UpFront

Arthur Lee Anderson, Ashland, Ore., placed first in the “28th German Award for Jewelry and Precious Stones (1997),” sponsored by the Association of the German Gemstone and Diamond Industries in Idar-Oberstein. Anderson won with his technique called the Webbed Pear Cut, used here on a 21.7-ct. Brazilian citrine. The cut “looks like a web has been cast through the stone,” says Anderson. The contest, held every three years, focuses on originality in gem cutting. Anderson has been a gem cutter for 15 years. He’s won several U.S. prizes, including three first places in the American Gem Trade Association’s Cutting Edge competition, but this was his first international award. He was the only non-European among this year’s winners.

JCK Announces New Staff Members

Jewelers’ Circular-Keystone recently announced a number of editorial and business staff additions.

Teresa Andres becomes editor of Vista Joyera, JCK’s magazine for the Caribbean and Latin America. She worked in Madrid as a reporter for El Independiete and in research and production for Television Espanola and Antena 3 Radio. She moved from her native Spain to the U.S. in 1995.

Keith Flamer, now senior New York editor and watch editor, has been writing on a freelance basis for such publications as Art & Antiques, International Wristwatch and Women’s Wear Daily. He previously spent seven years with National Jeweler.

Gary Roskin, the new gemstone editor, most recently was assistant director of the European Gem Lab in Los Angeles. He previously was assistant director of the Gemological Institute of America’s Gem Trade Laboratory in Los Angeles, instructor in the Resident Gemology Program and executive director of the GIA Alumni Association. Roskin, a fourth-generation jeweler, is a Graduate Gemologist of the GIA, a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain and author of Photo Masters for Diamond Grading.

Karen Scanlon, copy editor, joins us from Dow Jones Interactive Publishing, the online service for Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal. Before that she led a three-person copy editing team for Microsoft Corp.’s MSN online.

JCK’s editorial production team has three new members. Joe Morris is now special projects/production editor, a new position. A former JCK production editor who worked with several other Chilton magazines in recent years, Morris will coordinate and manage special sections, projects and advertorials. Sharon Struckus, a 10-year veteran of the Chilton Co., becomes production editor. She most recently served as a production artist in the company’s central art department. Monica McLaughlin, the new assistant production editor, has three years’ experience in retailing and in her family’s printing business.

Barbara Wenger is JCK’s new administrative assistant/assistant editor. She most recently was administrative assistant and office manager for Chilton’s Home Improvement Market magazine.

JCK also has reached exclusive agreements with a number of well-known freelance writers and groups.

Jim Cory, an award-winning author, will write a column about personalities in the jewelry industry.

Richard Drucker, president of Gemworld International and publisher of The Guide, a gemstone pricing service, will write a monthly column on marketing trends in the gemstone business. These columns will deal with the day-to-day realities of the market, discussing availability and pricing issues.

Performance Concepts LLC and its principals, Janice Mack-Talcott and Kate Peterson, will write exclusively for JCK on jeweler training and education. A nine-part series will begin in the February issue.

Nancy Pier Sindt, an internationally known writer and consultant for the jewelry industry, will contribute to JCK’s refocused “Luxury” section and help implement JCK’s fashion profile on the Internet through our active participation in the Fashionmall. Sindt is a former fashion editor for National Jeweler.

New business names: Shawn Mery joins the JCK International Publishing Group as associate publisher. Mery has 10 years’ experience in retail publishing; he most recently was group publisher of several magazines in the fashion/designer eyewear field.

Bill Furman, a 25-year JCK veteran, was named national sales director. Furman had been a regional territory manager and market development manager for JCK. He will continue to handle his New York sales territory.

Joining Furman in JCK’s New York office are Randi Gewertz and Nancy Oppenheimer. Gewertz, formerly an account executive for KYW News Radio/CBS Radio Group in Philadelphia, is now regional territory manager for New York. Oppenheimer is regional territory manager in New York, Long Island, Rhode Island and Connecticut. She previously worked for Women’s Wear Daily, Children’s Business and spent five years with National Jeweler.

Robin Lutin and Kathy Nelson are new Western regional territory managers. Lutin was account manager for SOFTBANK Interactive Marketing Inc. and, before that, for Compaq Computer Corp. Nelson most recently represented a Chilton magazine in the retail hardlines/home improvement market on the West Coast.

