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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Portland Jewelry Symposium Focuses On 3D Printing And Other Technologies

Peter Smith delivering the keynote at the Portland Jewelry Symposium. Photo by Lena Knofler

The Portland Jewelry Symposium celebrated its 10th anniversary but there was no time to wax nostalgic at the most recent gathering. Instead it was time to focus on the future of the industry. This future consists of the use of technology in general and more specifically the continued growth of 3D printing technology.

“It just seemed like so much evolution was going on with technology we should focus on the future so everybody can sit here for a day-and-a-half and think about the next 10, 15 years for their businesses,” said Teresa Frye, who founded the symposium.

Teresa Frye, founder of the Portland Jewelry SymposiumPhoto by Lena Knofler 

Frye, owner and president of TechForm Advanced Casting Technology, a platinum manufacturer, said her business is 95% digital. She is dependent on designers who create the pieces that she manufactures. Because of this she said she is most interested in how designers will adapt to new ways of creating jewelry without losing the human aspect of the artistry and design.

“It’s so easy to look at the robots and say that has nothing to do with my craft, it’s so cold and sterile. Yet we can’t avoid it,” she said. “It’s crucial to our survival that we pick the elements of technology that are going to help us to not just survive but to stay at the top of our game and I think that’s the challenge for the industry because we really are so traditional.”

One of several 3D printers on displayPhoto by Lena Knofler

She says there is no one answer, designers, manufacturers and retailers will have to adapt various elements of technology in ways that will enhance their businesses.

“Our customers value the handcrafted nature of what we do, yet we’re going to have to give up some of that. All the top brands know that they have to select the elements of technology that are going to help them to remain competitive yet they can’t lose their soul in the process. And I still don’t know the answer because it really lies with the designers as far as the aesthetics of what we’re creating and how to not lose that in the process.”

This year’s symposium, with the theme “Future Think: Innovate, Create, Thrive,” was held October 1 and 2 at the Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland, Ore. Approximately 150 independent retailers, manufacturers, designers and others in the jewelry trade attended this year. The attendance was a new record for the symposium. In addition, it has grown from a regional gathering in the northwest United States to a national event. Frye said one of her challenges is to manage this growth while maintaining its intimate, informal and friendly atmosphere.

3D Printer modelsPhoto by Lena Knofler

3D printing was the hot topic this year and they were the top item on display among the vendors at the event. The technology is being used regularly to produce jewelry molds that are used for casting. Costs of the machines have dropped significantly over the years and they are smaller and easier to use. Their easy entry point has opened up jewelry design to a broader group of people. For example, retailers can now create custom designs for their customers with greater efficiency and speed.

The vast majority of 3D printing is being used to create resin models for casting. However, the newest generation of 3D printers can now print jewelry using precious metals. As one vendor told me the process hasn’t been perfected yet and isn’t a viable replacement for current uses.

But it doesn’t take an expert to know that the technology will get better. Frye, who is well adept with technology and how it is used in manufacturing environments, sees this as well. She says it brings questions on how it may change jewelry design.

“I’m thinking about this next evolution of 3D printing,” Frye said. “Is jewelry going to start looking all the same because we’re letting the technology dictate the designs? That’s the challenge for the industry and I fully expect there will be many designers who are going to overcome that challenge but there may be inherent limitations with the technology. There is probably going to be a multitude of solutions and what we’re trying to do here is to get that conversation going. We have the technology experts here talking about what’s out there and then we have the networking with real world jewelers who will challenge them. That’s when you have the really interesting conversations.”

Kevin Abernathy discussing manufacturing technologyPhoto by Lena Knofler

Kevin Abernathy of BIS Ventures, in his presentation on trends in digital manufacturing, said that 3D metal printing is the next big thing and that artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing and other technologies are becoming commonplace in the world’s largest companies and will soon be commonplace in the jewelry industry.

Abernathy, whose company consults with jewelry manufacturers on their automated and digital technology, said he was an early adapter of 3D printing and computer numerical control (computer automation of machine tools). Because of these technologies, he said “vendors can help you navigate the minutiae of the design in your mind.”

Bench demonstrationsPhoto by Lena Knofler

Abernathy assured those in the audience that although these technologies will continue to grow, there is no need to be fearful of losing your job.

“At the end of the day it takes a human, an artist putting that love into a piece of jewelry,” he said. “No machine will ever replace that and no robot will ever do it.”

