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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The 'Millennials’ - insights Into What’s Shaping their Buying Habits

Photo credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Jewelry News Network guest columnist, Chris Benham, is co-founder and director of Inspired Jewellery Ltd., Wellington, New Zealand, a global creative studio for specialist jewelry design.

Creating a luxury brand amidst the information overload on the internet is increasingly becoming a challenge. As jewelry companies look to position themselves for the next generation of purchasers, I took the opportunity to ask Hunter and Angelka, both in their early 20’s (the “Millennial Generation”) to share their views on what’s shaping their buying habits and how they are filtering through the holiday sale season madness.

In part one of this two part article we hear from Hunter, followed in part two by Angelka. They provide some valuable views on what’s important to them and insights into what investment jewelry companies need to make to win their trust and future business.

There will always be those who are motivated primarily by price, but I think that quality is becoming a more decisive factor in the purchase decisions of the middle class with budget concerns but still with income disposable for consumer goods purchases.
My purchases have definitely shifted in recent years to quality, longevity, exclusivity, innovation and/or tradition, and un-branded, timeless style. Plain leather shoes, vinyl records, and Ikea furniture being a few examples. The brands that appeal to me are ones that think outside the box and sell me on their product instead of their logo. My watch designed for the sight-impaired, and my urbanears headphones are the kinds of products I most treasure. Based on where I see a lot of these such products coming out of, I think that Northern Europe learnt this idea a while ago.
Our generation has seen quality triumph over price or quantity already in digital media: music and movies are now so easy to purchase online (and of such reliable quality) that the majority of consumers are choosing to do that instead of downloading free pirated copies. I think it's natural to be distrustful of something that's irrationally low priced. There's a reason why a company would charge more for their product, and if it's not because they have an expensive label (see Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.), then presumably it's because it costs more to make and is of higher quality.
It's more than just your pricing - your whole company has to reflect that image of forward-thinking design and age-proven quality. It's manifested in everything from the materials of the product (wood, glass, metal, and natural fibers seem to be preferred over plastic and its derivatives) to the fonts you use on the website.
I value companies that have a forward-thinking outlook, but root it in a timeless, tangible product. In particular companies that build a story around the people behind the products. When I bought my watch (designed for the sight-impaired), I could view on the company's website not only the entire company from designers to marketers, but also some of the blind people they brought on as beta testers. That human element really set them apart to me. I would continue to stress it when individuals design and build jewelry. 
Charitable donations and purchases are increasingly indistinct to my generation, and so when we have the chance to directly support people with our purchases, we respond to that. Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site where you pledge money that becomes the company's investment capital in return for perks or the first products off the line, does a great job of leveraging that. Another example is a website called Subbable - I donate a small monthly amount to online video producers that I like to support their (ad-free) content, and in return I can "bank" those dollars towards perks (like merchandise). I wouldn't do this if I didn't feel some connection to the producers. 
I definitely believe that buying decisions in my generation are shifting from purely price-driven to something based in quality that reflects one's personality and tells a unique story.
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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sotheby’s New York Watch Auction Fetches $7.2 million

A Patek Philippe Reference 658 black dial pocket watch (pictured above) was the top lot at Sotheby’s New York Important Watches auction, selling for $527,000, well above its high estimate. Made in 1937, it features a yellow gold open-faced perpetual calendar split-seconds chronograph minute repeater with moon phases and a black dial. The auction house says it is the first known reference 658 to have been produced and one of 15 made with a black dial.

The December 11 sale was Sotheby’s final watch auction of 2014. It achieved $7.2 million, with 68.5 percent sold by lot and 74.6 percent sold by value, raising the company’s 2014 sales in this category to a Sotheby’s record of $100.1 million for the year.

Familiar names in the watch world such as Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Paul Newman Daytona Rolex watches shared the center of attention with rare complicated mechanical clocks.

Other top lots include:

* A Courvoisier & Compe. no. 11359 ormolu and mahogany two tune musical automaton birdcage clock with double singing and flying birds sold for $389,000, well above its estimate. The circa 1820 clock was the top lot from the collection of Frank and Lore Metzger that totaled $753,000.

