UpFront

YOU CAN’T KEEP A GUTSY GROUP DOWN

The International Pearl Association, virtually written off as an industry dead duck after its first conference last year, is alive and definitely expanding.

It has chosen new officers to replace those who summarily resigned in a contentious mood last year. And it has not only scheduled a second conference and show in Hawaii in May, but is planning another in Taipei in September.

One reason for the upheavals after IPA’s May 1994 conference was the criticism by two top officers, both of whom resigned, that the organization wasn’t “truly global in its makeup and programs.” This appeared to be a polite way of saying that IPA failed to attract the support of Japanese pearl producers. The feeling was that without the Japanese, no pearl conference had standing. The thought was underlined when a who’s who of world pearl personalities turned out for the Japanese-sponsored Pearl Summit in Kobe in October.

There also were charges after IPA’s 1994 conference that the organization’s programs and management policies were misdirected. A legal action filed by IPA Executive Director Robin Crest against the State of Hawaii and Richard Fassler of the Hawaii Aquaculture Development program as part of a dispute over financing of the 1994 conference also disturbed some members. Crest says the litigation is still “in progress” and she does not expect any resolution for some years.

But IPA now has come back at its critics with a new international slate of officers and a board of directors with representatives from eight foreign countries, including such important pearl producers as Japan and Australia. Ironically, the new president, He Nai Hua, general manager of China’s National Pearl, Diamond, Gem and Jewelry Import and Export Corp., was a star player at the October conference in Kobe. At the time, he set what may be a mood for reconciliation when he said, in speaking of differences between China and Japan over pearl marketing policies, that “what we need is to cooperate in solving these problems.”

The new IPA chairman, who also will serve as managing director, is Johnny Lu. His base is in Taiwan, but he maintains a number of pearl farms in China and also has offices in New York City.

Meanwhile, Crest reported early in March that IPA had just arranged to hold a second 1995 conference, this one in conjunction with a jewelry show in Taipei in September.

IPA goals: The election of new officers took place at a special meeting held in Tucson in early February. “Our first order of business,” said Lu, “is to set up a statement of standards of conduct in the industry.” His other three major goals:

  • Establish a global standard in labeling.

  • Set a standardized IPA grading system that he hopes will be adopted by the industry worldwide.

  • Have IPA assume a leadership role in providing retailer education by developing pearl courses, sales training aids and training materials.”

Also at the meeting, Eve Alfillé was reelected treasurer and Alex Edwards was reelected secretary. Crest continues as executive director.

Crest hopes for about 800 attendees at the May conference, trade show and auction and has a goal of about 80 exhibits. She expects Japanese attendance at the Maui event to be higher than last year’s 22 (for details on the conference program, see JCK, March 1995, page 120).

IPA is actively soliciting pearls for the auction.

Any person or company may offer product; IPA says all lots with a minimum reserve of $5,000 wholesale will be accepted. Those interested in participating should call IPA at (800) 222-8882 no later than the end of April.

IPA suggests that offerings be presorted by size, color, shape and quality as much as possible. All types of pearls may be offered.

STERLING LOSES A GUIDING LIGHT

The operations of Sterling Inc., the second largest retail jeweler in the U.S., were overshadowed in February by the sudden resignation of the company’s popular and dynamic president and by reports that some shareholders of Signet Group, Sterling’s British parent, want to sell the U.S. operation to solve their own financial woes.

Nathan R. Light, 60, resigned Feb. 22 as president of Sterling and as a director of Signet. Pattie Light, his wife and head of Sterling’s corporate communications, also left. At press time, there were no other changes in top management of the company, based outside of Akron, Ohio.

In a single-sentence statement, Signet Chairman James McAdam noted Light’s “significant and unique contribution…to the development of the Sterling business.”

Light, who joined Sterling when it had 32 stores and built it into one of the world’s largest with 880 stores, declined to discuss reasons for his resignation. “It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time, and after 18 years, it’s time to go on to something different.”

Laurence Cooklin, 48, chief executive of Signet’s jewelry operations in the United Kingdom, assumed Light’s duties until a permanent replacement is named. Executives will look inside and outside of the company for a replacement, according to Signet spokesman Michael Mitchell.

