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Friday, July 30, 2010

Gemfields raises $7.5M in Emerald Auction

Gemfields said it achieved the highest auction revenues to date from its latest event in London, raising $7.5 million as prices per carat was up 83 percent from the previous auction of higher quality material held in November.

Gemfields is a mining, cutting and distribution company for emeralds specifically from the Kagem emerald mine. It is setting up a system to bring what it is defines as “ethically produced, conflict-free gemstones of certified provenance directly from mine to market on an integrated basis.” Under the plan, Gemfields will develop a structured and consistent supply chain for retailers. The company aims to become a “supplier of choice,” by offering emeralds that are natural and organic (meaning untreated or with treatments approved by international norms and fully disclosed). The emeralds being direct from a single source, along with other provisions in the sourcing and distribution of these emeralds, will guarantee that the gemstones are conflict free and mined in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. The entire supply chain from mine to market will be “completely traceable and certified,” the company said.

The auction, held July 19-23, saw 850,000 carats offered to 37 companies from India, Israel, Germany and the United States with 8000,000 million carats sold.

“We are pleased with the positive response we have received at the recent auction, giving a clear indication that demand for our emeralds is growing,” said Adrian Banks, Gemfields product director. “All indications are that the market for emeralds is likely to continue to grow at a considerable pace, supported by strong Asian and worldwide demand, and into the foreseeable future.”

Bulgari Posts Modest Sales Gain in Second Quarter

Italian luxury jeweler Bulgari Group is slowly climbing out from a disastrous 2009 as it post results Thursday for the first half of 2010.

The Rome-based company said sales for the period increased by 8.2 percent (11.8 percent at current exchange rates) to 443.3 million euro ($578.3 million) for the first half of 2010. It had an operating profit of 12.3 million euro ($16 million) and a net loss of 7.7 million euro ($10 million). However, the company says it was “a great improvement” compared to the 40.5 million euro ($52.8 million) loss of the first half of 2009, and it was negatively affected by exchange rates.

Bulgari also notes that it had a net profit of 600,000 euro ($782,783) for the second quarter.

During the half year, all product categories, with the exception of watches, contributed positively to growth.

Jewelry rose by 10.5 percent at comparable exchange rates (14.8 percent at current exchange rates). Watch sales decreased by 4.6 percent (1.2 percent at current exchange rates). Perfume sales grew 13.6 by percent for the period and accessory sales grew by 20.7 percent led by handbag sales in Bulgari-owned stores.

Sales in Europe grew by 1 percent (led by Italy’s growth at 2.7 percent) with clear signs of improvement in the second quarter in its directly owned stores, benefiting from increased tourism.

Business in the Americas grew by 52.7 percent, while sales in Japan, fell by 4 percent. Sales in the rest of Asia are still growing briskly at 21.4 percent led by China (29.7 percent). Sales in the Middle East were up 6.1 percent for the period, but couldn’t offset sales in other parts of the world, which was down 6.1 percent.

“I am pleased with the results achieved by the Group in the first half of the year, as they are in line with our forecasts and they confirm the validity of the strategies adopted and focused, on one hand, on cost containment and, on the other, on investment in our creativity and in the growth opportunities offered by the market,” said Francesco Trapani, Bulgari Group CEO. “In particular, the excellent performance of accessories is rewarding our project for diversification and verticalisation in this product category, which we carried out years ago, and our strong commitment for its subsequent development in terms of distribution and image. In light of July sales trends, I think it is reasonable at this time to confirm the validity of the ‘mid single digit’ growth guidance at comparable exchange rates for the yearly turnover, which we had already provided to the market, though I do hope that all the initiatives already in place and set to continue for the rest of the year will allow us to beat the guidance."

Private Equity Firm is Now Zale Corp.’s Largest Shareholder

Golden Gate Capital has increased its stake in Zale Corp. and has become the jewelry store operator's largest shareholder, Bloomberg News reports.

The private equity firm exercised warrants to buy 4.7 million shares, bringing its stake in Zale to 34.5 percent, according to a filing on Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The firm originally took a 19.9 percent stake in Zale in May and lent the struggling jewelry retailer $150 million.

With that stake, Golden Gate now has a larger stake than Breeden Capital Management LLC, which owns 28.3 percent of Zale and is controlled by former U.S. SEC Chairman Richard Breeden, according to Thomson Reuters data. This makes Golden Gate Zale's largest investor.

Read more.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lorre White Provides Sound Marketing Advice

Luxury consultant Lorre White, "The Guru of Luxury," wrote on her blog recently that 92 percent of the world’s Ultra High Net Worth population is new money. To attract these new customers, those who market luxury goods and services must make people feel comfortable about entering the world of luxury products and services. They should educate them about the brand and do it in a fun way. In her opinion many marketers fall short.

