UpFront

LARRY FREDERICK JOINS JCK AS EDITOR IN CHIEF

Larry Frederick, an award-winning writer with many years’ experience in publishing, is joining JCK as editor in chief.

For the past year, he has been editor-in-chief of Physician’s Management magazine. Before that he was with Medical Economics magazine for 13 years, three as a senior editor and 10 as managing editor. Earlier in his career, he worked at various times as a senior editor for the U.S. Information Agency, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a newsman for United Press International. He has a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and did graduate study in political science at the University of Chicago.

Medical Economics, where Larry Frederick spent a large part of his career, is one of the premier specialist magazines in the country. “While it deals with the medical profession, its mission is not unlike JCK’s in many ways, for it provides professionals with information about the business and financial side of their operations,” says George Holmes, JCK editorial director. “We’re delighted that Larry is joining us. He’s an experienced editor with a talent for management and a commitment to exacting editorial standards. He comes to us with the highest possible commendations from present and past colleagues.”

While at Medical Economics, Larry won two Jesse H. Neal awards for editorial excellence.

AGTA PLANS TESTING IN NEW YORK LAB

The American Gem Trade Association will start its own gemological laboratory in downtown Manhattan in the very near future. Nanette Forester, AGTA president, and Doug Hucker, executive director, made the announcement at the end of the Tucson Gem Fair. The lab will identify natural and synthetic gemstones and any enhancements; country of origin will be identified “when appropriate,” said Hucker.

Heading up the new lab will be globe-trotting Ken Scarratt. He’s coming from the Gem Testing Centre of Thailand, formerly the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences. During the Thai currency crisis last year, Henry Ho, whose family owned AIGS, had to relinquish a major share of the lab to Scarratt. Since then, negotiations for Scarratt to take full control fell short. Scarratt’s background includes directing the Gem Testing Laboratory in London, a branch of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain.

AGTA executives stress that the new lab is being created in response to demand. “AGTA has received overwhelming support from its members as well as a strong commitment from the retail community,” said Forester. “AGTA is responding to the growth of the colored stones industry and the laboratory plans to be pro-active in addressing colored gemstones issues.”

However, the new lab will be met with some skepticism by one New York competitor, the American Gemological Laboratory owned and directed by Cap Beesley. Beesley’s lab already is equipped to perform natural, synthetic and enhancement identifications and country of origin reports. Asked why AGTA would start another lab, Beesley replied that “this is AGTA’s way of attempting to legitimize its current enhancement terminology for emeralds to benefit their dealer members at the expense of retailers and the general public.” Beesley, a former member of AGTA, has been criticized by other members for his outspoken manner and his strong testimony in the well-publicized Fred Ward emerald enhancement disclosure lawsuit.

DIAMOND SOLITAIRE NECKLACE IS NEXT DPS FOCUS

The Diamond Promotion Service has a new education package to help jewelers build sales of the diamond solitaire necklace and other diamond fashion solitaires.

The DSN has become a favorite accessory for both Hollywood stars and the fashion industry crowd. The DPS education package is designed to help jewelers turn the trend into increased sales.

This is the third DPS education package based on the latest De Beers consumer research. The first two focused on selling diamond engagement rings and better quality diamonds. Each introduces key selling strategies specific to the product and consumer category.

For the DSN, the first key strategy is the importance of fashion in the sales transaction. “Fashion + emotion = sales” is a major theme.

The second theme is how to respond to communication signals that couples use when shopping together, plus selling techniques to use for a woman considering a self-purchase.

The DSN package includes:

  • A comprehensive Leaders’ Guide to be used by managers or trainers.

  • Five workbooks to be used by sales associates in a meeting or seminar format with managers or trainers.

  • Five self-study workbooks for sales associates to use for independent study.

  • Skill practice cards to be used between management and trainees. The cards present six sales associate/customer scenarios using the various selling skills learned.

  • DSN video, to be used at the end of the training session to reinforce message points and learning.

The complete How to Sell Diamond Solitaire Necklaces and Other Fashion Solitaires program is $250. Call (800) 370-6789.

ZALE SALES UP 3.3% IN XMAS QUARTER

Zale Corp. reports its sales rose 3.3% to $522 million in its fiscal second quarter, ended Jan. 31. Comparable store sales were up 9.4%. Total sales for the half totaled $774.5 million, up 5.2% from a year earlier, while comparable store sales rose 8.3%. The second quarter results reflected strong holiday sales for 1997, said Robert D. Nicola, chairman and chief executive officer.

iQVC LAUNCHES WEB JEWELRY STORE

iQVC, a division of QVC Inc., has launched what it calls “the most complete jewelry store on the World Wide Web.”

On Jan. 19, Gems and Jewels.com began offering women a one-stop online source for jewelry, product information and style advice, says a company spokesperson. It is the first of several specialty boutiques iQVC plans to open this year.

Gems and Jewels.com’s magazine-type format combines selling with editorial content and fashion slide shows. It features, says a spokesperson, thousands of jewelry designs in six categories: gold, silver, gems, Dimonique, designer and essentials. There are also exclusive collections from Judith Jack, Nolan Miller, Joan Rivers and Kenneth Jay Lane.