The keynote address for the symposium was delivered by Peter Smith, jewelry industry consultant and author, who discussed the future of traditional jewelry retail, which he says, is actually brighter than it is being portrayed.

“This fear that somehow we’re losing business to online is just not based in reality,” he told the audience.

Kristi Broussard of Stuller demonstrates a detector for lab-grown diamonds. Photo by Lena Knofler

Instead, he argues what is happening is a transformation of the retail business combining the bricks-and-mortar experience with the convenience of eCommerce. He stresses that it’s retail stores that will continue to drive the business.

In most cases, he says, retailers who are losing customers are doing so because they are not providing a high-quality store experience. He said the landscape of the retail industry can be broken down to convenience and price sensitive stores, such as Costco and Wal-Mart; and stores that focus on experience, such as Apple, Starbucks and Tiffany & Co.

Jewelry retailers cannot compete with price so they have to create stores that provide a better experience for their customers. It includes reevaluating everything about the store, from the lighting to the music to the scent (which can be purchased) in a way that creates a story about the retail experience they want to deliver.

Chris Ploof of Laminated Metals describing his productsPhoto by Lena Knofler

Smith also encouraged retailers to streamline their product offerings and focus on what sells and to build eCommerce websites in order to create a well-rounded retail experience.

Sherris Cottier Shank, an award-winning gem artist and master gem carver, had a bit of warning for those jumping into technology head first. She challenged retailers and others in the jewelry industry to think “beyond mainstream” when specifying jewelry.

“All of this automation is really great but remember there are other people out there beyond mainstream,” she said. “Take the time to talk to them and find out what they like.”

Shank, calls herself an “odd duck” in the jewelry industry because what she likes in gemstone jewelry is rarely displayed in stores.

“If I were to walk in most jewelry stores today I would turn around and leave. Most jewelry stores would have nothing that interests me,” she said. “There are others like me and I know this because they contact me out of the blue.”

She began her career as a bench jeweler but discovered that she loved the art of gemstone carving. A self-described “girl who plays around in the dirt,” she sometimes goes to the mines to select her gems. She said dealers have mixed reactions when selling to her.

“I’m very careful when I select rough and the sellers either love me or hate me. They usually give me a pad and let me select my own (stones),” she said.

Shank, known for her signature carvings, has received numerous awards. Several of her pieces are on display in museums, including National Gem & Mineral Collections of the Smithsonian and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. She also works with exceptional jewelry artists who mount her gems into jewels.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

37-Carat 'Raj Pink' Diamond Could Fetch $30 Million

The 37.30-carat "Raj Pink" diamond will be the top lot at Sotheby’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale on November 15 with a hefty estimate of $20 million - $30 million.

“The discovery of any pink diamond is exceptional, but The Raj Pink’s remarkable size and intensity of color places it in the rarefied company of the most important pink diamonds known,” said David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Division. 

According to Sotheby’s, the rough diamond that yielded The Raj Pink was studied for over a year after its discovery in 2015. It was then entrusted to a master cutter, who crafted it into a cushion-modified brilliant cut.

The diamond was named by its current owner, who requested anonymity. Its meaning is based on the Sanskrit word for king. 

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA), in its report characterized the diamond as an “astonishing stone,” describing its hue as “a very bright and ravishing fancy intense pink color,” adding, “For a diamond to display strong, unmodified pink color like that observed in The Raj Pink is rare, particularly at so considerable a weight.”

The discovery of a gem-quality pink diamond of any size is an extremely rare occurrence. Of all diamonds submitted to the GIA each year, fewer than 0.02% are predominantly pink, Sotheby’s said.

The current record holder for a fancy intense pink diamond is the 24.78-carat “Graff Pink,” which sold for more than $46.1 million at Sotheby’s Geneva, 2010.

“Only on the rarest occasions do diamonds with vibrant, shocking color like the Raj Pink’s emerge,” GIA said. “Only the most privileged and knowledgeable in the industry know of their existence. With an unmodified Fancy Intense Pink hue, substantial size and desirable clarity, the Raj Pink is certainly one of those gems that only few may have the honor of experiencing.” 

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet, the Forbes website and on Instagram @JewelryNewsNetwork

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Robert Procop Unveils 888-Carat Angelina Jolie Star Sapphire

Robert Procop—gem expert, private jeweler and jewelry designer—will unveil an 888.88-carat black star sapphire at Saks Fifth Avenue at South Coast Plaza Thursday (today). It will appear at the store until the end of October before going on the road.

