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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christie’s Hong Kong Auction Sets Several Records


A pair of round diamonds and emerald ear pendants both set auction records at Christie’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels sale Tuesday.

The auction brought in $82.7 million, the most ever for a jewelry auction in Hong Kong, said said Vickie Sek, director of Christie’s Asia Jewellery and Jadeite Department. Fine colored stones and natural pearls “fetched extremely strong prices.”

A total of 241 of the 310 offered were sold (78 percent) and 79 percent were sold by price.

A pair of near identical round diamonds (top picture) combined for the two top lots of the sale. A 35.77-carat D flawless type IIa brilliant-cut diamond fetched $8.27 million ($231,000 per carat). A 35.61-carat D flawless type IIa brilliant-cut diamond sold for $8.1 million ($228,000 per carat). The combined $16.4 million achieved for the two diamonds was the highest price ever for colorless diamonds in Asia, Sek said.


In addition, a pair of 25.38- and 23.12-carat cushion-shaped Columbian ear pendants (pictured above) fetched more than $4 million ($83,000 per carat), a world record for emerald-cut earrings.

Other big sales include the following:

A 26.41-carat cushion-shaped Kashmir sapphire and diamond brooch fetched more than $3.8 million, or $145,000 per carat.


A 52.12-ct. Burmese ruby and diamond cluster necklace by JW Currens that sold for more than $3.7 million.

A natural colored pearl and diamond bead necklace that sold for $3.1 million.
 
A 43.26-carat, cushion-shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond ring that sold for $2.64 million, or $61,000 per carat.

Record Setting Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday reached $1.25 billion in online spending in the U.S., up 22 percent year-over-year, representing the heaviest online spending day in history and the second day on record to surpass the billion-dollar threshold, according to comScore, a firm that specializes in measuring digital data.

“Cyber Monday was yet another historic day for e-commerce,” said Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman. “While last year saw Cyber Monday rank as the heaviest online spending day of the year for the first time ever, it will be interesting to watch the next couple of weeks to see if any future individual days in 2011 manage to leapfrog this year’s highest day-to-date.”

Cyber Monday’s sales growth was driven by an increase in both the number of buyers (up 11 percent) and the average spending per buyer (up 9 percent), the Reston, Va.-based firm said. Overall, 10 million people bought online on Cyber Monday, representing the first time on record that threshold has been reached in a single day. The average online buyer conducted 1.9 online transactions on Cyber Monday for a total of nearly $125 in spending.

Half of dollars spent online at U.S. Web sites originated from work computers, up slightly from last year, comScore reported. Buying from home comprised the majority of the remaining share (43.2 percent) while buying at U.S. Web sites from international locations accounted for 6.6 percent of sales.

For the first 28 days of the holiday season (November 1 – 28), $15 billion has been spent online, a 15-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year.

Cyber Monday is a marketing term for the Monday immediately following Black Friday. Shop.org, an association of multi-channel retailers was the first to use the term in 2005 after retailers discovered that online sales increased on that particular day. In 2006, Shop.org launched the CyberMonday.com portal, a one-stop shop for Cyber Monday deals. Cyber Monday is now one of the biggest online shopping days of the year.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Two Fancy Colored Diamonds Valued at $408,000 on Sale for Cyber Monday

2.04-carat pear-shaped orange pink colored diamond

Among the many items being offered on Cyber Monday, less than an hour away, are two natural fancy colored diamonds valued at $408,750. They are available at a discount for the sale day. They will likely be the two most expensive items on sale Monday.

The items are being sold by natural colored diamond specialist firm, Leibish & Co. on their website. They are as follows:

A 0.67-carat heart-shaped fancy deep blue diamond with a VS2 clarity (An Ocean Deep Blue diamond- similar to a Ceylon Sapphire) worth USD $266,200. On Monday, once 25 percent discount is applied, it will be offered for $255,552.00 when paid by wire.

A 2.04-carat pear-shaped orange pink colored diamond with a SI2 clarity worth $142,550 (top picture). After Cyber Monday discounts and be offered for $136,848 (in wire transfer). Natural pink diamonds are among the rarest in the world. More than 90 percent of pink diamonds come from one source, the Argyle Mine in Western Australia.

The sale of the diamonds will begin at 8 a.m. EST Monday and end 24 hours later.

Cyber Monday is a marketing term created in 2005 by Shop.org, an association of multichannel retailers. It occurs the Monday after Black Friday, when online retailers noticed an increase in sales. Shop.org said Sunday 122.9 million Americans plan to shop on Cyber Monday this year, up from the 106.9 million who shopped on Cyber Monday in 2010. ComScore, a firm that measures digital data, said 80 percent of retailers are having special online promotions that day. Last year sales exceeded $1 billion and it expects to see that figure shattered this year.

Chow Tai Fook Set to Issue IPO that Could Raise $3 Billion


Hong Kong jewelry retailer Chow Tai Fook is looking to raise nearly $3 billion in an initial public offering that would be one of the largest in Hong Kong this year, according to published reports.

The company will offer 1.05 billion shares at HK$15 to HK$21 each, putting the total deal size at up to HK$22.05 billion ($2.83 billion), Reuters reports. In another report by The Standard in Hong Kong, the IPO could raise HK$23.34 ($2.99 billion). The IPO would value the company at about $27 billion.

The deal would surpass the $2.5 billion IPO by Milan-based Prada SpA in Hong Kong in June. Commodities company Glencore raised nearly $10 billion in a Hong Kong and London dual listing in May, with most of the funds raised in the London portion of the offering, Reuters reports.

Chow Tai Fook, controlled by billionaire New World Development Co. chairman Cheng Yu-tung, has about 1,500 stores, most of them in Greater China. The company also has shops in Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia. About 80 stores are located in Hong Kong and the gambling center of Macau.