Cooklin was unavailable for comment. But Mitchell said Cooklin would first “acquaint himself with all the people in the Sterling business and then take it from there…There will be no changes in [Sterling’s] direction. It will be business as usual.”

Possible reasons: While Signet and Sterling would say only that Light’s resignation was for personal reasons, industry sources and retail analysts offered several suggestions. One was that Signet was unhappy with Sterling’s 1994 financial results, which included a 3% gain in same-store sales for November and December.

Another suggestion was that Light was frustrated with Signet and reportedly tried to lead a buy-back of Sterling – Signet’s main profit center.

The Financial Times of London also reported that McAdam and Light “enjoyed a difficult relationship” and that “observers believe they fell out…over strategy and cost control.”

At Sterling headquarters, meanwhile, there was what one employee called “shock” at Light’s resignation. One official said “there is concern when you lose someone with his creative input.” But Signet officials expressed confidence in Sterling’s management. And Sterling moved quickly to reassure its 8,500 employees. District and store managers were told of the resignation by telephone the following day, and a letter explaining the change of guard was sent to all Sterling stores.

Financial strength: Sterling has undergone many changes in the past two decades. It had just 32 stores when Light joined as executive vice president in 1977. Under then-Chairman Jerry Shaw and then Light, the company tripled in size and was at the point of going public when the Ratners Group of Great Britain bought it in 1987.

Ratners’ had a hands-off approach toward Sterling until the early 1990s, when directors replaced Chairman Gerald Ratner for calling the company’s jewelry “crap” in a British interview and for overextending the company through acquisitions at a time when the market was slowing. The company appointed McAdam as chairman, renamed itself Signet, instituted tight cost controls and started to downsize operations.

Through it all, though, Sterling was a consistent profit-center for its British parent. Today, it provides two-thirds of Signet’s revenue and accounts for two-thirds of its stores. Ironically, its financial strength may lead Signet to sell Sterling – “not because it wants to but because it has to,” as a London analyst told JCK.

Signet is due to renegotiate important bank loans. The company has a $188 million debt burden and owes its U.S. preference shareholders up to $61 million in unpaid dividends.

Some Signet shareholders reportedly have suggested repaying the debt by selling Sterling (which could bring as much as $400 million and would erase most of Signet’s debt) or the H Samuel and Ernest Jones jewelry chains in Great Britain (which have been eyed by a Signet rival, the Goldsmiths Group). Gary O’Brien, Signet’s finance director, reportedly worked on a restructuring plan, but he resigned the same week as Light. Signet says it was a coincidence, but analysts questioned how the resignations of two top officials would look when Signet tries to renegotiate its loans.

A spokesman for Signet’s U.S. representative, Broadgate Associates, said Signet doesn’t comment on rumors about its businesses in the United Kingdom and the United States. Since suspending dividend payments in 1993, he said, Signet has “concentrated on returning to profitability and focusing on strong problem areas.”

The future: Whatever happens, retail analysts on both sides of the Atlantic said Light’s departure is bad news for Sterling and good news for Zale Corp., the largest jewelry retailer in the U.S. and Sterling’s main competitor.

Light was the “the right guy for the business,” said a retail analyst in London. Added an analyst with an investment company in San Francisco, “When a guy of this stature and presence with a good reputation in the industry goes, it’s obviously negative [for Sterling] and a huge opportunity for Zale. That can’t be underestimated.”

Meanwhile, Light says he has no immediate plans other than to “smell the roses” and spend time with his wife. “We’ve rarely had time to have lunch together, let alone go away for a month,” he said.

He denied reports that he had tried to put together a management buy-back of Sterling. He also said his resignation was not for health reasons or to join another jewelry retailer. In fact, an agreement with Signet prohibits him from working for another jewelry retailer for a year. He also said he had not talked with Laurence Cooklin and that there was no formal good-bye ceremony at Sterling. “When something like this happens,” he said, “you just leave the building.”