The gem is named the “Star of Jolie,” after the Angelina Jolie, the internationally known actress, filmmaker and humanitarian. It is the featured pendant on a necklace comprised of 70 black star sapphires, totaling an additional 104.42 carats. The entire piece is set in 18k rose gold and has a retail price of $5 million.

Procop says the pear-shaped, double-cabochon cut star sapphire is the world’s largest certified by the Gemological Institute of America.

The sapphire has not been treated by heat or other methods, according to the GIA report. Its transparency is semi-translucent to opaque. There is no indication on the report about it being the largest star sapphire graded by the organization. Its geographic origins are unknown.

Jolie and Procop have been long-time collaborators in a collection of jewels called “The Style of Jolie” in which proceeds are used to promote education and establish schools in conflict-affected countries through the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which builds schools for children around the world. The first of the schools opened for girls in April 2013 in Afghanistan outside Kabul. It educates from 200 to 300 girls.

In addition to the unveiling of the Star of Jolie, Procop will also debut new pieces from his collection with Jolie, as well as pieces from his Exceptional Jewels collection. A portion of the sales from this event will be donated to charity.

After Southern California, the piece will travel to Saks Fifth Avenue stores in both Bal Harbour, Fla., and Palm Desert, Calif., in November. The tour will conclude at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., in December.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Christie’s To Sell The De Grisogono 163-Carat D-Flawless Diamond

The De Grisogono diamond suspended from an asymmetric necklace with a trailing on the left side of 18 emerald-cut diamonds and to the right two rows of pear-shaped emeralds

Christie’s is selling the largest D-color flawless diamond to ever appear at auction, a 163.41-carat emerald-cut stone owned by the Geneva-based luxury jeweler, De Grisogono.

It will be a highlight of Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva to be held November 14 at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. The diamond is currently on a world tour.

The diamond was cut from a 404-carat rough discovered in February 2016 in the Lulo mine in Angola. Given the name, “4 de Fevereiro,” it is the 27th biggest rough white diamond ever discovered and the largest in Angola. Fawaz Gruosi, founder of De Grisogono, purchased the rough diamond. He had it analyzed in Antwerp and cut in New York, where a team of 10 diamond-cutting specialists spent 11 months mapping, plotting, cleaving, laser-cutting and polishing the rough into the gem.

The De Grisogono 163.41-carat diamond, the largest D-color flawless diamond ever come at auction

The diamond is the centerpiece of an asymmetric necklace with a trailing on the left side of 18 emerald-cut diamonds and to the right two rows of pear-shaped emeralds, offering a contrasting appearance. No gold is visible between the emeralds as the gems are perfectly matched and the metal is darkened to create the chiaroscuro effect that is characteristic of De Grisogono jewels. The prongs holding in place the 163.41-carat diamond disappear under four baguette-cut diamonds creating an effect of dazzling brilliance. The reverse side of the gold basket is engraved with the diamond’s weight and set with more diamonds.

It took 14 craftsmen more than 1,700 hours to create the necklace.

Rahul Kadakia, international head of Christie’s Jewels said the “emerald and diamond necklace propels De Grisogono into a class of their own.”

The 404-carat rough diamond, "4 de Fevereiro," that created the 163.41-carat D-color flawless diamond that will be sold at Christie's

This diamond necklace marks the first jewel in a partnership between the auction house and the high jeweler in which they “will bring to auction the most exquisite diamonds ever offered to the market.”

The schedule for the worldwide tour is as follows:

Christie’s Hong Kong
September 28 – October 1
22nd Floor, Alexandra House, 18 Chater Road Central

Christie’s London
October 4 -7.
8, King Street, SW1Y 6QT London

Christie’s and De Grisogono in Dubai
October 17 - 19

Christie’s New York
November 3 - 6
Rockefeller Centre, 20 Rockefeller Plaza

Christie’s Geneva
November 9 - 14
Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, Quai des Bergues 33 

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Last Chance To Register For The Portland Jewelry Symposium

The 2016 Portland Jewelry Symposium, networking prior to the keynote presentation

The Portland Jewelry Symposium is celebrating its 10th Anniversary and it isn’t looking back on its success. Instead, the forum’s theme this year is “Future Think: Innovate, Create, Thrive.” 

Teresa Frye, founder of the Portland Jewelry Symposium and owner and president of TechForm Advanced Casting Technology, has created the theme and planned the two-day program to discuss new technologies and artistic trends, and how to stay current in a rapidly changing industry. 

