., of Australia, which holds a 51% interest. Canada’s Dia Met maintains a 29% interest, and two individuals own the remaining shares.

Four cut stones that originated at Ekati stirred wide-spread interest when they were displayed in December at Brinkhaus Jewelers in Calgary and Vancouver. The four Ideal-cut stones – ranging in size from .75 ct. to just over a carat – are laser-inscribed with a polar bear as proof of their Canadian origin. Valued at $10,000 to $15,000, they are the first diamonds to be mined, cut, and polished in Canada.

“People want them because they’re from Canada,” says store owner Norbert Brinkhaus. “This is one of the most exciting things to happen to the Canadian jewelry industry in the last hundred years.”

Ekati conducted its first “sights” to the trade in January in Antwerp, Proselandis reports. He says the mine is looking for 50 or 60 regular customers. Negotiations with De Beers regarding a formal marketing arrangement are ongoing, although at press time nothing had been finalized.

Ekati produced some 250,000 carats during the three months it was open in 1998. It could produce as many as 3 million carats this year. – Rob Bates

Jeweler’s Kindness Is Good Business

Random acts of kindness can bring unexpected rewards. That’s what Stan Pollack, a Maine jeweler who is also president of Jewelers of America, learned last month.

Pollack was moved by a newspaper story about a young man in Bath, Maine, who had an engagement ring and two wedding bands stolen from his car. “What struck a chord with me was that he said he couldn’t afford to replace the rings and would have to get married without them,” says Pollack, CEO of G.M. Pollack & Sons, a 10-store chain based in the Portland suburb of Scarborough. “My heart went out to the guy. We called him and told him, ‘We want you to have rings free.’ ”

The man, Rod Foster, visited the store with his fiancée in mid-December. They picked out rings similar to those stolen: a half-carat diamond solitaire ring, an amethyst wrap, and a plain gold band. Total worth: $2,750 retail.

To thank the jeweler, Foster informed a local newspaper, telling the reporter, “They treated us like gold.” To Pollack’s surprise, the story was picked up by the Associated Press, which distributed it worldwide. “I’ve had calls, faxes, and e-mails from Florida to California, and even from London,” says Pollack. “I think people want to hear stories about the heart. I was just thinking that’s what Christmas really means – it’s the generosity in your heart.”

Though Pollack insists that “the least reason I did it was for publicity,” the impact on business was dramatic. “Our Christmas sales numbers are way up. And at the Portland store, where we got the most publicity, our numbers are nearly double those of our average store. Customers said they felt so good about what we did and what it represented that they wanted to buy from us.”

The tradition of giving back to the community has remained strong at Pollack’s firm since his father founded it in the early 1950s. “I think jewelers should find ways to repay their communities,” says Pollack. “It comes back to you in a million different ways.” – Jessica Stein Diamond

JVC Asks FTC to Change Laser-Drilling Rule

The Jewelers Vigilance Committee has petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to include mandatory disclosure of laser drilling in its Guides for the Jewelry Industry. The Guides mandate disclosure of fracture-filling and other treatments, but not laser drilling.

While JVC has long advocated laser drilling disclosure, the petition is significant because it’s cosigned by Jeff Fischer, the president of the Diamond Manufacturers of America. The organization previously lobbied against a drilling disclosure rule but modified its position last year. Many think that with no significant industry opposition, a drilling disclosure rule now has a better chance of going through.

The petition also asks FTC to look at industry use of the term “clarity-enhancement,” arguing that it doesn’t properly describe a treated stone. “When you use the term you should also explain how the stone has been enhanced,” Fischer says. “To just say ‘enhanced’ only tells half the story.”

The petition doesn’t include one proposal favored by the diamond industry – limiting mandatory laser-drilling disclosure in stones over a certain size. When JVC first proposed disclosure to FTC in 1992, it asked that it not apply to stones .20 ct. and under. – Rob Bates

Diamond Dealers Flex Political Muscle

Physicians do it. Lawyers do it. Why not diamond dealers, too?

The New York Diamond Dealers Club, long considered an insular organization with little interest in the outside world, is stepping out in a big way. It’s setting up a political action committee to get the attention of people in government, in both New York and Washington.

The new PAC – the Diamond Industry Alliance for Advocacy – will lobby elected officials, donate money to candidates, and educate the public and government about the diamond industry’s concerns. It will also work with Washington to approach other countries about bringing more rough into New York.

“There are dozens of things we need that we can’t do ourselves,” says DDC president Eli Haas. “We need to borrow a page from foreign cutting centers; if you go to Antwerp or Israel, you see the difference that government can make.”

Haas notes that politicians over the years have told him they don’t know what the diamond industry needs. “Here we are, one of the biggest employers in New York City, and a lot of the officials don’t know us,” he says. “If you want to accomplish things, public officials have to know what you need and who you are.”

Among the things the industry wants help with: obtaining grants for training programs for new diamond cutters, changing the Uniform Commercial Code to give dealers who consign diamonds on memo more protection, and reinvigorating New York as a center of diamond trading. “We think government will be receptive to us,” says diamond cutter Mayer Herz, chairman of the DDC’s government affairs committee and the PAC’s new treasurer. “We’re looking to rebuild New York diamond manufacturing, which would open up opportunity for low-income workers and small businesses.”

The PAC board is composed equally of dealers and manufacturers. DDC members will have the option of donating a portion of their dues to the PAC; the suggested contribution is $75. (There’s a $5,000 limit on personal contributions.) Donations must come from personal accounts rather than corporate ones, and only U.S. citizens can contribute. – Rob Bates

Let It Snow in Buffalo

A Canadian jewelry store’s snow promotion looked like a fizzle. About an inch fell on Christmas Day, whereas 7 in. was needed to trigger the 100% cash refunds promised during the weeks-long holiday promotion. But what customers didn’t realize was that 7 in. didn’t have to fall in the store’s home town of Fonthill, Ontario; it had to fall 30 miles away at the nearest government weather station – Buffalo, N.Y. The snowfall in Buffalo: 7.1 in.

When store owners Thomas and Tamara Steele finally learned of Buffalo’s amount – it took two weeks to get official confirmation – they began calling every customer who had spent $50 or more during the promotion. Customers kept their purchases but got full refunds, which they often immediately spent in the store on new jewelry. Total sales were around $100,000.

“We’re so excited about the amount of snow by which customers won – one tenth of an inch!” exclaims Tamara. “All I visualize is one fluffy snowflake gently landing at Buffalo at 6:59 p.m. Christmas Day to top off the measurement.” The snow promotion, which was covered by insurance, increased sales so much and drew in so many new customers that the Steeles plan more of them. – Larry Frederick