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Monday, July 21, 2014

Tiffany & Co. CEO Michael Kowalski to Retire; Frederic Cumenal Named as Successor

Michael J. Kowalski

Longtime Tiffany & Co. CEO, Michael J. Kowalski, will retire effective March 31, 2015, the luxury jewelry retailer announced Monday.Frederic Cumenal, Tiffany president, has been tapped to succeed him.

Kowalski, 62, joined Tiffany in 1983, became its in 1999 and assumed the role of chairman of the board in 2003. He will continue to serve on the board in the role of non-executive chairman following his retirement. 

“I am immensely satisfied by what we have accomplished at Tiffany over the past 30 years, and I am confident that the company is superbly positioned for the future,” Kowalski said in a statement. “Frederic Cumenal is ideally suited to succeed me as chief executive officer, and we will continue to work closely together to ensure a seamless transition.”

Cumenal, 54, was named Tiffany’s president in September 2013, with responsibilities for worldwide sales and distribution as well as design, merchandising and marketing functions. At that time he was also appointed to a newly created seat on the Tiffany’s board. Cumenal initially joined Tiffany in March 2011 as an executive vice president with responsibilities for sales and distribution. He will succeed Kowalski on April 1, 2015.


Frederic Cumenal

“This is an extraordinary company with a fantastic heritage and an exciting future,” Cumenal said. “I am deeply honored to be selected as its leader and look forward enthusiastically to capitalizing on the many opportunities ahead.”

Prior to joining Tiffany, Cumenal held senior leadership positions for 15 years in LVMH Group’s wine and spirits businesses, most recently as president and chief executive officer of Moët & Chandon, S.A. He previously served as CEO of Domaine Chandon, and was managing director of Moët Hennessy Europe.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Jewelry Creations of Zorab Atelier

18k pink gold and palladium Bull Ring with White diamonds, yellow diamonds, black diamonds, blue diamonds, green diamonds, two bezel-set orange sapphires, pink diamonds, six black spinels. It took six weeks to complete this piece.

True Brazilian Paraiba tourmaline has become one of the rarest gems in the world. Named after the region of Brazil where they exist, the mines in this area are near depleted and according to several sources only bits and pieces remain of the turquoise to green gems.

62-carat Brazilian Paraiba  ring in 18k yellow gold studded with diamonds. It retails for approximately $420,000.

(This is not to be confused with similar looking gems from Nigeria and Mozambique that is also being called “paraiba.”)

So imagine my surprise when an exhibitor at the recently held JCK Luxury tradeshow in Las Vegas showed me not one but two 18k yellow gold rings studded with diamonds and centered with true Brazilian Paraiba stones weighing 62 carats and 47 carats. The rings are from Zorab Atelier de Creation and is an example of its mastery in obtaining rare gemstones.

Bloom Tiger Striped Flower Ring in black diamonds, blue sapphire, pink sapphire, 18k gold, silver, tsavorite garnet and white diamonds.

The Lebanese-based family jeweler’s other mastery is creating bespoke and limited edition pieces from all types of rare and unusual gems that range from classic jewelry to masculine-themed art objects loaded with a variety of stones employing refined artistry and craftsmanship. Items range from a tiger striped flower ring featuring black diamonds, white diamonds, blue diamonds, yellow diamonds, and spinel; to a bracelet made of multi-colored diamonds, orange sapphires, red sapphires, spesertite garnets, yellow sapphires and white diamonds., white diamonds, palladium, gold, and spinel. There was even gem-encrusted ring in the shape of a bull.

Diamond Scales Serpent bracelet with black and white diamonds, gold, palladium and spinels.

Henri and Liza Istamboulian, the second generation family members who now run the 40-year-old business, say the company produces about 500 pieces a year of limited edition and bespoke jewelry and each item can take from six months to a year to complete. They are fully invested in the process from the mine to market. They source their gems from Africa and South America, including Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar and have their gem cutting operation in Bangkok.

Blue Cascade Drop Earrings in white sapphire, gold, and palladium.

To find their pieces you have to do a little work as they appear in fewer than 30 luxury retail stores throughout the world, including the firm’s flagship location in Beirut. Its largest market is the US, particularly Texas and California. It accounts for nearly half of their doors and is so large that the company opened an office in San Diego.

Tiger Lily Flower Brooch in black diamonds, white diamonds, blue diamonds, yellow diamonds, and spinel.

Their highly elaborate pieces are popular among those with specific tastes and deep pockets. Clients include oil tycoons from Russia to Texas as well as international celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. They are also popular in Asia, from China to Indonesia.

Delicate Brilliance Jeweled Earrings in amethyst, quartz, blue and white diamonds, blue topaz, and blue zircon.