* A Patek Philippe Ref. 5959 platinum split seconds chronograph wristwatch with register sold for $257,000. Sotheby’s said the circa 2008 timepiece with its “Officer” style case, white dial and special italicized Arabic numerals, “bears many striking similarities” to the earliest-known split second chronograph wristwatch: the no. 124824, started in 1903 and completed in 1923, which the auction house sold in June for $2.9 million.

* A Black Starr & Frost and Pierre Gravoin rock crystal, mother-of-pearl, hardstone and gem-set desk timepiece, circa 1930, sold for $377,000, more than three times its high estimate.

* Five of Rolex’s “Paul Newman Daytonas” sold for a combined total of $591,000. The group was led by a stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with bracelet (Ref 6263 No 2874356) Paul Newman Daytona Panda, circa 1970, that sold for $185,000.

* A Vacheron Constantin yellow gold, enamel, and pearl-set open-faced watch sold for $233,000. Made in 1930 with an enamel scene of Le Temps et les Parques painted by Jeanne Vauthey, it is among a celebrated few Vacheron Constantin timepieces from the early 20th century with a painted enamel scene, Sotheby’s said. The image depicts the Three Fates, “who spin, measure and cut a length of yarn in an allegory for destiny.”

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Colorless Diamonds and Celebrated Collections Lead Sotheby’s Jewelry Sales

A platinum-topped gold and diamond necklace presented to Helen Hay on the occasion of her marriage to Payne Whitney in 1902 was the top lot at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale. 

The necklace (pictured above) features four diamonds ranging from F to H color, and weighing 27.48, 15.53, 13.08 and 8.91 carats respectively, the necklace sold for nearly $3.2 million. The marriage of Hay and Whitney was a society event that made headlines across the United States. All seven jewels from the estate of Helen Hay Whitney were sold for $4.8 million. 

In addition to the Helen Hay Whitney estate, collection from Estée Lauder, Evelyn H. Lauder and Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia were among the most sought after jewels from bidders, which included a world record price for a Cartier “Tutti Frutti” bracelet

Jewels from the collections of Estée Lauder and Mrs. Evelyn H. Lauder together achieved $3.9 million, with more than 80 percent of the pieces on offer fetching prices above their high estimates.

Thirty-two jewels from the collection of Evelyn H. Lauder—sold to benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation—were led by a “Tutti Frutti” bracelet by Cartier, circa 1928 (pictured above), that sold for more than $2.1 million (more than double its high estimate), marking a new world auction record for any Tutti Frutti bracelet by Cartier.

Ten pieces from the Estée Lauder collection sold to benefit the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation were led by a pair of fancy brown-yellow diamond and diamond earclips by Van Cleef & Arpels that fetched $233,000.

A pair of platinum, emerald and diamond pendant-earclips (pictured above) that originally belonged to the legendary collection of Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia sold for more than $1 million. After being smuggled out of Russia by an English friend of the Duchess following the abdication of the Tsar in 1917, the emeralds descended to the Duchess’s daughter and granddaughter, and were acquired at auction at Sotheby’s Geneva in 1987 for Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, the auction house said. 

From the collection of Marlene Dietrich—the legendary actress, singer and cabaret star—a 14k tri-color gold and lapis lazuli bracelet, Cartier circa 1940, sold for $179,000, nearly six times above its high estimate. The bracelet was a gift from longtime friend Erich Maria Remarque, author of “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

Two platinum and diamond rings were among the top four lots of the auction, showing that despite the trend toward colored diamonds, statement colorless diamonds can still bring in world-class prices. 

The first featured a 25.44-carat emerald-cut diamond of D color, VVS1 clarity and potentially Internally Flawless. It sold for $2.96 million, or $116,548 per carat (pictured above).

The second featured a 47.48- carat, round brilliant-cut diamond of K color, VVS1 clarity that sold for $1.8 million. 

Other highlights of the auction were:

* A platinum and diamond ring centered by a 3.02 emerald-cut fancy grayish blue diamond with VVS2 clarity, circa 1930, sold for $1.4 million, or $478,476 per carat, well above its high estimate.

* A platinum, fancy intense purplish pink diamond and diamond ring, 3.07 carats, SI2 clarity, sold for $1.2 million ($392,508 per carat).