Chow Tai Fook will be shopping the IPO to large investors on Monday, with pricing slated for December 8, Reuters reports. The stock will trade under the symbol “1929,” the year the company was founded.

Black Friday Online Sales Total $816 Million, Cyber Monday Next

Black Friday saw $816 million in online sales, making it the heaviest online spending day to date in 2011 and representing a 26-percent increase versus Black Friday 2010, according to ComScore, a firm that measures digital data. Thanksgiving Day (November 24), while traditionally a lighter day for online holiday spending, achieved a strong 18-percent increase to $479 million.

Overall U.S. retail e-commerce spending for the first 25 days of the November – December 2011 holiday season, totaled $12.7 billion, a 15-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year.

“Despite some analysts’ predictions that the flurry of brick-and-mortar retailers opening their doors early for Black Friday would pull dollars from online retail, we still saw a banner day for e-commerce,” said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. “With brick-and-mortar retail also reporting strong gains on Black Friday, it’s clear that the heavy promotional activity had a positive impact on both channels.

Now the attention turns to Cyber Monday (tomorrow), a marketing term created in 2005 by online retailers after learning that online shopping activity increased the Monday following Black Friday. ComScore says 80 percent of retailers are having special online promotions that day. Last year sales exceeded $1 billion and it expects to see that figure shattered.

As the online channel increasingly influences offline-shopping behavior, consumers turned to Black Friday sites on the web to conduct research in advance of the day’s events, the Reston, Va.-based firm said. Bfads.net led the pack with 3.9 million unique visitors from November 21 to 25, up 51 percent versus last year, comScore said.

Fifty million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday, representing an increase of 35 percent versus year ago, comScore said. Each of the top five retail sites achieved double-digit gains in visitors vs. last year, led by Amazon. Walmart ranked second, followed by Best Buy, Target and Apple.

“It is telling that the top multi-channel retailers also showed strong growth in visitors, demonstrating the importance of the online channel to the retail industry as a whole,” Fulgoni said.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Haven't Been Posting Much Lately and this is Why

Image by Derek Lepper of Derek Lepper Photography.

That head poking above the Caribbean Sea as the sun sets is your intrepid blogger. People have been asking me why I've been coming to Barbados for the past 10 years. This is just one reason. I will be posting but I also will be enjoying my time away. I wish all my U.S. friends a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday no matter how you celebrate it and all of my friends around the world a wonderful weekend no matter how you spend it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Signet Sales and Same Store Sales Up Nearly 11%

Kay Jewelers is a top performer for Signet.

Signet Jewelers Ltd., the world’s largest specialty retailer of fine jewelry, said Tuesday that third quarter sales increased 10.7 percent, year-over-year, to $710.5 million, led by a 10.6 percent increase in same store sales. Income before taxes for the period, ended October 29, was $42.1 million, up from $12 million for the third quarter of the prior year.

“Our sustained positive performance is due to the excellent execution of our strategies by our team,’ said Mike Barnes, CEO of the Bermuda-based company, which is listed on the NYST. “We are pleased with the start of the fourth quarter, and with the majority of our sales ahead of us.”

The company, which operates approximately 1,860 retail jewelry stores in the U.S. and U.K., was led by the strength of U.S. operations, while its U.K. business sales were slightly down or flat, year-over-year.

The company’s U.S. division, which consists of about 1,324 stores and accounts for about 80 of annual sales, reported a 13.3 percent increase in sales for the quarter to $563 million. Same store sales increased by 13.9 percent compared to a rise of 9.7 percent for the same period of the prior year.

Its Kay brand reported a 13.8 percent increase in sales for the period to $314.3 million while same store sales rose by 13 percent.

Its higher end Jared brand reported an 18.4 increase in sales to $194.6 million with an 18.3 percent increase in same store sales. Jared average unit selling price and same store sales were favorably impacted by approximately $76 and 8.3 percent, respectively, as a result of a one-time watch promotion.

The company also operates several regional brands in the U.S., which in total reported a loss of 3.9 percent to $54.1 million. Same store sales increased 4.3 percent for the period.

Signet’s U.K. division, which consists of about 536 stores and accounts for about 20 percent of annual sales, reported a 1.9 percent increase in sales to $147.5 million. At constant exchange rates, sales were down 1.2 percent. Same store sales were down 0.5 percent, compared to a decline of 0.6 percent in the third quarter of Fiscal 2011.

Its H.Samuel brand reported a 3 percent increase in sales (0.2 percent at constant exchange rates) to 78.3 million for the period. Same store sales were flat.

Its Ernest Jones brand reported a loss of 0.6 percent (down 2.4 percent at constant exchange rates) to $69.2 million. Same store sales were down 1.1 percent for the period.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Three Keys to Selling Fine Jewelry

This is one of a series of articles by Mónica Arias of Excellence Consulting, a luxury sales and marketing consulting firm based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. These articles will focus on ways that sales and marketing professional in the jewelry and luxury industries can improve their techniques.

When it comes to offering true beauties such as fine jewelry, someone who is in the sales profession but not in this industry may think it relatively easy to succeed in closing deals. The truth is more often than not, even when the jewelry pieces are signed by renown designers or belong to famous traditional brands, deals are not that easy to close.

Whether person to person or as a group, there is a tendency to trust mainly in the brand without taking into account we are dealing with people who are literally attracted by the luxury object. Either because they are really fascinated by it, they have seen it online, they love to purchase jewelry as an investment, want to have the “last” version of a collection, or simply because they just love jewelry.

