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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hublot and Manfredi Jewels Honor Alex Rodriguez’s 600th Home Run

Roberto Chiappelloni of Manfredi Jewels, Alex Rodriguez, Beatrice de Quervain Blanchard, Hublot U.S. and Latin America president, and Joel Kopel, of  Manfredi Jewels.
Swiss Luxury watch brand Hublot, and Roberto Chiappelloni of Manfredi Jewels, a Greenwich, Conn., timepiece and jewelry retailer, presented Alex Rodriguez with a one-of-a-kind timepiece of its Big Bang King Power Black Magic created in honor of his 600th home run. At 35 years old, the New York Yankees third baseman became the youngest player and the sixth major leaguer to achieve this milestone.

The Big Bang King Power Black Magic features a black ceramic case and bezel with a matching black dial and superluminova markers. The 48 mm timepiece has a split second timer, power reserve and its production is limited to 500 pieces worldwide. This particular watch was customized for the occasion by etching of Alex’s signature on the sapphire glass, showing the Yankee colors and the number 600 commemorating the occasion.

Rodriguez received this timepiece at Yankee stadium on September 22 before the Tampa Bay Rays game.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Signet Names Michael Barnes New CEO

The world’s largest specialty retail jeweler will soon have new leadership.

Signet Jewelers Ltd. said Wednesday it has appointed Michael Barnes as chief executive officer beginning Jan. 30, 2011. Barnes, formally with Fossil Inc., will join Signet on December 1 as chief executive officer designate and will be based in Akron, Ohio. He succeeds Terry Burman who will retire Jan. 29, 2011.

Barnes had been president, chief operating officer and a director of Fossil. He has been with the global design, marketing and distribution company for 25 years, serving in several key management positions. He started with the Richardson, Texas-based company in its early days and was one of its initial employees. He was part of the management team that took Fossil public in 1993. Barnes announced his resignation from Fossil Wednesday.

“We are delighted to have recruited such a strong candidate as Mike to be Signet’s CEO,” said Sir Malcolm Williamson, Signet chairman. “Mike is a seasoned and accomplished manager who with his strategic and attentive outlook to operational details brings valuable experience to Signet. He will be an able successor to Terry Burman who has led Signet as CEO for the last ten years and who leaves a strong legacy.”

Signet, based in Hamilton, Bermuda, operates 1,893 stores, including1,345 stores in the U.S., where it trades as Kay Jewelers, Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry, and under a number of regional names. Signet also operates 548 stores in the U.K. division, where it trades as H.Samuel, Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index Falls 4.7 Points

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had improved in August, retreated in September. The Index now stands at 48.5 (1985=100), down from 53.2 in August. The Present Situation Index decreased to 23.1 from 24.9. The Expectations Index declined to 65.4 from 72 last month.

“September’s pull-back in confidence was due to less favorable business and labor market conditions, coupled with a more pessimistic short-term outlook,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Overall, consumers’ confidence in the state of the economy remains quite grim. And, with so few expecting conditions to improve in the near term, the pace of economic growth is not likely to pick up in the coming months.”

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions weakened further in September. Those saying business conditions are “bad” increased to 46.1 percent from 42.3 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “good” declined to 8.1 percent from 8.4 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market was also less favorable. Those claiming jobs are “hard to get” rose to 46.1 percent from 45.5 percent, while those stating jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 3.8 percent from 4.0 percent.    

Consumers’ expectations took a turn for the worse in September. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions will worsen over the next six months rose to 16.4 percent from 13.4 percent, while those anticipating business conditions will improve declined to 14.9 percent from 16.9 percent.

Consumers are also more pessimistic about future employment prospects. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead remained essentially unchanged at 14.5 percent in September, compared to 14.7 percent in August. However, those anticipating fewer jobs increased to 22.7 percent from 19.6 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes declined slightly to 10.2 percent from 10.6 percent.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blue Nile Launches Diamond Shopping App

Online diamond and jewelry retailer Blue Nile, Inc. has released a shopping app. The Blue Nile App allows consumers to comparison shop and purchase diamonds through the convenience of iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. The new app is available at the Apple app store.

The app allows customers to search through BlueNile’s diamond inventory for certain specification, connect to Blue Nile's diamond and jewelry consultants, and purchase a diamond through their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Consumers can also browse thousands of engagement rings and educational materials.

Louis Vuitton to Open Jewelry Store

French fashion house Louis Vuitton reportedly said it will open its first space dedicated to jewelry and watches at 23 Place Vendôme.

Yves Carcelle, chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton Malletier, said that store will open on the famed Parisian shopping center in October, 2011, Professional Jeweller reports. The jewelry lines that will be for sale include L’Ame du Voyage (pictured) by Lorenz Bäumer, which incorporates the LV diamond cut.

Kelly Rutherford to Star in Monica Rich Kosann’s Ad Campaign


Actress Kelly Rutherford will appear as the face of Monica Rich Kosann’s jewelry line for fall 2010 and spring 2011. As the brand's spokesmodel, Rutherford appears in all of the fall advertisements in consumer magazines run through the spring season, on the brand's Web, site, in social media and e-magazine campaigns, and in-store visuals.