But Light does have plenty of options. “I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls to serve on boards and do things of that nature,” he said. Though he had made no decisions, he said he would be happy working as a chief executive in other retail fields.

– by William George Shuster

FRIEDMAN VS. FRIEDMAN: FIRMS AT ODDS OVER NAME

Two leading Southeastern jewelry chains – both among the largest in the U.S. and both headquartered in Georgia – have gone to court over use of the name Friedman’s Jewelers.

A.A. Friedman Co., a 115-store chain based in Augusta, charges Friedman’s Inc., a 160-store chain headquartered in Savannah, with trademark infringement and intentionally creating consumer confusion.

The complaint says the Savannah company has opened stores in some geographic areas intentionally to “preempt” A.A. Friedman’s expansion plans. It is “nothing more than an effort by a public company to force…a private company to unilaterally cease using the Friedman’s… name as the only way to avoid being associated with this intolerable confusion,” according to A.A. Friedman’s request for a preliminary injunction against Friedman’s Inc.

Friedman’s Inc., meanwhile, says it will defend itself against the claims and will “take steps necessary to protect its rights to the name.”

Family roots: Both companies trace their origin to Friedman’s Jewelers, founded in the early 1920s by brothers Abraham and Benjamin Friedman. In 1943, the brothers divided the business, operating separately in different geographic areas but both with the name Friedman’s Jewelers.

Abraham Friedman’s business became A.A. Friedman Co. Inc. Benjamin Friedman’s business became Friedman’s Jewelers Inc. In 1969, Benjamin Friedman’s business passed to his two sons, who sold it for $50 million in 1990 to MS Jewelers Ltd. Partnership, which incorporated as Friedman’s Inc. in 1993.

Since then, Friedman’s Inc. has grown rapidly, especially in so-called “power strip” shopping centers throughout the Southeast (see “Power Centers: Key to Growth for Friedman’s Jewelers,” JCK, March 1994, page 108). The company had about 150 stores in late 1994, up from 92 in 1993, and expects to end 1995 with about 200.

A.A. Friedman says that for 50 years, the two companies had an informal arrangement under which neither opened a store in the other’s trading area or in one where the other had announced plans to open a store. But when the one company passed out of family hands, says A.A. Friedman, it launched an “aggressive expansion program,” including new stores in A.A. Friedman’s existing and planned markets.

A.A. Friedman sued Friedman’s Inc. in U.S. District Court in Atlanta in October 1994. A.A. Friedman President Cliff Miller says the company kept a low profile on the suit while trying to resolve the dispute through negotiation. But then the negotiations collapsed in January, when Friedman Inc. opened a store in Charlotte, which A.A. Friedman calls the heart of its trading area.

In February, A.A. Friedman requested a preliminary injunction preventing Friedman Inc. from using the Friedman’s Jewelers name within 20 miles of its stores. It also alleges unfair competition and trademark infringement.

The complaint cites nine markets in North and South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi where there is “rampant” confusion among the public, vendors, banks and delivery personnel because of the same-named stores. The complaint alleges this confusion harms A.A. Friedman’s reputation, business relationships and customer good will.

Miller denies the legal action is an effort to stifle competition. “A.A. Friedman welcomes competition from any source,” he says. “Competition is good for the jewelry industry and, more important, for the consuming public. But that competition must be fair.

“This is not the case, and unfortunately court action is needed to protect the legitimate interests of our company and of the public.”

A decision on the injunction request was pending at press time.

MILLER NAMED PRESIDENT OF A.A. FRIEDMAN CO.

Cliff Miller, 42, became president of A.A. Friedman Co. in January. The 115-store jewelry chain is headquartered in Augusta, Ga. Miller is a 23-year employee of the company and was previously executive vice president.

He succeeds William Thompson, 63, who has been with A.A. Friedman for his entire 50-year career in jewelry retailing. Thompson says he retired from the “very demanding” post of president to spend more time with his family. He will serve as a consultant to the company for two years.

MJSA ENDORSES WINTER JA NEW YORK SHOW

Out of the growing number of winter trade shows of finished precious jewelry, the Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America has endorsed the JA International Jewelry Show in New York, N.Y.