This distinction of placing desire into the customer´s momentum helps salespeople identify what pieces we believe will make the “click” in their inner volition to purchase.

In order to understand this concept more clearly, if you own a jewelry store or you are a sales person in the jewelry market and you have been having difficulties in closing more sales lately, attracting more clients, or making your customers come back to you, it is necessary for you to stay open minded. Forget for a moment all you have learned so far, and get ready to apply these three keys that will help you close more deals.

Make your client your priority

Now, this may sound obvious, but be true to yourself and think for a moment: how many times have you really considered your client’s priority when in a sales process? Frankly, from my own experience, I just wanted to sell, partially because that is what I love to do, and partially because I focused the process in my expertise of making extraordinary demonstrations and being very good at closing, You know what I am talking about: we have the beautiful product many times backed by an excellent brand, we have learned to offer it by heart, we are experts in overcoming objections and we generally arrive to lovely deals. However, there are other times in which we know things did not go very well in the process. Something was missing, and we cannot understand what it was. Things gradually change when you make your customer your priority. You achieve this by taking advantage of some of the strategies I have used, such as: letting go of your objectives and eagerness to sell; going into the depths of the communication process you’ve established with the client; and using words of appreciation to show that it is the customer that you care the most about. It is in your true interest to you make the person feel fantastic about their purchase.

Prepare a list of special words and questions

If you have a list of words and questions that could help you describe your products more confidently and connect with your customers in a more natural way, you have a treasure-like tool that you will rely upon. It takes only ten minutes a day to craft the list and by the end of the month you should have a diary of strategic beautiful phrases, words and questions in order to study and use every time you are in the sales arena. Trust me, having this list handy is priceless because it can help you start a more meaningful, trustworthy relationship with your customers.

Stay in touch

Use your customer’s personal or professional information to stay in touch. It is your duty to continue to be present once they’ve left and returned to their hectic lives or have started to forget you. This is normal for all of us. We usually do not remember the salespeople we meet in a store, unless we have experienced such a great moment by purchasing something lovely from them. In any case, this may only last a couple of days. 

Resort to your special list and, whether the customer purchased from you or not, do your job and ask for their information for future reference. If you find resistance, you could explain to them (using your list of words) that you wish to stay in touch even from a distance because you want them to be informed of the latest versions of the collection, new launches, and, most importantly, you would love to learn if you could be of future assistance because you value them the most.

More sales will follow once you have internalized these three keys as part of your performance and at the same time you will have set the foundations for providing excellent service.
    
Mónica M. Arias
Excellence Consultant: Helping you discover how to reach your next level through excellence.
contacto@monicaarias.com.ar

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ulysse Nardin's $1.1 Million Timepiece Highlights Superyacht Charity Event

The $1.1 Million Royal Blue Tourbillion Haute Joaillerie

PALM BEACH, Fla. – The guests circled the marble outdoor pool area Saturday at the Mar-A-Lago Club, Donald’s Trump’s Mediterranean-revival palace, as night fell. The men wearing formal tuxes, the women in flowing gowns with jewelry that sparkled like stars against the night. They entered the main banquet room with drinks in hand and sat down for the final gala and live auction of the 24th Annual Showboats International Boys & Girls Clubs Rendezvous.

Patrik Hoffmann
In the midst of it all, playing a prominent role throughout the three-day event, was Patrik Hoffmann, CEO of the Swiss luxury watch brand, Ulysse Nardin. Hoffmann and the watch brand helped the event raise more than $1 million for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County by contributing about $200,000.

Held November 10-12 at the Rybovich Yacht Club, the exclusive Rendezvous is the largest gathering of superyachts in the U.S. Twelve yachts, measuring from 44 feet to 197 feet participated this year. There are daily and early evening events at the yacht club and evening galas throughout the Palm Beach area.

On November 10 during a tour of the superyachts known as the “Rendezvous Yacht Hop,” Hoffmann commandeered the 197-foot Lime Light to showcase a selection of watches that would be featured throughout the event, including the $1.1 million Royal Blue Tourbillon Haute Joaillerie (top picture). The platinum watch case and bracelet are paved with 568 baguette-cut diamonds and 234 baguette-cut royal blue sapphires. The bridges and main plates are crafted in blue sapphire, allowing the flying Tourbillon to appear as if it is floating in an empty space. While this watch made the headline of this story it was actually overshadowed by some of Ulysse Nardin’s other offerings when it came to its impact on the event. Among the watches:

The Admiral, a marine chronometer specifically designed for and given to 16 members of the Rendezvous Fleet Admirals Club. These are persons who contributed $50,000 per year for the past five years to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County. Each watch is engraved with the recipient’s name. The men’s model is on a rubber strap and on an additional crocodile strap with steel deployant buckle. The matching women’s model has a diamond bezel. The watch dial, caseback and strap also contains insignias and other descriptions identifying the person as a Fleet Admirals Club member. During the formal gala, each member was called up to the stage to be acknowledged, and to personally receive their custom timepiece from Hoffmann.

The Classico, the official auction watch. The sleek gold watch includes a caseback that can be personalized for the owner through a hand-engraved image. Five of the watches were auctioned off for $25,000 each during at the final night’s ball.






The Blue El Toro perpetual calendar timepiece was the surprise auction watch. It’s the newest GMT Perpetual model from the company and the only one currently available in the world. “It is the only perpetual calendar that you can set back and forth,” Hoffmann said. “Whereas many perpetual calendars work with springs and clutches, obviously, once it springs you cannot go back. Ulysse Nardin perpetual calendars work with wheels and gears. That’s why you can go back and forth.” It’s a patent owned by Ulysse Nardin used for all of its perpetual calendar timepieces that will end in about two years.

