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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Modest Improvement to Consumer Confidence Index

Image from the Christian Science Monitor
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had declined in July, improved moderately in August. The Index now stands at 53.5 (1985=100), up from 51.0 in July. The Present Situation Index decreased to 24.9 from 26.4. The Expectations Index increased to 72.5 from 67.5 last month.

“Consumer confidence posted a modest gain in August, the result of an improvement in consumers’ short-term outlook,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions, however, was less favorable as employment concerns continue to weigh heavily on consumers’ attitudes. Expectations about future business and labor market conditions have brightened somewhat, but overall, consumers remain apprehensive about the future. All in all, consumers are about as confident today as they were a year ago (Aug. 2009, 54.5).”

Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions continued to weaken in August. Those claiming business conditions are “good” decreased to 8.7 percent from 8.8 percent. However, those stating business conditions are “bad” declined to 41.9 percent from 43.3 percent. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market deteriorated further. Those saying jobs are “hard to get” increased to 45.7 percent from 45.1 percent, while those claiming jobs are “plentiful” declined to 3.8 percent from 4.4 percent.

Consumers’ expectations improved moderately in August, but overall, they remain pessimistic. Those anticipating an improvement in business conditions over the next six months increased to 17 percent from 15.8 percent, while those anticipating conditions will worsen declined to 13.4 percent from 15.3 percent.

Consumers were also slightly less pessimistic about future employment prospects. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased to 14.6 percent from 14.2 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs decreased to 19.4 percent from 20.9 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes held steady at 10.6 percent.

The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households. The monthly survey is conducted for The Conference Board by TNS, a custom research company.

Charity Watch Auction to Support a Cure for MS

The New York office of watch auctioneer, Antiquorum, will be the scene of a watch and jewelry auction that will support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in their goal of creating a world free of multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease of the central nervous system.

The invitation only MissionMS Auction will take place on October 20 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Antiquorum Auctioneers on Madison Avenue. Antiquorum will be conducting the charity auction as well as donating their auction space.

Registration for bidding as well as the auction catalogue will be available at beginning October 1. The auction will be conducted live at Antiquorum, with real-time bidding on the Internet at Audemars Piguet, Cartier, Carrera Y Carrera and Hublot are among the watch and jewelry brands that have donated timepieces for this event.

“Antiquorum is extremely honored to conduct this unique charity auction benefiting The Multiple Sclerosis Society,” says Evan Zimmermann, Antiquorum president. “This is an exceptional opportunity for people around the globe to acquire extraordinary timepieces from the world’s leading watch brands and simultaneously help to spread awareness and eliminate this debilitating disease.”

The National MS Society‘s mission is to create a world free of MS, a chronic disease of the central nervous system characterized by changes in sensation, visual problems, weakness, depression, difficulties with coordination, balance and speech, impaired mobility and disability.

Gemstone Found in North Carolina Farm Produces 65-ct. Emerald

The Carolina Emperor, photo by Terry Ledford provided by the AP

A North Carolina farm has yielded an emerald that may be the biggest ever uncovered in North America, The Associated Press reports.

This Aug 17, 2009, photo provided by Terry Ledford shows the Carolina Emperor emerald prior to cutting, with a U.S. 25-cent coin in the foreground, photo provided by the AP.

The 65-carat emerald, nicknamed the Carolina Emperor, was cut from a gem pulled from a farm in the rural community of Hiddenite, about 60 miles northwest of Charlotte, the AP reports. Terry Ledford, 53, found the roughly 2-inch-square chunk rimmed with spots of iron a year ago on a 200-acre farm owned by business partner Renn Adams, 90, and his siblings. The rural community of Hiddenite is named for a paler stone that resembles emerald.

Photo by Christie's
Gemologist C.R. "Cap" Beesley, who reportedly examined the emerald, who reportedly examined the emerald, compared it to an emerald brooch once owned by Empress Catherine the Great of Russia (pictured left). The brooch, also approximately 65 cts., sold at auction in April for $1.65 million.

Gitanjali to Pay Up To $15M for Italian Brand

Mehul Choksi
India’s largest diamond jewelry manufacturer and retailer is about two weeks away from acquiring a major Italian brand, according to media reports.

Mehul Choksi, chairman and managing director of Gitanjali Group, told India’s the company is spending about $10 to $15 million for the acquisition of the yet unnamed brand. The idea is to market this brand’s products throughout the company’s growing international network, which includes the Samuels and Rogers jewelry chain in the U.S., more than 20 retail brands in India and retail outlets in the Middle East, China and Japan.

He said the purchase could result in a 10 to 15 percent growth in revenue for the company.

A transcript and video of the interview can be found here.

Gitanjali Gems Ltd., its trading name, is an integrated diamond and jewelry retailing and manufacturing company in India. Its business portfolio includes rough diamond sourcing, cutting, polishing, jewelry manufacture and distribution to its jewelry branding and retail operations. Its brands include Gili, Nakshatra, Asmi, Sangini, D’damas, Vivaaha and Giantti. It has two segments: diamond and jewelry. In the diamond segment, it engages in an end-to-end diamond processing chain which begins with marking, cleaving, sawing, cutting and polishing. In the jewelry segment, process for the manufacturing of diamond studded and other jewelry flows from designing, model and mould making, waxing and wax setting, casting, sprue binding, filling, polishing, metal setting and rodium polish.

Frédérique Constant, Cohiba Cigars Launch Limited Edition Watches

Luxury Swiss watchmaker Frédérique Constant Genève has partnered with Cohiba premium cigars to create two bespoke wristwatches exclusively for the U.S. and its territories, including the U.S Virgin Islands. The “Frédérique Constant for Cohiba Limited Edition” timepieces will be unveiled exclusively at a private VIP reception on September 22 at Club Macanudo in New York City.