The endorsement follows the recommendation of an MJSA task force formed in the wake of announcements that the Miller Freeman Jewelry Group, publisher of National Jeweler magazine, and Blenheim USA, owner of the JA International Jewelry Shows, would both launch winter shows in Las Vegas next year. Those shows would precede the JA winter show in New York by just a few weeks.

“The association’s view is that there is not enough of a demonstrated market need for a second national show so close to the JA Show [in New York] in February,” says Matthew Runci, president and chief executive officer of MJSA. “The New York show looks like the strongest prospect in 1996, given its track record and the other options presently available.

“Someone needs to speak out on behalf of exhibitors and buyers to help them make informed business decisions on the basis of genuine market needs. We feel that it is in the best interest of MJSA members and the industry as a whole for us to take the unprecedented step of endorsing one trade show during the 1996 winter season to help clarify the situation.”

As a result, MJSA will “aggressively promote” the presence of its members exhibiting at the winter New York show and will urge its members to inform their customers early of their plans to exhibit there.

MJSA says it maintained an open channel of communication with Miller Freeman and Blenheim USA. But the endorsement was made independently, based on input from MJSA members and other industry members, says Alan Kaufman, chairman of the task force and president of Tru-Kay Manufacturing in Lincoln, R.I.

Other members of the task force are Joseph Bevacqua of J.A. Bevacqua Designs, West New York, N.J.; Michael Bondanza of Michael Bondanza Inc., New York, N.Y.; Paul Frank of Unigem International, Beverly Hills, Cal.; Karen Good of Michael Good Designs, Rockport, Maine; Babette Goodman-Cohen of I.B. Goodman, Cincinnati, Ohio; Jose Hess of Jose Hess Inc., New York, N.Y.; Marvin Markman of Suberi Bros., New York, N.Y.; Jack Rahmey of Jacmel Jewelry Inc., Long Island City, N.Y.; Robert Sears Siragusa of Maurice Lacroix USA, Van Nuys, Cal.; Joseph Sisto of Leach and Garner Co., North Attleboro, Mass.; Gary Solomon of Princess Pride Creations, Chicago, Ill.; and Alan Klitzner, chairman of MJSA and president of Klitzner Industries Inc., Providence, R.I.

REALIGNMENT CONTINUES IN JEWELRY TRADE SHOWS

Trade show management and scheduling issues continued to make news in February and March after several major announcements in the preceding months (see “Show Owners negotiate Mergers, Joint Projects,” JCK, March 1995, page 18).

Negotiations on combining two winter shows in Las Vegas continued, the Chicago Jewelry show was reorganized and renamed, and an Asian company completed its purchase of Headway Trade Fairs. All three recent announcements involved – to some extent – the Miller Freeman Jewelry Group, publisher of National Jeweler magazine.

Las Vegas: Blenheim USA and the Miller Freeman Jewelry Group were nearing an agreement at press time to combine their proposed winter trade shows in Las Vegas.

The talks began in early February after Miller Freeman announced it would launch Jewelry World Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, 1996, and Blenheim, which owns the JA International Jewelry Shows in New York City, announced it would start a show in Las Vegas Jan. 9-11, 1996. (Blenheim also bought the Pacific Jewelry Show from the California Jewelers Association and said it would merge the PJS show with its Las Vegas show.)

“The ultimate aim is to consolidate and make it one show,” said Drew Lawsky, vice president of Blenheim’s jewelry division.

Ralph Ianuzzi Jr., executive chairman of Blenheim USA, said in early March the talks were “still inconclusive but things are progressing positively.” Howard Hauben, group publisher of Miller Freeman, said he was optimistic an agreement would be reached. Issues to be resolved included date, location, capitalization and how such a joint venture would operate.

Chicago: The Chicago Jewelry Show, sponsored by the Illinois Jewelers Association, has been renamed, restructured, relocated and rescheduled.

It also has a new cosponsor, the Miller Freeman Jewelry Group. But Hauben notes Miller Freeman isn’t buying the show. “It’s a spiritual relationship, not a financial one,” he says. “We’re supporting the show with promotional support and input.”