Hoffmann said Friday that there was a possibility of it being placed on auction but he didn’t sound too keen on the idea. However, later that evening, during the Palm Beach Celebration party at the Flagler Museum, all it took was a little “nudge” from Rick Case, founder of the Rendezvous event. In this case, the nudge by Case, one of the top car dealers in the U.S., involved calling Hoffmann in front of everyone in the room and telling them that the timepiece will be auctioned off the following night. The watch sold at auction during the final night’s gala for $75,000, well over its retail price of $55,000.

The Genghis Khan Unique Piece. This latest version of the limited edition Genghis Khan is the only one in the world with a mother-of-pearl background. The figures on the watch face are made of threaded gold. It also has a Westminster chime sound that signals the hour, quarter hour and minutes. The visible one minute tourbillon is integrated into the aventurine dial. It sells for $725,000 Swiss francs ($786,000).

Those who received an Admiral Watch are:

Felix Sabates

John Rosatti & Dawn

Robert Tomsich

Leslie & Tom Murphy

Linda & Doug Von Allmen

Leslie & John Dane III

Cindy & Terry Taylor

Christine Lynn

Suzanne & Larry DeGeorge

Gene Reed

John Devaney

Marti & Wayne Huizenga

Rita & Rick Case

Richard & Mary Anne Kull

From left: Wayne and Marti Huizenga receiving an Admiral timepiece from Patrik Hoffmann and Rick Case.

Growth and October Retail Sales and September Jewelry Sales

Retail sales in October increased 0.7 percent from September and 4.7 percent year-over-year led by discretionary purchases and growth in all categories, according to the National Retail Federation.

Meanwhile, October retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 6.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Retailers’ early holiday promotions seemed to strike the right chord with shoppers last month,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “Knowing the economy is still a big factor in customers’ shopping decisions, retailers will continue to offer great deals and exceptional value throughout the holiday season.”

Earlier this month, NRF forecast holiday sales to rise 2.8 percent this year to $466 billion. NRF defines holiday sales as retail industry sales in the months of November and December.

U.S. jewelry store sales for the month of September rose 22 percent year-over-year to $2.12 billion, according to government figures quoted by Rapaport. The consumer price index for jewelry rose 8 percent in September. In its advanced retail summary report for the month of October, also reported by Rapaport, the government said U.S. department store sales fell 0.7 percent to $14.4 billion. Retail trade sales rose 7.3 percent year on year in October. Retail and food sales, excluding automotive related revenue, rose 6.8 percent to $344 billion during the month of October.

Meanwhile, NRF October data for specific retail categories includes the following:

• Electronics and appliance stores’ monthly sales grew the most in two years, increasing 3.7 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and 3.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

• Unseasonal winter-like weather helped boost traffic at building material and garden equipment stores, whose sales grew 1.5 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and a solid 6.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

• Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 1.3 percent over September and 7 percent unadjusted from the previous year.

• Health and personal care stores sales increased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over September and 4.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

• Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores decreased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month, but increased 4.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christie's to Host Exclusive Online Sale of Elizabeth Taylor's Jewelry

Diamond and 18k white gold necklace set with approximately 126 circular-cut diamonds, weighing approximately 18.50-20.50 carats total, mounted in 18k white gold. Estimate: $10,000-15,000

Christie's will hold a separate online sale of some of Elizabeth Taylor’s most cherished possessions to coincide with the auction house's live auction of "The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor," to be held in New York next month.

Out of the more than 2,000 pieces that Christie’s will sell, 950 pieces will be offered online in the categories of fine and costume jewelry, designer fashion and accessories, and decorative arts and objects online. The online sale will be held December 3 – 17. While Christie’s has offered real-time bidding online since 2006, this is the first time the auction house will host an exclusive online addition to a private collection sale.

18K white gold and diamond Cartier "Love" hoop earrings, in original box. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000

The online sale complements four days of back-to-back live auctions of The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor that will begin on December 13 with the film star’s most iconic jewels, and continues through December 16 with additional auctions of fine jewelry, fashion, accessories, decorative arts and film memorabilia. It also coincides with the exhibition of the collection at Christie’s New York Rockefeller Plaza headquarters from December 3 – 12. Impressionist and Modern Art from the collection will be auctioned in London in February 2012.

“This is a collection of the highest caliber, from Elizabeth Taylor’s magnificent collection of one-of-a-kind historic jewels, to her haute couture and ready-to-wear fashions, and her exceptional collection of fine and decorative arts,” said Marc Porter, chairman and president of Christie’s Americas. “To ensure the full breadth of the collection is accessible to collectors worldwide, Christie’s has taken the innovative step of adding this special, online-only component to our live auctions, so that bidders from around the world can participate in this landmark two-week-long event.”

A circular-cut multi-colored, multi-gem swirl edged cocktail ring with approximately 38 marquise-cut diamonds weighing approximately 1.75-2.00 carats, mounted in 18k white gold. Estimate: $2,000-4,000

A select group of items from the collection are currently on a world tour before heading to Christie’s New York showroom for the final exhibition and sale.

The curated selection of online fashion and accessories mirrors the offering of top designer gowns, coats, capes, handbags and designer goods that will be featured in the live auction. It includes more than 500 pieces of fine and costume jewelry, including Art Deco-era jewelry, and signed jewels by Cartier, Chanel, Christian Dior, and Ruser. This selection is reflective of Elizabeth Taylor’s lifelong love affair with jewelry in all its forms. Starting estimates for the top jewels range from $10,000 for a diamond and 18K white gold necklace set with 126 circular-cut diamonds, and as low as $100 for a pair of Chanel ear clips with the designer’s signature “CC” pendants.

