UpFront

DPS PROMOTES QUALITY THROUGH NEW PROGRAM

What a difference a decade makes. The number of women ages 25-44 with household incomes over $50,000 who believe in quality has increased from 69% to 79% within the past decade, according to the Diamond Marketing Group, a division of the De Beers account at J. Walter Thompson.

In this same group, the number who believe spending more to get a nearly perfect diamond is well worth it increased, from 49% to 57%. These women also report, in even greater numbers – 76%, up from 70% in 1988 – that diamond quality is far more important than size.

Reacting to these and other indicators that the quest for quality has arrived, the Diamond Promotion Service has developed a program to help retailers drive the message home to consumers. As an enhancement of DPS’s Diamond Solitaire promotion, the new program hones in on the quality message.

The centerpiece is a diamond pyramid, a counter tool that teaches consumers rarity is a crucial part of the diamond quality and value equation. With better diamonds at the top of the pyramid and lesser qualities fanning out below, consumers can quickly see quality diamonds cost more because of their rarity. Each of the four sides of the pyramid includes information about one of the 4Cs. “Current tools, such as the widely used ‘Diamond Characteristics’ chart, approach the issue in a linear fashion and don’t necessarily convey the relative rarity of these diamonds, which is the primary rationale for premium pricing,” says Lynn Diamond, DPS executive director.

The pyramid has been test-marketed since January, and even DPS was stunned by its overwhelming approval rating by retailers. “We were, to some extent, anticipating myriad industry views in response to this dramatic reconfiguring of the 4Cs,” Diamond says. “So we have been quite amazed at the consistency of response and the enthusiasm the industry has shown for this new approach. Retailers tell us this 4Cs demonstration is relevant to their consumers and right on target with what is needed to take the quality standard up by a big step.”

The program also includes a jewelry pad to illustrate the quality/rarity relationship for consumers who don’t require the detailed explanation the pyramid offers, a brochure explaining why better-quality diamonds are worth the higher price tag and a quality/rarity education package that teaches sales associates, owners and managers how to use the pyramid, a rationale for why it works and confidence-building techniques for how to sell quality.

The program will be launched at the JCK International Jewelry Show in Las Vegas and will be the centerpiece of De Beers’ industry efforts in 1997 and 1998.

OSCAR MAGIC

Oscar day began early for the western outpost of the Diamond Information Center, the public relations arm of the De Beers account at J. Walter Thompson. Camped out in a “diamond suite” at the Beverly Wiltshire in Beverly Hills, Cal., DIC made it on “Good Morning America” and the “Today” show. Staffers stayed awake almost all night to make the East Coast airing of the early morning shows, which begin at 4 a.m. Pacific time.

The subject of their appearances on television: the diamond jewelry DIC had on offer for this year’s Academy Awards presentation. The jewelry consisted of a wider selection from more designers than ever before, says Joan Parker, head of the DIC. From the looks of it, their efforts were a big success, as diamonds, sometimes complemented by other stones, swept the big night.

Meanwhile, eighth-generation jeweler Edward Asprey jetted over the Big Pond just before Oscar night bearing precious offerings from the store bearing his name in London. This was the first year Asprey, which also has stores in Los Angeles and New York City, provided jewelry for the event.

Maybe it was beginner’s luck, but Asprey scored an instant winner with the press when actress Claire Danes showed up in a sophisticated yet understated Cerruti pale aqua cashmere sweater and matching bias-cut satin skirt, complemented by a necklace and earrings from Asprey’s new Daisy Collection. The matching pieces feature blue topaz and pavé diamonds in 18k white gold. Though not the most expensive pieces seen at the Oscars, they and their young wearer were a hit.

The trend toward tiaras for formal evening wear got a boost when Salma Hayek appeared in a diamond tiara from the 1920s. She complemented the tiara with a Cartier diamond watch and a 7-ct. diamond ring once owned by Ginger Rogers. Her borrowed jewels were from Fred Leighton, a jeweler who often outfits Hollywood types on Oscar night.

