UpFront

Jewelry Groups Get $400,000

Six groups have been chosen to receive a total of $400,000 in grants from the new Industry Fund sponsored by JCK magazine and the JCK International Jewelry Shows. The fund was established in early 1998 and will be replenished annually to promote the jewelry industry.

The 1998 grants were announced in November after an all-day meeting by the JCK evaluation panel. The panel included one retailer; two manufacturers; Rick Bay, JCK’s publisher and group vice president; and Dennis MacDonald, senior vice president of Reed Exhibition Companies, producers of the JCK Shows.

The largest award – $148,000 – went to an interactive educational program for jewelry-store sales personnel called “Counter Intelligence.” The program will be developed by Jewelers of America on behalf of the Jewelry Information Center’s Industry Image Task Force, which comprises nearly all of the major jewelry organizations.

The five other grant winners were:

  • The Jewelers Vigilance Committee, which received $94,000 to buy equipment for verifying gold karatage. The goal is to eliminate gold underkarating, a widely perceived problem in the industry.

  • The American Gem Trade Association, which received $51,000 to support its new gem lab in New York.

  • The Jewelers’ Security Alliance, which was awarded $50,000 to hold anti-crime conclaves for law-enforcement officials in Florida, New York, and Illinois. The meetings will be modeled on JSA’s training seminar for police and FBI agents held earlier in Los Angeles.

  • The Gemological Institute of America, which received $45,000 to study the effectiveness and durability of filler material used in emeralds. GIA will buy and test more than 200 emeralds to determine which treatments are the most effective.

  • The American Jewelry Design Council, which received $12,000 to stage its annual designer conference in San Francisco.

Picasso Jewelry Inspires High Bidding

The October auction of the estate of Dora Maar, lover and longtime friend of Pablo Picasso, attracted crowds and bidding from all over the world. As JCK reported in October (p. 84), Maar died last year, leaving a sizable collection of paintings and a surprising cache of jewelry and mementos by the legendary artist. The jewelry items are the only ornaments Picasso is known to have made by hand – for very sentimental reasons.

Streets were jammed with traffic as people crowded into Paris for the event. Some 20,000 showed up at the Maison de la Chime, where the PIASA auction group held the sale on Oct. 27-29. Most people simply wanted a peek at the items, many of which had never been displayed publicly.

The big surprise of the sale was not the paintings, which went for prices close

to the estimates, but the smaller items – especially the jewelry and mementos. Across the board, the jewelry went for prices several times higher than the estimates. For example, a chrome-metal watch with a brass plaque engraved with a portrait of Maar sold for about $63,000, 19 times its estimated value.

“The sentimental value was what drove the prices up,” says Philippe Serret, who valued the jewelry for auction. He insists the estimates were not low but that there were no precedents for mementos made by Picasso for a lover.

Framed miniature portraits mounted in metal brooches and rings along with nine engraved amulets all inspired feverish bidding. The highest price went for a portrait ring with lattice flower work. Estimated at about $16,500, the ring sold for almost $108,000. An oval brooch with a colored pencil portrait of Maar, estimated at about $25,000, sold for nearly $70,000. Not bad for pencil sketches set in existing mounts.

Pebbles that Picasso engraved with a pocket knife on the beach during vacations with Maar sold for at least eight times their estimates. A portrait of Maar engraved on a bone amulet, estimated at $6,600, sold for $53,000. A fawn engraved on terra cotta, valued at $4,140, brought $34,770. At least one American jeweler ended up with a wearable Picasso after extensive bidding via cell phone. In fact, buyers for both the paintings and the jewelry were mostly Americans, according to PIASA. Serret notes that “Most weren’t especially interested in the jewelry market but were buying Picasso’s work in the form of jewelry.”

– Cathleen McCarthy

Jeweler Wins Reelection to Senate

Two jewelers, both Republicans, competed in this year’s congressional elections. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) won a second term in the U.S. Senate by defeating Dottie Lamm, wife of the former Democratic governor, 64% to 43%. He is the only jeweler and Native American in the Senate.

After an upset primary victory last spring, Gary Hofmeister (R-Ind.) of Indianapolis lost his bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to Democratic incumbent Julia Carson, 58% to 39%.

GIA Ends Sales of ARMS Software

The Gemological Institute of America has stopped distributing the inventory-management software at the heart of its five-year-old ARMS program. The announcement came in an October letter to all participants, signed by GIA president William E. Boyajian and Dan Askew, chief executive officer of GIA ARMS. Askew also informed some users by phone.

