UpFront

AMETHYST TESTING TAKES STEP FORWARD

The Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences in Bangkok, Thailand, says it has developed a technique to separate mass quantities of synthetic amethyst from natural counterparts.

“This new service is designed specifically to ensure that parcels of amethyst being exported in volume from Thailand are what they are stated to be – either natural or synthetic,” says AIGS Director Ken Scarratt. “Parcels can be sealed for export if requested.”

AIGS developed the technique after an increasing number of synthetics were found to be mixed into natural amethyst parcels, negatively affecting the market for naturals (see JCK, September 1996, p. 84). The inability to “mass-test” volume parcels at a feasible cost caused prices to fall, which in turn caused some dealers to abandon amethyst or simply go out of business.

AIGS will not disclose its detection technique, but says it should be able to handle 30,000 stones per month. The cost of the service varies, based on the volume a jeweler submits to AIGS laboratories for identification in any one-month period (ranging from $3.50 per stone for 100-499 stones submitted within one month to $1 per stone for 5,000 stones submitted in a month).

With this basic service, the gems are tested together, but no report is issued. The gems are separated and placed into packets marked “natural” or “synthetic.” If the sender requires a written report, the cost is $80 per stone (a more limited report is $20 per stone).

Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences, South Tower, 11th Fl., Jewelry Trade Center, 919/1 Silom Rd., Bangkok, 10500 Thailand; (66-2) 267-4325-8, fax (66-2) 267-4329.

SOLITAIRE NECKLACES TO STAND ALONE

Diamond solitaire necklaces shared the spotlight with solitaire earrings and rings in De Beers’ U.S. marketing agenda last year. This year, they come to the forefront with their own advertising schedule.

“When we rolled out the diamond solitaire necklace as a product trend, our objective was to increase desire and speed up purchases by focusing on product news,” says Andrea Halberstadt, a partner and marketing manager of the Diamond Marketing Group. “Then the solitaire necklace blossomed into its own category as consumers started to absorb the message of specialness that a single quality diamond conveys.”

The necklaces captured the interest of retailers as well as consumers, says Jim Haag, senior partner and managing director of the De Beers account at J. Walter Thompson in New York City. “By Christmas, stores were stocking it heavily, and sell-through was consistently strong – between 50% and 90%,” he says.

Ads this year will continue with “The Next Classic” theme. Also in the works is a second “Mystery Celebrity” contest (the 1996 contest featured entertainer Vanessa Williams wearing a diamond solitaire necklace) along with other high-visibility public relations placements.

The solitaire earrings and rings aren’t forgotten. The multiproduct campaign that began last year will continue. Both efforts aim at married women with household incomes over $50,000, but are designed to have a broad appeal to all women.

On the trade side, the Diamond Promotion Service will introduce new marketing and education/training tools this spring. One is designed to increase retailer involvement in the mystery celebrity promotion; another, a new tool for selling quality diamonds, will be unveiled at the Diamond Promotion Service’s event during the JCK

International Jewelry Show in Las Vegas in May.

De Beers also will continue its “Shadows” television commercials – with executions for anniversary, engagement, holiday and overall image advertising – and the “Man’s Guide to Buying Diamonds” print ads, which convey the two-month’s salary guideline for diamond engagement ring purchases.

MAJOR AUCTION HOUSES REVISE DISCLOSURE POLICIES

After months of discussion with the rest of the industry, Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses have changed their policies on disclosure of gemstone treatments and explanations of authenticity.

Christie’s, in the catalog for its February auction in St. Moritz, Switzerland, dedicated a single page to explain the different types of permanent treatments and enhancements that can be found in colored gemstones, including heating and oiling. The statement says that while Christie’s tries to obtain gemological reports from laboratories, it’s not always feasible, and prospective buyers should assume gemstones are treated unless otherwise noted. The statement directs prospective buyers to an information chart from the Gemstones Standards Commissions, available in the viewing area before the auctions.

A second page in the catalog contains a glossary of signatures and periods in design. It attempts to clarify catalog descriptions of signatures: the difference between “by Cartier” and “signed by Cartier,” for example.