Diamond solitaires got a boost when Jennifer Lopez wore her own, along with diamond drop earrings and a vintage diamond floral bracelet from Martin Katz, another jeweler to the stars.

The English Patient’s Kristin Scott Thomas wore a ruby-festooned dragonfly (no designer received attribution) pinned to her waist; her co-star (and Best Supporting Actress winner) Juliette Binoche wore a colored diamond necklace from Harry Winston. Oscar-winner Billy Bob Thorton’s wife, Pietra, wore an emerald and diamond Bulgari necklace, while James Woods’ mother, Martha Dixon, had a sapphire and diamond necklace. Secrets & Lies co-stars Brenda Blethyn and Marianne Jean-Baptiste chose, respectively, a canary diamond necklace from Harry Winston and an emerald and diamond necklace from Van Cleef & Arpels. Faye Dunaway won attention with ruby and diamond necklace, earrings, bracelet and ring from Harry Winston. Sigourney Weaver and Bette Midler wore rubies from Van Cleef & Arpels.

Vintage was in – and not just on Barbra Streisand, though that antique jewelry junkie did wear a Fabergé necklace. In addition to Hayek and Lopez, Sandra Bullock, Kim Delaney, Minnie Driver, Deborah Farentino and Sigourney Weaver wore vintage pieces.

Big earrings made a splash on Nicole Kidman, Juliette Binoche, Faye Dunaway, Jenny McCarthy, Mira Sorvino and Salma Hayek.

Though bare necks were evident, some actresses went for huge necklaces, perhaps reflecting runway trends at recent fashion shows.

The next morning, the ceremony was over, but for the Jewelry Information Center, things were just beginning, especially on its new Internet site. The site (http://www. jic.polygon.net) showed color photos from the big event, compliments of Harry Winston. The site also listed Van Cleef & Arpels’ contributions to Oscar night glamour. “Fine jewelry has been associated with Hollywood stars since the inception of film,” says JIC President Lynn Ramsey. “The JIC’s Web site provides Hollywood’s ardent fans a new way to view these spectacular pieces as close as any paparazzi can get.”

GOVERNMENT BACKS MANUFACTURING JEWELERS

The U.S. jewelry manufacturing industry will benefit from increased attention from several federal agencies, thanks to a 90-day study by an interagency task force.

Achieving an “even playing field” is the major priority identified in the study, which was commissioned in 1996 by Rhode Island’s U.S. Sen. Jack Reed. The study was enhanced by the submission of a Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America “White Paper” outlining major concerns, including tariff inequities, intellectual property rights, environmental standards and the need for technology and education.

Results of the study, which was spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, were released in April at the MJSA-JCK Expo in Providence, R.I., in a report titled “The U.S. Jewelry Industry: Federal Interagency Report on U.S. Jewelry Industry Competitiveness Issues.” The report was summarized at a press conference attended by Reed and Troy Cribb, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for the textiles, apparel and consumer goods industries, who headed the task force.

“We have evidence the federal government is taking an active role in supporting the American jewelry industry,” Cribb told the audience, many of whom were fine and costume jewelry manufacturers from Rhode Island and New York. “The industry also has the solid backing of [Rhode Island’s] entire delegation in Congress.”

Throughout the course of the study, Cribb said, jewelry manufacturers opened their businesses and cooperated with the task force to provide statistics and opinions. One of their major concerns, he said, is the influx of imports and shrinking exports. Imported jewelry made up 49.9% of fine jewelry and 26.3% of costume jewelry domestic consumption in 1996, compared with 14.2% and 14%, respectively, in 1977.

U.S. jewelry manufacturers say they can’t keep up: there are higher tariffs to export to many developing countries than for those countries to export to the U.S. Some manufacturers in developing countries use child labor and pay a few cents per hour for labor, compared with an average $17.20 per hour for U.S. employees. Some overseas manufacturers mass-produce designs that violate U.S. copyrights and export them here as inexpensive competition, they say.