Aurafin/Kurgan Buys ArtCarved™ Bridal, Columbia

The country’s two oldest and best known bridal ring firms have been bought by Aurafin/Kurgan Bridal Inc., a new player in the bridal market.

This joint venture weds Aurafin, a leading gold jewelry manufacturer in Sunrise, Fla., and Kurgan & Cheviot, a major Los Angeles diamond and colored stone jewelry manufacturer. The two purchased ArtCarved™ Bridal and Columbia Diamond Ring Co. in late October and November, respectively. Purchase prices and details of the transactions weren’t released.

ArtCarved and Columbia combined have more than 6,000 jewelry store customers. Their acquisitions make Aurafin/Kurgan one of the largest suppliers in the U.S. bridal market.

ArtCarved™ Bridal, begun in 1850, now is located in Austin, Tex. Columbia Diamond Ring, founded in 1876, is in Bethel, Conn. The dual acquisition ends more than a century of business rivalry between the two. ArtCarved Class Rings, a division of Commemorative Brands Inc., also in Austin, wasn’t part of the deal. It continues to operate independently.

Partners: The alliance began early this year. Aurafin was actively looking to diversify and the wedding ring market looked like a logical area for expansion, says Michael Gusky, chairman and chief executive officer of Aurafin. However, Aurafin didn’t feel comfortable as a primary source of jewelry involving diamonds, as much bridal merchandise does. Thus, it sought an established diamond jewelry specialist.

While talking with Kurgan about a possible consolidation early this year, the two firms heard there was a chance to buy ArtCarved™ Bridal, which had been hurt by some customer service problems. With the joint venture formed, they began negotiations with ArtCarved – and soon learned that Columbia Diamond Ring Co. was looking for a buyer, as well. Both were purchased.

In transition: Colin Horowitz, CEO of Kurgan & Cheviot, will oversee sales and marketing for Aurafin/Kurgan Bridal, while Gusky will handle finance and manufacturing.

Efforts will be made to focus on the strengths of each subsidiary. ArtCarved, for example, has no U.S. manufacturing operation and sold its off-shore facility last year, while Columbia has a 25,000-sq.-ft., state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution facility in Bethel. ArtCarved, however, has strong marketing and sales operations.

ArtCarved™ Bridal and Columbia are expected to remain at their current locations; no immediate change in top personnel is planned.

Dangerous Cat’s Eyes on Sale in Asia

“Dangerously radioactive” chrysoberyl cat’s eye gemstones are being offered for sale in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Japan, according to the Center for Gemstone Testing in Bangkok and reports from Reuters, The Chicago Tribune and other publications.

The Center (formerly the Asian Institute for Gemological Sciences) first spotted the radioactive stones in September. Kenneth Scarratt, director, says the discovery was made when the Center received a dark chocolate brown, 3.5-ct., oval cat’s eye for normal examination. “Because of its unusual color,” he says, “it was checked for radioactivity,” which was found to be more than 52 nanoCuries per gram. That is 50 times the radiation safety limit set by the U.S. and is so dangerous it could “make your skin cancerous and destroy white blood cells,” a spokesman for Thailand’s Office of Atomic Energy for Peace told Reuters news service. Scarratt told Japan’s Kyodo News Service that the gemstone was “too dangerous to enter the market” in its irradiated condition.

Another cat’s eye (a 30-ct. stone set with diamonds in a finished ring), on display at the early September Hong Kong Jewelry & Watch Fair, was found to be so radioactive that a Geiger counter reportedly “screeched” when placed near it. Scarratt says several other highly radioactive cat’s eyes were found at the show.

The Center reports that stones were bombarded with neutrons in a nuclear reactor. This process would change their color from yellow to brown and could increase their value from hundreds to thousands of U.S. dollars per carat. The Center called on the industry – particularly in Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan, where most of the stones are thought to have circulated – to have all cat’s eyes of an unusual color checked for radioactivity immediately. Those found to be radioactive should be placed in sealed lead containers.

Scarratt thinks only chrysoberyl cat’s eye is involved. He hopes, therefore, that “general trading won’t be affected.” However, sales of radiation detectors in Thailand reportedly have risen.