Much of what she wrote contains valuable lessons not only in marketing but in how treat people in general. She wrote:

I embrace positive intensions where all actions are loving and supportive. These people did not get to their level of success from being stupid, but because 92% of the world’s Ultra High Net Worth is “new money” they simple did not have the exposure to be brand aware. Most grew up in the middle class and would be more aware of mass brands than elite brands. They may know Nike but not Armani. Luxuries evoke positive emotion. These individual want to experience life to the fullest that their means allow, and they are hungry to understand the art of the different luxuries. The only way for luxury brands to grow in this environment is to educate these consumers on their brand’s history, quality and uniqueness.

She added:

In the US where there is a larger group of educated individual there is a relatively low “cultural”‘ knowledge.  If you go out to dinner with 12 accomplished C level professionals, you may find it hard to carry on a group conversation about anything that is not work oriented or involves a ball (sports). A dozen individuals that could discuss the symphony, ballet, art and rare wines, etc and involve everyone would be infrequent. This is why such an economically established country has only achieved about 36% of their luxury consumption potential. Thus luxury brands need to explain the art, or culture, of their luxury.

Read the rest of her article here.

LVMH First-Half Sales Up 16%; Net Profits Up 53%

It appears that worldwide luxury spending is making a comeback as LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton reported revenue of €9.1 billion ($12 billion) in the first half of 2010, an increase of 16 percent. All business groups achieved double-digit organic revenue growth. The Group performed particularly well in Asia, the United States and Europe.

In addition, the world’s leading luxury products group reported that profits from recurring operations for the period increased by 33 percent to €1.8 billion and Group share of net profit increased by 53 percent to €1.05 billion ($1.37).

“The 2010 first half results, once again, demonstrate the exceptional appeal of our brands as well as the effectiveness of our strategy, as pertinent in the context of a recovery in 2010 as it was during the global economic crisis in 2009,” said Bernard Arnault, LVMH chairman and CEO. “All LVMH’s business groups contributed to this excellent half year. Operating margin has improved considerably thanks to robust revenue growth and the control over operating costs. This focus on cost control will continue into the second half of the year despite the momentum in the markets. The Group approaches the end of the year with confidence and is relying upon the creativity and quality of its products as well as the effectiveness of its teams to pursue further market share gains in its historical markets as well as in high potential emerging markets.”

The Watches & Jewelry business group registered revenue growth of 28 percent and a 145 percent increase in profit from recurring operations, the company said. The increase in purchases by retailers, coupled with the rise in consumer demand, contributed to the strong performance. TAG Heuer celebrated its 150th anniversary and grew strongly in China and the United States. Hublot’s King Power line was well received and the recent integration of the "Confrérie Horlogère" team has strengthened the brand’s expertise. Zenith benefited from the success of its new models. Fred, Chaumet and De Beers enjoyed momentum in their networks of stores. The launch of the Josephine collection was one of the highlights of the period for Chaumet.

Following considerable destocking in 2009, the Wines & Spirits business group recorded revenue growth of 21 percent and an increase of 35 percent in profit from recurring operations, the company said. Champagne sales saw a significant rebound during the period thanks to improvements at prestige brands, which had been adversely affected in 2009. In the Cognac business, Hennessy experienced strong momentum in its key markets, notably China and the United States. All qualities of cognac achieved strong growth.

The Fashion & Leather Goods business group recorded revenue growth of 18 percent in the first half of 2010. Profit from recurring operations increased by 28 percent to €1.2 billion ($1.5). Louis Vuitton registered very strong revenue growth. Asian and European markets confirmed their growth momentum and the United States, which showed good resilience in 2009, continued to improve during the period. Fendi, Donna Karan and the other fashion brands had a good start to the year.

The Perfumes & Cosmetics business group registered revenue growth of 12 percent, and a 50 percent increase in profit from recurring operations, the company said. LVMH’s brands benefited from strong growth in Asian markets and a return of demand in Europe as well as in the United States. By accelerating the development of its star lines, Christian Dior achieved strong growth and gained market share. Beyond the global success of J’Adore, the first half was notable for the progress of Miss Dior Chérie and Eau Sauvage, the leading French male fragrance. In make-up, the new foundation, Diorskin Nude, and the lipstick, Rouge Dior were successful. Guerlain benefited from the 2009 launch of its Idylle perfume and from the growth of Orchidée Impériale. The ongoing success of Ange ou Démon and its major classics were the key highlights for Parfums Givenchy. Benefit and Make Up For Ever enjoyed strong growth.