Creative solutions

Cribb outlined three major solutions to the problems identified by the study: improving productivity, enforcing trade and intellectual property laws, and making international trade more fair for U.S. companies. Specific suggestions in the report include:

  • Encouraging manufacturers to work with Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers, which were created by the Department of Commerce and exist in all 50 states to help companies improve manufacturing productivity, quality management, workforce training, workplace organization, business systems, marketing and financial management.

  • Giving small businesses (fewer than 20 employees), which make up 85.5% of fine jewelry manufacturers and 79.7% of costume jewelry manufacturers, assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Programs include a Loan Guaranty Program and technical and management assistance.

  • Allowing jewelry manufacturers to work with the ITA’s export promotion services. ITA exhibits at foreign trade shows provide literature on trade, including market research, trade leads and contact and promotional services.

  • Promoting better enforcement of trade laws by the U.S. Customs Service, striving for permanent country-of-origin marking on all jewelry imports and making international producers aware of U.S. copyrights and intellectual property rights.

  • Asking for the withdrawal of all countries that violate child labor laws from the Generalized System of Preferences, a program that allows duty-free treatment for developing countries.

  • Using the possibility of tariff reductions or eliminations through the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization to the advantage of small companies that wish to export.

MJSA Chairman Alan Kaufman expressed his excitement at the results of the study. “The report is a key milestone in a process that began several years ago, when we began making yearly trips to Washington to express the needs of the industry,” he said. “It is clear that we are being heard and understood by people who are concerned about bringing health to our industry.”

The report was compiled by ITA, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, U.S. Customs Service, Federal Trade Commission, Small Business Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Consumer Goods. For copies of the report or the MJSA White Paper, contact MJSA, One State St. Sixth Fl., Providence, RI 02908-5035; (800) 444-MJSA or (401) 274-3840, fax (401) 274-0265.

QVC INTRODUCES 18K COLLECTION FROM ITALY

QVC, the West Chester, Pa., TV retailing giant, has introduced a collection of 18k Italian jewelry called Arte d’Oro. The 20-piece collection, which retails for $400 to $3,000, signals a push to better serve what QVC calls its suburban, family-oriented audience.

As one QVC principal joked at a press conference describing Arte d’Oro, QVC’s viewers aren’t all couch potatoes in curlers sitting in lower-end housing. They’re moms in minivans and couples with some money to spend. Increasingly, they’re telling QVC they want higher karat gold jewelry, says John Calnon, vice president of jewelry at QVC.

QVC’s confidence in the collection seems justified. During the April 7 debut, it sold out in 1 hour and 40 minutes, causing the show to end 20 minutes early. Because of the response, QVC will expand the collection in June and schedule more programs this year and next.

The Arte d’Oro collection is the first one marketed to U.S. consumers using the solar mark of Emagold, a European quality control program. Companies accepted into the Emagold program agree to be monitored by an outside quality-assurance company to ensure compliance with karat gold markings.

FTC RELEASES PLATINUM REVISIONS

The Federal Trade Commission read 806 comments from industry leaders over the past year and then formulated new guides for jewelry made wholly or in part with platinum.

The new guides, published in the Federal Register in early April, call for different markings based on the relative “fineness” or parts per thousand of pure platinum vs. other platinum group metals (iridium, palladium, ruthenium, rhodium and osmium).

Here are the details:

Articles with 950 parts or more per thousand of pure platinum can be marked “platinum” without the use of qualifying statements.

Articles with 850 to 950 parts per thousand of pure platinum can be marked in accordance with the international standards of “950 Plat.” or “950 Pt.,” “850 Plat.” or 850 Pt.,”and so on. (Platinum may be abbreviated with two or four letters.)

  • Articles with 500 parts per thousand of pure platinum and at least 950 parts other platinum group metals may be marked with the parts per thousand of platinum followed by parts per thousand of the other metal (for example, “600 Plat.350Irid.”).

  • Articles with less than 500 parts per thousand of pure platinum cannot be marked with the word platinum or any abbreviation of it.

The FTC undertook the revision – and voted unanimously in favor of it – in order to bring the Platinum Guides more in line with international standards. It follows revisions to other sections of the Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals and Pewter Industries announced in May 1996. Together, the revised guides are intended to “assist the industry and consumers by helping marketers avoid deceptive or misleading representations about such products,” says the FTC.