Kosann, in addition to being a luxury jewelry designer, is an accomplished photographer. She shot the fall campaign that features Rutherford wearing jewelry from the fall collection. One ad showcases the brands' 18k gold Gate Collection necklaces and the other features a charm bracelet from its Charmed Life Collection.

Rutherford currently appears on "Gossip Girl," where she plays the role of Blake Lively's character's mother, Lily van der Woodsen.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Report: Luxury Jewelry Spending Up

There’s growth in jewelry spending among luxury consumers, but it is lagging when compared to other areas of luxury spending, according to a recently published report.

Average transaction size for luxury jewelry by U.S. consumers increased by 10 percent, while transaction volume increased 2 percent for the second quarter, year-over-year, according to the American Express Business Insights Q2 2010 Spend Trends Report.

The report (which covers April, May and June transactions) notes that overall spending on jewelry increased 20 percent in April, then began a steady decline to 10 percent in May and 3 percent in June, the smallest increase in the past eight months.

Meanwhile, overall luxury retail spending increased by at least 9 percent, according to the report.

“It appears that while other luxury retail categories are flourishing, consumers are shying away from jewelry spending in the summer months,” according to the report.

The report tracks luxury retail spending in furniture and home furnishings, apparel and accessories, jewelry, and department stores. Home furnishings performed the strongest—despite a weak housing market—suggesting that homeowners are focusing on their current interiors until the real estate market improves, according to the report.

The report also tracks spending in the food and entertainment, and travel sectors, as well as spending trends by region.

Those defined as “ultra-affluent consumers” increased their spending for the second quarter by 24 percent in quick service restaurants, compared with a 12 percent increase in fine dining spending. In addition, business travel increased by 63 with the ultra-affluent group spending 114 percent more for the front of the plane.

By region, the city of San Francisco as a whole increased overall spend by 36 percent in the second quarter across all categories, higher than Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Meanwhile, New York posted a 3 percent decline in spending.

Zale 4Q Sales Down 3.4%, Same Store Sales Down 2.1%

Jewelry retailer chain Zale Corp. said Monday that fourth quarter sales fell 3.4 percent, year-over-year, to $345 million. Same store sales for the period ended July 31, dropped 2.1 percent, compared to a decrease of 21.2 percent during the comparable period in the prior year.

The Dallas-based company reported a net loss for the quarter of $28.5 million, compared to a net loss of $89.8 million during the fourth quarter of the prior year. The overall loss was not as drastic than the prior year period due to cost cutting and a reduction in discounted merchandise.

"Earlier this year, we began executing our multi-year turnaround strategy," said Theo Killion, Zale CEO. "Our results, which show significant progress year over year, also serve as an objective reminder of how far we need to go to reach our ultimate goal; profitable revenue growth."

Killion was named CEO September 23. He replaced Richard C. Breeden, whose holding company, Breeden Capital Management, holds a majority stake in Zale. Breeden announced his resignation from the company the same day. Also resigning was James Cotter. Both joined the company in January 2008, when Breeden purchased a majority stake in the company.

Killion joined Zale Corp. in January 2008 as executive vice president and was appointed president in August 2008. Previously, he held senior management positions at Tommy Hilfiger, Limited Brands, Macy's East and the Home Shopping Network.

In addition, Kenneth B. Gilman, a retail industry veteran, joined the company's board as an independent director. His experience includes 25 years at Limited Brands, Inc., serving in numerous capacities.

In other Zale Corp. news:

* It has selected Citibank (South Dakota), N.A. to continue to provide private label credit for the retailer's Zales, Zales Outlet and Gordon's brands, effective October 1, 2010.

* It has amended its credit agreement with Golden Gate Capital to eliminate the minimum covenant on its term loan. In return, Zale will pay $25 million, including $11.3 million on its outstanding balance, $1.25 million as a prepayment and $12.5 million as an amendment fee.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eco-Friendly Luxury Jewelry

The Upper Eastside Michelin starred restaurant, Rouge Tomate, was the scene of a press event September 21 showcasing about 40 luxury products and services, ranging from high-performance automobiles to cosmetics and scents. In the center of it all—along with the complimentary sour tequila with cranberry juice; and apple juice, ginger and vodka cocktails—were six luxury jewelry designers: Alberto Parada, Christine Carson, Christopher Designs, Donna Distefano, Georland, and Jewels of Ocean.

Environmentally responsible products and services was a major focus of the event, and for good reason. There is no consumer segment more prepared to purchase goods and services based on its sustainability practices than luxury connoisseurs. It is these consumers who have the finances, education and experience to be able to make choices based on a brand’s commitment to sustainable practices. Of course, the product or service better be able to have all the qualities that will appeal to these well-heeled, knowledgeable buyers. In the case of the jewelry companies at the event, known as the “Luxury Review featuring Eco-Luxe,” they all presented highly stylized, well-crafted fine jewelry using a variety of materials that would easily attract those with even the most refined tastes.