Following suit, John Block, international jewelry director at Sotheby’s, announced plans in January to post notices about gemstone treatments in the auction gallery and at all exhibitions and previews, as well as in catalogs.

‘A sense of urgency’

The changes followed a JCK Roundtable held in October in New York City, where Block and François Curiel, international jewelry director at Christie’s, met with prominent retailers, dealers and other industry leaders to discuss competitive issues between high-end retailers and major auction houses. Representatives of the industry at the Roundtable were dealer Ralph Esmerian; Cap Beasley, president of American Gemological Laboratories; Shawn Sullivan of Van Cleef & Arpels; retailer Peter Schaffer of A La Vieille Russie; jewelry historian Joyce Jonas; and dealer Joseph Samuel of J.&S.S. DeYoung.

While debating the disclosure issue, industry representatives voiced the opinion that auction houses, as highly publicized and widely recognized jewelry outlets, should be at the forefront of disclosing gemstone treatments. Though auction houses previously warned buyers about gemstone treatments, the statements were included in the “fine print” at the front of the catalogs and were often missed by buyers, panelists said. Retailers and dealers also charged auction houses with using deceptive wording in their descriptions, sometimes leading buyers of new jewelry, falsely signed pieces and reproductions to believe they were acquiring authentic or important pieces.

“After the Roundtable, I realized these were such important issues that we could no longer continue without addressing them,” says Curiel. “I felt a sense of urgency to take the lead on these issues.”

Curiel met with Beasley and four dealers in the U.S. to discuss how to proceed, then met with dealers in Switzerland to formulate policies for Christie’s European offices.

“The disclosure statement is almost verbatim what we recommended,” says Beasley, who offered a copy of the original Gemstone Enhancement Manual, the guide adopted in edited form by the American Gem Trade Association, to Curiel for use in his catalogs. “We’ve also made arrangements to train Christie’s specialists at our lab.”

Beasley sees the change as a strong first step. “I feel good about it,” he says.

Esmerian also appreciates the efforts. “The auction houses are the stars of the jewelry world,” he says. “Christie’s came around quickly and understood its responsibilities.” He still worries the statements might be missed. “I don’t know who’s going to read the text at the beginning of the catalog and keep it in mind while they’re buying,” he says. “In Impressionist painting sales, for example, they print disclaimers at the bottom of every page. I wonder if they should print something on each page to remind the private buyer.”

Esmerian also acknowledges the issue of gem treatment and disclosure applies industrywide. Now that auction houses have started the ball rolling, others must follow suit, he says. “Dealers have to come together to face it,” he says. Plans have already been made to raise money for machinery to help in more efficient grading in gem labs, he says.

John Block also feels strongly the problem is industrywide. The Sotheby’s legal department began talking with Christie’s in January to establish a similar policy, but Block takes the leadership role more reluctantly. “It’s unfortunate that auction houses have to take the lead,” he says. “We should have followed the leadership of trade groups. But we’re in the public eye, and everybody is quite concerned about the issue.” Block also feels full disclosure is difficult because laboratories differ so greatly in their reports on gem treatments.

NEW GOLD GROUP FOCUSES ON THE AMERICAS

To promote and preserve the integrity of high-quality gold jewelry, the World Gold Council and the European Gold Manufacturers Association (Emagold) have formed a voluntary gold manufacturing association for the Americas. The Americas Gold Manufacturers Association (to be known as Amagold) will be the first such group linking North and South American manufacturers.

Amagold will be a counterpart to the successful Emagold, whose members guarantee the high quality of their jewelry with a Solar Mark stamp. Emagold has granted Amagold the use of the same mark.

“Our goal is to have a standardized process and a mark that stands for quality,” says David Enloe, manager of WGC’s international projects.

Manufacturers whose gold jewelry meets rigorous quality control methodologies and independent auditing requirements will comprise participating countries’ Amagold organizations. The first Amagold organization will launch in Mexico, with Brazil expected to follow shortly. Discussions with U.S. gold manufacturers are under way.