The items for the online sale can be viewed in a special online preview with luxury fashion retailer, Moda Operandi. Beginning November 18 the full complement of online-only lots will be available for viewing at Christie’s website.

A gold, sapphire and Mississippi pearl hummingbird brooch, by Ruser. Estimate: $2,000-$3,000

Online registration and bidding begins December 3 in a timed auction that will run concurrent with the public exhibition and live auctions of The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor at Christie’s New York. For easy navigation, the online-only sale is divided into four categories – Fine Jewelry, Fashion & Accessories, Costume Jewelry, and Decorative Arts and Memorabilia.

Christie’s also recently announced ticket purchase information for the 10-day public exhibition of The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor at Christie’s flagship Rockefeller Plaza location. The New York exhibition will be the most expansive presentation of the collection thus far, including selections from all of the major categories – jewels, fashion, fine art, film memorabilia and costumes, and decorative items. The exhibition includes a video tribute to Elizabeth Taylor’s life and legacy, and five richly illustrated catalogues of her collections and other commemorative publications will be available for purchase both online and on-site.

Tickets are on sale on Christie’s website for $30 per person and must be purchased in advance for a specific time slot. There will be no other way to buy tickets. Below are listings for the dates of the online sale and the dates and times of the New York exhibition and auction.

Bidding for all Categories of the Online-Only Sale Opens December 3, Closing Dates, by Category are as follows:

Fine Jewelry, December 14

Fashion and Accessories, December 15

Costume Jewelry, December 16

Decorative Arts and Memorabilia, December 17


Christie’s New York Exhibition Days and Hours:

December 3, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

December 4, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

December 5, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

December 6, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

December 7, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

December 8. 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.

December 9, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

December 10, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

December 11, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

December 12, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.


Sale Dates:

The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor The Legendary Jewels, Evening Sale – December 13

Jewelry (Sessions II & III) – December 14

The Icon and her Haute Couture, Evening Sale – December 14

2011 Fashion and Accessories (Sessions II, III & IV) – December 15

Fine and Decorative Art & Film Memorabilia, including costumes – December 16

Online-Only Auction – December 3 – 17

Impressionist & Modern Art – February 2012, Christie’s London

Sun-Drop Sells for a Record-Breaking $12.3 Million


The 110.03-carat Sun-Drop Diamond fetched $12.3 million Tuesday at Sotheby’s Sale of Magnificent Jewels in Geneva.The auction house said the price paid for what is considered to be the largest known pear-shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond in the world set a world auction record for yellow diamonds.

The previous record for a yellow diamond was achieved by “The Vivid Yellow,” a 32.77-carat pear‐shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond, VS2, which sold for nearly $6.6 million at Christie’s New York in October. The previous world auction record price per carat for an emerald was achieved by a 10-carat emerald ring, sold for $113,000 per carat, at Christie’s Hong Kong in May 2000.

The Sun-Drop is graded fancy vivid yellow, the highest color grading for a yellow diamond, and has a purity of VVS1. The stone was exhibited earlier this year at London’s Natural History Museum. The rough for the Sun‐Drop was discovered in South Africa in 2010, and was cut and polished by Cora International, a New York diamond manufacturer.

The sale of diamonds, gemstones and jewelry took in nearly $70.2 million with a sell‐through rate of 82 percent by lot. It was one of Sotheby’s highest totals ever for a jewelry auction.

“We are thrilled with the price achieved by this spectacular daffodil yellow diamond; it is one of the most impressive I have had the pleasure of selling,” said David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery Department in Europe and the Middle East and co‐chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland. “Today’s strong sell‐through rates are a reflection of the continued strength and resilience of the international jewelry market.”

Other colored diamonds and gemstones that achieved strong results included:

* A 38.88-carat, cushion‐shaped diamond that fetched nearly $7 million. The D color, flawless clarity stone is part of the Type IIa subgroup, which comprise less than 2 percent of all gem diamonds. They are chemically the purest of all diamond crystals and often have extraordinary optical transparency.

* A 4.16-crata fancy vivid blue cut‐cornered rectangular modified brilliant‐cut diamond sold for $4.2 million.

* A 12.01-carat Muzo emerald which sold for $1.4 million, smashing its pre‐sale estimate of $400,000 to 600,000 and setting a per carat record price for emeralds at auction.

Top selling period and signed jewels included:

* A Cartier natural pearl and diamond necklace designed in the 1930s, which sold for $3.3 million, smashing its pre-auction estimate of $765,000 to $1.2 million.

* A 1987 JAR rock crystal and diamond brooch, which sold for $370,874.

* A 1984 JAR morganite and diamond pendent, which sold for $370,874, beating auction estimates.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Excellence: The Experience Your Customers Deserve

This is the first in a series of articles by Mónica Arias of Excellence Consulting, a luxury sales and marketing consulting firm based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. These articles will focus on ways that sales and marketing professional in the jewelry and luxury industry can improve their techniques.

So much has been said about improving customer service during the past decades that, given the global exposure of firms on the Internet and the world economic turmoil, one could easily assume this issue does not exist anymore simply because in theory, companies should have learned enough from the tough lessons associated with a poor customer assistance in the past.

Unfortunately, the problem not only persists but it has also become a real challenge to overcome, especially in the retail arena, and more specifically, in the luxury retail industry where excellence is non negotiable.

Customers are Kings (and Queens!). These words should be repeated like a mantra every day, all day long, by anyone trying to do business nowadays. And, more importantly, they should be put into practice just for the sake of business survival. Whether small or large, a company that provides luxury services or products that does not excel in customer service, even through small details, is paving the road to hell.

