While record cold hobbled parts of the U.S. in February, buyers and exhibitors at the JA International Jewelry Show Feb. 3-6 found a smaller but surprisingly warm forum in which to reorder after a mostly good holiday season.

Exhibitors said traffic at the Jacob Javits Convention Center was slow except for Sunday. But they also saw more of their major clients than expected. In fact, appointments appeared to outnumber walk-ins at many booths.

Attendance totaled 953 exhibitors and 10,625 buyers, according to Blenheim Group USA Inc., which owns the show. That compares with 1,300 exhibitors and 13,986 buyers at last year’s winter show. Reasons for the lower attendance included the bad weather and more winter trade show options. For example, the new JA Las Vegas! show in January drew 900 exhibitors and 3,485 buyers, and the AGTA GemFair in Tucson offered 72 exhibitors in its first jewelry design section. A highly publicized shooting of a jeweler in front of the Hilton just before the show opened also may have discouraged some retailers from attending (see details on page 15).

Here’s a summary of what was new at the show.

The “Y” of fashion: Is the “Y” necklace destined to become the next tennis bracelet? This dainty, diminutive style, popularized by actresses on TV shows such as “Friends” and “Melrose Place,” was the top fashion news at the show. The style – sometimes called a rosary necklace – has stations of beads, gems or metal designs along a chain coming to a lariat-type drop in front, set off by a decorative element at top and bottom. The look is one that offers high fashion at a low price point, a combination many jewelers seek.

Exhibitors such as Jeremy Merrin at Ardian Corp. and Judith Rosenberg of Judith Jack Inc. said the style is a runaway best-seller, though Merrin feels it will become passé in about a year. “It won’t be the next tennis bracelet. It’s not substantial enough,” he said.

The “Y” necklace was only one segment of an overall trend toward lighter, smaller and daintier dimensions in jewelry at the show. All segments of the market, from mass to designer, offered some form of lighter looks. Designer J.J. Marco, for example, known for ancient-inspired textured gold pieces, showed delicate textured gold link chains interspersed with pearls. The company’s Julianne Jaffe said customers were crazy about the look. Even designers whose look is traditionally large and gem-intensive, such as Toros, had some smaller, daintier pieces. Long, delicate chains that can be wrapped for a bigger look were popular, and most companies offered delicate earrings and/or bracelets to match their “Y” collections.

Egyptian-inspired thin choker chains with delicate hanging stations at some booths seemed to anticipate the next step in the evolution of the “Y,” and some designers played with heavier, more sophisticated versions. Baguettes USA created an oxidized 18k gold and diamond version that has the look of fashion jewelry but is definitely real (from $2,500 retail vs. less than $100 for 14k and bead counterparts).

Other shifts in fashion were subtle. In heavier pieces, the architectural/ancient inspired look remained popular. But saturation in the matte green gold Etruscan look led some designers to turn to other periods, such as Byzantine and Art Nouveau, for inspiration. These styles look fresh, especially with high polish accents and yellower tones of gold.

Continuing looks include:

  • Omega chains and slides.

  • Three-dimensional design instead of flat stampato pieces.

  • Hearts, moons, stars, animals.

  • Curving organic shapes.

  • Colored gold.

  • More platinum.

  • Diamonds.

Watch previews: For most watch suppliers, February is a time to refine last year’s successes rather than introduce new designs. At the lower price ranges, the refinements focused on higher quality (better case-to-strap links, greater water resistance, higher grade steel – or titanium – and a wider variety of strap materials).

Women’s models were slimmer and had small cases; men’s watches favored bracelets with rounded links.

Some mid-to-high-priced brands did introduce a few new models, most with classic design, white dials, steel bracelets and a clearly dressy appearance. Many of the dress models spring from a sports lineage, but don’t directly compete for the sport watch market.

Karat gold also continued its inroads, with many of the most established watch companies adding or expanding these lines. New karat gold dress watches were seen at Bulova, Seiko, Wittnauer, Michael Anthony, Universal Geneve, Pulsar and Longines, among others. All promised to show more karat gold models this summer.