Expansion isn’t necessary in their plans, they said, but the possibility of a second branded boutique is possible.

Fire-Bred Horse bracelet in multi-colored diamonds, orange sapphires, red sapphires, spesertite garnets, yellow sapphires and white diamonds.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Meissen Porcelain Jewelry Combines German Craftsmanship and Italian Design

Meissen Montgolfière with Meissen Boule Dragon in rose gold, 310 white diamonds and hand-painted Meissen Porcelain. It is modeled after the invention of the hot air balloon by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783, enabling air travel for the first time.

Porcelain isn’t the first material that comes to mind when thinking of jewelry. However, when the company producing the pieces is the 300-year-old German porcelain brand, Meissen Couture, the material will be used.

Fortunately, two years ago the company created a new division, Meissen Italia, based in Milan, bringing modern design and new products that complement the craftsmanship of Europe’s oldest and best-known porcelain manufacturer.

This separate division produces everything from couture evening gowns and accessories to furnishings, artwork, and jewelry and watches. It’s headquartered in a 4,000-square-foot showroom on Milan’s most prestigious shopping street, Via Montenapoleone.

Mystery pendant and ring in green hand painted Meissen Porcelain, rose gold and champagne diamonds.

Meissen Italia is largely a feminine world, every bit as delicate as the decorated porcelain pieces that makes its foundation. The jewelry I’ve seen at Baselworld for the past two years certainly reflects this. Hand-painted porcelain is the starting point for the various collections it introduced at Baselworld 2014. But the lines expand into other materials, including crystal, diamonds, colored gems and gold.

Violet Dragon Mystery Ring in hand painted dragon Meissen Porcelain with amethyst and gold and diamond swords (the brand’s famous trademark) set on a rose gold ring studded with diamonds.

The brand’s “my little Mystery” collection features porcelain in various hand-painted shades topped with faceted crystal, giving the appearance of a colored gem. The oval-shaped rings, earrings and pendant necklaces are set with rose or white gold and surrounded by round diamonds.

Rose gold Follia necklace with 258 champagne-colored diamonds and hand-painted Meissen Porcelain.

1739 Royal Blossom Collection targets a younger demographic, “but one which has just as high standards in terms of quality and value,” said Ileana Turrini, Meissen Couture public relations and communications Manager.

Blossom Boule ring in rose gold and pavé diamonds.

The jewels are inspired by snowball blossoms, which were a gift from King Augustus II to his wife, Maria Josepha. Along with porcelain, the collection combines gold, precious stones and elastic knit. “It is a new way to think about jewelry simplicity and a more informal attitude as a way to create fascinating and eye-catching features,” Turrini said.

Two engagement rings, both with diamond center stones with one surrounded by a heart-shaped halo made of 12 white diamonds.

There’s also a bridal line featuring simple, delicate solitaire engagement rings with a round diamond and white gold. In some cases the center diamond is haloed by diamonds in the shape of a heart. To go with them are white and rose gold wedding bands, featuring the crossed swords engraving, the famous Meissen trademark.

Mini Swords earrings in rose gold and full pavé champagne-colored diamonds. The crossed swords is the brand’s famous trademark.

The crossed swords also makes its mark in its own jewelry line featuring gold and pavé diamonds and in other collections.

Pendant Bird House, with chain in white gold, diamonds and a Kogolong stone in the shape of a cube.

The Haute Couture collection includes the Montgolfière collection modeled after the invention of the hot air balloon by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783, enabling air travel for the very first time. The hand-painted porcelain “balloons” depicts different scenes, such as Arabian Nights and butterflies, colorful dragons, the city of Venice, and Chinese themes. Similar Chinese motifs appear again in jewelry as objets d’arts based on pagodas and bird houses. 

Perhaps a nod to the Chinese who were the first to master porcelain production but more likely a tradition of Messen from its beginnings to use fanciful Chinese-inspired in many of its porcelain works.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Shawish Adds Light to A Jewel’s Sparkle

Shawish bespoke Octopus bracelet in pink gold, paved with white, brown and yellow round-brilliant diamonds and centered with a pink pearl. This one-of-a-kind bracelet not only sparkles but it emits colorful light from within.

When I first learned of Shawish Genève prior to Baselworld 2014, I wondered why I was not familiar with this company. It produces bespoke and limited edition traditional high jewelry creations. I assumed the company has been around for 100 years or so and should have been on my radar.


It turns out this is a relatively new firm founded in 2008 that enhances old-world high jewelry design and craftsmanship with modern technology, whether it’s in the making of its products or in way the pieces are used. Mohamed Shawesh, co-founder of Shawish, describes it as “a marriage between high jewelry and technology” and “the art of jewelry and innovation.”