Designed in homage to the Cohiba brand, the handcrafted Swiss wristwatches boast an ivory-colored dial with tobacco brown Roman numerals, housed in a sleek case embellished by a hand-sewn tobacco brown Croco-calf strap.

Only 376 individually-numbered pieces will be available. The steel and the rose gold-plated wristwatches (limited to 188 pieces each) will be available solely at authorized Frédérique Constant retailers.

The watches and cigars are presented inside a wooden humidor box with a crystal window to reveal the product inside. Each humidor will contain 25 Cohiba Crystal cigars, handmade in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Cohiba cigar was reformulated in the 1990s and is the only Cohiba cigar that can be purchased legally in the United States.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Global Gold Jewelry Demand Down 5%

The cost and demand of gold as an investment vehicle has resulted in a slight drop in its use for jewelry manufacturing in the second quarter, according to the World Gold Council. However, the organization said the decline is subsiding in its key Asian markets.

“Over the past quarter, demand for gold jewelry in key Asian markets has been challenged by rising local prices,” said Marcus Grubb, WBC managing director, Investment. “Nevertheless, we are seeing a deceleration in the pace of decline in demand, providing a strong outlook for ongoing recovery in this crucial market segment.”

In the face of surging price levels, global jewelry consumption totaled 408.7 tons during the second quarter of 2010, 5 percent below year-earlier levels, the WGC said in its Gold Demand Trends report for the second quarter of 2010.

Gold jewelry demand in India, the largest jewelry market, was down just 2 percent at 123 tons. In local currency terms, this translates to a 20% increase in the value of demand, WGC said. Meanwhile, China saw demand for gold jewelry increase by 5 percent to 75.4 tons. While growth in demand in tonnage terms was hindered by extreme weather conditions, the growth in the local currency value measure of demand was 35 percent.

The WGC did not include figures for the U.S. jewelry demand in its release of the report for the media.

Total gold demand for the second quarter rose by 36 percent to 1,050 tons, largely reflecting strong gold investment demand compared to the second quarter of 2009, the WGC reports. In US value terms, demand increased 77 percent to $40.4 billion.

Investment demand was the strongest performing segment during the second quarter, posting a rise of 118 percent to 534.4 tons, compared with 245.4 tons in the second quarter of 2009. The largest contribution to this rise came from the ETF segment of investment demand, which grew by 414 percent to 291.3 tons, the second highest quarter on record. Physical gold bar demand, which largely covers the non-western markets, rose 29 percent for the period to 96.3 tons.

“While many investors turned to gold as a ‘flight to quality’ in response to the uncertain financial environment, this interest has proved resilient even though a sense of optimism has started to return to some sectors of the investment community,” Grubb said. “In addition to the ETF market and physical bar and coin market, the demand for gold through internet based investment platforms is likely to provide further sources of investment demand.”

The WGC said demand for gold will remain robust during 2010 as a result of accelerating demand from India and China, as well as increasing global investment demand driven by continuing uncertainty over public debt and economic recovery.

“Economic uncertainties and the ongoing search for less volatile and more diversified assets such as gold will underpin investment demand for gold in the immediate future,” Grubb said. “Further, in light of lingering concerns over public debt levels and the euro, European retail investor demand has increased significantly.”

Company Offers New Views of Man-Made Diamonds is an online store that sells created, or laboratory grown diamonds. It has added video for some of its offerings, which allows consumers more options to view these diamonds before purchasing.

The company recently launched its channel on YouTube, so now it is possible to watch the videos alongside pictures of gems, like this fancy cognac diamond.

The Fort Washington, Pa.-based company said the main advantage is that each gem is videotaped separately in HD quality to make it easier for the viewers to concentrate on a particular diamond gem. In addition, the gemstones are shown from all the angles, so that it is possible to see each facet individually and enjoy amazing color play so peculiar for diamonds.

“It will ease the routine of selecting precious stones, give more confidence to a customer to be sure in making the right choice and help to get true picture of the product,” the company said in a statement. says it offers created diamonds produced by the well known laboratories in variety of colors and guaranteed to be eco-friendly, conflict free and real diamonds which posses the same optical, physical and chemical characteristics as of natural mined diamonds.

Platinum Jewelry on the Red Carpet at the Primetime Emmy Awards

 Platinum jewelry played a pivotal role at Sunday’s Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. A-list television stars opted for classic elegance by wearing platinum jewelry. Whether it was a pair of stud earrings with brilliant white diamonds as seen on Kim Kardashian, or stacked cuff bracelets with colored gemstones on Kyra Sedgwick, platinum transcended all jewelry trends.

The television stars who wore platinum for the awards program are as follows:
Lea Michele: Platinum and multi-colored mesh diamond necklace, two platinum and champagne diamond bracelets, and a pair of platinum and champagne diamond stud earrings (10 cts.) by Lorraine Schwartz.  

Emily Blunt: Platinum and diamond bangle, platinum and diamond ring, platinum and diamond flower hair pin, and a pair of platinum and diamond stud earrings by Lorraine Schwartz. Emily’s jewelry complemented her platinum engagement ring and wedding band by Neil Lane.

Kim Kardashian: Platinum cuff with champagne and white diamonds (80 cts.), platinum and diamond stud earrings (15 carats), platinum and diamond pinky ring (8 cts.), and platinum and diamond hair pins by Lorraine Schwartz.

January Jones: Platinum and diamond stud earrings (10.12 cts. of flawless diamonds), and a platinum and yellow diamond ring by Cartier.