The Selective Distribution business group saw a 14 percent increase in revenue and recorded growth of 36 percent in profit from recurring operations. DFS benefited from the growth in Asian tourism and saw a considerable increase in revenue. The renovation of the Hong Kong’s Sun Plaza Galleria continued. Macao has seen strong growth and will benefit in the second half of the year from the full opening of the City of Dreams. Sephora performed exceptionally well and strengthened its position in all of its markets. It sustained its growth momentum on a comparable store basis and online sales have continued to grow rapidly. The brand expanded its presence in all markets, and is ready to develop in South America through the acquisition of Sack’s, the leading Brazilian online specialty beauty retailer.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Consumer Confidence Declines Again

Consumers continue to be skeptical when it comes to the performance of the U.S. economy, particularly in regards to their opinion of the job market, according to The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index.

The index, which had declined sharply in June, retreated further in July. The Index now stands at 50.4 (1985=100), down from 54.3 in June. The Present Situation Index decreased to 26.1 from 26.8. The Expectations Index declined to 66.6 from 72.7 last month.

“Consumer confidence faded further in July as consumers continue to grow increasingly more pessimistic about the short-term outlook,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Concerns about business conditions and the labor market are casting a dark cloud over consumers that is not likely to lift until the job market improves. Given consumers’ heightened level of anxiety, along with their pessimistic income outlook and lackluster job growth, retailers are very likely to face a challenging back-to-school season.”  

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was more downbeat in July. Those saying conditions are “bad” increased to 43.6 percent from 41 percent, however, those saying business conditions are “good” increased to 9 percent from 8.4 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the job market was also more negative. Those claiming jobs are “hard to get” increased to 45.8 percent from 43.5 percent, while those saying jobs are “plentiful” remained unchanged at 4.3 percent.   

Consumers’ short-term outlook also deteriorated further in July. The percentage of consumers expecting an improvement in business conditions over the next six months decreased to 15.9 percent from 17.1 percent, while those anticipating conditions will worsen rose to 15.7 percent from 13.9 percent.

Consumers were also more pessimistic about future job prospects. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead decreased to 14.3 percent from 16.2 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs increased to 21.1 percent from 20.1 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes declined to 10 percent from 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, the world’s largest custom research company. The cutoff date for July’s preliminary results was July 21.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stephen Webster to Open Boutique on Rodeo Drive

Stephen Webster with Christina Aguilera, who appears in the brand's advertising campaign.

British jewelry designer Stephen Webster said he will launch a new boutique to showcase his glam-rock creations on Rodeo Drive in Beverley Hills, according to media reports.

The ground floor of the two-story space, scheduled for a November opening, will carry Webster’s full fine of silver men's and women's jewelry collections, according to media reports. The second floor will house a lounge space with innovative and constantly changing exhibitions and creative collaborations.

Webster, who defines his style as “glamor with a rock and roll edge,” reportedly said this new project will be identical to his London and European boutiques.

E-Marketing and Automated Inventory Software Program for Independent Jewelers

KGK Jewelry LLC, an affiliate of KGK Enterprises (a DTC Sightholder), has launched an automated e-marketing software program designed for independent jewelry retailers. It’s called the KGK E-lectrifed MARKeTING Campaign.

This automated software package makes it possible for jewelers engaged to select their merchandise reflecting the needs of their specific markets and clientele, according to a company statement.

KGK says the software program allows independent jewelry retailers strategic marketing tools needed to compete with national jewelry brands. Every piece of the collection created for each retailer is delivered with an identified and patented consumer protection card—underwritten by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company.

The e-marketing campaign is a joint venture between KGK Jewelry and ESDN-Live, which provides e-commerce solutions for the jewelry industry.

The e-marketing campaign helps jewelers secure the customers’ e-mail addresses, and how allows them to produce effective e-marketing campaigns to those customers.

More information contact KGK Jewelry LLC 1-866-KGK(545)-8080

Monday, July 26, 2010

Swarovski’s Crystal Palace

Photograph of the front entrance to Sparkling Hill Resort provided by Derek Lepper of Derek Lepper Photography. (© 2010 Derek Lepper)

The Austrian crystal company, Swarovski, has made its mark in a most unusual place and in a most unusual way, bringing a large, glittering slice of Europe to rural western Canada.

The company has opened the Sparking Hill Resort and Wellness Hotel in Vernon, British Columbia. Carved out of a piece of granite overlooking the Okanagan Valley—known for its rustic beauty and as North America’s newest premium wine-growing region—the approximate $100 million, 178-acre project offers a wellness approach that is more popular in Europe as opposed to a North American spa experience that focuses on pampering.

And, of course, every part of this project includes the visual sparkle and healing powers of Swarovski crystals. From the giant crystal formation at the entrance that appears to have crashed into the granite mountain (which was the intent of chief designer Andy Altmayer and the Cannon Design architectural firm) to the crystal chandeliers that spread eloquently throughout the public spaces of the 241,000-square-foot hotel. 