* Platinum and diamond earclips by Harry Winston, 10.20 carats, G color, VVS2 clarity and 9.53 carats, G color,VS1 clarity, sold for $1.08 million ($54,992 per carat).

* Egyptian-revival platinum, diamond and colored stone bracelet, LaCloche Frères, Paris, sold for $1.5 million. 

The December 9 auction achieved more than $44.1 million in sales, with 75.8 percent sold by lot and 81.1 percent sold by value. It raised Sotheby’s worldwide jewelry sales in 2014 to $597.5 million, already surpassing the record $529.3 million the company achieved in 2013 in this category. This is without including Sotheby’s London jewelry sale held Thursday. The auction house estimates that sales for 2014 will exceed $600 million.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christie’s Magnificent Jewels Sale Fetches $66.6 Million

89.23-carat, pear-shaped D-color VVS1 diamond sold for nearly $11.1 million.

Christie’s New York ended the auction's house's fine jewelry sale season in the Americas with its Magnificent Jewels sale Wednesday that fetched more than $66.6 million (including premiums), producing a final tally in 2014 of approximately $188 million for the Americas. Worldwide jewelry sales amounted to about $740 million, although a complete sales report will be released by the auction house in January 2015.

The top lot of the New York sale was an 89.23-carat, pear-shaped D-color VVS1 diamond (top photo) that sold for nearly $11.1 million (including premium). The diamond, mounted in a platinum setting, sold at $124,000 per carat. 

Other sales of note included a pair of pear-shaped fancy light yellow diamond ear pendants of 52.88 and 51.46 carats (pictured above) that sold for more than $5.4 million, double its presale estimate; and a 5.25-carat Burmese ruby ring by Harry Winston that fetched $1.65 million, more than triple its low estimate.

Other highlights of the sale include the following:

* A colored diamond suite of 593.61 carats, by Jahan that sold for $4.6 million (the necklace is pictured above).

A 21.30-carat, oval-cut fancy light pink Golconda diamond that sold for $4.25 million, or $200,000 per carat.

* A 32.32-carat, oval-cut D-color VVS1 Potentially Internally Flawless diamond by Bulgari sold for more than $4 million, or $126,000 per carat.

* A 32.72-carat, rectangular-cut D-color VS1 diamond sold for $2.4 million, or $74,000 per carat.

* A 1.42-carat, oval-cut fancy red VS2 diamond sold for $2.16 million or more than $1.5 million per carat.

* A 14.28-carat, marquise-cut fancy brownish pink Internally Flawless diamond sold for more than $2 million, or $143,000 per carat.

* A 5.70-carat, rectangular-cut fancy blue VS1 diamond sold for more than $2 million, or $360,000 per carat.

* A single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace measuring from 13.10 to 8.00 mm sold for $1.8 million.

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Colorful Louis Comfort Tiffany Antique Jewelry Suite Fetches $161,000 at Bonhams

Photo credit: image courtesy of Bonhams

A rare antique jewelry suite of sapphire, demantoid garnet and enamel attributed to Louis Comfort Tiffany sold for $161,000 (including premium), soaring past its high estimate at Bonhams Fine Jewelry auction in New York.

The suite, created for Tiffany & Co., circa 1920, is led by a pendant centered by an oval, irregularly-domed cabochon sapphire. It sits within a scrolling frame suspending a flexible swag, accented by circular and oval-cut demantoid garnets and sapphires, highlighted by enamel floral sprays and suspended from a chain of floral links. It is completed by a box clasp set with circular-cut sapphires, pendant earrings en suite; chain and pendant earrings.

Photo credit: image courtesy of Bonhams

The top lot of the evening was an 8.45-carat Cartier diamond ring pictured above). The rectangular step-cut diamond within a pierced and openwork pavé-set diamond surround sold for $293,000. 

Despite being the top lot, the diamond ring must have felt a bit lonely at the sale dominated by rare sapphires, emeralds and other colored gems. As a signed piece, it was among many that were in high demand at the December 8 sale, which realized $4.1 million. 

“More contemporary signed jewels continue to thrive in the auction environment,” said Susan Abeles, VP and director of the Jewelry at Bonhams North America, “The sale was dominated by colorful estate property which was well received by an international audience.”