Kelly Osbourne: Platinum bracelets with black and white diamonds, and a pair of platinum earrings with black diamonds (14 cts. each) by Martin Katz.

Amy Poehler: Platinum and diamond drop earrings, bracelet and ring by Stephen Russell.

Julie Bowen: Platinum and diamond stud earrings and bracelets by Neil Lane.

Dianna Agron: Platinum earrings with 246 brilliant-cut diamonds and 2 briolette diamonds (2.54 cts.) by Cartier.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Platinum and brown diamond ring (8 cts.) by Chopard.

Elisabeth Moss: Platinum and diamond earrings (33 cts.), two bracelets (179 cts. total), and two rings by Chopard.

Tina Fey: Platinum and black diamond tassel bracelet by Lorraine Schwartz.

Kyra Sedgwick: Platinum bracelets with multi-colored gemstones, platinum ring with rubellite (60 cts.) and diamonds, and a pair of blackened platinum drop earrings by Ofira.

Lauren Graham: Blackened platinum and diamond star earrings, platinum and diamond bangle, two platinum and diamond rings, and a platinum ring with black agate and diamonds by Ofira.

Heather Morris: Platinum and diamond stud earrings, and bracelet by Kwiat.

Cheryl Hines: Platinum and diamond bracelet (37 cts.) by Chopard.

Jenna Fischer: Platinum and natural rough diamond ring (45.61 cts.) by Diamond In The Rough.

Keri Russell: Platinum jewelry by Cathy Waterman.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Signet Sales Up 1.7%, Same Store Sales Up 4.5 Led by U.S. Performance

Signet Jewelers, the world's largest specialty retail jeweler, reported Thursday that total sales rose by 1.7 percent to $722.8 million and same-store sales rose 4.5 percent in second quarter, ended August 1. Income before taxes for the Bermuda-based jewelry retailer rose 48.8 percent to $57.3 million. Net income was $40.7 million, an increase of 47.5 percent.

“We are pleased with our performance in the second quarter,” Terry Burman, said Signet chief executive of the company which operates jewelry retail stores in the U.S. and U.K “The outlook for the rest of Fiscal 2011 is uncertain. However, we will continue to invest in the business, increase advertising during the holiday season and expand further the availability of differentiated merchandise, in an effort to continue to gain profitable market share."

Sales in the U.S. (which accounted for 80.4 of total group sales for the period) rose 5.1 percent to $580.8 million and operating income rose 26 percent to $63.3 million. Same-store sales rose 5.9 percent. Average unit selling price across all store brands rose 4.7 percent to $407. Kay jewelers reported sales of $325.4 million with same-store sales increasing by 2.6 percent. Jared reported sales of $190.7 million and same-store sales jumped 14 percent.

Sales in the U.K. (which accounted for 19.6 percent of total group sales for the period) fell 2 percent in constant exchange rates and same-store sales fell 0.5 percent. Operating income however rose to $4.7 million compared with only $1 million one year ago. Average unit selling prices increased 12 percent. A stronger dollar, record gold prices and higher tax rates drove gross margin lower by 30 basis points in second quarter. Signet observed no real change in economic activity during the second quarter compared with the first quarter in the U.K.

“The consumer environment in both the US and the UK remained challenging in the year to date, however the business continued to utilize its competitive advantages to improve sales, enhance margins, and strengthen its balance sheet,” the company said in its report.

Signet operates 1,893 stores, including 1,345 stores in the U.S., where it trades as Kay Jewelers, Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry and under a number of regional names. Signet also operated 548 stores in the UK division, where it trades as H.Samuel, Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis.

Tiffany 2Q Worldwide Sales Up 9%

While much of the jewelry and luxury industries are struggling to come to grips with the unsettled economic environment, Tiffany & Co. continues to experience significance growth.

The luxury jewelry retailer said Friday that its worldwide net sales rose 9 percent to $668.8 million in the second quarter, year-over-year, with solid growth in most regions. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, which excludes the effect of translating foreign-currency-denominated sales into U.S. dollars, worldwide net sales rose 8 percent and same store sales (a strong indication of growth or weakness among stores) rose 5 percent.

Net earnings from continuing operations rose 19 percent to $67.7 million for the period ended July 31, which the company said is due to higher operating margins. Net earnings from continuing operations adjusted to exclude nonrecurring items rose 45 percent. As a result, the company modestly increased its full year earnings growth outlook.

“Tiffany's financial performance in the quarter continued to demonstrate the benefits derived from a growing global presence, with roughly half of our sales now occurring outside the U.S.,” Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “In the quarter, we were pleased that sales increased in most countries and product categories.”

Despite the overall growth in sales, Mark Aaron, Tiffany vice president-Investor Relations, said in a conference call Friday that sales were hurt due to “softer than expected” growth of 8 percent to 350.4 million in the Americas, which consists of the U.S., Canada and Latin/South America. However, Aaron described sales growth in Asia-Pacific region as “generally solid” and offset the weaker growth areas, which also includes Japan, which he said was “probably not surprising.”

In the Americas, sales increased 8 percent to $350.4 million in the second quarter, “which was lighter than we expected, especially due to softness earlier in the quarter,” Aaron said. “The 8 percent increase entirely resulted from an increase in the average transaction size.” He added that the company reported “healthy growth” in most transactions price points, particularly at the highest end. However, transactions under $500 declined.

On a constant-exchange-rate basis, sales rose 7 percent and same store sales increased 5 percent for the quarter. Sales in the New York flagship store rose 8 percent (due primarily to increased tourism) while Americas' branch store sales increased 4 percent. Internet and catalog sales in the Americas fell 2 percent for the period. Aaron noted, “continued and pronounced softness” in the company’s Southwest U.S. region, which includes of Southern California, Arizona and Las Vegas.