A Swarovski crystal chandelier is the centerpiece of a dining room inside Sparkling Hill Resort. Photograph provided by Derek Lepper of Derek Lepper Photography(© 2010 Derek Lepper)

In addition, crystals are infused in water elements, fireplaces and in overhead lights, setting the mood in public areas while creating a feeling of warmth and rejuvenation in the wellness center. Natural surroundings incorporate and enhance the crystal theme as the hotel offers unobstructed views of the sun and moon and their shimmering reflection from the lake.

The 152 suites with expansive windows provide guests with views of either Lake Okanagan or the nearby mountains. The 25,000-square-foot wellness spa includes treatments that were only available in Europe, such as Italian (Fango) mud treatments where volcanic ash is mixed with water and the first cold sauna in North America, which involves being in a room for three minutes at -110C.

This resort in all sparkling, oversized glory serves as another extension for the Swarovski brand. The success of the 115-year-old company has been its ability to create new uses for crystal that brings functionality and beauty in areas that were previously unimagined. Altmayer has been with Swarovski for 35 years and embodies the philosophy of the company.

“My inspiration comes from the possibility of imagination,” he says. “Many people assume Swarovski is glittering figurines and chandeliers but it is so much more. Swarovski is a century old company that strives to invent new ways to incorporate crystals into fabrics, lights, jewelry, optics and even signage for roadways and offices.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Harry Winston Increases Stake in Canadian Diamond Mine

Harry Winston Diamond Corp. said Friday it has struck a deal to purchase an additional 9 percent stake in Diavik Diamond Mine for $220 million from Kinross Gold Corp. When the purchase is finalized, Harry Winston will own 40 percent of the mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories of Canada.

Toronto-based Harry Winston will pay Kinross $50 million in cash, 7.1 million in stock and $70 million in debt securities, according to a company statement.

In a related development, Toronto-based Kinross said Friday that it has reached an agreement to sell approximately 15 million common shares of Harry Winston to a group of financial institutions. Kinross' direct ownership interest in Harry Winston following closing of the transaction will be approximately 8.5 percent. Kinross originally acquired the interest in Diavik in March 2009, as part of a deal that saw the company also gain a 19.9 percent stake in Harry Winston for $150 million.

“The transaction represents an opportunity for Harry Winston to consolidate its interest in the Diavik mine, Canada's largest diamond producer and one of the most profitable diamond mines in the world,” Robert Gannicott, Harry Winston chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Harry Winston Diamond Corp. has assets in the mining and retail segments of the diamond industry. Harry Winston supplies rough diamonds to the global market and the company's retail division is a diamond jeweler and luxury timepiece retailer with salons in key locations, including New York, Paris, London, Beijing, Tokyo and Beverly Hills.

De Beers CEO to Resign as Diamond Sales Rise 48%

De Beers said Friday that Chief Executive Officer Gareth Penny will step down later this year as the world’s largest diamond producer reported strong first-half sales results, according to news reports.

Penny, 48, headed De Beers for the past five years and will leave after leading the company through a global recession that slashed demand for diamonds, De Beers said Friday.

Chief Financial Officer Stuart Brown and Chief Commercial Officer Bruce Cleaver will act as joint-CEOs while De Beers finds a permanent successor, the company said.

Earlier, De Beers, which produces about 40 percent of the world’s diamonds, said first-half sales of unpolished and uncut stones climbed 84 percent to $2.6 billion, boosted by improved demand from Asia, the company said Friday. In addition, mining giant Anglo American plc, which owns 45 percent of De Beers, said net profits for the diamond company totaled $148 million.

Output more than doubled to 15.4 million carats as the company reopened mines in Botswana and Namibia that were shuttered as gem consumption slumped amid the recession. De Beers said sales were helped by improved retail demand, particularly in India and China, and also in the U.S., the largest market, which accounts for half of the world’s diamond demand.

While rough diamond prices have risen in the past year, returning to levels last seen in June 2008, the global economic climate remains fragile, especially in the U.S., Japan and Europe, De Beers said.

With demand recovering, De Beers expects to produce between 30 million carats and 32 million carats this year, rising to about 40 million carats next year, Penny reportedly said.

In addition to Anglo American Plc, 40 percent of the company is owned by the Oppenheimer family and Botswana controls the remaining 15 percent. Penny told Reuters on Friday that the privately owned De Beers has no intention of issuing an IPO.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Luxury Consumption Index Stalls, Responding to Mixed Market Signals

Unity Marketing's Luxury Consumption Index stalled at 78.3 points in July 2010 as affluent consumers display uncertainty about prospects for the economy in the next three months. The survey’s founder says this apparent lull in the luxury economy “is reason for concern.”

