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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Jewelry Sales Up 8.4%, Luxury Sales Up 6.7%, Total Holiday Sales Up 5.5%

After a mild start, jewelry posted several weekly sales increases and ended the 2010 holiday shopping season with a year-over-year increase 8.4 percent, according to MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse. Meanwhile, luxury sales (excluding jewelry) started the season with a solid gain and then picked up steam, ending with a very respectable year-over-year growth of 6.7 percent.

During the 50-day period (from November 5 till December 24), the data showed overall year-over-year growth of 5.5 percent, excluding auto sales.

“If last year’s holiday story was about gaining some stability, this year’s is about getting back to growth,” said Michael McNamara, vice president, Research and Analysis for SpendingPulse. “The 2010 holiday period is categorized by strong year-over-year growth in apparel and continued strength in e-commerce. We also saw a noticeable return in spending in the larger ticket items, as exemplified by the solid growth in jewelry, luxury and even the furniture category.”

McNamara said the momentum in 2010 holiday season spending appears to have started as early as the second week of November, producing a month of solid growth and persisting through the traditional early December lull.

“The cold weather across much of the country in December appeared to be a positive for the apparel sector,” McNamara said. “While there was some disruptive weather in the Midwest and the west coast toward the end of the season, the conditions did not seem to negatively impact the national sales momentum. In some cases the weather may have also benefited the e-commerce channel.”

As with last year’s holiday season, e-commerce was the big winner this year, with seasonal sales up 15.4 percent. With online sales representing significant share of sector sales in areas such as apparel, the double-digit growth rates are becoming more meaningful.

Apparel sales for the season saw a year-over-year increase of 11.2 percent, according to SpendingPulse, with menswear posting a 10.5 percent year-over-year increase and women’s apparel up 5.6 percent, making for one of the best periods of growth in this subcategory since the financial market turmoil in 2008, according to SpendingPulse. For the 2009 holiday season, apparel sales were down by 0.4 percent.

Meanwhile, it was electronics sales that lagged this holiday season with a year-over-year sales increase of 1.2 percent, due primarily to the decline in TV prices.

A macroeconomic indicator, SpendingPulse reports on national retail and services sales and is based on aggregate sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for all other payment forms, including cash and check. SpendingPulse is provided by MasterCard Advisors, the professional services arm of MasterCard Worldwide.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Online Spending Sets Records

U.S. consumers spent an estimated $36.4 billion on e-Commerce, a 15.4 percent increase over the 2009 holiday season, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. However, jewelry, while making year-over-year gains, lagged behind other merchandise categories.

“Today eCommerce accounts for a much larger share of overall retail sales compared to a few years ago. And during this holiday season, it registered double digit growth for 6 out of 7 weeks,” said Michael McNamara, vice president, for the Purchase, N.Y.-based research arm of MasterCard, which measures sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for all other payments.

Apparel sales was the clear leader, accounting for 18.8 percent of total ecommerce sales, compared to 16.9 percent in 2009.

“Online electronics, not surprisingly, also recorded significant gains, while Jewelry, although still in positive territory, lagged behind, McNamara added.

Six days in the 2010 season surpassed $1 billion in sales compared with 3 days in 2009. The top day was November 30, which registered $1.16 billion in sales, followed by Dec. 1, which had $1.13 billion. The Monday after Thanksgiving, known as CyberMonday, a promotion of online retailers, generated $999.3 million in sales, a 25.3 percent increase, year-over-year.

Meanwhile, comScore, which measures consumer online spending, reports that consumers spent $28.36 billion online for the first 49 days of the November – December 2010 holiday season—a 12 percent increase, year-over-year. The most recent week reached $5.5 billion in spending, an increase of 14 percent versus the corresponding week last year. The final shopping weekend before Christmas reached $900 million in retail e-commerce spending, representing a strong 17-percent growth rate versus last year.

Spending growth has remained strong right through the final shopping weekend of the holiday season,” said Gian Fulgoni, chairman of the Reston, Va.-based research company. “The growth rate of 17 percent witnessed during the final weekend capped off the heaviest online spending week of all time at $5.5 billion.”

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays

Jewelry News Network will be taking some downtime over the next few days. Postings will still occur but will be done sporadically through December 27. Enjoy the holidays. 