The Gemological Institute of America’s Gem Trade Laboratories in New York and California have been on the outlook for radioactive stones since September. None had been reported in the U.S. as of mid-November, when the first consumer press stories appeared.

OroAmerica Acquires Jerry Prince

OroAmerica Inc., the largest U.S. manufacturer and distributor of karat gold jewelry, has acquired Jerry Prince Inc. (JPI), San Diego, Cal. Acquisition price and terms were not disclosed.

JPI, with sales of about $14 million for the current fiscal year, makes and distributes fine gold and silver jewelry. Its management team and key staff people will continue to run JPI, which becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of OroAmerica.

This acquisition is OroAmerica’s second major purchase in recent months. Earlier this year, it bought the in-house inventory and all consignment customer accounts of Ravel Inc., a Clearwater, Fla., manufacturer of karat gold jewelry.

JPI and OroAmerica both were founded in 1977. OroAmerica designs, makes and sells more than 1,800 lines of gold and silver jewelry products.

JCK, Fashionmall Launch Internet Consumer Magazine

JCK and The Fashionmall.com are launching a new consumer jewelry magazine on the Internet. JCK On The Fashionmall is produced by JCK and located on The Fashionmall.com, an award-winning commercial website focusing on the better fashion, beauty and related lifestyle market.

This venture is entirely separate from the trade-only JCK Online website on the Polygon network. Address for the new online magazine is http://fashionmall.com/jck.

JCK on the Fashionmall will present consumer-oriented features about jewelry design, style trends and antique jewelry, information about diamonds, pearls and gemstones, tips on buying and caring for jewelry, and designer and retailer profiles. An introductory issue goes online this month; regular monthly issues begin in January 1998.

The Fashionmall.com was launched in July 1995 when president Ben Narasin sought ways to use the Internet for marketing better fashions. Figures for 1997 show more than 12 million hits through early November, with an average of more than 600,000 visitors per month. More than 50% of visitors to the site are females with upscale household demographics.

The Fashionmall.com is host to more than 60 manufacturer and retailer clients, as well as 17 trade and consumer publications. Some client sites include Donna Karan, Thierry Mugler, Tommy Hilfiger, Givenchy Couture, Dolce & Gabbana, Diesel, Fortunoff, La Prairie cosmetics, Carolee, Alden Shoes of Carmel, Annick Goutal, Accessories magazine, Vibe and, now, JCK.

Underground Operations IN DOUBT at Argyle

The joint venture partners in Australia’s Argyle Mine – RTZ-CRA and Ashton Mining – appear to be moving toward a decision against underground mining operations there. The Western Australian site has been the world’s largest producer of rough diamonds in terms of volume for almost two decades. Ore reserves within the mine’s current open pit design will sustain operation until 2003.

In Ashton’s third quarter 1997 report, the company describes a feasibility study of a 9.5-10 million tons per annum underground block caving concept for the Argyle Mine. Such a project, the report states, would involve an estimated capital investment of $250-$300 million, and would include substantial technical risks.

“Although no formal decision has been taken on the merits of this option,” the report continues, “the joint venture parties have in recent months moved to evaluate other possibilities, in particular an expansion of the open pit to access deeper ore.”

Town & Country to Restructure

Town & Country Corp. announced it has voluntarily filed a pre-arranged plan to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. The filing will occur at the holding company level only and does not involve the company’s operating subsidiaries, Town & Country Fine Jewelry Group, Essex and Anju.

Major bondholders have agreed, in principle, to the terms of a restructuring plan in which almost all of their debt will be converted into equity.

JVC Seeks New Head

The Jewelers Vigilance Committee announced that Abe Shainberg, its executive vice president of operations for the past year, has left the group, which is looking for a replacement. Michael D. Roman, retired executive director of Jewelers of America, will serve as interim director.

Heartthrobs at Harry Winston

The House of Harry Winston, renowned for cutting-edge luxury jewelry design, has taken a step into the future with its Heartthrob Brooch. This $400,000 diamond and ruby pin lights up to the pulse of the wearer’s heart.