The intricate styling and technique of the hand-made pieces by Georland may have been the evening’s stunner. The Parisian firm with its headquarters at Place Vendôme and an office in New York, presented jewelry fit for a king—which isn’t a stretch for a company that includes the Sultan of Oman as one of its clients.

The family-owned business uses nature as an inspiration, such as an 18k gold frog paved with yellow diamonds that sits on an emerald centerpiece of an 18k gold ring studded with yellow and white diamonds (top picture). As if that wasn’t enough detail, the ring was topped with a gold starfish. The pave setting on a pair of earrings was so tight that it felt smooth to the touch. A white gold bracelet and pendant (left) dotted with diamonds and with a center gem had an open mesh pattern that made it appear light and delicate, but when held had substantial weight and structure. This combination of delicate and robust would describe much of the jewelry from this company.

The personable New York based jewelry designer wears her eco-credentials on her sleeve. All the precious metals in her hand-crafted jewelry are 100 percent recycled and procured through independently certified refiners. In addition, she uses fair trade gems that are sourced in an ethical and environmentally sensitive manner. She believes in giving back with a percentage of her sales donated to international outreach organizations, such as OneKid OneWorld, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Women for Women International.

Distefano employs traditional goldsmith techniques to create which she says “is a bridge from the past to the present” with her own a personal flair, exemplified by a 22k gold sapphire and ruby pendant she wore during the event. Her display at the Eco-Luxe event contained high-karat gold jewelry with a variety of gemstones, even a cameo pendant, all inspired by traditional European design.

The petals are made of mother of pearl
Jewels of Ocean
The New York based company is one of the largest importers of South Seas pearls and one of the largest sources of baroque pearls in the world. Raymond Hakimi, the company’s CEO, says he loves to create jewelry with pearls because of their organic nature. They need no polishing or other refinements. In many cases it’s the pearls themselves that dictate its use in the jewelry design. Even its colored pearls are natural and their supply is so great that they can make full necklaces with pearls of matching colors.

Their pride in their supply was in evidence during the evening with their display of what is believed to be the world’s largest baroque necklace, with pearls measuring from 17 to 30 millimeters. The pearls were harvested from Australian waters.

The Washington, D.C.-based designer has been at the forefront of the Green jewelry movement. He uses 100 percent recycled gold, conflict-free diamonds and Fair Trade gems. He is skilled at using space and geometry in his designs as well as showcasing his South American heritage.

This was particularly evident in his most recent 18k rose or yellow gold necklace designs that were on display Tuesday night. Many of the square and rectangular-shaped pieces had narrow openings that enhanced the geometric nature of the pieces. The jewelry was often centered with floating diamonds or other gemstones. Most recently Parada has been creating 18k gold charms.

This Midwestern born and bred designer was the new kid on the block at the Eco-Luxe event. In addition to her roots, Carson is equally influenced by her world travels where she sources materials for her fine jewelry. 

Carson, like Parada, uses geometric shapes for her collections. Her pyramid collection of 18k gold jewelry with gemstones and diamonds is based around this simple, solid architectural aesthetic. She also had on display thin 18k gold square bracelets with round edges in various colors and rings and pendants in circular patterns with a center stone surrounded by diamonds.

What would a luxury event be without diamond jewelry? This New York based company—already known for its Crisscut diamond collection, with its 77 facets for diamonds and gemstones in a variety of shapes—was promoting its Crisscut Brilliant Collection, created for its 121-faceted cut for round diamonds.

The new cut was featured on rings, pendants and other pieces, alongside its Crisscut diamond collection.

The Luxury Review is produced by Rand Luxury. In addition to press, the event attracts affluent clientele, personal shoppers and corporate buyers. The next Luxury Review will be held Oct. 19 at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bell & Ross Opens 'E-Boutique' in U.S.

Bell & Ross has begun selling its Swiss watches online in the U.S. in an environment the company calls an "e-Boutique." The new venture is a partnership between Bell & Ross and its U.S. retail network and follows the December 2009 opening of Bell & Ross’ e-Boutique in Europe.

Carlos A. Rosillo, Bell & Ross CEO, described the opening as an “important strategic step that enables the brand to provide the same excellent service to our American customers that our European clients enjoy.”

Stacie Orloff, Bell & Ross president - The Americas, said the company will continue to develop this e-Boutique model worldwide.

Frederique Constant, Eva Longoria at Par Coeur Gala

Peter Stas, Frederique Constant CEO and his wife Aletta, presenting a Frederique Constant watch to Eva Longoria

Luxury Swiss watch brand Frederique Constant was the official sponsor of the Par Coeur Gala 2010, hosted by the founders of the Par Coeur Association, actress Eva Longoria and her husband, NBA player Tony Parker. The event was held in Paris at the Cambon Capucines Pavillon by Potel and Chabot.

The Par Coeur Association, a French foundation, seeks to bring attention to fiscally responsible charities that continuously make substantial differences in the lives of countless families and children worldwide. 