Let me give you an example: let´s imagine you may be inclined to get a lovely piece of jewelry for your beloved. The idea warmed up for a while in your head and the decision is finally made to visit a renowned jewelry store. You step in, confident that you will be received like a King—after all this is a shop you do not put your feet into everyday as it is the supermarket or any retail store you visit with certain frequency. Instead, you just get what I call “a scanning look” and someone with unforgettable body language clearly indicates you are not especially welcomed, even with a slight smile on their face. Believe me, you do not actually “see” this, but you clearly feel it.

You may think this is unusual in the luxury industry. It is my duty to tell you it is not. Reality shows that many luxury companies judge their clients either by their aspects, their race, their origin, the way they speak or move, they way they are dressed, and the list is endless. Moreover, they “rely” so much on their brands, reputation, tradition and marketing campaigns that they generally forget self-criticism and/or periodic research to understand what kind of feedback they receive from clients, how are they being perceived and, most importantly, if their customers  really like them.

Prejudice, unwillingness, lack of enthusiasm, poor or inexistent customer oriented training, payment systems that do not work properly after the sale is done, salespeople who are not trained in the appropriate way to offer a service of excellence to customers, the lack of a system to build trust and loyalty is only part of the problem.

Business owners and salespeople in the luxury segment have countless excuses not to address this lack of attention to their business core. Excuses come in all sizes and colors, and of course the matter of “budget” is one of the most common ones. However, excellence in customer service has more to do with small details, attitude and care than huge budgets.

People need to feel the great experience of having purchased with you, and you need to acknowledge that the sales process has evolved, so you need to learn how to transcend your clients` expectations by providing the excellence service they deserve. Always.

Mónica M. Arias is a luxury sales and marketing specialist and a Spanish and English translator. She has spent 15 years experience working in a variety of sales marketing positions for several multinational companies. She is skilled in advanced sales techniques and is a proven expert in person-to-person interaction—both commercial and personal. She can be reached at contacto@monicaarias.com.ar.

Jewelry and Watches a Top e-Commerce Performer

Jewelry and Watches is one of several product categories that grew at least 15 percent in sales, compared to a year ago, according to comScore, Inc., a digital measurement and analytical firm.

The Reston, Va.-based company did not give details on the jewelry with a report it recently published. However, jewelry and watches was a top performer, along with other categories that experienced year-over-year growth of 15 percent. They include: digital content and subscriptions, event tickets, consumer electronics (excluding computer peripherals) and computer software.

Overall online retail spending reached $36.3 billion for the third quarter, up 13 percent, comScore said. This represents the eighth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth rates.

“The third quarter of 2011 saw a continuation of the year’s strength in U.S. retail e-commerce spending, even in the face of renewed economic headwinds and uncertainty facing the U.S. consumer,” said Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman. “As we approach the critical holiday shopping season, we are optimistic about the continued health of the e-commerce sector despite other factors—including stubbornly high unemployment and volatile financial markets—currently weighing on the economy.”

The 13-percent growth in the quarter was primarily a function of an increase in the number of buyers (up 22 percent), the Reston, Va.-based company said. About 74 percent of all Internet users made at least one online purchase during the quarter.

A total of 40 percent of e-commerce transactions included free shipping, down from a peak of 49 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. Free shipping rates tend to peak during the holiday season.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Richemont’s Half-Year Sales Up 29%, led by Asian Demand and Jewelry and Watch Sales


Luxury goods conglomerate, Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, said Friday that sales for the six-month period, ended September 30, increased by 29 percent to 4.2 billion euros ($4.68 billion), year-over-year. At constant exchange rates (stripping out the effects of currency exchange rates), the increase was 36 percent.

The Swiss company reported solid growth across all segments, regions and channels. Operating profit increased by 41 percent to 1 07 billion euros ($1.2 billion). Net income for the period increased by 10 percent to 709 million euros ($791.3), reflecting the impact of a one-time gain in the comparative period.

Richemont owns several leading luxury goods companies, which it calls Maisons, with particular strengths in jewelry, luxury watches and writing instruments. These companies include Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Panerai and Montblanc.

“Our Maisons were able to benefit from a favorable trading environment to enhance their positions in jewelry, watchmaking and accessories,” said Johann Rupert, Richemont, executive chairman and CEO. “The rate of increase in net profit was lower than the increase in operating profit primarily due to a one-off gain in the comparable period.”

Rupert also noted that the group’s net cash position is 2.6 billion euros ($2.9 billion) and that sales in month of October, not included in the report, increased 28 percent, year-over-year. Sales were strengthened by the group’s own retail network bolstered by very strong demand in the Asia-Pacific and Americas regions.

Although gross profit rose by 26 percent, gross margin percentage was 160 basis points lower at 63.2 percent of sales, due to adverse currency movements affecting sales, the strengthening of the Swiss franc and, as expected, the impact of Net-a-Porter, the online luxury goods retailer. The company’s brands raised prices in order to offset the strength of the Swiss franc during the period. The stronger Swiss franc is of particular importance to the cost of sales as the majority of the Group’s manufacturing facilities are located in Switzerland.

Compared with the group’s other brands, Net-a-Porter’s gross margin percentage is well below the average reflecting its distinct business model as an online retailer, Richemont said. Given its above-average sales growth, Net-a-Porter has a dilutive impact on the Group’s gross margin percentage.
 
Earnings per share increased by 11 percent for the period.
 
Double-digit organic growth was registered across all regions, including Russia and the Middle East. Travelers to Europe continue to be an important sales driver. All brands improved their performance in the region versus the comparative period.

Sales to the Asia-Pacific region increased 48 percent (60 percent at constant exchange rates) to 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion), led by China, which is now the company’s third strongest market, after Hong Kong and the U.S.