Joel Windman, executive vice president and general counsel of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, led the battle to revise the Guides. At press time, he was still reviewing the Platinum Guides and declined to comment, except to say this was the culmination of a 21-year effort.

The Guides are not law, rather interpretations of law that JVC and state officials can use to fight cases of unfair competition and misleading advertising.

JIC TO LAUNCH MEMBERSHIP DRIVE

The Jewelry Information Center hopes to entice dozens of jewelers to support its publicity program with chances to win three trips and several business-related prizes.

JIC will hold its Vegas Raffle June 2 during the JCK International Jewelry Show, launching a three-year membership drive to raise $1 million in membership dues. Any manufacturer, supplier or retailer who joins JIC by June 2 is eligible to win.

Grand prizes are round-trip airfare for two plus accommodations at the Vicenza fair in Italy and the JCK Show in Orlando, Fla., both in January and at Basel ’98 in Switzerland in April.

To help kick off the membership drive, JCK will match the dollar amounts of all dues collected during the raffle up to $15,000. “The JIC plays an important role in helping to create a more positive environment for jewelry sales,” says JCK Publisher Charles Bond. “We are pleased to support its efforts and urge the rest of the industry to participate.”

JIC has about 600 members, two-thirds of them manufacturers and suppliers and the rest retailers, associations and other industry members. “Our goal is to gain broader support from the industry for our jewelry publicity program,” says Lynn Ramsey, president and chief executive officer of JIC. “Currently, the jewelry industry spends approximately one-quarter of what other competitive industries spend on publicity.”

JIC works closely with the consumer press to pitch story ideas that will bring jewelry into the media spotlight. JIC regularly works with media outlets such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the “Today” show, CNN, Town & Country, Self, Vogue, Departures, Good Housekeeping and the Associated Press.

The center is fully supported by donations and membership dues, which begin at $250 a year for manufacturers and suppliers and $95 for retailers. Members get free sites on the World Wide Web, a listing on JIC’s on-line retailer network, use of the JIC resource library and discounts on publications. Most importantly, members’ dollars support increased public relations efforts aimed at consumers.

Winners will be announced at a breakfast sponsored by Seiko Watch Corp. at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas. Prizes, in addition to the grand prizes, include business-building products such as courses, manuals, in-store programs, mailing lists, video kits, tests, ad campaigns and Internet services donated by the following organizations: World Gold Council, Stuller Settings, Polygon, Platinum Guild International, Manufacturing Jewelers & Silversmiths of America, Jewelers of America, International Gemmological Institute, GIA Gem Instruments, Diamond Promotion Service, American Gem Society, American Gem Trade Association, and Elle and Mirabella magazines.

JIC, 19 W. 44th St., New York, NY 10036-5903; (800) 459-0130 or (212) 398-2319, fax (212) 398-2324, e-mail jic@polygon.net.

Mendelson Buys Harlyn Products

Mike Mendelson & Associates Inc., the manufacturer of the high-end Fashion Family jewelry line, acquired Harlyn Products for an undisclosed amount April 1. Both companies are located in Los Angeles.

“We are now the largest manufacturer of special-order family products in the U.S. with the merger,” says Greg Myer, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Mendelson. “The acquisition makes it conducive for us to cater to the entire gamut of price ranges and markets.” Mendelson’s customer base has grown by about 18,000 with the acquisition, he says.

Harlyn Products, known for its Palomar and DelConte lines, specializes in more “promotional” products and caters to small, independent jewelers; Mendelson & Associates supplies major jewelry chains and department stores, Myer says. The two companies are both known for their special-order products at different price ranges.

Harlyn Products will continue operations as the New Harlyn Co., a division of Mendelson. All product names will be maintained. Operations will continue temporarily in Harlyn’s current location, but the division and all its “key” employees will move within a year into Mendelson buildings. “The energy coming out of both companies is very strong,” Myer says. “We are delighted with the acquisition.”