Significantly more luxury consumers (36 percent) say the country as a whole is worse off now as compared with three months ago—a 5 percent rise, according to the survey of 1,349 luxury consumers was conducted July 3-8, 2010 (Average income $306,700 and net worth $15.2 million; 44.8 years; 45 percent male and 55 percent female).

Value positioning is key for luxury success through third and fourth quarters 2010, says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, a marketing consulting firm.

“Without a doubt the luxury consumer market is in a much better place today than it was a year or so ago, but the latest survey warns marketers not to ease up or be over-confident that the recession's effect on the luxury market are over,” Danziger said. “Nearly three out of four luxury consumers surveyed believe that the recession continues, which in turn impacts spending on luxury goods and services. Marketers are advised to continue to position luxury as a value proposition, by keeping luxury connotations and image up front in advertising, packaging and service, but communicating in a very subtle, almost one-on-one way, affordable pricing.”

Survey findings in the quarterly survey, include:

* Spending on luxury rose a modest 7.7 percent quarter-to-quarter. Luxury consumer spending, however, rose dramatically year-over-year, up nearly 60 percent from $19,952 on average to $31,665. Unity expects the same trends toward modest quarter-to-quarter spending increases to continue throughout 2010.

* Categories that attracted higher levels of spending among luxury consumers in the second quarter included luxury beauty and cosmetics, high-end cooking tools, men’s luxury clothing and apparel, men’s luxury fashion accessories, home electronics and travel.

* Aspirational affluents (incomes $100,000-$249,999) started to trade up once again to luxury, according to the survey. They increased luxury spending by nearly 30 percent in the quarter, their highest levels of spending seen throughout 2009. High-end clothing, fashion accessories, personal electronics, wine and spirits, and beauty products were the most popular items.

The pace of growth in luxury consumer spending will remain modest over the next two quarters, according to Tom Bodenberg, Unity Marketing's chief consumer economist.

“Affluents still have a lot of uncertainty about the economy which dictates caution when it comes to spending on luxuries,” he said. “We don't expect to see moderation on this cautious attitude until the beginning of 2011.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor on the Block

Sotheby's will auction an estimated $4.8 million worth of jewelry once owned by Wallis Simpson, the American socialite who became Duchess of Windsor. The sale will take place Nov. 30 in London.

The 20 pieces belonged to Simpson and King Edward VIII, who abdicated to marry Simpson in 1937. The pair then became known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The pieces on sale include a Cartier heart-shaped emerald, ruby and diamond brooch, with the initials W.E. (Wallis, Edward) commissioned in 1957 to mark their 20th wedding anniversary (top); And a Cartier onyx and diamond panther bracelet and a flamingo clip encrusted with multicolored jewels (left).

In addition to the Cartier items, the selection will include a gold mesh, ruby, turquoise and diamond purse by Van Cleef & Arpels and a series of silver items and medals, once property of Edward, the Prince of Wales.

The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor were first offered for auction by Sothebys in Geneva in April, 1987. The two-day auction sold all 306 lots offered and fetched $50 million, well above the $7 million pre-sale estimate. The total remains a world record for the auction of a single-owner jewelry collection. More than 1,000 people attended the sale in Geneva and another 1,000 participated from Sotheby’s New York via satellite.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Neil Lane Creates Bridal Collection for Kay Jewelers

Jewelry designer Neil Lane and Kay Jewelers will launch the Neil Lane Bridal, a line of 36 vintage-inspired engagement and wedding rings. Each ring is designed by Neil Lane and hand crafted, assembled, and finished by skilled artisans, with diamonds that were hand selected by Kay.

The rings are grouped in the following themes: Energy, Timeless, Essence, and Harmony. Prices range from $2,599 - $7,799. The collection is available at select U.S. Kay Jewelers stores and online at

Neil Lane’s work is seen on film, television and music icons at red carpet events and celebrity weddings on some of the world’s most influential women.

Kay Jewelers, the number one jewelry store in America, is located in malls and off-mall shopping centers across the country. Kay Jewelers’ parent company, Akron, Ohio-based Sterling Jewelers Inc., operates 1,431 stores in all 50 states and employs more than 21,000 team members. Sterling Jewelers Inc. is the U.S. division of Signet Jewelers Ltd., making it part of the largest specialty jewelry retailer in the world.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pomellato Begins Its Push on the Worldwide Stage

A little-known Italian jewelry company is charting a new path into the hearts and minds of the jewelry buying public. 

Pomellato, based in Milan, has been around since 1967 but not many people outside of Italy were familiar with the company unless they discovered it by accident or they are passionate enough about jewelry to seek them out. 