Sales in the company’s Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) recorded a 21 percent increase in sales to $111.5 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, sales rose 17 percent for the period, with the largest percentage growth in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Korea. Same-store rose 7 percent. During the quarter, the company opened a store in the new Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore (its fourth in Singapore) and a store in the IFC Mall in Shanghai (its 12th in China).

In Japan, sales rose 4 percent to $118 million in the second quarter. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, sales declined 2 percent and same store sales fell 7 percent.

Europe was another strong performer for Tiffany, as sales increased 14 percent to $76.9 million in the second quarter. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, sales rose 25 percent, with similarly strong growth in the U.K. and continental Europe. Same store sales rose 21 percent for the period.

Other sales declined 19 percent to $11.9 million in the second quarter primarily due to lower wholesale sales of rough diamonds, the company said. 

“Worldwide sales grew in all major categories in the second quarter,” Aaron said. “Sales of engagement rings grew strongly in the Americas, the Asia-Pacific and Europe largely due to solid growth in units as well as higher average price. There was modest growth in statement jewelry sales over $50,000 and a continued strong performance in celebration rings and other popular jewelry collections, such as Victoria, Metro and Heart. The Keys collection remains strong at higher price points. There was a healthy demand for gold and platinum jewelry in contrast to silver jewelry sales, which were virtually equal to the prior year. The designer jewelry category had a good increase. And we pleased to see watch sales up more than 30 percent in the quarte,r reflecting strong interest in our new Tiffany brand design.

In addition, the company plans to release new products including a collection of yellow diamonds that were first launched in Japan and Australia and which will be available in all areas. Next week, the company plans to launch a much talked about collection of leather handbags and accessories in select U.S. stores and online.

In its 2010 outlook, Tiffany said it expects a worldwide sales increase of approximately 11 percent. By region, sales are expected to increase approximately 10 percent in the Americas, mid-twenties percentage in Asia-Pacific, to decline by a low-single-digit percentage in Japan and to increase by a mid-teens percentage in Europe. Other sales are expected to increase modestly from the prior year.

The company plans to open of 14 new stores in 2010 (five in the Americas, seven in Asia-Pacific and two in Europe).

“We look toward the second half of the year with a sense of guarded optimism, continuing to grow our worldwide store base and launching a range of exciting new products, including an extraordinary collection of jewelry with yellow diamonds and an enticing new collection of handbags and leather accessories, among many others,” Kowalski said. “So far in this third quarter, consolidated worldwide sales are growing at a low-double-digit percentage rate over last year, with varying results by region.”

The company increased its annual net earnings outlook to $2.60 - $2.65 per diluted share (from $2.55 - $2.60 previously.

Tiffany & Co. operates 223 TIFFANY & CO. stores and boutiques (91 in the Americas, 57 in Japan, 48 in Asia-Pacific and 27 in Europe), versus 211 locations a year ago (88 in the Americas, 57 in Japan, 42 in Asia-Pacific and 24 in Europe).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sierra Leone Diamond Exports Up 43%

Photo from AFP
Diamond exports from Sierra Leone increased by 43 percent in the first half of 2010 over the same period last year, reaching $51 million, the Government's Gold and Diamond Office reportedly said Wednesday.

In the first six months of 2009 exports totaled more than $35.8 million, Agence France-Presse reports the government saying in a press release. 

This is the highest amount of exports from the West African since the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme  was implemented in 2000, according to the Sierra Leone government.

The Kimberley process seeks to ensure the sale of diamonds does not fund violence.

Deputy Mining Minister Ignatius Koroma told AFP the figures are the result of a recent decision to reduce the fee for the export license for diamond dealers from $40,000 to $35,000, due to a slowing in the diamond market.

Sierra Leone's government has stepped up efforts to control the trafficking of diamonds across its borders, AFP reports.

The illegal trading of so called blood diamonds was rife in the country's decade-long civil war, which ended in 2002.

Harry Winston Closes Diavik Mine Deal

Harry Winston Diamond Corp. said Wednesday that it has paid $200 million to purchase a 9 percent interest in the Diavik Joint Venture from Kinross Gold Corp. With the transaction complete, Harry Winston now owns 40 percent of the Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Rio Tinto owns the remaining interest.

Kinross received $50 million in cash, $70 million in debt securities and 7.1 million shares of Harry Winston. The promissory note will bear interest at a rate of 5 percent annually with a maturity date of August 25, 2011.

The deal was first announced between the two Toronto-based companies on July 23.

Harry Winston Diamond Corp. is a specialist diamond enterprise with assets in the mining and retail segments of the diamond industry. Harry Winston supplies rough diamonds to the global market from its 40 per cent ownership interest in the Diavik Diamond Mine. The company's retail division is a premier diamond jeweler and luxury timepiece retailer with salons in key locations, including New York, Paris, London, Beijing, Tokyo, and Beverly Hills.

Kinross Gold Corp. is a gold mining company with mines and projects in Canada, the United States, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Russia.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Anna Paquin Weds in 50-Ct. Diamond Necklace

When True Blood actress Anna Paquin married her co-star, Stephen Moyer, Aug. 21, she wore a 50-ct. diamond necklace by Neil Lane, People magazine reports.

The round diamonds were set in darkened metal for a patina vintage style. “She wanted something with a vintage-inspired, romantic vibe,” Lane told People. Paquin, 28, also wore a pair of diamond studs from Lane.

People also reports that the wedding bands for both Paquin and Moyer were designed by Cathy Waterman.