This year, the gala benefits “Toutes A L’Ecoles,” a non-profit organization that operates to create schools and educational programs for young girls in developing countries, as well as “Eva’s Heroes,” a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of those with developmental challenges by creating environments in which they are free to interact, grow, learn, and love.

The annual Par Coeur Gala is meant to be a night of hope and inspiration, attended by prestigious guests and celebrities, with the sole of aim of benefiting Par Coeur Association’s charity partners. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Today’s Twitter Feed

From mine to market there is no rest for the creation and movement of jewels around the world. It is much too dynamic and diverse an industry for one blog. That’s why there’s a Jewelry News Network Twitter feed. The 11 Twitter feeds for today deal with mines, conflict diamonds, upcoming jewelry exhibitions, a jewelry catsuit and a “Gems Among Us” essay contest.

For these stories and more, please follow the “JewelryNewsNet” Twitter feed.

Gitanjali Set to Pay Nearly $33M for Italian Brands

Mehul Choksi
 We’re learning more about Gitanjali Group’s bid for five Italian brands.

Reuters reports that Mehul Choksi, Gitanjali chairman and managing director, is prepared to pay $32.7 million for the DIT Group (which owns four brands) and Valente and expects to reap $100 million from the acquisition in two years.

DIT is a unit of Dubai jewelry maker Damas International and owns the brands Stefan Hafner, IO Si, Porrati, and Nouvelle Bague. Meanwhile, Valente is owned by Mariella Burani Fashion Group.

Gitanjali Group, which trades in India under the name Gitanjali Gems Ltd., is India’s largest diamond jewelry manufacturer and retailer. Its business portfolio includes rough diamond sourcing, cutting, polishing, jewelry manufacture and distribution to its jewelry branding and retail operations. Its brands include Gili, Nakshatra, Asmi, Sangini, D’damas, Vivaaha and Giantti.

Susan Sadler’s Bakelite Bracelets Gets Presidential Approval

Jewelry designer Susan Sadler received the shock of a lifetime when she learned that the White House was interested in buying her jewelry for gifts to dignitaries, according to a story in the Tulsa World newspaper.

It wasn’t one of her easier sales. She had to pass a background test to prove she had no criminal record but eventually the Office of the Chief of Protocol had purchased at least one of her Bakelite bracelets and soon it will be an official presidential gift. Apparently, someone from the, protocol office, which procures American-made items for the Obamas to give as gifts, was attracted to Sadler’s bracelets that were on display in storefront in Rehoboth Beach, Del., the newspaper reports.

The Tulsa, Okla.-based jewelry designer, who works with all kinds of jewelry materials and commands significant price points, began working with the Bakelite in 2008 because of its affordability during the economic downturn. The material, the first plastic made from synthetic polymers, was last used widely during the depression.

Sidney Mobell’s Gold and Jeweled Monopoly Set on Display

The Museum of American Finance will unveil a gold and jeweled Monopoly set by world-renowned artist and jeweler Sidney Mobell on Oct. 15.

Created in 1988, the game includes a full-size 23k gold-plated board with tokens, hotels, houses, and dice done in solid 18k yellow gold with diamonds, rubies and sapphires. The game is set with 165 gemstones weighing a total of 51.21cts. It is on loan from the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.

The Smithsonian received the game as one of 20 jeweled art objects from Mobell’s personal collection of. A long-time resident of San Francisco, Mobell is known for his fanciful and innovative employment of everyday household items as works of art.

Mobell will be at the New York museum during the unveiling and will attend a press conference. Afterward, there will be Monopoly tournaments for children and adults. The first tournament, scheduled to run from 10:15 am - 12 pm, is open to students under the age of 18. The second tournament, to be held from 1 - 3 pm, will be open to adults 18 years and up. Both tournaments are free and open to the public and will be available on a first come, first served basis. Prizes will be awarded to a winner at each table.

“We are thrilled to have this one-of-a-kind item and its creator here,” said museum president David Cowen. “The game is symbolic to America and was popularized during the difficult economic times of the depression. We again face difficult economic times, and this incredibly valuable item will bring joy to our many visitors.”

The Museum of American Finance, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is the nation’s only public museum dedicated to finance, entrepreneurship and the open market system. The museum is located at 48 Wall Street.

Van Cleef & Arpels at Cooper-Hewitt

More than 250 pieces of Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry will be on exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York from Feb. 18 till June 5.

The exhibit, "Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpel," will focus on Van Cleef & Arpels’s contributions to jewelry design in the 20th Century. It will examine the work of the famed Parisian jewelry house through the lenses of innovation, transformation, nature as inspiration, exoticism, fashion and celebrity; and will include design drawings from the Van Cleef & Arpels archives. Jewels, timepieces, fashion accessories and objets d'art, many of which were created exclusively for the American market, will be on display.

Van Cleef & Arpels was established in 1906 when it opened a store on the Place Vendôme in Paris. It opened a store in New York with the advent of World War II.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum is at 2 East 91st Street.