With the move by Bulova and Wittnauer to the new Plumb Club section, the adjacent watch area was dominated by the Chronos Pavilion of 28 showcases and enclosed appointment booths. The mostly high-end brands in this pavilion focused on technical and design prowess. However, several – notably Tabbah, Hermes, Van Cleef & Arpels, MHR Montres, Nicole Miller and Esprit – put the spotlight on fashion with colorful straps and dials.

Also seen in the watch section:

  • Boccia, a titanium watch with a range of styles and starting prices under $100, made its U.S. debut. The watches are made in Germany and distributed here by Universal Watch Corp., Framingham, Mass., which also distributes Akteo.

  • Two new brands, Lion & Sword and Buzzi, also made their U.S. debut. Lion & Sword, a new Swiss firm whose first 65 handcrafted chronometers sold out in December, has its second editions prepared and ready to ship. Buzzi, a Swiss firm that makes watches for other companies, now offers a full line under its own name.

  • At Bulova, officials announced they received a license to manufacture clocks in conjunction with the upcoming Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame and also licensed the Bulova name for a line of fine eyeglasses.

  • Tissot debuted a 28-style dress-sport line called PR 200. In May, Tissot will add a chronograph alarm to its titanium watch line.

  • Seiko added 17 styles to its battery-free Kinetic collection.

Shooting: Security became an even bigger concern than usual after a would-be exhibitor was shot and robbed of $1 million in diamonds outside his hotel two days before the show opened.

Lao-Koon Chow, 37, of Crystal Rise Jewellery Ltd., Hong Kong, and an associate had just gotten out of a taxi in front of the Hilton about 8:30 p.m. Feb. 1 after seeing clients elsewhere in town. Three men wearing dark ski caps pulled down to their eyes suddenly approached and grabbed Chow’s duffel bag. When he refused to let go, one thug pistol-whipped Chow in the back of the head and another shot him in the stomach. As a passing French doctor rushed to help Chow, the thieves ran away with Chow’s associate in pursuit. They shot at the associate but missed, then jumped into a waiting dark blue sedan to make their escape. The car was found abandoned several blocks away later that night. Chow was taken to New York Hospital, where he was in stable condition at press time.

The incident received wide coverage in the New York press and was picked up by national news media. Some show exhibitors expressed concern about their own security. Blenheim had already beefed up security and made no further changes because of the shooting, said a spokesperson. But state police (which the state has provided at Javits since last summer) periodically strolled the aisles and lobbies outside the show. Outside Javits, city police patrolled the area, and buyers and exhibitors using shuttle buses had to display their show badge before boarding. The Blenheim spokesman said that wasn’t related to the shooting, but was intended to stop people attending a computer show also being held at Javits from using the buses.

Golden opportunity: JA, Blenheim, W Magazine and the World Gold Council teamed up Feb. 2 for “Manhattan Gold: A Day of Designer Gold.”

Some jewelry retailers were invited to tour the offices of W, then hear a discussion of fashion trends by Fashion Editor Bridget Foley and a panel discussion on a variety of fashion, jewelry and marketing topics. The event was followed up on Feb. 4 with an interactive multimedia presentation of gold jewelry fashions in the Javits Center.


Wedlo Inc., Birmingham, Ala., filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Act Feb. 2. President Robert Keller blamed the filing on lawsuits related to a controversial interpretation of a consumer credit law and the “current legal climate in Alabama.”

Wedlo, which operates 32 Lorch Diamond Centers and 16 Parisian leased departments in 10 states, also suffered when a major creditor was added to a class action suit related to the credit controversy. Keller called that “an outrageous attempt to interfere with Wedlo’s financial relationship.”

The problem, which also threatens many other retailers in Alabama, stems from a 1971 state law that allows credit retailers to sell credit insurance in connection with the sale of products. Premiums are based on a complex formula long-approved by the state’s banking department and attorney general’s office.

In the past year, however, some consumers and law firms have challenged the formula and sued retailers, alleging fraud and seeking to have their insurance contracts declared null and void. Some 2,500 suits have been filed in the past year, 500 of them in early 1996 alone. Some of the suits have resulted in multimillion-dollar judgments against retailers. The suits against Wedlo (all are against the parent company, not specifically Lorch or Parisian) had not come to court at press time.