All the Best,
Anthony DeMarco

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

John Hardy Opens its First Boutique

After more than 19 years in business, John Hardy, the Bali-based silver jewelry designer and manufacturer, is making its move into retail. In partnership with the Masari Group, the company will open a 237-square-foot store in the Plaza Indonesia shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Influenced by the natural beauty and spirit of Bali, the boutique is designed to mirror the experience of the John Hardy workshop with the curves of its rice terraces, bamboo groves and water-smoothed river stones. Guy Bedarida, John Hardy creative director and head designer, created a pair of hand-carved door handles, made of sterling silver and Indonesian black palm wood, the dragon handle on the store’s interior grasps a silver ring, paved in black sapphires. The dragon’s eyes are set with Moon Quartz—all fitting materials given that Naga is a revered mythological creature symbolizing prosperity and good luck throughout Asia.

Inside the store, visitors will find a hand-carved bamboo panel floor depicting a Naga curling around Mount Agung, the highest and holiest mountain in Bali. Its scales are hand-hammered sterling silver, enhanced with black volcanic sand and its tail is crafted from crushed terracotta. Fifteen floor-to-ceiling bamboo columns cradle silver-framed jewelry cases where John Hardy product is displayed.

In celebration of the boutique’s opening, Bedarida created a sterling silver and 18k yellow gold Macan pendant set with blue and white sapphires, and a Naga cuff in sterling silver and 18k yellow gold with diamond pave and cabochon rubies. The flagship will carry the full John Hardy collection, along with select pieces from the limited-edition Cinta collection.

Boucheron Signs Perfume Deal with Parfums SA

Inter Parfums SA has signed a 15-year exclusive worldwide license agreement with Parisian luxury jeweler Boucheron to create, produce and distribute perfumes and ancillary products under the Boucheron brand. The agreement begins Jan. 1, 2011, and replaces a previous license with L’Oreal that was terminated by mutual consent.

Under the license agreement, Inter Parfums, also based in Paris, will work with Boucheron to capitalize on the brand’s ultra-luxury positioning in high-end jewelry. The transfer of inventory will take place early in 2011 and the development of a new fragrance is planned for 2012. Plans call for Interparfums Luxury Brands, a recently formed United States subsidiary of Inter Parfums SA, to handle distribution of the brand in the U.S.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Boucheron and Inter Parfums as we seek a new strategic direction for our fragrances and build on the Boucheron's unique position in the jewelry world,” said Jean-Christophe Bédos, Boucheron president and CEO of Boucheron.

Inter Parfums SA is 74-percent owned by New York-based Inter Parfums, Inc., which develops, manufactures and distributes prestige perfumes and cosmetics.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

LVMH Now Owns 20% of Hermes

Bernard Arnault

If there are any doubts that Bernard Arnault is interested in a majority stake in Hermes, they have been settled. In a one-sentence statement through his company, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the billionaire businessman says he now owns 21,338,675 Hermes shares, just over 20 percent of the family-owned, Parisian luxury goods company.

Paris-based LVMH enraged Hermes family members in October when it revealed it had taken a 17.1 percent stake in the company. Arnault, said at the time LVMH would continue to buy more shares but did not intend to take control, to make a public offer for the company nor to seek seats on the board.

The family shareholders of Hermes called for Arnault to withdraw his Hermes' capital.

AFP reports that LVMH is now the single largest shareholder in Hermes but it is controlled by the descendents of founder Thierry Hermes who between them hold 73.4 percent of the capital.

LVMH, the world's leading luxury group, controls brands such as Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Dom Perignon and Dior. 

I was first alerted to this story through the Lorre White, The Guru of Luxury, website, so special thanks to Lorre.

Timepiece Tuesday: Christie’s, Patek Philippe, Tag Heuer, Ulysse Nardin, Breitling, Philip Stein and Oprah

Christie’s Sets Record for Watch Sales Led by Patek
With its final auction of the fall season on December 14 in New York, Christie’s International wrapped up a record-breaking year for fine and rare watches that realized $91.2 million in total sales—the highest annual total ever achieved for watches by the global auction house. Every watch sale hosted at Christie’s salerooms in Dubai, Hong Kong, Geneva and New York achieved sell-through rates above 90 percent by value. The top watch of the year was a Patek Philippe Reference 1527 manufactured in 1943 that sold for a record $5.7 million at Christie’s Geneva (pictured). In fact, it was great year for Patek Philippe, as the top seven watches sold in 2010 and the top nine out of ten watches sold for the year by the auction house were from the Swiss luxury watch brand. Christie’s top four Patek watches sold for more than $1 million. “We have welcomed in a wealth of new collectors to this field in the past year, and witnessed an exponential growth in buyer participation from Asian countries, led primarily by mainland China and Hong Kong,” said Aurel Bacs, international head of Watches at Christie's. “At the same time, established collectors from the private, trade and institutional sectors in Europe and the U.S. continue to add great depth and strength to this category.