‘Gems Among Us’ Essay Contest

You don’t have to be passionate about jewelry, although it helps, to participate in an essay contest sponsored by the jewelry industry. Called, “Gems Among Us.” People are asked to write an essay describing the individuals they believe make the world a better place.

The contest is sponsored by the Jewelry Information Center, which promotes jewelry to consumers. The contest is designed to help people honor the individuals for whom they are most thankful in the run-up to the Thanksgiving holiday.

People can enter their essays through October 25 at On November 1, the top 10 Gems Among Us essays will be selected as finalists. From November 1-22, the public will be able to vote at for their favorite essay to determine the grand-prize winner.

Contest participants have the chance to win a number of jewelry and travel prizes. The grand-prize essay's nominee—the "Gem Among Us"—will win a trip for two to the Aventura Spa Palace Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico, courtesy of Cosmopolitan magazine. The grand-prize essay entrant will win a $5,000 shopping spree at a Gems Among Us Participating Retailer of their choice. The top 10 essay entrants (writers) will receive gemstone jewelry by Parle; their "Gem" (nominees) will receive jewelry courtesy of Stuller Inc., and "The Pocket Heart" from The Loving Heart Collection by Jean Schnaak.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Responsible Jewellery Council Reaches Membership Milestone

The Responsible Jewellery Council said that its membership has exceeded 250 companies and trade associations throughout the diamond, gold and platinum metals jewelry supply chain from around the world.

RJC, based in London, is an international not-for-profit organization that promotes responsible ethical, human rights, social and environmental practices in a transparent and accountable manner throughout the industry from mine to retail. Their commitment aims to reinforce consumer and stakeholder confidence in jewelry products.

Among the newest RJC members are Bottega Veneta, Christian Dior Couture, Gemological Science International, Girard-Perregaux, GCAL: Gem Certification & Assurance Lab, Inc, H.K. Designs (India) and Vacheron Constantin.

“RJC’s healthy membership reflects the growing awareness of the importance of ethical, human rights, social and environmental performance in the jewelry industry. RJC’s members are vital to cultivate future business ethical generations,” said Michael Rae, CEO of RJC.

Under the RJC system, all commercial members of the RJC have committed to be audited by accredited, third party auditors to verify their conformance with the RJC’s Code of Practices and become certified.

A full list of RJC Members can be found here.

Breguet to Sponsor N.Y. Philharmonic Opening Gala

For the first time Breguet is partnering with the New York Philharmonic and sponsoring the symphony’s opening night gala on Sept. 22.

Music Director, Alan Gilbert, will begin his second season as music director of the New York Philharmonic when he conducts the orchestra’s opening night at 7:30, with the gala presented by Breguet. The concert which celebrates the philharmonic’s 169th season will feature the U.S. Premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Symphony No. 3, Swing Symphony, a New York Philharmonic Co-Commission with the Berlin Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and The Barbican, performed jointly by the New York Philharmonic and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

The Swiss luxury watch brand has been a sponsor for many musical concerts. For example, it sponsors the annual Geneva International Music Competition (Concours de Genéve) and the Lucerne Festival. In recent years, Breguet has also sponsored a series of concerts in the U.S. with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2007.

GIA Opens Lab in Hong Kong

The Gemological Institute of America formally opened its fifth international laboratory in Hong Kong with a quick ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 15 attended by more than 125 industry leaders and media members.

“The Hong Kong trade is so vibrant, it’s essential to be here,” said Donna Baker, GIA president and CEO, as she officially opened the lab. “Hong Kong is home to a thriving and sophisticated gem and jewelry industry.… We believe our lab will make it even more convenient for those professionals to access our services and promulgate the international gemological standards.”

Officiating at the opening were Lawrence Ma, the founding chairman of the Diamond Federation of Hong Kong; Gregory So, undersecretary of Commerce and Economic Development for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; Cheng Yu Tung, chairman, New World Group; Ephraim Zion, managing director of Dehres Ltd. and GIA board member; Thomas Moses, senior vice president of GIA Laboratory and Research; Wai Man Cheng, director of the Hong Kong laboratory; and Kathryn Kimmel, GIA chief marketing officer.

The lab, located in New World Tower, 18 Queen’s Road Central, will offer on-site services for GIA Diamond Grading Reports and Diamond Dossiers, laser inscription and diamond sealing services. Prior to opening the new lab, GIA operated a diamond and gemstone take-in facility there for four years and a school for nearly 20 years.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hublot Plans Big Push into China

Luxury Swiss watch brand Hublot, which recently opened a flagship store in Singapore, is going after the China market in a big way.

The brand, owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, says it plans to have 15 stores in the country by next year, Bloomberg News reports. Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot CEO, told the news service that China offers 30 years of growth.

“It’s such a huge country that I see no limit for luxury brands,” 62-year-old Biver told Bloomberg. “I might die in 30 years, so I see no limit.”

Gitanjali Bids for Two Italian Jewelry Companies

Mehul Choksi
Gitanjali Group has made public the names of two Italian jewelry companies it plans to buy, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports.