Other highlights of the sale include:

Photo credit: image courtesy of Bonhams

* A 3.2-carat Kashmir sapphire and diamond ring that fetched $118,750, almost twice the high estimate.

Photo credit: image courtesy of Bonhams

* A sapphire and diamond brooch with a diamond weight of 6.85 carats, which realized $112,500, nine times the high estimate.  

Photo credit: image courtesy of Bonhams

* A Colombian emerald and diamond ring, featuring a large emerald cabochon weighing approximately 50 carats surrounded by diamonds. It achieved $106,250, over 3.5 times the high estimate.

* A late art deco ruby and diamond bracelet, circa 1935, with a total diamond weight of 14.00 carats, which sold for $106,250, well past its high estimate.

* Natural button pearl diamond ear studs, each over 10mm, realizing $45,000, close to 6.5 times its high estimate. 

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Montblanc Unveils ‘Power of Words’ Film Honoring Nelson Mandela

Caroline Rupert introduces the “Power of Words” film.

Montblanc recently hosted the U.S. premiere of a film project honoring Nelson Mandela at NeueHouse in New York. 

The “Power of Words” film celebrates Mandela’s life and the positive ways in which he transformed societies and lives worldwide, Montblanc said in a statement. The screening on December 5 fell on the heels of the film project’s international premiere, held in Cape Town, South Africa, with Mandela’s family in attendance.  

Nelson Mandela had a special bond with his Montblanc fountain pen calling it his “presidential pen.” The anti-apartheid revolutionary, South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner also understood the importance and value of words.

With this in mind, the Power of Words project inspires filmmakers to explore the written legacy of influential figures using film. The series takes a look at the teachings and writings of Nelson Mandela as inspiration. The series was made possible by Montblanc and created in partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute and the Nelson Mandela Foundation

Five filmmaker teams interpreted a selection of Mandela’s quotes, shooting and editing five short narrative films based on his words. Special guest contributor, photojournalist Steve McCurry, translated Mandela’s words into images, creating a photography exhibition inspired by the project that will open in the Summer of 2015 at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, South Africa.

Directors commissioned to bring the words of Mandela to life over the past six months are Mira Nair, Ramin Bahrani, Eva Weberand, James Marsh, Hank Willis Thomas, Zippy Kimundu and Nabil Elderkin. Five of TFI’s Tribeca Film Fellows—US-based high school and college students who completed a year-long fellowship through the Institute—were selected to work in partnership with the established filmmakers to produce the short films. 

“As a Maison rooted in the culture of writing, we are delighted to see the extraordinary words of one of modern history’s most inspiring figures interpreted in film”, said Jérôme Lambert, Montblanc International CEO. “We share Nelson Mandela’s belief in the importance of meaningful words and education. His unique vision for democracy, peace, social equality and learning lives on through the power of his words, and we hope that through each of these films, others will continue to be inspired by his legacy.”

The screening and celebration, co-hosted by Caroline Rupert, was attended by Tribeca Film Institute co-founder Jane Rosenthal, Africa Rising Foundation Co-Founder Kweku Mandela Chrissy Teigen, participating director Nabil Elderkin, members of the Tribeca Film Institute and an intimate selection of international guests.

Those in attendance included (from left) Tyler Stachan, Nia Ashley, Caroline Rupert, Kweku-Mandela, Nabil Elderkin, Jane-Rosenthal, Mia Nair and Frisly Soberanis.

The Power of Words project was first launched by Montblanc in April 2013 to bring together a new generation of filmmakers through the iconic words of the anti-apartheid revolutionary, South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, using Mandela’s legendary and most powerful quotes in feature short films that give new meaning to his legacy and vision. A short film, directed by Nabil Elderkin, was projected in New York’s Times Square every night shortly before midnight for a month. The film celebrates his peaceful vision in the form of an art installation. 

Montblanc, along with TFI and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, announced the continuation of the Power of Words for a short film project at the 90-years celebration of the iconic Meisterstück writing instrument in April 2014 in New York City.

The bond Mandela had with his pen is described in “Good Morning, Mr. Mandela,” a memoir by Mandela’s aide and private secretary, Zelda la Grange. 