Winston developed the lighted brooch in partnership with the MIT Media Lab. The design – based on a classic Winston “shrimp” pin – contains six rubies (3.62 cts.), 53 round brilliant diamonds (9.72 cts.), 13 pear-shape diamonds (3.92 cts.) and 12 marquise diamonds (2.25 cts.). Behind the pin’s platinum setting, tiny light-emitting diodes with a special mechanism designed by MIT monitor the wearer’s heartbeat.

Ronald Winston, chairman and CEO, hints at future projects between the jeweler and the laboratory. Some – such as finding a way to make lasers with diamonds – would benefit technology. Others – such as a Winston telephone watch reminiscent of old Dick Tracy cartoons – would benefit consumers.

“The applications for combining jewelry, or clothing for that matter, with high technology are limited only by our imaginations,” says Winston.

And who might wear the Heartthrob Brooch? Winston says he’d “love to put this on the next female astronaut.”

California Limits Abalone Harvest

California Gov. Pete Wilson has signed a bill which puts a 10-year moratorium on the harvesting of any species of abalone in the waters south of San Francisco. It allows harvesting north of San Francisco to keep up with the demand for abalone pearls, but limits it to sports divers only. Divers must buy a $12 annual stamp, with proceeds going to fund efforts to restore the species.

The large mollusks known as abalone were once plentiful in the waters along California’s coastline. But reports say populations have declined sharply in recent years, due to growing demand, more efficient harvesting methods and pollution.

Abalone pearls come in a variety of colors. A spokesperson for Pacific Coast Pearls of Petaluma, Cal., a dealer in natural abalone pearls, sees the largest sales increases in Europe, where exotic blue and green colors are popular. These colors also are popular with U.S. designers; Asian designers prefer white, pink and magenta pearls. The best-selling price range for loose abalone pearls is $300 to $800 a carat, according to Pacific Coast Pearl; most pearls weigh 20 cts. to 80 cts.

Diamonds on Display in New York

The Nature of Diamonds, billed as the most comprehensive exhibition ever mounted on the subject of diamonds, opened Nov. 1 and runs through April 26, 1998, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It examines diamond’s many facets (pun intended), from its geological origins and uses in technology and research to its place in history, art, adornment and literature.

The exhibition features magnificent gems and jewels on loan from collections around the world, including the 407.48-ct. Incomparable, the third-largest cut diamond in the world; the 128.54-ct. Tiffany, one of the largest fancy yellow diamonds ever discovered; and Elizabeth Taylor’s 33.19-ct. emerald-cut Krupp diamond, a gift from Richard Burton. Jewels from Russia include the diamond crown of Peter the Great and the Miniature Replica of the Russian Imperial Regalia, made by Peter Carl Fabergé for the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900.

Also shown are specimens of diamonds in their natural state and exhibits on the role of diamonds in jewelry and industry, the qualities of diamond as a natural substance, and diamond treatments and synthetics.

The Museum also has published an illustrated companion book, The Nature of Diamonds. It covers the science, history, art, symbolism and technology of the gem.

The exhibit was organized by George E. Harlow, curator in the Museum’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Harlow also was editor of the companion book.

Orange Diamond Fetches $1.3 Million

The world’s largest “vivid orange” diamond, an extremely rare fancy stone weighing 5.54 cts., sold for $1,322,500 at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewelry auction, Oct. 29-30 in New York. The sale (to Harry Winston) was a highlight of the auction, which brought in $37 million. Despite a volatile stock market at auction time, bidding was brisk and high.

A group of “Extraordinary Jewels from a Private Collection” brought a total of $10,733,625. The collection included several extraordinary diamond solitaires. A 21.91-ct. Cartier ring fetched $1,212,500, while the 19.74-ct. D-color Jonker No. 7 diamond from Harry Winston sold for $827,500.

A “highly important fancy intense yellow” diamond weighing 67.87 cts. brought $1,102,500; a diamond necklace from Cartier sold to Ahmed H. Fitaihi for $690,000.

Period pieces, particularly Art Deco, were highly sought. A Van Cleef & Arpels diamond and colored stone bracelet, dated 1924, drew $552,500 from an Asian private collector; a Cartier Paris rock crystal and diamond bangle, dated 1930, sold for $178,500. A late 1930s Paul Flato bracelet went for $233,500 – way above the estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.