The company, which specializes in handmade gold jewelry with precious gems and whimsical designs, seemed to be content to making its pieces for a small audience of appreciate followers—but not anymore. 

The company has been appearing in all the right consumer magazines and its jewelry is being worn by all the right actresses in the U.S. In addition, it was featured last week in a smashing story by style and lifestyle writer, Lucia van der Post, for the U.K.-based Financial Times "How to Spend It" magazine.

However exciting all of this is, the company’s big thrust into the worldwide jewelry buying public is the hiring of red hot Tilda Swinton, fresh off her success as the lead in Io Sono L'Amore (I am Love), who won rave reviews as much for what she wore as for her acting, as its spokesperson.

Above is a picture of Swinton in a Pomellato ad. Below, she stars in a 30-second commercial for Pomellato.

Friday, July 16, 2010

‘Doing a Ratner’

It’s not a new dance or something to do with the movement of dormice. “Doing a Ratner” refers to making a public gaffe that is so big it can alter the value of a company.

Gerald Ratner was the chief executive of Ratners Group, a very successful British jewelry retail chain that he grew from 130 stores with sales of $20 million into a public company with 2,500 stores and sales of more than $1.8 billion. Then on April 23, 1991, during a speech, he said the following:

“We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, ‘Because it's total crap.’”

He added that some of his earrings were “cheaper than a prawn sandwich.”

The media seized on the comments and it resulted in an estimated loss of $770 million of company value. He resigned in November 1992. A year later the company changed its name to Signet Group.

“Doing a Ratner” is now part of the corporate lexicon when referring to public gaffes by executives.

The Financial Times published a piece on Ratner Friday in its “20 Questions” management column (subscription required). Today, a much more humble Ratner owns the jewelry Web site Geraldonline with 15 employees. When he was head of Ratners, he had 27,000 employees. He also is a paid public speaker, which he finds “cathartic.”

In the interview, Ratner said he was shunned by Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street. Among the takeaways from the interview:

“It was a dumb thing to say ... If I talk about Ratner’s successes it’s like discussing the Titanic’s pleasurable cruising aspects. People don’t want to know.”

When asked about the expression, “Doing a Ratner,” his response was: “Someone told me that it would be used 500 years after I died. I had hoped death might give me a rest.”

Today, his former company is doing quite well. It's known as Signet Jewelers Limited with its headquarters in Bermuda and its primary listing on the New York Stock Exchange. It is the world’s largest specialty retail jeweler operating more than 1,900 stores in the U.S. and U.K. Its holdings include Kay Jewelers, Jared, The Galleria Of Jewelry in the U.S.; and H.Samuel, Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis in the U.K.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Art and Craft of Amber Jewelry

I’ve always had a soft spot for the artists and craftsmen who create amber jewelry in northern Poland. I’ve visited there a couple of times for the annual Amberif trade fair and they’ve always treated me like family.

Amber jewelry isn’t for everyone. Many of the designs are big and bold and the material itself, prehistoric tree resin, is extremely light when compared to fine jewelry. But much of the jewelry being produced in northern Poland is fashionable and artistic and can easily compete on the world stage. One of the most celebrated amber jewelry designers and a central figure in the amber industry is Mariusz Gliwinski, head designer (along with his wife, Mariusz) of the family owned firm, Ambermoda.

I caught up with Gliwinski during the recently held JCK Las Vegas jewelry trade show. Every year he seems to produce jewelry that’s more thematic and avant-garde. This year he introduced Multi, a collection that uses silver, amber and other materials, such as bottle caps (see top). The inspiration for this collection is the ancient lamellar armor (consisting of small plates laced together in parallel rows) worn by ancient warriors in Asia, Europe and North Africa.

On a more traditional note, he introduced a collection of black amber hearts studded with diamonds and set in either gold or silver (left).

Below is a necklace made of different shades of light-colored amber with silver.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Ernst Benz ChronoScope

The newest version of the Ernst Benz ChronoScope timepiece honors the tradition of the authentic aviation chronographs and famous wrist timers worn by pilots in the 1940’s.

The automatic Valjoux 7750 movement measures elapsed time in seconds, minutes and hours, while displaying the day and date. The dial is housed in a brushed and polished stainless steel case and is available in 47mm, 44mm and 40mm. The dial comes in no fewer than 11 colors and styles and strap is available in leather or steel.

The ChronoScope was initially created in response to the demands the Swiss watch brand received from aviators for a reliable and easily legible chronograph. It has evolved since its release, both aesthetically, while maintaining the styling and character of the original model.