Photo: People magazine

Halladay Gives Baum & Macier Watches to Phillies Organization

It’s not often that a sports story makes it on to the pages of JNN, but here it is. On May 29, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins, not allowing an opposing player to get on base. During the 135 years of Major League Baseball, a perfect game has been pitched 20 times. It is a rare feat. After all, it doesn’t get any better than perfect.

On Tuesday, to thank his teammates and others in the Phillies organization, Halladay gave each person a Baum & Macier watch, including coaches, clubhouse personnel and other staffers (even the bat boy), according to media reports. The 60 or so watches were engraved on the back with the date of the game and the linescore. Every watch was
personalized with the person’s name engraved on the back of their watch. The watches came enclosed in a brown box with the inscription, “We did it Together. Thanks, Roy Halladay.”

There are no details on the model of the watch given, whether it was the William Baume pictured, or another model.

Monday, August 23, 2010

UK Diamond Firm, Jewelry Buying Group Ban Zimbabwe Diamonds

UK-based diamond jewelry company MasterCut is refusing to buy rough diamonds from the Marange fields in Zimbabwe because the company said it doesn’t believe the human rights abuses that forced an international  ban on the diamonds hasn’t ended, according to media reports. The company has gone so far as to rally others to support its effort.

In addition, the Company of Masters Jewellers, which is the exclusive buyer of MasterCut diamonds, supports MasterCut's ban. CMJ is the largest independent jewelry buying group in the UK.

“We believe industry leadership is required to maintain consumer confidence, and would call on other diamond brands to confirm no Zimbabwean diamonds are being used in their diamond jewelry,” James Maxwell, MasterCut group marketing and strategy director, reportedly said. “Diamonds should be a force of good for Africa. Botswana has been a role model in sub-Saharan Africa, where it has demonstrated how diamond revenue can be channeled back into infrastructure, healthcare and education.

“We look forward to the time when we can buy from Zimbabwe, when diamonds are shown to be demonstrably beneficial to the country.”

Willie Hamilton, CMJ chief executive, reportedly added: “I support the ban one hundred percent. We jointly made this decision."

He continued, “There is too much uncertainty over whether the diamonds coming out of that country will be ethical. What constitutes ‘ethical’ also needs to be more comprehensively defined.”

The two groups have now joined the Rapaport Diamond Trading Network (RapNet), which has also banned diamonds from Zimbabwe. Martin Rapaport, who owns and operates the international diamond trading network, has warned its members that trading diamonds from Zimbabwe's Marange diamonds fields will result in expulsion from the network and having their names disclosed.

Beginning in 2008 the Zimbabwe army took over the Marange fields forcing out tens of thousands of small-scale miners. These miners were massacred by soldiers and villagers have been beaten, raped and forced to work as virtual slaves. The human rights abuses led to Zimbabwe's being suspended from the Kimberley Process, an organization of governments, diamond dealers and non-government organizations that attempts to combat “conflict” or “blood” diamonds by using a certification process to trace rough diamonds to their origins.

The KP voted to reinstate Zimbabwe in July, allowing two supervised exports of rough diamond from the Marange production. The first auction of 90,000 carats was held August 11and reportedly raised $72 million.  The second sale is scheduled for September 6.

North African ‘Desert Jewels’ Exhibit at Philadelphia Museum of Art

An exhibition of historic jewelry and photographs from North Africa will be on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in an exhibition called Desert Jewels, September 4 – December 5.

For thousands of years, North Africa, a region that comprises the modern nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Egypt, has been a crossroads for trade and the transmission of cultural influences from the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. This exhibition explores the richly diverse artistic heritage of North Africa through the presentation of a group of extraordinary works of the jeweler’s art collected over the course of three decades by Xavier Guerrand-Hermès, of the Paris-based fashion empire. It includes 93 pieces of jewelry complemented by 28 late 19th- and early 20th-century images by photographers who were captivated by the allure of North Africa. The exhibit features ornate necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings, many of which have not been publicly displayed before this exhibition.

The exhibit will be in the new Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, across the street from the main museum building.

“These objects illuminate the rich history of North African craftsmanship, which has been shaped by the imprint of many different cultural traditions,” said Timothy Rub, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s George D. Widener director and CEO. “We are pleased to collaborate with the Museum for African Art to share this exceptional collection, which is remarkable not only for its quality and great beauty, but also for the rich insights it provides into the customs and cultural diversity of North Africa.”

Examples of jewelry created with combinations of silver, coral, amber, coins, and semi-precious stones demonstrate the shared aesthetic heritage of many North African societies, the Philadelphia Museum said in a statement. Meanwhile, variations in materials and motifs reflect significant regional differences. Brightly colored necklaces of amazonite beads or large amber beads, such as the Three-Strand Necklace made in Morocco, symbolize wealth, while pendants or enameled beads known as tagguemout are used to encourage the wearer’s fertility. Many of the works in the exhibition indicate regional and group identity, and many were designed to protect the wearer from harm. Hand-shaped amulets, or Khamsa, typically made of silver, are the most popular form of protective jewelry, and are sometimes engraved with prayers and inscriptions in Arabic and Hebrew. The jewelry on view also identifies its wearer. Women receive jewelry from their husbands when they marry and wear it as a symbolic expression of social codes and cultural identity. Some of the jewelry on view is unique to a specific geographic location.

Beginning in the 1860s, European photographers seeking images of foreign locales, set up studios in the major cities of North Africa, photographing women wearing their jewels, as well as documenting markets, ancient archaeological sites and landscapes. The popularity of these photographs, which featured images of Arabs, Jews, Imazighen (also known as Berbers) and people from sub-Saharan Africa, reflected Europeans’ growing fascination with the so-called Orient.