The show is now called the Great Lakes Jewelry Show – to reflect “a full Midwest market appeal,” says an IJA spokesperson. It will be held Aug. 19-21 at the Chicago Navy Pier, an exposition, retail and family entertainment center.

IJA President Pete Shockey said efforts are being made to attract more buyers and key suppliers. Major changes include expanding the show from two to three days, adding a new designers section, hiring professional models to display merchandise and creating a central exhibit floor pavilion for educational, entertainment and social activities.

Hong Kong: The Hong Kong International Trade Fair Group completed its purchase of Headway Trade Fairs Ltd. Feb. 21. An initial agreement to sell had been signed Jan. 13. The price of the transaction was not disclosed.

HKITF is the Asian-Pacific trade fair business of United Newspapers Asia, owned by United Newspaper PLC of Great Britain. (United Newspaper PLC also owns Miller Freeman Jewelry Group.) HKITF forms the core of UN Asia, along with a publishing company called the Asian Business Press.

Headway operates a number of trade fairs in jewelry, furniture, footwear, leather goods, apparel, stationary, cars and Asian consumer goods. “These are first-class shows which operate in markets where United Newspapers is strongest around the world,” says Marshall Freeman, chairman of UN Asia. “Our worldwide focus in jewelry, leather and premiums is now significantly enhanced.”

Denny Yung, the founder and managing director of Headway, will work with UN Asia, developing projects in China.

Headway’s jewelry fairs include the Guangzhou International Jewelry Fair and the Beijing International Jewelry, Watch, Spectacle and Technical Equipment Fair in China; the Bangkok International Jewelry Fair in Thailand; and the Hong Kong Jewelry & Watch Fair.

UN Asia also announced that the Hong Kong Trade Development Council – which has held a jewelry show in September since 1992 – will integrate its fair into Headway’s Hong Kong Jewelry & Watch Fair in September.

MORRIS B. ZALE, COFOUNDER OF ZALE CORP., DIES AT 93

Morris B. Zale, cofounder and former chairman of Zale Corp., Irving, Tex., died March 8. He was 93.

Known affectionately as M.B., he was one of those few people who helped to define the industry. Born in a Russian village near the Polish border in 1901, he moved with his family to New YorkCity in 1907. The family later moved to Ft. Worth, Tex., where relatives had a jewelry store, and then to Wichita Falls, Tex.

Morris and his brother, William, opened their first store in Wichita Falls in 1924. A factor in the company’s growth was its willingness to sell diamonds on credit years before it became generally accepted practice.

Morris Zale was president of the company until 1957, when he became chairman. During his chairmanship, he was active in building the company’s international supply network. By the time he retired in 1971, the family firm he helped to lead had become the largest jewelry retailer in the U.S., with more than 1,200 outlets nationwide. Today, it has 1,205 outlets in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Guam.

Zale was active in many civic, educational, social and industry organizations; actively supported social agencies, youth programs and medical education institutions; and served on the boards of many organizations. Among them are Brandeis University, Retail Jewelers of America (now Jewelers of America), Dallas YMCA, Bishop College and Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.

His many awards and honors included the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. In addition, the Zale/Lipshy University Hospital in Dallas was named for him and the late Ben Lipshy, his brother-in-law and former Zale chairman. (The Zale family and the Zale foundation spearheaded funding for the hospital.)

Zale was more than a shrewd entrepreneur and civic leader. He also a proud American and an avid antismoker who is on record as having told President Lyndon B. Johnson himself to stop smoking.

Outside of his business and civic interests, “his only hobby was his family. He was a grand man,” says grandson Barry Zale. He spent his final years surrounded by family members. They were with him when he died in his sleep in Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

He is survived by Edna, his wife of 69 years; sons Marvin of Florida and Donald of Dallas; daughter Gloria Landsburg of New York City; nephew Leo Fields of Dallas; and 14 grandchildren and 30 great grandchildren.

The family requests that any memorial donations be made to the Zale/Lipshy University Hospital or a charity of one’s own choice.