TAG Heuer, Parsons, Name Watch Design Winners
TAG Heuer and Parsons The New School for Design today unveiled the winners of the “Art of Watchmaking,” a 10-week competition that charged eight teams of Parsons product design students with reinterpreting TAG Heuer's classic Monaco chronograph. Each member of the three teams will receive a monetary prize and a Tag Heuer timepiece. In addition, TAG Heuer has the potential to produce one of the first-place designs as a limited-edition piece. During the review, each of the student teams showcased three concepts, and discussed their inspiration, target consumer and design philosophy. Ideas ranged from a Monaco with a rotating case to designs inspired by the New York City transportation system. First-place honors went to the team of Yong Yi Lee, Yoav Menachem and Amit Ran, whose designs included numbers to appeal to collectors (top photo); second-place honors went to the team of Enrique Diaz Rato de Zabala, Michelle Organ and You Jin Sung, whose designs included a black ceramic timepiece with neon accents (second photo); and third-place honors went to the team of Yusuke Sekiguchi, Christopher Beatty and Helen Kim, whose designs included a piece with naturally grown crystals in its dial (third photo). Read more about the design competition here and here.

Ulysse Nardin Opens First U.S. Boutique, Announce Plans to Build U.S. Headquarters
Ulysse Nardin, opened its flagship boutique in the United States at the Boca Raton Town Center Mall on December 16 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration attended by more than with 400 people, including famed baseball pitcher Randy Johnson. The luxury watch brand partnered with Bobby Yampolsky of East Coast Jewelry to open its first boutique in the U.S. The nautical-inspired store has more than 80 of the brand’s timepieces, including three models from the limited edition Boutique line. Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, Ulysse Nardin announced plans to open a 7,000 square foot U.S. headquarters in Boca Raton in the spring of 2011. This facility will be the company’s only repair center in the U.S. and will include up to 10 fully Swiss-trained watchmakers. The Swiss company manufacturers 20,000 watches per year, priced from $5,900 to $1 million.

Philip Stein is an Oprah Favorite
The Limited Edition 25th Anniversary Oprah Watch by Philip Stein was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show's recent episode of “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” It was third time the Miami, Fla.-based watchmaker and retailer was featured on the annual Favorite Things show. However, it is the first time the company designed a watch just for the show. The signature dual dial watch has an applied silver letter “O” celebrating the television star, philanthropist and businesswoman. Philip Stein designers carried the theme further with applied silver numbers “2” and “5” commemorating Oprah’s 25th anniversary. Limited quantities of the 25th Anniversary Oprah Watch, available in a diamond style with a total carat weight of more than one carat, and a non-diamond style, are being offered to the public through select retailers and online. and interchangeable straps. Each watch comes packaged in a custom designed box featuring the Oprah 25th Anniversary logo.

Breitling Opens First U.S. Boutique
Swiss luxury watch brand Breitling opened its first U.S. store in New York on East 57th Street. Breitling watches retail from $1,000 to $300,000, and 90 of the brand’s latest models will be available for purchase at the store.

Holiday Jewelry, Luxury Sales Show Continued Strength


Jewelry sales for the holiday season have increased 2.6 percent year-over-year, according to MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, which tracks national retail and services sales. Luxury sales, excluding jewelry, are doing slightly better at 2.8 percent.

Jewelry sales have grown steadily in the latter part of the season, according to the report, which tracks sales from October 31 to December 11. Overall, retail sales are generally up with some exceptions, most notably electronics.

“The modest growth we first saw with the August Back-to-School season has accelerated. These results suggest that retail spending continues to gain traction,” said Michael McNamara, MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse vice president. “Most sectors are showing steady improvements, with Electronics, Department Stores and Furnishings categories recording flat to small declines. The solid November growth rates have continued across most areas through the first half of December.”

In addition to jewelry and luxury, SpendingPulse, which uses card swipe data from MasterCard and estimates of other payment methods, analyzed the Electronics, Apparel and eCommerce sectors. Here are the midseason highlights:

eCommerce continues to be one of the stars of the season with a season-to-date growth rate of 13.5 percent. The sector has been showing double-digit weekly year-over-year growth rates since the second week in November.

The Total Apparel category was up 9.8 percent for the season-to-date. Women's Apparel sales were up 4.4 percent for the season with the category recording a slightly better showing since Black Friday. Men's Apparel sales grew 8.4 percent year-over-year. Growth within the Teen and Family Apparel segments is also strong.