Mehul Choksi, chairman and managing director of Mumbai-India based company, said Friday that the company has placed bids for DIT Group and a company identified as “Valente.”

DIT Group, based in Valenza, operates four Italian brands that focus on contemporary luxury and Italian design. They are Stefan Hafner, Io Sì, Porrati and Nouvelle Bague.

Valente may be the former Valente Milano jewelry brand, known for high-design luxury jewelry. The company reportedly went out of business in April. However, its exclusive distributor in the U.S., Opera Jewels LLC, launched a line that debuted in Las Vegas in June, called “Opera Omnia,” with the Valente staff that is designed to stay true to the Valente style. I will try to verify if this is the brand that Gitanjali is bidding for.

At the end of August, JNN noted that Choksi told an Indian television network that he is finalizing a deal for an Italian brand, but refused to reveal the name of the company. It turns out now that it he was interested in two companies. He said at the time the idea is to market this brand’s products throughout the company’s growing international network, which includes the Samuels and Rogers jewelry chain in the U.S., more than 20 retail brands in India and retail outlets in the Middle East, China and Japan.

Gitanjali Group, which trades in India under the name Gitanjali Gems Ltd., is India’s largest diamond jewelry manufacturer and retailer. Its business portfolio includes rough diamond sourcing, cutting, polishing, jewelry manufacture and distribution to its jewelry branding and retail operations. Its brands include Gili, Nakshatra, Asmi, Sangini, D’damas, Vivaaha and Giantti.

Kanye West’s Diamond Teeth

Kanye West and his sparking smile. Photo from WWF
From the strange but probably not true department, singer Kanye West told WWF reporter Justin Fenner that he had his bottom teeth removed and replaced with jewel-quality diamonds.

Fenner speculates, as a reasonable person would, that the new “teeth” in question is probably a wildly expensive grille.

Read all about it.

Gem Diamonds, Tiffany Agree to 25% Price Hike for Fancy Yellow Diamonds

Ellendale mine site
Diamond mining company Gem Diamonds Ltd. said Wednesday that it has negotiated a deal with Laurelton Diamonds, Inc., for a 25 percent price increase for the exclusive assortment of rare fancy yellow diamonds from Kimberley Diamond Company’s Ellendale mine in Western Australia. This price increase will come into effect October 1 and will last through the lifespan of the mine.

Laurelton Diamonds is the diamond sourcing and polishing subsidiary of luxury retail jeweler, Tiffany & Co. Gem Diamonds is a wholly owned subsidiary of Kimberley Diamond Company NL.

Tiffany first launched its Yellow Diamond Collection in Japan in April 2010. The company then launched the collection in the U.S. market during Fashion's Night Out, held September 10, at its flagship store on New York's 5th Avenue.

“The Ellendale Mine in Australia is the world's single largest producer of rare fancy yellow diamonds,” said Clifford Elphick, Gem Diamonds CEO. “The long-term agreement with Tiffany & Co., spanning the economic life of the Ellendale mine, continues to provide a sustainable platform for Kimberley Diamonds’ mining operation. This shows the benefits of partnering with such a highly regarded brand and major player in the diamond jewelry and retail sector.”

You may have remembered that Gem Diamonds was recently in the news for unearthing a 196-ct. rough white diamond from its Letšeng mine in the South African country of Lesotho in late August.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ulysse Nardin to Unveil Watch at Monaco Yacht Show

Ulysse Nardin has been named an official sponsor of the 2010 Monaco Yacht Show and the Swiss watch brand is celebrating the superyacht exhibition’s 20th anniversary with the new, limited-edition Monaco 2010 Marine Diver, to be unveiled at the opening of the event.

The latest addition to the company’s Marine Diver collection, the Monaco 2010 showcases Ulysse Nardin’s evolution in watchmaking technology, beginning with the Monaco’s specially treated stainless-steel case. Having undergone a complex vulcanization process, the case (45.8 millimeters in diameter) has a matte-black rubber coating, presenting a sporty aesthetic and comfortable feel. The case-back reveals a self-winding movement. The watch will be limited to 100 pieces and individually numbered.

This is the second year that Ulysse Nardin is serving as an official sponsor of the Monaco Yacht Show, being held September 22-25 at Port Hercules, Principality of Monaco.

Milus Tells Time on Times Square

The luxury Swiss watch brand Milus is using New York’s Times Square to present its newest model.

Above the American Eagle’s Times Square Flagship, Milus is presenting an ad for the Tirion Répétition Minutes TriRetrograde in a 12 panel wrap around the building’s exterior and with a total pixel count nearing 3.3 million.

This particular advertising isn’t just an oversized billboard. Using interactive technologies, for the next three months the new watch display will be fully optimal, telling the current time for the people going past one of the most vibrant places on earth.

With the minute repetition complication, combined with a date indication and the play of the TriRetrograde seconds display, the Milus Tirion Répétition Minutes TriRetrograde contains 417 individual parts that are put together with more than 140 hours of work by killed watchmakers. Each component is decorated by hand and is tested repeatedly beforehand in terms of form and composition in order to optimize the sound quality and the functional precision of the watch. It is available in a limited edition of 50 pieces.