Wedlo filed for Chapter 11 protection because the pending lawsuits “made it impossible to meet obligations to suppliers and lenders” and because the situation has made potential new lenders unwilling to do business in Alabama. (The company’s principal lender has agreed to provide interim financing while Wedlo reorganizes and devises a plan to meet its financial obligations. Meanwhile, Wedlo will continue to operate.)

Statewide, concern was running high. “We are in a credit meltdown,” says Charles McDonald, executive director of the Alabama Retailers Association. “Many [retailers] are teetering on bankruptcy because of this situation.”

Proposed legislation designed to resolve the problem has garnered the support of major Alabama trade organizations and won state House approval at a special legislative session the governor called in January. But it failed to reach a vote in the state Senate and was due to be reintroduced in February.

– William George Shuster


A $70,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer or murderers of a Houston, Tex., wholesale diamond dealer.

Janos “Johnny” Szucs of J.S. Precious Stones was shot to death during a robbery of diamonds and jewelry from his office Jan. 24. Houston police speculate that Szucs was set up by a customer or a business associate, but no arrests had been made at press time.

The police say Szucs had scheduled a 7 p.m. appointment and theorize he was shot when he opened his safe to do business with the unknown “customer.” The thief or thieves then stole several thousand loose diamonds (many of them 6- 10 cts. and with certificates) and jewelry worth $2 to $3 million. They waited until the building’s security guard left to make his rounds, then stole the surveillance system videotapes at the guard post, say police. When the guard returned unexpectedly, he was shot several times but survived.

The guard described the man who shot him as Caucasian, 30-40 years old, 5 feet 10 inches, 180-190 pounds with thick black wiry hair and a thick mustache. Anyone with information should call Detective Todd W. Miller of the Homicide Division of the Houston Police Department at (800) 887-5800, ext. 5844.

Moy Rosenberg of M&M Diamond Imports, Houston, a friend of Szucs, is leading an effort to raise a reward for the capture and conviction of the murderer or murderers. At press time, Rosenberg said Houston dealers had given $70,000 and more was expected from others around the country.


The potential legal wrangle over slogans and brand names developed for De Beers by its former U.S. ad agency, N.W. Ayer, has been averted, says Derek Palmer, North American market controller for De Beers’ Consumer Marketing Division.

An agreement between the two sides allows De Beers’ new U.S. agency, J. Walter Thompson, full use of the phrases “A Diamond Is Forever,” “Diamond Engagement Ring,” “The 4Cs,” “Diamond Anniversary Band” and others used in promotional campaigns.

N.W. Ayer filed copyright papers for the slogans after De Beers announced last fall it would switch agencies. While Palmer wouldn’t discuss details of the new agreement, he says it leaves “no issues outstanding, including trademarks, which are being passed on to J. Walter Thompson to use.” N.W. Ayer offers no official comment on the agreement.

De Beers’ contract with N.W. Ayer officially ended Jan. 1. However, virtually all of the key people who worked on the De Beers account at N.W. Ayer had moved to JWT by mid-October.


Partners in the Kelsey Lake Diamond Mine in Colorado are realizing a return on their investment already, even though the mine won’t go into production until later in the year. The reason: a top-quality 14.2-ct. rough diamond found in a bulk sample.

The partners – Diamond Co. of Colorado and Redaurum of Toronto – say the stone is worth about $340,000. They also say that of the 753 diamonds found in samples, 65% are gem quality and a quarter are larger than 1 ct.

Kelsey Lake, near Ft. Collins, has eight kimberlite pipes, two of which contain commercial quantities of diamonds. Production is expected to total 75,000 carats yearly by the end of 1997 and 100,000-150,000 at its peak, says Redaurum, which also holds a 50% share in Zimbabwe’s River Ranch diamond deposit and two small alluvial South African diamond mines.


Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co. has revised its video on armed robbery. The dramatic 27-minute presentation features three robbery reenactments and details what each store staff could have done to prevent or minimize the incident.

This unsparing movie includes the shooting murder of a young woman staffer who unwisely tried to reach an alarm button after the gunman told her not to move. But it reflects the real world. Jewelers Mutual says one jewelry store is robbed nearly every day somewhere in the U.S. and nearly two dozen people are shot or killed each year in jewelry-related crime.