BULOVA SCHOOL SCHEDULES MOVE TO MANHATTAN

The Joseph Bulova School will move from Queens to Manhattan later this year, says Director Warren McKenzie. “We needed to be closer to the watch and jewelry industry in Manhattan, to upgrade our facilities and to be nearer to transportation for our students,” he says.

The school was founded in Woodside, Queens, in 1945 as a training and rehabilitation center primarily for disabled veterans. While this mission remains intact, McKenzie says few current students suffer from the spinal cord injuries that made the construction of a gym, weight room and pool an integral part of the campus when it was built.

“We’re searching for a site that includes more access to natural light and room for the new equipment planned,” says McKenzie. The school also hopes to expand enrollment from the current 39 to about 50.

The non-profit school, which includes the National Institute of Watchmaking, has already sold its six-building campus in Queens to the Mormon Church. This will enable the school to assemble an endowment, says Peter Laetsch, chairman of the school’s board of directors and president of the U.S. office of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

After the move, the school will begin to teach the full 3,000-hour watchmaking course designed and certified by WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program). Only two other U.S. watchmaking schools now teach the full WOSTEP course. Several others have applied.

WATCHDOG GROUP: RUSSIA SHOULD HALT DIAMOND SALES

The Russian Accounting Chamber, a watchdog government agency that plays a role similar to that of the U.S. General Accounting Office, has called for an immediate halt to all diamond sales from Russia’s stockpiles, according to a report in Diamantaire newsletter, published by CRU International.

Though the size of Russian stockpiles remains a secret, industry analysts have predicted for some time there might be shortages of Russian rough diamond stocks before the year 2000. The announcement came on the heels of a supposed thaw in relations between De Beers and the Russians, which are negotiating a new diamond marketing agreement.

ZALE, FTC SETTLE CASE

Zale Corp. has agreed to comply with federal guidelines on advertising imitation pearl jewelry to settle charges of deceptive advertising by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC said Zale falsely claimed that a line of imitation pearl jewelry used cultured pearls. The charges centered on ads by the company’s Zales Jewelers division for Ocean Treasures imitation pearl jewelry between 1992 and 1994, when Zale Corp. was operating under bankruptcy protection with different management. A Zale spokesperson said the charges involved “three or four isolated [advertised] items” that weren’t clearly labeled as imitation.

An FTC consent order that Zale signed in February requires the company to give consumers an information sheet describing imitation, cultured and natural pearls for three years; prohibits Zale from misrepresenting imitation pearls as cultured; and requires the company to use the terms “artificial,” “imitation” or “simulated” with any imitation pearl product and “cultured” or “cultivated” with any cultured pearl product. The company says it now sells only cultured pearls.

Zale says its new management “requires review by our legal department of every piece of advertising [to] ensure compliance with FTC guidelines.”

CORRECTIONS

The special section on amber in JCK, January 1997, contained several inaccuracies. Here is the correct information:

  • On page 113, the address should have been listed as KOBE, ul. Szewska 19, 31-009 Krakow, Poland. Phone, (48-12) 21 91 57; fax, (48-12) 21 97 75; e-mail, office@kobe.kra-kow.pl.

  • On page 125, the address should have been listed as Silver & Amber, Adam Pstragowski, 29 A Kopernika St., 81-411 Gdynia, Poland. Phone/fax (48-58) 22 25 35. The company’s gallery address is Silver & Amber, 36 Mariacka St., 80-833 Gdansk, Poland. Phone: (48-58) 31 04 96; e-mail, Silver-Amber@gdynia.cnt.pl; Internet, http://www.cnt.pl/com/Silver-Amber.

  • On page 124 the address should have been listed as Berkwiat, Tadeusz Kwiatkowski, Silver & Amber, ul. Wagnera 36, 80-167 Gdansk, Poland. Phone/fax: (48-58) 32 98 63.

  • On page 129, the photo should have been credited to Andrzej Kolecki and the company’s address should have been listed as Amber Gems, 7/1 ul. Garncarska, 80-894 Gdansk, Poland. Phone, (48-58) 31 74 57; fax, (48-58) 31 19 93.