LVMH is the Best Global Luxury Brand

Despite the economic downturn, several luxury companies were able to increase the value of their brands in 2010, according to the 11th annual ranking of the "Best Global Brands," by Interbrand, a global brand consulting firm.

Among luxury brands, LVMH ranked the highest on the list at 16th, followed by Gucci (44), Hermes (69), Tiffany & Co (76), Cartier (77), Armani (95). All of these brands saw growth this year because they continued to invest “in their heritage and legendary status,” Interbrand said in a statement. “Outstanding customer service and a focus on unique in-store and online experiences allowed them to stay strong, even while consumers cut back spending.”

Burberry, which ranks 100 on the list, saw no change in its brand value this year.

For the 11th year straight, Coca-Cola retains its top spot as the number one ranked brand on the list. But the bigger story is the growth of technology brands, with IBM (2), Microsoft (3), Google (4), Intel (7), HP (10), Apple (17) and BlackBerry (54).

Apple increased brand value 37 percent “through carefully controlled messaging and an endless wave of buzz surrounding new product launches,” Interbrand said. Google saw a 36 percent increase in value over last year, “bringing the brand closer than ever to rival Microsoft.” Meanwhile, HP, despite a challenging year, “made smart additions to its product portfolio and swiftly expanded the HP brand to protect its ranking on the list. BlackBerry’s brand value grew 32 percent and it remains “the most popular smartphone for business users, despite pressure from Apple as it edges into the corporate world.”

A number of prominent brands faced extraordinary crisis in 2010 resulting in stalled growth, value loss and in the case of BP, failure to make the ranking this year. BP's environmental disaster and inability to make good on its brand promise of "Beyond Petroleum" led to it falling off of the list and helped competitor Shell emerge as an industry leader, now ranked number 81, up from number 92 in 2009. Although the Toyota (11) recall caused the brand to lose -16 percent of its brand value, its long-standing reputation for reliability, efficiency and innovation helped it weather the crisis better than expected. Goldman Sachs (37) was once the envy of Wall Street, but now faces the dichotomy of strong economic results and an angry public that will continue to lash out until the company begins to demonstrate that it is making sincere efforts to better align its ethics with its brand.

During a difficult year for the auto industry, Mercedes Benz (#12) and BMW (#15) were able to sustain and build their value through innovative design and a focus on delivering premium value vehicles with luxury features. Using customer feedback, largely drawn from YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook to launch the 2009 Fiesta, Ford (50) stands out as one of the best example of how to use social media. Award-winning products like the Q5 and rich heritage help Audi (63) lead industry growth this year with a 9% increase in its brand value.

"2010 was the beginning of a long road back towards economic recovery," said Jez Frampton, group chief executive at Interbrand. "From real-time customer feedback through social media to increased transparency about corporate citizenship, brands were faced with a profound change in the way they relate to customers and demonstrate their relevance and value. Despite this new paradigm of brand management, the advantages of building a solid brand remain the same."

In the financial sector, legacy brands Citi (40) and UBS (86) lost double-digits in brand value, while Santander (68), Barclays (74) and Credit Suisse (80) made their debut on the list for the first time. “Their ability to stay true to brand promises in unsure times, and avoidance of the subprime mortgage crisis, helped them stay the course, Interbrand said.

Interbrand publishes the ranking of the top 100 brands based by analyzing the many ways a brand touches and benefits an organization, from attracting top talent to delivering on customer expectation. Three key aspects contribute to a brand's value; the financial performance of the branded products or services, the role of a brand in the purchase-decision process and the strength of the brand to continue to secure earnings for the company.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day to Open a Twitter Account

You can follow JNN on Twitter at JewelryNewsNet.

As always, thank you for your support.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Survey: Wealthy U.S. Shoppers Plan to Curb Spending on Luxury Jewelry, Watches

A significant number of wealthy consumers said they will cut back on buying luxury items this year, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Luxury Institute.

A total of 36 percent of respondents said they plan to decrease overall spending on luxury goods and services through yearend, according to the semiannual “State of the Luxury Industry” WealthSurvey. Just 6 percent said they will spend more.

Among the areas that should see above-average increases in spending include leisure travel, dining, fitness and technology, according to the semiannual survey. Meanwhile, categories vulnerable to further retrenchment are led by jewelry, followed by home furnishings, gifts, watches, handbags, shoes and cars.

The Luxury Institute surveyed U.S. consumers earning at least $150,000 per year—$286,000 average household income—and with an average net worth of $2.7 million.

About 20 percent of wealthy shoppers say that they plan to spend more on “discounted” luxury goods and services for the remainder of the year; 25 percent have already been spending more on discounted luxury in the first eight months of 2010 than they were in 2009.