These photographs came to the attention of Western collectors in the 19th century, when archaeological monuments in the region were being explored, visited, and, in some cases, pillaged. Important photographers of the day including the Scotsman George Washington Wilson, the Neurdine brothers from France, and the Turkish photographer Pascal Sabah, visited the region. Some of their images were used for postcards, while other remained in little-known collections.

Captions: (Top) Necklace with central pendant, Tagguemout, 20th Century, Draa Valley, Morocco, Silver, coral, enamel, coins, glass, copal, shell, cotton, plastic, buttons, Photo courtesy of Karen L. Willis/Museum for African Art.

(Second image) Hand pendant with salamander motif, Khamsa 19th or 20th Century, MoroccoSilver, bronze.

‘The Gem Hunter’ Provides Help to Afghan Gem Industry

American author and humanitarian Gary Bowersox, is in Kabul, Afghanistan, to assist the US government in revitalizing the Afghan gemstone industry while delivering help to Afghan children.  

Bowersox, also known as the “The Gem Hunter,” is leading a trip of 30 Afghan miners and dealers to travel to the Hong Kong Gem & Jewelry Fair (September 14-20).

The project is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), specifically its Afghanistan Small and Medium Enterprise Development (ASMED). It’s a joint effort with Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), a global consulting firm that provides social and economic development solutions. The full acronym for the effort is (Are you ready?): USAID/DAI/ASMED. Bowersox serves as the senior advisor for the gem industry.

Bowersox said most of the miners and dealers have never been outside Afghanistan, have no business background and only a few speak English. “It is a real challenge,” he said.

Bowersox, who lives in Hawaii, has spent the past year visiting the emerald mines in Panjshir Valley and the ruby mines at Jegdalek. In addition, he traveled to the schools in the mining areas as a representative of the Hawaii Kai Rotary International project to furnish school supplies for Afghan children and at the same time delivering eye glasses for the Kamehameha Lions Club. Bowersox is a member of both clubs.

“The poverty these poor children live in would shake anybody with any sense of dignity to their souls,” Bowersox said.

Bowersox said one of the best ways to help the people of Afghanistan is to purchase the country’s gems, which is a legally exported product. Opium is country’s largest illegal export. Among the gems found in Afghanistan are emeralds, tourmaline, spodumene, rubies and lapis lazuli—the country’s best-known gem.

Bowersox has been in the gem business for 40 years. His relationship with Afghanistan is long. In 1976, he received an exclusive license from the Ministry of Commerce of Afghanistan to import lapis-lazuli into the United States. In 1996, the Ministry of Mines and Industry in Kabul, Afghanistan appointed Bowersox as consultant to the ministry. However, continued fighting in Afghanistan has hindered many projects. In 2002, he was the subject in a documentary called The Gem Hunter in Afghanistan, which follows Bowersox from the Peshawar gem market over the high mountain passes of the Hindu Kush, and the steep mountain slopes to the Lapis and the Emerald mines of Afghanistan. He also authored the book about his experiences in Afghanistan called, The Gem Hunter.

Bowersox owns and operates GeoVision, Inc., in Hawaii, where he deals in gems and minerals from many parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Brazil, Burma, India, Kenya, Kazakistan, Kyrgistan, Madagascar, Pakistan, and Thailand.

Caption: Gary Bowersox (right) with the Afghan Minister of Mines H.E. Wahidullah Shahrani.

Anjolee Unveils the Timeless Dreams Diamond Tennis Bracelet

Internet jewelry retailer,, has added the Timeless Dreams Tennis Bracelet to its inventory. This diamond bracelet, style # SB846, has a classic, four-prong setting and brilliant round diamonds.

The bracelet setting is the nearly invisible prong design, placing the emphasis on the diamonds rather than the metal setting, the retailer said in a statement. In addition, it has virtually no gaps between the links, which creates a seamless strand of diamonds. Available in eleven different sizes that range from 2.5 cts. to 13.5 cts., customers have the ability to customize this diamond tennis bracelet by choosing the metal type, diamond quality and specifying the length.

The price for this bracelet starts at $1,143.25.

The Timeless Dreams Tennis Bracelet is the newest addition to Anjolee's "Diamond Dreams" collection. All of the tennis bracelets in the collection have a similar design. is part of the Sunrise Jewelry Manufacturing Corp. based in San Diego. Its products can be found in retail stores and on its Web site.

India’s Gems, Jewelry Exports Projected to increase by 10%

India’s gem and jewelry exports in 2010-11 (April-March) are likely to rise 10 percent, year-over-year, based on an improvement in demand for the US and China, according to Vasant Mehta, chairman of India’s Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council.

“It is very early to say how the US will perform, but it is coming up step-by-step and there are indications that demand from the world’s largest consumer will go up by at least 10 per cent from last year,” Mehta said addressing the media at the India International Jewellery Show in Mumbai. In 2009-10, India exported $28.41 billion worth gem and jewelry, up 16 per cent from the previous year.

He said that Chinese market was also looking promising and demand for Indian jewelry from West Asia was also on the rise reviving hopes of higher exports for the industry, according to the India's Business Standard publication.

Mehta added that the Indian participants received good response in series of buyers-seller meets organized by GJEPC with Chinese counterparts in the past few months.

India’s Gems and jewelry industry accounts for 17-23 percent of the total earnings for the country, he said.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Charles Taylor 'Blood Diamond' Trial Takes Its First Victim

Jeremy Ractliffe, head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, has resigned that position following testimony at The Hague war crimes trial of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, the charity said in a statement Thursday.