U.S. DIAMOND TRADING REACHED RECORD IN ’94

U.S. imports and exports of loose and polished diamonds set records in carat weight and in dollars last year, the American Diamond Industry Association reports.

Imports of cut but not set diamonds totaled 10.6 million carats valued at $4.9 billion, topping the 1993 totals by 10.1% and 10.2% respectively.

Exports reached a record 1.3 million carats valued at more than $1.7 billion, representing increases of 14.6% and 20.6% respectively.

“The import-export figures for the past year underscore continued consumer confidence as well as the sustained strength of our industry,” says Lloyd Jaffe, ADIA chairman.

Israel, India and Belgium continued as the top three sources of diamonds, accounting for 90.2% of the value of all imports and 95.8% of the caratage. The average overall price of imported loose and polished stones was $463 per carat, virtually unchanged from the year before. Among the leading eight sources, Switzerland’s price-per-carat of $7,032 was the highest, India’s $198 the lowest.

Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel were the three leading U.S. export markets. The average per-carat price of exported diamonds was $1,317, an increase of 5.2% from the year before. Again Switzerland topped the price chart – U.S. diamond exports there averaged $5,244 a carat. Canada was the lowest among eight trading partners, with exports there totaling only $170 a carat.

WGC HOSTS 600 JEWELERS AT PRIVATE MUSEUM PARTY

The World Gold Council hosted 600 guests for a private viewing of “Greek Gold: The Jewelry of the Classical World,” an exhibit that ran through March at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, N.Y.

The exhibit comprises nearly 200 pieces of Greek jewelry dating from 500 to 300 B.C., including necklaces, pendants, armlets, bracelets and earrings. The pieces were gathered from the collections of the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The exhibition was made possible by Cartier, with support provided by Stavros S. Niarchos and the World Gold Council.

The retailers, manufacturers and gold jewelry designers who were invited to the viewing also attended a cocktail reception in the American wing of the museum. “The show provided us with a great opportunity to expose the fine jewelry industry to the treasures of ancient Greece and to educate them on the fact that gold jewelry has been a part of the world’s heritage for thousands of years,” says John Calnon, director of merchandise planning for the World Gold Council.

More jewelry designers than ever are designing all-gold jewelry collections, says WGC, and designer jewelry has played a significant role in the continued success of gold jewelry sales, which have increased for 13 consecutive fiscal quarters.

WGC also sponsored a lecture and workshop at the museum to influence designers to draw inspiration from the Greek collection and to incorporate some ancient jewelrymaking methods in their work. More than 50 jewelry designers attended the session, which was led by Bessie Jamieson and her associates from the Jewelry Arts Institute, formerly the Kulicke-Stark Academy.

RARE BLUE DIAMOND AND OTHER GEMS AT AUCTION

A busy spring auction season in the U.S. and overseas will feature an exciting range of outstanding gemstones and jewelry.

On April 13, in New York City, Christie’s will offer a magnificent internally flawless blue diamond of 13.49 cts. Simon Teakle, head of Christie’s jewelry department in New York, calls the stone “the finest blue diamond ever offered at auction.” He says it is “unequivocally blue” in all lighting conditions. (Christie’s claims the record price for any blue diamond sold at auction: $500,000 a carat for a 6.18-ct. circular blue diamond sold in Geneva in 1990.)

Christie’s Geneva will hold an auction May 18 dedicated solely to the work of jewelry designer Pierre Sterlé. At the height of his career some 40 years ago, Sterlé was one of the most fashionable jewelers in Paris and had a huge impact on design. In a move against the heavy styles of the early 1940s, he produced designs that captured the fragility of nature: fallen leaves, flower petals and delicate birds were his inspiration.

Back in New York, William Doyle Galleries will hold an important estate jewelry auction May 3. Offerings will include an exceptional Art Deco diamond pendant and chain centered by a large octagonal-shaped diamond of about 4 cts., a diamond engagement ring with a 11.75-ct. square-cut diamond set in a pavéd diamond sculptured mounting and several signed Van Cleef & Arpels pieces.