JMI launched its movie-making career 16 years ago to drive home to jewelers the seriousness of crime and how they can protect themselves. The first film, called This Is a Holdup, has been fully updated in this new version called Robbery: Anytime. Anywhere. In the intervening years, Jewelers Mutual has produced five other films on proper inventory recordkeeping, internal theft, retail theft, security for traveling salespeople and burglary. The Jewelers’ Security Alliance provided technical advice for all the videos.

Jewelers Mutual gave special thanks to Barry Nicholls, owner of Paradise Jewelry in Naples, Fla., and his store manager, Dell Jenkins, for telling their story of a robbery for the video.

Robbery: Anytime. Anywhere makes the point that crime against jewelers is not confined to big cities or one type of store. “We are convinced that if jewelers watch this video and put the security measures into practice, the results will be fewer robberies, smaller inventory losses and, most important, fewer injuries and deaths in the jewelry industry,” says Ronald Harder, president of Jewelers Mutual. “Robberies represent 35%-40% of the dollar losses we pay.”

The new video is available to Jewelers Mutual policyholders for $5. Non-policyholders can buy it for $50 or borrow it for $50 and get $45 refunded when the video is returned in good condition.

Jewelers Mutual Corporate Communications Department, P.O. Box 468, Neenah, Wis. 54957-0468; (800) 558-6411.


The country’s three largest jewelry trade show producers have agreed to support an International Trademark Registry being created by the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, says Joel Windman, JVC’s executive vice president and general counsel. They’ll use it in conjunction with admitting exhibitors to their shows beginning in 1997.

Representatives of Jewelers’ Circular-Keystone, Blenheim Group USA Inc. and the Miller Freeman Jewelry Group will notify their exhibitors about the registry and ask them to supply JVC with copies of their trademark registrations or proof of a pending trademark and declaration of use of the trademark.

JVC will check these documents through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for accuracy and standing (whether the mark is valid, whether it has been updated, etc.). Manufacturers will not be asked to submit actual jewelry.

“Once we have verification that the trademark is current and valid, we will issue a certificate, with the date of the trademark’s validity, to the company,” says Windman.

Windman says all three producers already tell exhibitors they must comply with U.S. trademark and gold stamping laws, but they are unable to enforce the provision adequately. He estimates a third of all trade show exhibitors don’t have properly registered marks.

Windman says the program will assure the retail jeweler that the manufacturers at these shows have registered trademarks. If items are later found to be underkarated, the name of the manufacturer will be on record.

JVC developed a prototype enforcement policy, and the show producers are now reviewing it in preparation for adopting their own policies. Manufacturers will pay JVC an initial fee of about $300 to cover the cost involved in each trademark search and in the certification process. (Windman said JVC will likely hire people for the extra work involved with trademark searches and certification.)

After the initial check for a manufacturer’s trademark, says Windman, JVC will notify a company as its trademark’s declaration of use deadline approaches and as its renewal date nears. (Trademarks must be renewed every 10 years.)


Stephen C. Holden, executive vice president of merchandising for Sterling Inc., resigned suddenly on Feb. 1 after nearly a decade of service. His departure came almost one year after Nat Light suddenly resigned as chief executive, in part because of disagreement with Signet, Sterling’s British owner.

Holden couldn’t be reached for comment at press time. But a company source attributed the departure to issues between Holden and Terry Burman, who became chairman in September. Under Burman, Sterling has reviewed operations and realigned some responsibilities. Holden oversaw merchandising, an area that saw some changes after review.

Burman declines to discuss the resignation. But he confirms that changes in merchandising operations and policy were a factor.

In other Sterling news, a review of the Jared superstore division (which has three stores) is under way. The company is committed to Jared and hopes to add another store this year and “significantly” more next year, says Burman. But everything about the Jared concept is being reviewed – including size, merchandise assortment and operating strategy – to improve the return on assets, he says. A final report is expected this spring.


The Indo Argyle Diamond Council will showcase its members this year in a new concept called the Exclusive Viewing Show.

All 21 IADC members will travel to four major markets for one-on-one appointments with major retail and wholesale buyers. About 300 companies are expected to preview IADC members’ collections designed specifically with their business in mind.