Ractliffe secretly kept three rough diamonds that were given to supermodel Naomi Campbell 13 years ago following a dinner at Nelson Mandela’s house. Campbell and then newly elected Liberian president Charles Taylor were among the guests at the dinner. Prosecutors are trying to tie those rough diamonds to Taylor, who is charged with five counts of war crime, five counts of crime against humanity, and violation of international humanitarian law. The prosecutors charge that the so-called blood diamonds were used to finance Taylor’s crime

Campbell testified two weeks ago that after the dinner she was preparing to go to sleep in one of Mandela’s bedrooms when strangers came to her door and gave her three rough diamonds. Campbell said she gave them to Ractliffe. Following the testimony, Ractliffe reportedly admitted that he took the stones from Campbell and kept them in his safe. He has since turned them over to South African authorities and may face criminal charges for harboring blood diamonds.

Ractliffe has said he secretly kept the diamonds because he feared she might be breaking the law if she took them out of the country and to protect the Mandela charity, according to media reports. Campbell seemed to believe that the stones were going to be used for the charity.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chinese Jewelry Company Opens Trading on NASDAQ

Kingold Jewelry Inc., a Chinese gold jewelry manufacturer and designer, ended its first day of trading on NASDAQ at just under $8 a share, a 10 percent gain on the day.

The company, based in the central city of Wuhan, was founded in 2002 and is one of China's leading designers and manufacturers of 24K gold jewelry sold by weight. The company sells both directly to retailers and through major distributors across China. Kingold has been a member of the Shanghai Gold Exchange since 2003. It trades under the symbol, KGJI. Prior to moving to NASDAQ its shares were traded on the Over the Counter securities market.

Zhihong Jia is the chairman and CEO of the company. He and other Kingold officials presided over the closing bell today. Hopefully, I’ll get a better image of the scene later. Meanwhile, you can see a video of the proceeding on the NASDAQ Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Deadline for 2011 AGTA Spectrum Awards Applications is Sept. 24

From The Daily Jewel, the American Gem Trade Association is accepting applications for the 2011 Spectrum Awards. You can download the entry form and get more information about the annual jewelry design competition from this link. The deadline to enter is September 24

The AGTA Spectrum Awards competition, which includes the Cutting Edge Awards and Platinum Honors, is one of the industry's most-esteemed honors. Fashion editors, stylists, and leading retailers rely on the AGTA Spectrum Awards for the latest color combinations and styles that will drive trends for the year to come.

The competition is open to all individuals living in the United States and Canada. You do not have to be a Member of the AGTA to enter. Any jewelry or gemstone produced after October 2009, and not previously entered into an AGTA competition may be entered. Entries must be finished pieces; no drawings will be accepted.

Saks Inc. to Close Two Stores

Luxury retailer Saks Incorporated on Tuesday said it will close its Saks Fifth Avenue store in The Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, Texas, on August 21and its Saks Fifth Avenue store in the Mission Viejo Mall in Mission Viejo, Calif., on October 23.

Approximately 65 persons are employed in the Plano store and about 60 are employed in the Mission Viejo store. They will either be offered transfer opportunities or will receive severance packages. The Plano store is approximately 121,000 square feet, and the Mission Viejo store is approximately 98,000 square feet.

“Store closing decisions are never easy, but the planned closing of these two stores is consistent with our strategy of employing our resources in our most productive locations,” said Steve Sadove, Saks Inc. chairman and CEO.

The company closed its Saks Fifth Avenue stores in Portland, Ore., San Diego, and Charleston, S.C. last month.

The New York based retailer operates 50 Saks Fifth Avenue stores, 55 Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5TH stores, and

Monday, August 16, 2010

RapNet Bans Zimbabwe's Marange Diamonds

In two strongly worded statements, the Rapaport Diamond Trading Network (also known as RapNet), has warned its members that trading diamonds from Zimbabwe's Marange diamonds fields will result in expulsion from the network and having their names disclosed.

Martin Rapaport (pictured), who owns and operates the international diamond trading network, wrote the statements on August 12 and 15, which are on the Rapaport Web site.

He warned members that even though the diamonds sold August 11 were cleared by the Kimberley Process certification program—an international organization that attempts to ban the sale of “blood” or “conflict” diamonds (which refers to a diamond mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army's war efforts, or a warlord’s activity)—trading these diamonds may still be illegal in the US, UK and EU.

Beginning in 2008 the Zimbabwe army took over the Marange fields forcing out tens of thousands of small-scale miners. These miners were massacred by soldiers and villagers have been beaten, raped and forced to work as virtual slaves. The human rights abuses led to Zimbabwe's being suspended from the Kimberley Process. The KP voted to reinstate Zimbabwe in July.

“Rapaport strongly advises all diamond buyers not to trade in KP-certified diamonds from Marange and to request written assurance from their suppliers that their diamonds have not been sourced from Marange, Martin Rapaport wrote August 12. “RapNet, the Rapaport Diamond Trading Network, will not allow the trading of any diamonds sourced from Marange, Zimbabwe. Members found to have knowingly offered Marange diamonds for sale on RapNet will be expelled and their names will be publicly communicated.”

On August 15, he wrote a letter to the dealer network, which he also made public on his Web site, stating that anyone who wishes to cancel their membership because of the restriction can do so within 30 days and receive a refund for the unused portion of their RapNet subscription.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Men’s Wedding Rings Web Site Opens for Business

An online store specializing in men’s wedding rings is now open for business. will focus exclusively on men’s wedding bands and rings. The company’s products include a variety of wedding rings, designer brands, and a range of traditional and industrial metals.