“On one occasion he went to Sandton City, a big shopping mall on the outskirts of Johannesburg. He was determined to buy a pen and the security detail took him to the Montblanc store. Until he got ill, Madiba wore the pen in his pocket, referring to it as a Presidential Pen,” la Grange wrote.

“Madiba had very few personal things that he was religiously holy about. His two pens, his wristwatch, his empty wallet, his ivory walking stick and the holder for his reading glasses, as well as his hearing aids. The most important, of course, was his wedding ring…. These items had to be neatly placed beside his bed every night and they were the first items he looked for when he woke up.”

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Luxury Jewelry and Watch Brands Make their Mark at Art Basel Miami Beach

Van Cleef & Arpels celebrates international debut of GEMS Part II by Benjamin Millepied. Photo credit: Joe Gato

Van Cleef & Arpels, Forevermark Diamonds, Roger Dubuis and IWC were among the luxury jewelry and watch brands that were hosting special events at the 13th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, held December 3 -7. 

On December 1, Van Cleef & Arpels, celebrated the international premiere of “Gems Part II: Hearts & Arrows,” the second chapter in a three-part dance. Gems was created exclusively for the French luxury jeweler through a collaboration with Benjamin Millepied and his L.A. Dance Project. The brand has been long committed to creativity, culture, and dance. The performance presented a new interpretation of precious stones, supported by artist Liam Gillick and a score composed by Philip Glass.

Van Cleef & Arpels “Pas de Deux Nacre” clip. Diamonds, yellow sapphires and white and golden mother-of-pearl set in 18k white gold. The clip is transformable so that dancers and diamond motif can be worn together or separately.

Presented in downtown Miami at the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center, the evening was held to benefit The Wolfsonian - FIU. Following the performance, the celebration continued at The Alfred I. DuPont Building, where guests were treated to dinner prepared by famed chef, Daniel Boulud. Models draped in Van Cleef & Arpels jewels appeared then vanished through a corridor of mirrors. High jewelry pieces were displayed in deconstructed galleries that played with proportion and perspective. A portal in a secret vault revealed a kaleidoscope of brilliant gems, hidden within the walls. 

Among those in attendance, Nicolas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, Alain Bernard, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, Americas, Benjamin Millepied, founder of the L.A. Dance Project, Matthew Abess, curator at the Wolfsonian - FIU, and Sergey Filin, ballet director of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Model and DJ Hannah Bronfman (right) and artist Mylinh Trieu Nguyen in Forevermark diamond jewelry.

On December 2, Forevermark, the diamond brand from The De Beers Group of Companies, hosted a VIP Preview Reception at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami’s Opening Celebration, the official museum kick-off event for Miami Art Week.

The event served to unveil the “Promise” installation. Designed by Miami resident artist Mylinh Trieu Nguyen, the installation displayed a selection of diamonds from the Forevermark Exceptional Diamond Collection. Nguyen's installation illuminated the intersection of art, design, technology, and the diamond through videos that respond to the symbolism and character of one of the most prized and valued objects on earth.

Model and DJ, Hannah Bronfman, was on hand wearing some of the pieces.

On December 3, Jean-Marc Pontroué, Roger Dubuis CEO, and supermodel Stephanie Seymour (above) hosted a private dinner at the new Thompson Miami Beach hotel. The approximate 100 persons who attended, included Russell Simmons, Jonathan Cheban, Geoff Stults and Klaus Biesenbach of MoMA.

Velvet Haute Couture Mink Fur

The event was a chance to showcase the Swiss watch brand’s new Velvet Haute Couture collection, a limited edition of three models within the brand’s Velvet ladies collection. All of the models in the collection have a big dose of glamour with distinguishable design characteristics, such as graphic split-level dials and dynamic numerals tapering toward the center. As the face of the Velvet collection, Seymour was on hand along with her husband Peter Brant.

Karolina Kurkova wears Forevermark diamond jewelry at IWC Gala.

Also on December 3, Karolina Kurkova was adorned in Forevermark diamonds while attending a gala event hosted by Swiss luxury watch brand, IWC at W South Beach Hotel. The model was wearing the Forevermark Cluster Shield Ring and Teardrop Earrings. The event was held to mark the launch of the new Portofino Midsize watch collection.

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