In Europe, sales increased 20 percent (22 percent at constant exchange rates) to 1.5 billion euros ($1.67).

Sales in the Americas grew by 23 percent (35 percent at constant exchange rates) to 602 million euros ($671.7), driven by significant High Jewelry sales, although business in general has been very encouraging, the company said.

Sales in Japan increased 9 percent (8 percent at constant exchange rates) to 380 million euros ($424 million), despite the dramatic events of last March. Van Cleef and Arpels and watches performed particularly well.
 
Directly operated boutiques and Net-a-Porter sales increased by 37 percent. This was well above the growth in wholesale sales and Richemont now generates 49 percent of its sales through its own retail network.

The growth in retail sales partly reflected the good performance of Net-a-Porter and the expansion of the Maisons’ network of boutiques to 919 stores. Openings during the period were primarily in high-growth markets such as China.
 
Jewelry sales grew by 34 percent to 2.16 billion euros ($2.4 billion). “Both Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier performed exceptionally well,” Richemont said.

Watch sales increased 30 percent to 1.17 billion euros ($1.3 billion).  “All watch brands performed well worldwide, reflecting the strong demand for haute horlogerie,” Richemont said. “Despite higher input costs and the strength of the Swiss Franc, the contribution margin was 27 percent, reflecting the brand’s pricing power and operating leverage.”
 
Montblanc reported strong growth with a 10 percent increase to 334 million euros ($372.6 million), reflecting good demand for its range of watches and accessories particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
 
Richemont’s fashion and accessories brands saw double-digit sales growth and more than tripled its profits to 23 million euros ($25.6 million). Alfred Dunhill and Chloé performed particularly well.
 
Net-a-Porter incurred losses during the period amounting to 22 million euros ($24.5 million), resulting from the amortization of intangibles and the costs associated with the continued expansion of its platforms in the U.K. and the U.S

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gucci’s Latin Grammy Digital Timepiece and Leather Bracelet


Gucci Timepieces and Jewelry has partnered with The Latin Recording Academy, known for the Latin Grammy Awards, and as part of this relationship, the luxury brand created a special edition Latin Grammy watch and jewelry collection, designed by Gucci creative director, Frida Giannini.

The brand created a larger and bolder version of the I-Gucci (top picture), its first-ever digital timepiece. With a flick, the watch face changes from a two-time zone dial in large digits to a streamlined version with two digital hands revealing local time, in multiple Latin American locations.

The I-Gucci was first launched last year for the Grammy Awards.

The large, double-layout digital display has a tag celebrating the Latin Grammy partnership. The PVD stainless-steel case is complemented by a wide, black rubber strap featuring a black Guccissima insertion. The special edition timepiece contains a chronometer, countdown and other options. The case back also features the Latin Grammy Awards special edition label.


The Latin Grammy collection also includes a Guccissima leather bracelet in black (pictured above). The gramophone symbol is etched on the rhodium plated sterling silver clasp along with the Gucci logo.

Sales from the Latin Grammy jewelry and watch collection will benefit the Latin Recording Academy and its initiatives to support young and emerging artists on the international music scene and strengthen global awareness of the importance of the culture.

The Latin Grammys will be held Thursday and broadcasted over the Univision Network starting at 8 p.m.

Graff Plans Asian Expansion

The Graff Diamonds store on New Bond Street, London.

Graff Diamonds Ltd. is planning to file an initial public offering, most likely in Hong Kong, in order to fund its expansion into Asia, according to several reports.

The London-based company, owned by Laurence Graff, is using the IPO to raise $1 billion and increase the value of the company to $5 billion, the Financial Times (subscription required) and other publications report. Graff has reportedly hired financial consultant, Rothschild Group, to advise him on the IPO, which is expected sometime next year.

The company, known for its luxury diamond jewelry, already has a network of more than 30 jewelry stores throughout the world. Graff would use the money raised in the IPO to fund a greater expansion into Asia, by far the largest growth market for luxury diamond jewelry, according to reports. In addition, the company hopes to use the funding to expand production of high-end pieces and increase its inventory of rare gemstones.

Hong Kong isn’t the only listing location being considered, but Asia is the company’s focus, according to reports.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Blue Nile CEO Resigns; Q3 Sales Up 11%

Diane Irvine

Diane Irvine, Blue Nile CEO, president and director, who has been with the diamond and fine jewelry online retailer since the company was founded in 1999, has resigned, effective November 11. The announcement came just minutes before the Seattle-based company reported that third quarter sales increased 11.2 percent to $75 million. Operating income for the quarter totaled $2.9 million, representing an operating margin of 3.8 percent of net sales.

Vijay Talwar, senior VP and general manager of the company’s international business, has been appointed interim CEO. During the transition period, chairman Mark Vadon, who founded the company, said in a conference call that he will take an active role in the leadership of the company, working closely with Talwar. With the support of the Board, Vadon said he will lead the search for a permanent CEO.

“Diane has been with Blue Nile since its formation and we wish her well in her future endeavors,” Vadon said. “Diane has worked with me on the business since 1999. She has been a tremendous business partner, making countless contributions in her 12 years at Blue Nile. During Diane's tenure as CFO and CEO, the company has grown sales from $14 million to over $300 million and has become one of the world's largest fine jewelers.”

Talwar joined Blue Nile in August 2010. From November 2010 to August 2011, Talwar also served as Blue Nile's CFO. Prior to Blue Nile, he served as CEO of the William J. Clinton Foundation in India, where he provided strategic, financial and operational leadership across health care and sustainability programs in India and South Asia. Before joining the Clinton Foundation, he was at Nike, where he held a number of executive leadership positions, including COO for Nike CEMEA (Central Europe, Middle East and Africa) based in Amsterdam.