“In keeping with a trend toward niche-oriented online retailing,” say Roy and Judy Devine, owners of Jensen Beach, Fla., company. “MWR was created to meet the growing demand for a more diverse assortment of men’s wedding rings. Recent buying trends indicate that a new generation of customers is looking beyond the traditional gold domed wedding band. Newer, more durable metals such as titanium, tungsten, and palladium are starting to appear next to gold and platinum in the collections of many jewelry designers. Men are also starting to wear wedding rings made from stainless steel and sterling silver.”

Rings range in price from $15 to more than $1,200 and are available in sizes up to 17. All the rings are designed by Benchmark, a company that has specialized in men’s wedding bands and rings for more than 40 years.

Pictured is a two toned comfort fit titanium wedding band

Fossil 2nd Quarter Sales Up 30%

Fashion accessories designer, marketer and distributor Fossil Inc. said net sales increased by 30.6 percent to $412.6 million in the second quarter of the year. The company credits an improving global economy and an increase in watch sales as the cause for the strong results.

The Richardson, Texas-based company said gross profits for the period rose 41.7 percent $236.9 million, or nearly 58 percent of net sales. Operating income increased by 186.3 percent to $64.3 million, or 15.6% of net sales. And, net income increased by 227.8 percent to $54.5 million.

“An improving global economy, a resurgence in the fashion watch category and our laser focus to be a leader in the introduction of new materials and design innovation combined to deliver a 42 percent increase in our wholesale watch business during the second quarter,” said Mike Kovar, Fossil Inc. executive VP and CFO. “We are seeing balanced growth on a global basis and strong momentum among our major watch brands. In our FOSSIL retail and e-commerce channels, double-digit comparable stores sales, in addition to the strong performance in our Fossil brand watch sales, propelled a 28 percent increase in Fossil branded sales globally. All of this places us in excellent shape as we begin the second half of the year.”

The company, best known for its fashion watches, branded jewelry lines and leather goods, reported strong increases in watch sales globally, and to a lesser extent, the growth of the jewelry category in North America and Europe and the expansion of leather categories internationally.

Net sales from the North America wholesale segment for the period rose 37.percent, led by a resurgence in the overall fashion watch category. MICHAEL KORS, FOSSIL and MICHELE watches experienced the strongest performance. In addition, a steady flow of inventory replenishment as opposed to retailers generally de-stocking a year ago resulted in North American watch shipments increasing by 59.2 percent.

Meanwhile, North America wholesale accessory sales volumes increased 1.9 percent, primarily due to increased shipments of FOSSIL women's leather products and the expansion of the company's footwear and accessory jewelry categories, offsetting by a sales volume decline in men's leather products.

Internationally, European second quarter wholesale net sales rose 30 percent. Wholesale watch shipments increased $18.6 million, or 28.9 percent, in constant dollars, with all major watch brands contributing to this increase. Leather and jewelry categories also contributed solid double-digit increases. The largest net sales contributions were FOSSIL watches and jewelry and licensed brand watches led by EMPORIO ARMANI.

Asia Pacific wholesale shipments in the second quarter increased 28.8 percent, in constant dollars, year-over-year, led by watch and leather sales.

Direct to consumer net sales for the period rose 28 percent, or $22.5 million, on a constant dollar basis. Same-store sales gains of 15.5 percent and an 8.4 percent increase in the average number of company-owned stores open during the Second Quarter. Additionally, net sales from the company's e-commerce businesses increased 44.2 percent.

In its guidance, Fossil said it expects reported net sales to increase in a range of 25 percent to 27 percent with constant dollar net sales increasing in a range of 27 percent to 29 percent, respectively. For the fourth quarter, the company said it expects reported net sales to increase in a range of 14 percent to 16 percent with constant dollar sales increasing in a range of 18 percent to 20 percent.

Aaron Shum Jewelry Opens Middle East Headquarters in Dubai

Hong-Kong-based jewelry wholesaler Aaron Shum Jewelry opened an office and showroom in Dubai at Gold Land (pictured) that will feature the company’s collection of jewelry and timepieces.

The Dubai operation will serve as Aaron Shum Jewelry's hub for the Middle East region. The company has an established presence in Hong Kong, Japan, Europe, USA, Australia and China.
“Over the past decade, Aaron Shum Jewelry has forged strong relationships with gold and jewelry retailers, designing and manufacturing exclusive jewelry brands for several leading retailers in the Middle East,” said Aaron Shum, owner of his namesakes company. “With the opening of our Middle East headquarters in Dubai, we are consolidating our presence here and will embark on a focused regional expansion strategy.”

Among the products being showcased at the Dubai headquarters are the Coronet Solitaire, which amalgamates six diamonds on an elevated centerpiece to create a solitaire effect; the Gemtique collection, which features gemstones and jewels, set in variants of 18k white, rose and yellow gold; and the La Posy Collection, which blends colored gemstones and jewels.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Zimbabwe Opens Auctions of Diamonds from the Controversial Marange Fields

Zimbabwe held the first sale of diamonds from its Marange fields since international regulators partially lifted a ban imposed after the military violently seized control of the mines, Agence France-Presse reports.

Update: Estimates of the value of the sale vary from £48 million ($74.7 million) to £1.2 billion ($1.8 billion), according to the UK newspaper, The Independent.

About 900,000 carats valued at about $72 million were on sale Wednesday, according to Abbey Chikane, the monitor from the international Kimberley Process, which is charged with preventing trade in "blood diamonds," the term used for diamonds mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army's war efforts, or a warlord's activity.

Buyers from the United States, Israel, Russia, Lebanon and India were at the auction at Harare's airport, some with pilots waiting to jet them out of the country afterwards. Read more