The most frequently cited qualities that define luxury—superior quality (76 percent), craftsmanship (65 percent), and customer service (57 percent)—are the areas where wealthy consumers are finding the greatest dissatisfaction. About 56 percent say that craftsmanship of luxury products is on the wane; 51 percent say that quality is decreasing; 50 percent notice a slippage in customer service quality; and 48 percent say that luxury products are losing their design value.

“The greatest danger for a luxury firm is to lose its status as a differentiated, premium brand, but wealthy consumer perceptions suggest that luxury overall may be in danger of losing its cachet,” said Milton Pedraza, Luxury Institute CEO. “This calls for a renewal of efforts to be unique and exclusive and to execute well on customer service.”

The Luxury Institute, New York, is a ratings, research and Luxury CRM consulting organization that it says “is the global voice of the high net-worth consumer.”

Judge Rejects Tiffany’s False Advertising Claim Against eBay

For the second time in two years, luxury jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. failed to persuade a federal court that eBay deceived its customers when they bought counterfeit Tiffany jewelry from the online auction site.

U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in New York dismissed Tiffany’s final claim of false-advertising, saying “there is no extrinsic evidence indicating that the challenged advertisements were misleading or confusing,” Bloomberg News reports.

The same judge in 2008 rejected Tiffany’s trademark infringement and false-advertising claims. An appeals court in April upheld most of the judge’s ruling while reinstating a single false-advertising claim. Tiffany first brought on the lawsuit in 2004.

“We are pleased with today’s ruling, which settles the last remaining claim before the trial court in this case,” Michelle Fang, eBay’s associate general counsel, reportedly said in a statement.

The case has been viewed as a benchmark challenge in the United States to Internet-based companies such as eBay, Google Inc and others that may claim merely to be hosting services, and not responsible for users' trademark violations.

Tiffany accused eBay of advertising the sale of its goods through ads on its Web site, and through sponsored links on search engines, which would sometimes link to its own website and exhort readers to "Find Tiffany items at low prices," Reuters reports.

Sullivan agreed with Tiffany that eBay knew "a portion" of the goods being sold were fake. But he said Tiffany failed to show that eBay's advertisements actually misled customers or necessarily implied that all Tiffany products sold on its Web site were genuine, Reuters reports. Sullivan also pointed to eBay efforts to combat fraud, which the company has said costs up to $20 million a year.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Smithsonian Inspired Jewelry to Appear on QVC

Sterling silver ring set with a 15-ct. London blue topaz heart, surrounded by blue diamonds and held into place by two fleur de lis prongs containing white diamonds (total diamond weight 0.40 ct.). Designed by Judith Ripka and inspired by the Smithsonian’s Blue Heart diamond.

Jewelry based on the gems and minerals in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s National Gem Collection is scheduled to premiere on QVC Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. This is the first time the Smithsonian has offered licensed products through a multimedia retailer.

Ring made with Smithsonite, a mineral named after the Institution’s founder James Smithson.

Gemologist Christine Webb (a 13-year veteran of the gems and minerals department in the museum) is scheduled to appear during the broadcast to present a range of jewelry designed exclusively for QVC. The museum’s collection of 10,000 gems and 350,000 minerals serves as the inspiration for the Smithsonian jewelry line. The pieces—including rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pendants; created from selected gemstones, sterling silver and 14k gold—will be priced from $65 to $950.

Sterling sliver, turquoise and white topaz lever back earrings, inspired by the Smithsonian’s Empress Marie Louise diadem.

The jewelry line features a ring made with Smithsonite, a mineral named after the Institution’s founder James Smithson (1754-1829); a sterling, turquoise and white topaz ring and earrings inspired by jewelry given to Empress Marie-Louise from Napoleon; and a turquoise pendant with a stone mined from Bisbee, Ariz. Also being offered is a limited-edition heart-shaped sterling blue topaz ring by jewelry designer Judith Ripka as a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the cutting of the Blue Heart diamond.

Sterling silver with pear-shaped citrines graduated in color and size, inspired by a tsavorite necklace in the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection (total gem weight, 11.15 ct.)

“Every piece was inspired by something in the collection,” said Carol LeBlanc, director, consumer products, Smithsonian Enterprises. “Whether it was the design, style, gemstone or color. The goal is to use the treasures in the Institution as design inspiration for a modern jewelry line.”

Inspired by a ring housed in the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection, this ring highlights the many beautiful colors of minerals. It is a choice of heliodor (yellow beryl) and yellow sapphires set in 14k yellow gold or morganite (pink beryl) and pink sapphires set in 14k rose gold. (total gem weight, 2.40 ct.).

The two-hour program, “Smithsonian Institution: National Gem Gallery,” will include behind-the-scenes footage of the museum’s gem and mineral halls, interviews with Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem and Mineral Collection, and rarely seen shots from inside the vault, which houses many of the rare gems not on display.

Packaging for the Smithsonian line of QVC jewelry.

The next Smithsonian program on QVC is scheduled for early December and will focus on some of the more iconic pieces of jewelry found in the collection, such as Marie Antoinette’s earrings, the Napoleon necklace and the Hope diamond. This two-hour show is scheduled to be broadcast live from the Smithsonian Castle.