Legibility was one of the most important criteria of timepieces in the 1940s. The dials were designed to resemble those of the era’s aviation instruments while their diameter allowed for large numerals and oversized hands for instant readability. A highly functional timekeeper and also a visual experience, a chronograph is a complicated watch, endowed with an additional mechanism enabling it to calculate the duration of an event.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

De Beers Marks Diamond Jewelry Craftsmanship with 3D Window Displays

De Beers Diamond Jewellers is celebrating 120 years of craftsmanship with an exhibition in Tokyo using new 3D technology.

The exhibition is in the form of window displays at Isetan, the world-famous department store. The 3D film is shown on Alioscopy screens in the store windows, giving consumers an insider view of De Beers diamond jewelry through multimedia displays. The exhibition will run through July 21.

The stereoscopic 3D film captures the beauty and sparkle of De Beers jewelry shown in a continuous loop of visual artistry. The 3D film is shown on a customized screen that does not require viewers to wear special glasses and allows the finest details of the jewelry to be seen.

The technology is first for Japan and the jewelry world, according to the two London-based companies that created the visual display: Holition, which creates advanced 3D technology applications for retail and Pointy Stick Films, a newly formed 3D production company.

Holition previously made the virtual pages of the Jewelry News Network with a Tissot window display in London that allowed consumers virtually try on watches.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The 111-Facet Las Vegas Cut Diamond

If you are going to brand a diamond after the one of the most glamorous cities in the world, it better be one brilliant gem.

The Las Vegas Cut Diamond is certainly ambitious enough to be compared to the sparkle of Sin City. The 111-facet diamond boasts extraordinary light performance, fire and brilliance, says Kimberlight Brands, the company that recently received a patent to produce this new diamond.

Heather Kirk and Laura Serena are co-owners of the Calgary, Canada-based company, which specializes in creating luxury brands.

This new diamond cut, which is planned for a fall release, is available for stones of one carat or greater, the company said. Initially, the diamonds will be sold loose through limited release. Master diamond cutter Mike Botha of Embee Diamonds is the exclusive cutting and polishing supplier for this branded diamond. Each stone will be graded by AGS Laboratories.

For more information, e-mail or call 888 99 LV CUT.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Modern Take on Cameos

The style of cameos for jewelry hasn’t changed much in Southern Italy since people began carving the hand-made relief images out of sea shells in the 15th Century. However, one company near Naples—the epicenter of the cameo and coral industry in Italy—is trying to create cameo jewelry that appeal to young, fashion conscious consumers, while maintaining traditional techniques.

Di Luca 1929 is adding color and diversifying its designs. In addition, the Caserta-based company is making smaller cameos the size of charms that can be collected and worn as necklaces, earrings and bracelets; and matched with inexpensive gemstones.

Gino Di Luca said at the JCK Las Vegas jewelry show that the idea is to create a style and price point that will appeal to younger women. He said the product is doing well in Japan and that he believes there is a market in the U.S.

To show that the company is serious about maintaining the traditional way of creating cameos, it brought to the trade show one of its master cameo carvers who working on new relief figures on the exposition floor.

The jewelry should be appearing in stores in the fall.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Triple-Axis Flying Tourbillon Wristwatch

It’s difficult to say, much less build, but independent Swiss watchmaker Thomas Prescher says he has created the world’s only triple-axis flying tourbillon wristwatch.

As Prescher explain it, a normal tourbillon is supported by bridges top and bottom that obstruct a clear view into the tourbillon. He said he chose to make his triple-axis tourbillon fully “flying,” in other words supported by just one side so the triple-axis tourbillion can easily be seen.

The triple-axis tourbillon mechanism is driven by two conical gears. Prescher says the difficulty in supporting anything by just one end is balance. “When an object is supported on two sides its equilibrium is not as critical as if it is supported on only one. However, imagine balancing an object moving through not one, not two, but three different planes.”

The triple-axis tourbillon mechanism includes an escapement wheel, pallets, anchor, balance spring and balance wheel. It is extremely light, with the smallest screw weighing less than 1/1000th of a gram. But he says it is actually heavy in relation to the amount of energy available.

Prescher says one of the major issues regarding multi-axis tourbillons is ensuring an ample supply of power to the escapement, the mechanism that regulates timekeeping. To resolve this problem, Prescher added a constant-force device inside the tourbillon cage turning around the first axis. This device transmits energy directly to the escapement six times per second. The main power train drives the tourbillon and recharges the constant-force spring so that it always has sufficient power on tap for the escapement.

The triple-axis tourbillon mechanism can easily be seen inside its black onyx dial. Regulator-style hours and seconds are each indicated in their own separate sub-dial, while the constantly animated tourbillon tracks the minutes during its one-hour rotation. The dial and mechanism is housed in a pink-gold case.

Prescher is offering tours of his workshop in Twann, Switzerland, this summer. Visitors will be able to see how a timepiece is developed, produced, assembled and regulated; and learn about the machines used by watchmakers as well as the techniques they use to master their craft.