“Serving both as the head of international operations and as the company's Chief Financial Officer, Vijay has developed a deep understanding of the Blue Nile business,” Vadon said. “Further, his strong branding experience makes him ideally suited to lead the company's daily operations during this transition period.”

Blue Nile Highlights for the third quarter, ended October 3, include:

* International sales grew 54.8 percent in the quarter to $14.4 million, a record level for any third quarter in Blue Nile's history. Excluding the impact from changes in foreign exchange rates, international sales increased 46.2 percent.

* Gross profit for the quarter totaled $14.8 million, an increase of 1.4 percent from the prior year. As a percentage of net sales, gross profit was 19.8 percent compared to 21.7 percent for the third quarter of 2010.

* Selling, general and administrative expenses for the quarter were $12 million, compared to $10.4 million in the third quarter of 2010. Selling, general and administrative expenses included stock-based compensation expense of $1.6 million in the third quarter.

* At the end of the third quarter, cash and cash equivalents totaled $40.2 million.

* During the third quarter, Blue Nile repurchased 880,300 shares of its common stock for $30.9 million.

“Our record third quarter sales exceeded the high end of our guidance and was driven by solid growth in our engagement and non-engagement businesses,” Talwar said. “We also continue to experience exceptional growth in our international business, validating the value proposition we have for our consumers abroad. Overall, engagement sales growth at the high-end continues to perform very well, showcasing the depth of selection we have in the luxury category. Key to our strategy, we will continue to aggressively invest in our brand and business through marketing programs and additional merchandising assortments. “During the quarter, we repurchased $30.9 million of stock, underscoring the confidence we have in the long-term potential of our business.”

Hublot and Ferrari Become Partners

Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot (left), and Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari S.p.A, seal the deal at the Mugello International Circuit. Photo credit: Raphael Faux.

Luxury Swiss watch brand Hublot says it has entered into a “comprehensive agreement” with the Italian sports car manufacturer, Ferrari, merging the brand images and the commercial activities of both companies.

The two companies say this collaboration will be more that the creation of watch collections, operating a license, or a sponsorship agreement. It’s described in a joint statement as a “genuine exchange between the two brands, a pooling of resources and information.”

Under the arrangement, Hublot becomes the exclusive watchmaking partner in the full range of Ferrari’s activities. This includes the “Official Watch” of Ferrari, “Official Timekeeper” of Ferrari, “Official Timekeeper” of Scuderia Ferrari, “Official Watch” of Scuderia Ferrari, “Official Timekeeper” of the Ferrari Challenge, and partners in Ferrari special events.

Jean-Claude Biver flanked by members of the Ferrari racing team. Photo credit: Raphael Faux

The partnership was announced November 5 during the Finali Mondiali Ferrari race at the Mugello International Circuit—the world finals event that traditionally marks the end of the Prancing Stallion's sports season. The new partnership will then head to the emerging markets of China and the Middle East. Ferrari is a leading luxury brands in China and Hublot is establishing itself in the country with 3 boutiques currently and 12 openings planned by the end of 2012.

“Exclusivity, technology, passion, style: Hublot and Ferrari share many core values and this new partnership between two such highly prestigious brands is an important milestone for both,” said Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari S.p.A.

“This collaboration, rich in a host of synergies, gives Hublot a massive boost along the road,” added Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hermès Q3 Sales Up 15.8% Led by Watch and Jewelry Sales


The cream rises to the top as the best luxury goods brands continue to report robust sales in a difficult economic climate.

Hermès reports that revenue in the third quarter increased 15.8 percent, year-over-year, to 683.2 million euros. Revenue rose by 18.2 percent at constant exchange rates (stripping out the effects exchange rate changes). Sales growth for the Group's own stores was up 19.1 percent at constant exchange rates for the period, despite of a high comparison basis.

The 174-year-old Parisian brand said watch sales rose 22.4 percent (24.9 percent at constant exchange rates) to 37.5 million euros. Under the ready-to-wear & fashion accessories category, which includes jewelry, sales rose 28.9 percent (32.4 percent at constant exchange rates) to 148.1 million euros for the period, ended September 30.

Sales in other product categories are as follows:

* Silk & Textiles, up 21 percent (24.1 percent at constant-exchange rates) to 76 million euros.

* Leathergoods & Saddlery, up 8 percent (10.3 percent at constant-exchange rates) to 319.5 million euros.

* Other Hermes Sectors, up 29.9 percent (32.2 percent at constant-exchange rates) to 25.6 million euros.

* Perfumes, up 11.2 percent (11.6 percent at constant-exchange rates) to 42.7 million euros.

* Tableware, up 15 percent (16.8 percent at constant-exchange rates) to 10.9 million euros.

* Other products (which include John Lobb shoes as well as production activities realized for third parties, such as textile printing, perfumes, tanning), up 22.5 percent (23.3 percent in constant exchange rates) to 22.9 million.

Sales among geographical regions are as follows:

* Americas rose 12.9 percent (21.8 percent at constant exchange rates) to 106.6 million euros.

* France rose 5.4 percent to 111.8 million euros.

* The rest of Europe rose 21.3 percent (20.2 percent at constant exchange rates) to 138.1 million euros.

* Japan rose 4.3 percent (3.2 percent at constant exchange rates) to 115.8 million euros.

* The rest of the Asian Pacific rose 28.9 percent (33.9 percent at constant exchange rates) to 201.9 million euros.

Because of its strong third-quarter showing the company increased its outlook for the year, saying it expects sales growth to be 15 to 16 percent at constant exchange rates.

“Meeting this target will be highly contingent on the business sectors' ability to meet stepped-up demand ahead of the year-end holiday season,” the company said.