The symposium will be held October 1 and 2 at the Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland, Ore. It is designed to benefit custom jewelers, designers and retailers. The registration deadline is here so please follow this link to register

Presentations will include the following: 

Peggy Jo Donahue, who assembled a panel discussion on “Promoting Custom Design on Social Networks,” which includes award winning designers Calla Gold and Lisa Krikawa.

Jennifer Caban from Olympus IMS will discuss using “XRF Technology to Identify Precious Metals” at the bench and in the retail environment.

Kevin Abernathy will speak about evolving “Trends in Digital Manufacturing.”

The symposium continues to take on social and environmental responsibility. This year, Monica Stephenson of ANZA Gems will speak on “Taking the First Step to a Responsible Future.”

This year symposium also includes a session on “Succession Planning and Exit Strategies” by Becka Johnson Kibby from The Edge Retail Academy.

Symposium registration includes the Keynote address and networking dinners. Lunch and refreshments during the full-day session on October 2. Additional tickets for dinner guests are also available for purchase.

To register, please visit the Portland Jewelry Symposium website.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Laurence Graff Buys The Lesedi La Rona In Deal Of The Century

Graff Diamonds has acquired the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona rough diamond in a deal valued at $53 million. It is the world’s largest gem-quality rough diamond to be discovered in more than a century and the largest rough diamond in existence today.

It also may be one of Laurence Graff’s greatest deals in a long career of exceptional negotiations for some of the world’s most valuable and important diamonds. He may have shaved $17 million from its original asking price.

According to a statement from Graff Diamonds, this deal ended in a handshake with William Lamb, CEO, president and director of Canadian mining company Lucara Diamond Corp., which discovered the gem at its Karowe mine in Botswana in November 2015.

Lamb originally tried to sell the diamond in a standalone public auction at Sotheby’s London on June 2016, a very unusual way to sell a rough diamond, which is normally sold privately to dealers who then cut and polished the rough into a finished gem. It had an estimate of more than $70 million. However, it failed to meet its reserve price. The bidding stalled at $61 million.

In the end there are very few people in the world able to buy such a gem and even fewer with the ability to cut it. The top name on both lists is Graff.

“We are thrilled and honored to become the new custodians of this incredible diamond,” Laurence Graff said in a statement. “The stone will tell us its story, it will dictate how it wants to be cut, and we will take the utmost care to respect its exceptional properties. This is a momentous day in my career, and I am privileged to be given the opportunity to honor the magnificent natural beauty of the Lesedi La Rona.”

The Lesedi La Rona was discovered at the Lucara Karowe mine in north-central Botswana. Its size is exceeded only by the legendary Cullinan Diamond, mined in South Africa in 1905. The 3,016.75-carat diamond produced nine major diamonds that are part of the historic Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, including the Great Star of Africa—considered to be the largest top-quality polished diamond in existence, weighing 530.20 carats.

In addition to its size, the Gemological Institute of America reports that the Lesedi La Rona , which means “our light” in Botswana's Tswana language, possesses exceptional quality and transparency, according to Graff Diamonds statement.

The acquisition follows Graff’s purchase earlier this year of a 373-carat rough diamond that was originally part of the Lesedi La Rona rough, marking a reunion of the two stones.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Alrosa Unearths 27-Carat Pink Diamond

Alrosa said Thursday that one of its subsidiaries unearthed a pink rough diamond weighing 27.85 carats. If the Russian mining giant decides to cut the stone, it has the potential to be the most expensive polished diamond in its history.

The rough diamond has dimensions of 22.47 mm x 15.69 mm x 10.9 mm, Alrosa said in statement Thursday. The pink stone is of gem-quality and almost free of inclusions.

The diamond was unearthed by Almazy Anabara, an Alrosa subsidiary with a diamond mining operation in Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in northeast Russia. It is by far the largest pink diamond Alrosa ever mined—with the previous largest pink rough being 3.86 carats, found in 2012. Apart from this stone, for the past eight years, Alrosa recovered only 3 pink diamonds weighing more than 2 carats. Alrosa said its mining operations discover colored diamonds weighing more than 10 carats about once a year. 

Alrosa, a rough diamond mining operation, has been increasing investment in its polishing division. The company said it is deciding whether to sell it as a rough or to cut it and polish it themselves. 

“If the company decided to cut it, it would become the most expensive diamond in the entire history of Alrosa,” said Evgeny Agureev, head of United Selling Organization of Alrosa. 

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