The shows will be held March 11-15 in New York City, March 18-19 in Chicago, March 20-22 in Dallas and March 25-27 in San Francisco. For security reasons, the hotel names will be disclosed only to buyers with appointments and will not be released publicly.

“Our primary goal is to enable our member companies to conduct as much business as possible in a given time period,” says IADC Vice President Liz Chatelain. “We think the most efficient way to achieve that is to bring our members to the buyers.” Chatelain says IADC will keep a significant presence at the JCK International Jewelry Show in Las Vegas this year and that the exposure a major trade show provides is a critical component of IADC’s marketing mix.

IADC offers co-op dollars to help buyers with travel costs on a first-come, first-served basis. For information and to schedule an appointment, call (800) 797-IADC or (310) 284-6068, fax (310) 284-8319, e-mail IADC96@aol.com.


To move or not to move?

That question faced members of the American Gem Trade Association in a proposal to move the AGTA GemFair from Tucson to Phoenix. But members decided in February there is too much value in Tucson’s global role in the gem and mineral business to move.

Two years ago, member Jeremy Thayer of J. Thayer Co. noted during a meeting that explosive growth in the number of shows – and buyers – in Tucson each February was putting a squeeze on available hotel space. He investigated the issue at AGTA’s request and found that Phoenix could better handle the volume of sellers and buyers. AGTA directors began to consider that option seriously when it became known that JCK was considering Phoenix as a site for its new winter show (JCK eventually chose Orlando, Fla., for the show, which begins in 1997).

But a recent survey found about 80% of AGTA members wanted GemFair to remain in Tucson, 10% favored moving it to Phoenix permanently and 10% favored a pilot program in Phoenix. “The logistics in Phoenix are really quite seductive, but we are aware of your sentiments,” AGTA President Owen Bordelon said at a membership meeting in February. A voice vote confirmed the overwhelming sentiment for staying in Tucson.


The Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America has announced plans for SAVE a Precious Night, a new program to raise money for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Butler Hospital in Providence, R.I.

The SAVE (Stop Abuse & Violence Everywhere) program comprises a jewelry design contest, an auction and financial sponsorships to call attention to the problem of domestic abuse and raise money to help victims.

The design contest will provide a piece of jewelry to symbolize the fight against domestic abuse; the winning design will be mass-marketed to generate a steady stream of money for the hotline and the hospital. Students and professionals who wish to enter the contest should send the jewelry (no photographs, renderings, models or sketches) to MJSA by April 12. The winner will be announced May 5 during MJSA’s Expo Providence.

Also May 5, MJSA will conduct live and silent auctions of jewelry donated by members. In addition, it will target corporate and other donors who are willing to make sizable donations through sponsorships of the program. Thomas A. Tanury of Tanury Industries, chairman of the SAVE committee, hopes Precious Night will become a regular part of the jewelry manufacturing industry’s calendar.

Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America, One State St., Sixth Fl., Providence, R.I. 02908; (800) 444-MJSA or (401) 274-3840, fax (401) 274-0265.


Russia’s dwindling diamond stockpile has received a boost from an unexpected source – De Beers.

The cartel has returned diamonds that Russia offered as collateral for a $1 billion loan after the breakup of the Soviet Union 51/2 years ago. Russia then was desperate for cash to help launch economic reform programs. Russia has since repaid the loan.

The stockpile from which the diamonds were drawn is the same one that Russian agencies have been selling to diamond dealers in Antwerp, Israel and New York outside the contract with De Beers. These outside sales exceeded $1 billion in 1994 and an estimated $700 million in 1995.

De Beers contends these sales have destabilized the market, especially for smaller diamonds, whose prices have fallen in the past year. They also are the main sticking point in negotiations for a new five-year sales contract (the five-year contract signed in 1990 has been extended on a month-to-month basis).

The stockpile was believed to be largely depleted of all but very small “technical” diamonds and 10-ct.-plus diamonds on view in the Kremlin. However, tA caption for Limoges porcelain boxes shown in January JCK (page 108) identified the manufacturer/ distributor as Astoria. The firm’s correct name is Artoria.


Ideas on how to improve business and how to bring the industry together are two key needs identified in an intensive fact-finding mission that Jewelers of America has undertaken. The findings will serve as the backbone of a new strategic operating plan for JA scheduled to go into effect this fall.