The 18k white gold necklace from the Princess Collection features blue sapphires (92.23 ctw.) and diamonds (24.83 ctw.).

Shawesh, whose family of Libyan descent has been in the luxury gem business for generations, reminded me at Baselworld that I had heard about the company when in 2011 it created the first ring made entirely of a faceted diamond (in this case a 150-carat stone). He explained that this was the young company’s attempt to attract international attention and at the same time demonstrate its laser cutting technological capabilities. It worked. The YouTube video of the ring attracted more than 400,000 views.

The Octopus bracelet being worn. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Its technological prowess may even be more noticeable with its Octopus bracelet (video above). The bespoke piece paved in diamonds not only sparkles but it emits colorful light from within. Then there’s bejeweled mushroom pendant necklace that contains a USB port that the company is calling the world’s most expensive USB port. All of the creations, even the diamond ring, are designed to be worn and used.

The bejeweled Magic Mushroom in the open and closed position is made in pink gold 11.35 carats of pink sapphires and diamonds. It opens to reveal a USB port that contains Luxury VIP services based on the owner’s lifestyle and interests. Shawish is calling it the world’s most expensive USB port.


The company also produces true traditional pieces that use precious materials, design and craftsmanship to tell stories. This includes the Princess collection, which combines 18k white gold with diamond pave with touches of faceted blue sapphires; its Teddy Bear pendant, which depicts a teddy bear paved with brown, black and white diamonds resting on a diamond pave quarter moon. The bear’s cap is covered in pink sapphires.

The flexible Mermaid Tail ring from the Beauty of the Sea Collection has white diamonds and pink sapphires set in 18k white gold.

There’s also the Moonlight collection, which sparkles in 18k white and diamonds; and the different shapes and styles of a Mermaid’s tail in white and pink gold, paved with white diamonds, pink and yellow sapphires, or black diamonds for its Beauty of the Sea collection.

18k white gold Teddy Bear pendant is enhanced with pink sapphires (1.94 ctw.). The total Diamond carat weight is 11.49 ctw., and includes black diamonds, brown diamonds and white diamonds.

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18k white Moonlight earrings set with 347 white diamonds (15.7tcw.).


The Magic Mushroom USB pendant at work. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Saturday, July 12, 2014

$2 Million Richard Mille RM 56-02 Sapphire Tourbillon


Cutting edge watchmaker, Richard Mille, has introduced the RM 56-02 Sapphire Tourbillon with a new movement. It will be unveiled at the Watches & Wonders event in Hong Kong in late September but here is an early look at the luxury brand’s latest example of extreme horology. It is reportedly priced at just over $2 million and is limited to 10 examples worldwide.

This new piece incorporates the same sapphire case design and sapphire baseplate, bridges and third wheel of its previous two models, the RM 56 and RM 56-01, and took cues from the mechanical architecture of the cabled suspended movement in its highly acclaimed RM 27-01 Rafael Nadal. 

The baseplate of the RM 56-02, created from grade 5 titanium, is entirely suspended within the sapphire watchcase by a single braided cable of 0.35mm thickness, woven within a system of four pulleys on posts at the movement’s corners and another six pulleys placed along the movement’s periphery. The tension of the cable is controlled by a miniature ratchet at 9 o’clock. This entire cable unit is attached to a separate indicator located below 12 o’clock so the cable tension is easily seen.


Other parts of the movement have also been optimized for transparency. In this case Richard Mille’s engineers have added to the previous use of sapphire movement parts in the Rafael Nadal watch with a new design of a winding barrel bridge, tourbillon and center bridges in sapphire. 

The three-part ergonomically curving sapphire case of the RM 56-02, designed to hug the wrist, is milled and ground from blocks of solid sapphire by Stettler in Lyss, Switzerland. It took 40 days of 24/7 continuous machining in order to produce one case followed by 400 hours of machining and finishing for the different movement bridges.

The case of the RM 56-02, with anti-glare protection on both front and back bezels, is waterproof to 30 meters due to two transparent nitrile O-rings assembled with 24 spline screws in grade 5 titanium. The partially translucent strap created from Aerospace Nano by Biwi SA, exclusively for Richard Mille, provides a silky and almost organic responsiveness to the skin that complements the ergonomic attributes of the RM 56-02 on the wrist, the company said. 

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Daryl Wickstrom To Lead Sotheby’s International Jewelry And Watch Divisions


Sotheby’s on Friday named longtime executive Daryl Wickstrom as international managing director of Sotheby’s Worldwide Jewelry and Watch Divisions. In this newly-created role, he will be tasked with expanding activity and growing sales in these areas, which experienced record results in recent years, the New York-based multinational company said in a statement. 