The sudden “business decision,” they concede in the letter, will “surprise and disappoint some people.” It came after “many thoughtful hours of consideration by GIA’s executive management team.” They disclosed no reason for the decision. Current service contracts of GIA ARMS clients will be honored.

Established in 1993, GIA ARMS was adapted for U.S. jewelers from software provided by Advanced Retail Management Systems (ARMS) Global Ltd. in Australia. The program was designed to streamline management of fine jewelry stores and provide an ongoing review of operations. Its shutdown surprised some users, most of whom are pleased with the program. The move also upset new clients who thought they should have been given more warning.

David C. Rothenberg, owner of David Craig Jewelers in Langhorne, Pa., has been a satisfied client for years. The program, he says, “helped us tremendously and provided lots of good nuts-and-bolts ideas.”

Also caught off guard was Susan Eisen of Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry in El Paso, Texas, who joined 18 months ago. The program, she says, “retrained my thinking on how I run my business and how I choose to buy and not buy.”

Another jeweler, who joined in October and spent $26,000 for hardware, software, and support, says, “In view of the expense, I thought I was buying into a long-term relationship with GIA, and now I feel like an orphan.”

Some GIA ARMS members hope the program will be continued by the Australian company or another firm. However, there was no indication of such plans in the October letter. – William George Shuster

Lead Poisoning Linked to Imported Necklace

The Tennessee Department of Health has issued a warning that imported necklaces sold in many Tennessee stores may contain hazardous levels of lead and nickel. The alert came after a 2-year-old Knoxville boy suffered lead poisoning allegedly caused by a nickel-plated “WWJD” (“What Would Jesus Do?”) necklace purchased at a local Kmart. Kmart, Wal-Mart, and other retailers have since pulled the necklaces from their shelves.

The incident began in early September when the boy became irritable and developed speech problems. His pediatrician tested for elevated blood lead and found the level to be more than four times normal. State health officials identified the imported necklace as the most likely culprit. The boy’s mother reported that he had placed it in his mouth during the dozen or so occasions when he had worn the necklace to church.

“These necklaces are nickel-plated, and to have them against your skin probably doesn’t present a danger,” says Diane Denton, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Health. “But he put it in his mouth, and the moisture caused the lead to leach out. That’s the danger.”

Tennessee health officials tested the WWJD necklaces and costume-jewelry necklaces of other designs sold in various stores throughout the state. They found that many of the items had pendants containing high amounts of lead and nickel. These necklaces all were imported from South Korea, Taiwan, or China. The testing did not reveal high levels of lead or nickel in comparable U.S.-made necklaces.

A subsequent investigation by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission detected hazardous amounts of lead in many costume-jewelry products designed for children. The commission has not initiated a recall, however. “Under federal law we can only issue a recall if a product containing lead is intended for young children,” says agency spokesman Russ Rader. The WWJD necklaces and similar costume jewelry are generally intended for children 6 years and older.

Instead, on Oct. 23 the commission sent a letter to manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers with guidelines designed to prevent further cases of lead poisoning in young children. It requested that manufacturers eliminate the use of lead in children’s costume jewelry and that retailers obtain assurances to that effect from manufacturers. If removal of the lead is not feasible, the commission recommended that the products include a warning that they should not be purchased for children under 6. “It’s the young children who are most likely to be mouthing or chewing on something like a necklace,” says Rader.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether the Knoxville boy’s lead poisoning was due to the WWJD necklace or some other environmental source. – Rob Murphy

Judge Denies Fred Ward a Retrial

Fred Ward, the Bethesda, Md., jeweler who lost his business last year following a lawsuit over a fractured emerald, has been denied a new trial. Ward felt he had new evidence proving that the emerald must have been damaged only after he sold it in 1994 to plantiffs Michael and Doree Lynn. In June 1997 the court had decided otherwise after two gem labs determined that the fracture was likely present at the time of the sale.

Judge Leonard Braman of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia denied the motion for a retrial, saying that the one-year deadline had passed. He also felt that the new evidence would not have changed the outcome of the case.

Ward, who says he is “extremely disappointed” by the denial, disputes both points. He maintains that the one-year deadline had not yet expired because the original trial did not end until October 1997, when an appeal to reverse the treble damages was granted. He also believes that the new evidence – based on the “optical flat” test and new photos showing a lack of polishing “drag lines” – exonerates him (see “Fred Ward Seeks a New Day in Court,” JCK, November 1998, p. 84).

“Unfortunately, the motion went back to the original trial judge,” says Ward. “I would have hoped that it would have gone to a new judge with an open mind.”

The jeweler may have lost this battle, but he hasn’t given up. An appeal of the original decision, filed in October 1997, is once again active. – Gary Roskin