As outlined by JA Executive Director Matthew Runci at the recent JA Show in New York City, the study began with 63 in-depth interviews with JA directors, affiliate leaders, members and outside industry leaders. The interviews were conducted for JA by Organizational Futures, a consulting firm. JA lists these findings:

  • JA must reach out with tangible benefits that really improve members’ businesses.

  • JA needs to take on a bolder role as industry healer. JA should facilitate the coming together of the industry. Enhancing consumers’ perception of honesty and integrity is the core need of the jewelry trade.

  • JA must improve its relationship with its state affiliates. The JA staff and the affiliates must become a team to tackle the practical problems jewelers face.

  • Members are not aware of what JA already offers as part of its membership benefits. JA needs to do a better job of communicating these benefits.

  • Professional education should be the core of JA’s work. Members want help with merchandising, managing people and teams, using technology to control inventory and constructing business plans.

Just the beginning: “This research is just the beginning of our fact-finding,” said Runci. “In the upcoming months, JA will be conducting formal member and non-member research, focus groups, regional conferences and benchmark consumer studies before formalizing our plan. New JA task forces covering governance, membership and technology have been created with reports due this May. However, there are immediate changes on the way.”

For example:

  • JA surveyed 600 members in January on their needs in education, membership benefits and marketing material. Changes will be instituted based on the findings.

  • Existing member benefits will be reformatted to address specific business requirements identified in market research. New benefit programs will be developed to help jewelers build business and profits.

  • JA will schedule a meeting of industry groups sometime this spring to develop and implement strategies that address key industry problems. “The JA needs to be more inclusive rather than exclusive,” said Runci.

In addition, JA will launch three pilot programs this fall to test new strategic initiatives. The first will deal with professional education. “Once we pinpoint the needs of our members on a local level, we can build a network that delivers the best local educational opportunities available.”

The second will deal with truth in pricing through state legislation, attorney general enforcement or community enforcement of ethical standards. The third pilot program will be designed to help build any weak JA affiliates. A venture fund that covers the costs of the pilot programs and other new JA initiatives (see below) was set at $800,000 for 1996, said Runci.

“The interviews already conducted by our consulting firm indicate that members and other industry groups want JA to be the heart of the whole industry – a new voice elevating the profile of jewelry and a hub bringing together the factions,” he said. “That’s what we intend to become.”

Consumer study: In addition to the pilot programs, the industry will soon hear results of a comprehensive consumer study of the U.S. jewelry industry that JA conducted in January. A consulting firm asked 1,200 individuals who bought jewelry in the past year about their shopping habits, jewelry-wearing habits and jewelry care and appraisal preferences. The study will measure consumer attitudes toward the jewelry industry and toward the wearing of jewelry.

“We expect this benchmark study to serve as a cornerstone for this association’s future marketing direction,” said Eileen Farrell, director of marketing and communication for JA. “It will give us an exciting opportunity to see just how Americans view our industry, where they shop, what they buy and how much they spend.” A completed analysis of the study will be presented to the JA board and industry leaders this month.


A selection of jewelry from the estate of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis will be auctioned April 23-26 at Sotheby’s gallery in New York City. Included are a triple strand of simulated pearls ($500-$700 presale estimate), a ruby and diamond ring by Van Cleef & Arpels ($20,000-$30,000), the Lesotho III Diamond by Harry Winston ($500,000-$600,000), cabochon ruby and diamond pendant earclips by Van Cleef & Arpels ($25,000-$35,000) and a double-strand black bead necklace ($150-$200). Photo copyright by Caroline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr. and the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.


Two U.S. jewelry designers were winners of the Diamonds-International Award, a design contest sponsored by De Beers’ Central Selling Organisation. Robin Garin Rotstein, director of design and product development at Nili Jewelry, Corp., New York City, won with a diamond bow necklace. The other U.S. winner is Jodi Stamp of Harold Jaffee Jewelers, Toledo, Ohio, who created a pair of diamond shirt cuffs. The awards were presented Jan. 23 at the Opéra Garnier in Paris. The event included a gala cocktail reception and multimedia runway fashion show with international models such as Amber Valetta displaying the winning pieces before an audience of dignitaries from the diamond, jewelry and fashion industries.