Wickstrom will work closely with David Bennett, Lisa Hubbard and Quek Chin Yeow, the company’s three Jewelry chairmen, Tim Bourne, worldwide head of Watches, and Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Diamonds, the company said. He will oversee activities in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the company’s expanding Sotheby’s Diamonds retail business and related private sales activity.

The announcement was made by Bruno Vinciguerra, Sotheby’s chief operating officer. 

Wickstrom joined Sotheby’s in 1996 and was appointed executive VP and deputy chairman, Asia, in July 2008. He was instrumental in developing the growth strategy in Asia and particularly Sotheby’s expansion in China. During his time in this role, total sales in Asia surpassed $1 billion in 2011.

From 2002 through 2008 Wickstrom served as managing director of Sotheby’s Global Auction Division. During his tenure, he orchestrated many significant single-owner sales and helped launch of Sotheby’s Diamonds retail venture in 2005, the company said.  

In 2013, Sotheby’s saw its highest-ever annual totals for its jewelry and watch categories, with worldwide Jewelry sales achieving $529 million, and worldwide Watch sales reaching $97 million. This spring, Sotheby’s set new benchmark prices for: any jadeite jewel and any jewel by Cartier (the Hutton-Mdivani Necklace, $27.4 million); any yellow diamond and any jewel by Graff (the Graff Vivid Yellow, $16.3 million); and any ruby (29.62-Carat Oval Burmese Ruby, $7.3 million). In addition, world auction records were set this spring at Sotheby’s for several iconic models by Patek Philippe: any Ref. 5207P ($867,000); any contemporary time-only watch by the firm ($737,000); any Celestial model ($545,000); and any Ref. 5033 ($509,000).

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Lalique Opens First Jewelry Boutique In A Century And Unveils New Jewelry Collection

Entrance of the new Lalique jewelry boutique in Paris at 20 rue de la Paix.

It took over a century for Lalique to return to its roots and did so in a big way.

Lalique Soleil de Gaïa Necklace consisting of three rows of hematite beads (86 517ctw.), two rows of 82 bezel-set blue sapphires (11.13ctw.), green sapphires (30 4.39 ctw.) and 16 yellow sapphires (2.28 ctw.), set in yellow gold. In addition, two Scarabée motifs in yellow gold paved with one 160 diamonds (5.66 ctw.), 108 black spinels (4.16 ctw.), two hematites (4.43ctw.), four triplets of cabochon-cut opal (14.49 ctw.) and engraved white mother-of-pearl, lacquer. The piece can used for five different looks.

The French luxury recently opened its first jewelry-dedicated boutique since its founder opened the first store nearly 110 years ago.

Lalique chandelier made of 2,500 Gourmande rings serves as the centerpiece for its new jewelry-dedicated boutique in Paris.

The 860-square-foot fine jewelry showcase is in the heart of Paris at 20 rue de la Paix, near where the firm’s founder, René Lalique, opened his first jewelry store in 1905. He later went on to specialize in glasswork. In addition to jewelry, the company is now known for its crystal and glasswork in uses ranging from decorative and functional items to large works of art, and for its perfumes.

Lalique Soleil de Gaïa Rrng

The 430-square-foot-space displays some 200 pieces from the brand’s fine jewelry and high jewelry collections, as well as a selection of iconic pieces such as the Gourmande ring and the Mascottes cufflinks. Bridal jewelry will be shown at a dedicated space nearby.

First floor of the Lalique jewelry boutique.

If a customer wanted to see more Gourmande rings he or she would simply have to look up where a chandelier sparkles with the light of 2,500 Gourmande rings.

Lalique Soleil de Gaïa pendant

One level below, a 430-square-foot area serves as a private salon in an intimate setting reflecting the 1900 World’s Fair. Here, the brand’s crystal craftsmanship and its latest collaborative designs, featuring limited edition pieces such as the Lalique-Parmigiani Fleurier table clocks, crystal perfume bottles and the Caran d’Ache line of pens, will be on display.

VIP room of the Lalique jewelry boutique

In a tribute to René Lalique, the store, designed by the Pustetto Agency, reflects both Art Nouveau and Art Deco themes. Its Art-Nouveau inspired lines are extended to the design of the wall displays and staircase that leads to the private salon with Aster panels in Lalique crystal decorated with a plant motif in micro-relief (pictured below).


Lalique celebrated the new opening this week with the release of a new Art Deco jewelry collection, Soleil de Gaïa. The company said the opening of the new shop seals the resurrection of the brand’s two-year return to the rebirth of fine jewelry.

Jewelry display in the VIP room.

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