Search functions include a personalized wish list gift registry; a “viewing pad” showing up to nine products on a page; and customized jewelry advice. An interactive quiz designed in conjunction with the World Gold Council helps customers buy gold jewelry.

iQVC (www.iqvc.com), based in West Chester, Pa., receives more than 15 million hits a week from the Internet. Its December 1997 sales topped $5 million.

DE BEERS TO “BRAND” RETAILERS’ DIAMONDS

De Beers will work with selected jewelry retailers in the United Kingdom in a pilot program to market De Beers-branded diamonds. If successful, the program of inscribing diamonds with De Beers’ “brand name” will be expanded worldwide.

Stephen Lussier, who heads De Beers’ Consumer Marketing Division in London, says the program is designed as a “defense” against synthetics, fracture-filled and treated diamonds. “The project was initiated by our gem defense team to help give consumers greater confidence when purchasing diamonds, particularly for those buying a diamond for the first time,” says Lussier. That team works on issues which may affect consumer confidence in diamonds.

De Beers’ researchers have developed a technique to inscribe polished diamonds with its name and a security number to be kept on file. Unlike laser inscribing, which has been around for nearly 20 years, De Beers’ process adds an inscription on the table, which can be read only with a special device. “It is completely invisible to the eye,” says Lussier, “even with the aid of a loupe.” But retailers with the device can easily show consumers the inscription – even on mounted diamonds. De Beers is patenting the reader device and its inscription technology in all countries.

The Gemological Institute of America and the Diamond High Council of Antwerp tested groups of De Beers-inscribed diamonds and confirmed the inscription will “in no way affect the grade of any diamond, up to and including internally flawless stones.”

The pilot project will target “better-quality engagement ring diamonds over 30 points,” Lussier says. He adds that De Beers is designing the program so retailers can work through their existing suppliers.

DIVA ENTRIES DUE THIS MONTH

The deadline to enter the DIVA Award for Jewelry Design is March 31. The contest, sponsored by the Women’s Jewelry Association, is open to any woman living in the United States, with or without formal training in jewelry design. This year’s theme is “The 21st Century Woman.” Entrants should submit color renderings of original designs for precious metal jewelry with or without gemstones. No photos will be accepted.

Winners will be announced and awards presented at the WJA Bash on June 7, during the JCK Show in Las Vegas. For rules, contact DIVA Award for Jewelry Design, 8306 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 54, Beverly Hills, CA 90211; (310) 842-6446.

Gold PRICE PRESSURES FORCE WGC CUTBACKS

The World Gold Council is downsizing its European operations, stressing “growth markets” in South America and Asia and planning to expand its successful American programs worldwide.

The Council is financed by gold mining and jewelry industries; the changes in its operations reflect a recent sharp drop in gold prices worldwide. In early 1998 gold slipped briefly below $280 an ounce, the lowest in 18 years.

The U.S. strategy was still being finalized at presstime, but Michael C. Barlerin, chief executive for the Americas and Europe, and Robin Scheer Ettinger, vice president for jewelry, discussed some likely developments with JCK. Among them:

The Council will continue its programs with mass merchants – a subject of some controversy among traditional retail jewelers. “We will continue to look to leaders in the [retail] industry who hope to grow their gold [jewelry] business and be a consultant to them on their programs,” says Barlerin.

There’ll be downsizing in “mature markets.” In western Europe, for example, the Council will keep offices in London and Milan, but close those in Frankfurt and Paris; London becomes “hub office” for the region. The office in Istanbul is unaffected.

In the Americas, offices in New York, Mexico City and Sao Paulo will remain open, but some reduction in U.S. staff is expected, with more use of freelancers.

Latin America will play a larger role in WGC’s strategic thinking, notes Barlerin. “We’re seeing a resurgence of gold business now in Mexico, after a slowdown due to the peso devaluation, and in Latin America. Brazil, especially, is a growth market for the Italian gold manufacturing community.”

The WGC also will shift more of its budget to promoting gold jewelry in India, China and Indonesia.

JAN BELL PLANS TO BUY MAYOR’s

Jan Bell Marketing Inc. announced it has executed a letter of intent to acquire Mayor’s Jewelers Inc., Coral Gables, Fla. If all shares are purchased, the transaction is valued at an estimated $92.8 million. Jan Bell operates 447 leased jewelry departments in domestic and Puerto Rican Sam’s Clubs.

CORRECTIONS

Two articles in January contained errors. In the “Lemon, Lime or Raspberry” feature on jewelry with pastel gemstones (page 144), a tanzanite ring by Chris Correia carried an incorrect price. The suggested retail price is $7,900.

The “Bag Ladies” article (page 130) listed an incorrect phone number for Vivian Alexander Inc. The correct number is (800) 898-0803.

In February JCK (page 130), Ed Dayoob was identified as vice president of Fred Meyer Jewelers Inc. Dayoob actually is president of Fred Meyer Jewelers Inc., which also operates under the names of Merksamer and Fox’s Jewelers. He is a senior vice president of Fred Meyer Inc., of which Fred Meyer Jewelers Inc. is a subsidiary.