HELZBERG TO MERGE WITH BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY

Helzberg’s Diamond Shops, the 148-store jewelry chain based in Kansas City, Mo., said it will merge with Berkshire Hathaway Inc., a top New York Stock Exchange company best known for its ownership of or investments in high-value businesses.

Berkshire Hathaway, based in Omaha, Neb., already has a major stake in jewelry retailing through its ownership of Borsheim’s Inc., also of Omaha. Its chief executive, Warren Buffett, is a legendary figure in financial circles.

Details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Barnett C. Helzberg Jr., chairman of Helzberg’s, said the merger follows a year-long evaluation of options that would maximize his desires for the business. These include continuity of the current business culture and employment of all current employees, continued focus on customer service, enabling the business to grow and ensuring it will remain intact with headquarters in the Kansas City area.

Helzberg also indicated he wants to spend more of his time in a variety of non-profit community interests. Jeffrey W. Comment, the current president, will become chairman and chief executive of Helzberg’s, which will operate as a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary.

Barnett Helzberg commented: “I am extremely pleased with the fact that we have been able to take a three-generation business and allow it to continue its growth and prosperity under the respected umbrella of Berkshire Hathaway. I believe this ownership change is a win for the associates of Helzberg’s Diamond Shops, a win for the investors of Berkshire Hathaway, a win for our family and, most importantly, a win for the customers of our fine company.”

SWATCH UNVEILS WATCH MARKINGU.N. ANNIVERSARY

Swatch unveiled its “UNlimited” chronograph in March as part of a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

The watch features artwork created by YA/YA (Young Aspirations/Young Artists), a New Orleans, La., arts and education youth organization. The design on one side of the strap symbolizes a torn-apart world being sewn back together. Artwork on the other side of the strap shows hands of different races grasped together and the U.N.’s anniversary emblem. The watch face features an image of the earth. “UNlimited” is available worldwide and retails for US$80.

Three dollars from the sale of each watch will be donated to the U.N. 50 Trust Fund for youth projects. Nicolas Hayek, chairman and chief executive of SHM/Swatch, expects to sell 1 million of the watches worldwide in the next year

ZALE POSTS 23% GAIN IN HALF-YEAR NET EARNINGS

Zale Corp., Irving, Tex., posted half-year net earnings of $38.6 million, up 23% from the same period of fiscal 1994. Sales totaled $632.7 million, up 14%. Comparable-store sales rose 14% also.

Earnings for the quarter ended Jan. 31, including the all-important Christmas sales season, totaled $41.7 million, up 11%. Sales were $427.2 million, up 16%. Comparable-store sales also rose 16% in the quarter.

The half-year results “reflect the significant improvements we have made at Zale Corp. to date,” said Robert J. DiNicola, chairman and chief executive officer. “We are encouraged by our success and believe these results are a strong validation of our `Phase One’ operating strategies.” Zale, which exited bankruptcy reorganization in mid-1993, is following a three-phase strategy to rebuild, renovate and expand its market and operations over the next few years. “This recent performance should also illustrate the future opportunities available to the company,” he added.

CAMPBELL SWITCHES POLITICALPARTIES

U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, the only jeweler and the only American Indian in the U.S. Senate, made national news March 3 by switching from Democrat to Republican.

Campbell, 61, who also is a rancher and former Olympic athlete, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987 and the Senate in 1992. He has been an ally to the jewelry industry in Congress. He fought against the federal luxury tax and received the Jewelers of America’s first Distinguished Public Service Award as a result. He also sponsored a bill to create the Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution and chairs a fund-raising effort to support jewelry and other collections that will be displayed there when it opens in two years.

Though he doesn’t agree with the entire Republican platform (he is prochoice on the issue of abortion and opposes cuts in the federal school lunch program), he said the recent debate on the balanced budget amendment “brought into focus that my personal beliefs and the Democratic Party are far apart.” He reportedly was at odds with the Democratic leadership in his state also. Campbell’s switch gives the Republicans 54 senators and the Democrats 46.

Despite his busy schedule in Washington, D.C., Campbell still finds time to design jewelry for his family-operated company, Ben Nighthorse Corp., Ignacio, Colo.