In addition, visitors will be able to sit at a watchmaker's bench and use their tools to work on real watch components, practice fine finishing techniques on a tiny steel part and, finish a real tourbillon bridge.

Contact Thomas Prescher at or at +41 (0)32 315 28 66 for more details.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Diane von Furstenberg: ‘Our headquarters is really on the Web’

Caption: Diane von Furstenberg (right) answers a question during a panel discussion at the FT Business of Luxury Summit. From left are Gillian de Bono, editor of the Financial Times How to Spend It section; Deepak Ohri, CEO of Lebuna Hotels & Resorts; Marissa Mayer, VP, Search Products & User Experience, Google Inc; and Edgar Huber, CEO of Juicy Couture.

You could say that fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg was into social media before it was cool. In fact she was into communicating with her customers in an open, honest and organic way before there was an Internet, much less Web 2.0. So while many luxury and fashion companies are struggling to take advantage of social media tools, for von Furstenberg, it was just another way of doing what she has always done. In other words, she gets it, because she always understood the value of open communications with her customers.

“I started when I was very, very young,” the 63-year-old owner of DVF fashion house said during a panel discussion titled, “Communicating Strategies,” at the recently held FT Business of Luxury Summit. “For whatever reason, I established a relationship with women. And it was very caring, it was very real. And people have a personal relationship with me… And the reason why it works is because it’s real, it’s authentic, it’s harmless. My mission in life is to empower women. It’s more important for me that she feels empowered and then I sell her a dress. The dress is afterward. It’s a consequence that if she wears it she will be happy with it.”

Von Furstenberg told the audience of luxury professionals that she loves to use Twitter but she will never use it to tell people to buy DVF products. She spoke about a time when one of her employees tried to use the social media tool to recruit 60,000 followers.

“I got so upset. I don’t want to force people to do that. It has to happen organically. In my work and how I run my business, it’s organic, it’s real. And that is part of having a reputation and that’s how people believe in you,” she said. “So I feel that it can’t be forced. Not everything starts with marketing. For me it’s making the best product for the best price, the best design to make women happy, and therefore the sale is the consequence of a good product, the marketing is a consequence of the demand. But if everything you do is market driven then it’s no longer real and somehow the consumers will know that and they will not believe you anymore.”

The creator of the wrap dress also told the audience of a revelation she had six months ago when it came to how she views her company’s Web site.

“I always thought that our headquarters was in the (New York) meat packing district,” von Furstenberg said. “We were having a meeting with everybody and I said, ‘You know what? Our headquarters is really on the Web.’ So, we are now in the process of changing our Web site—which is very successful in both editorial and e-commerce—because you forget about it, but anybody who wants to know about anything: whether they want a job with your company, or have to do a paper on you, or they want to buy something, or whatever it is, they go on the Web and therefore the Web site is you image to the universe.”

Under the questioning of Gillian de Bono, editor of the Financial Times How to Spend It luxury magazine, who was the most probing of the FT editors who led panel discussions, von Furstenberg discussed how she views her own boutiques and department stores.

“Boutiques offer a way to control your destiny, a way to control your brand,” she said. “How you sell it, how you show the experience of a woman. My goal in my shops is to make sure that a woman who walks in leaves happier than she was when she came in. It’s not about how much I will sell her. It’s how happier I can make her. And that works for bricks and mortar and it also works for the Net. It’s an environment where I want a woman to come in and I want to make her happier.

On department stores: “Department stores also are a brand and they are larger brand and they do some editing for you, I mean for the consumer. Department stores are like editors, they edit, they buy, they choose, they decide who goes next to whom so I think they are important, too. And if you don’t think they do a good job, you pull out.”

Von Furstenberg even talked about an increased need for editors in this new communications age.

“I think that now we live in a world where everyone has access to everything,” she said. “You can reach everything, reach everyone, know everything. And strangely enough, I think that makes the need for editors even more important. Because we have access to everything, because we can reach everything, I believe that editors should not be afraid. The value of editors will increase. Some of them start are bloggers, they call themselves bloggers, but their dream is to be editors. And the editors now start to blog, so there are all kinds of merges … and therefore you have to respect those editors who say, ‘I like it because.’ I think that editors should absolutely not be afraid of what’s going on in this huge revolution.”

The von Furstenberg brand remains as popular as when she burst onto the fashion scene in the early 1970s, particularly with a younger clientele. She claims to be somewhat mystified with her appeal to young people but, no doubt a part of the reason for this is her ability to talk directly with her customers using modern communications tools.

“I really don’t know how it happens, but the older I am, the younger my consumer base is.”

The FT Business of Luxury Summit, hosted by the Financial Times, was held June 14 and 15 at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.