Electronics sales fell below 2009 levels during the three weeks leading up to Black Friday. Sales during the rest of the period barely made up the decline, with sales season-to-date recording a 0.4 percent increase over last year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

FTC Revises Platinum Jewelry Regulations to Reflect the Use of Base Metal Alloys

The Federal Trade Commission has revised its Jewelry Guides to help ensure that consumers are not deceived when buying platinum products and that marketers understand how certain new platinum/metal alloys—products made of a combination of platinum and non-precious “base” metals—should be described and advertised.

In recent years, some marketers have added base metals, such as copper and cobalt, to platinum jewelry sold to consumers. While this has made jewelry marketed as “platinum” more affordable, it also has made buying it more complicated and increased the need to clarify how combination platinum/base metal alloy products should be marked and advertised to prevent deception.

In a Federal Register notice describing the changes to the Platinum Section of the FTC’s Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries, the FTC states how marketers should mark or describe “platinum/base metal alloys,” which contain between 50 and 85 percent platinum.

Specifically, the new Platinum Section states that marketers of platinum/base metal alloys should:

1) Disclose the product’s full composition, by name and not abbreviation, and the percentage of each metal it contains—for example, 75 percent platinum, 25 percent copper or 60 percent platinum, 35 percent cobalt, 5 percent rhodium; and

2) Disclose that the product may not have the same attributes or properties as traditional platinum products, which are comprised of at least 85 percent pure platinum.

The amendments further state that marketers need not make the second disclosure if they have competent and reliable scientific evidence that a product is materially the same as one containing at least 85 percent pure platinum, based on a variety of attributes such as durability, luster, and hypoallergenicity. The notice also provides background information on the FTC’s review process, discusses the public comments received during the review, and describes how the Platinum Section has been updated.

The FTC issued the Jewelry Guides and their Platinum Section to help manufacturers avoid making claims that are unfair or deceptive under the FTC Act. Industry guides are administrative interpretations of the law and are not independently enforceable. However, the FTC can take action under the FTC Act if a business makes marketing claims that are inconsistent with the Guides and it believes such claims are unfair or deceptive, in violation of the FTC Act.

New Consumer and Business Education
The FTC has issued two new publications to help consumers and businesses understand and comply with the changes to the Jewelry Guides. Going Platinum: What to Look for When Buying Platinum Jewelry, is intended to help inform consumers before they go shopping. It explains that while traditionally platinum jewelry contained 85 to 95 percent pure platinum alloyed with other precious metals, in recent years, some platinum pieces have been alloyed with a larger percentage of non-precious metals, such as copper and cobalt.

It suggests that consumers ask their jeweler about the attributes of any piece of platinum jewelry they are considering buying, so they can have an idea of the piece’s quality and value for the cost. It also describes and explains how platinum jewelry is marked, and provides a table with examples of markings they are likely to see.

The business education publication, Advertising Platinum Jewelry, describes how the platinum content of jewelry should be marked and advertised to comply with the changes to the Jewelry Guides. It also describes when disclosures should be made, and states that they should not be misleading and should disclose material information to customers. For example, if the platinum/base metal-alloy item being sold does not have the properties of products that are almost pure platinum, or have a very high percentage of platinum, this should be disclosed to potential buyers.

The document also describes terms used in advertising platinum jewelry, as well as how such jewelry should be labeled. It also provides a table with marking examples and what percentage platinum and alloy the marked jewelry should contain.

The Commission vote approving issuance of the Federal Register notice amending section 23.7 of the Guides (taken before Commissioners Edith Ramirez and Julie Brill joined the FTC) was 4-0. The Commission vote to modify the Federal Register notice to amend section 23.0 of the Guides was 5-0.

$11M Christmas Tree Sparks Controversy

Photo from The Guardian

An Abu Dhabi hotel’s attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records has turned into a public relations quagmire.

The 42-foot tree in the lobby of the Abu Dhabi Emirates Palace Hotel is decorated with $11 million of diamond, gem, pearl and gold jewelry. Janet Abrahams, executive director, Sales & Marketing for the Emirates Palace Hotel, told New Tang Dynasty television that the luxury hotel partnered with Star Gallery, a jeweler inside the hotel, to create the tree.

Despite being the capital of the United Arab Emirates, a wealthy Muslim nation, the Emirates Palace said the Christmas tree tradition falls within national policies of tolerance.

The elaborate decorations did not go over too well with the general public. The majority of the comments from its YouTube video presentation were negative. This type of reaction, questioning whether the tree’s opulence is in bad taste, has apparently spread to the point where the hotel has deflected the criticisms to the jeweler and has issued a statement saying it regrets “attempts to overload the tradition followed by most hotels in the country with meanings and connotations that do not fall in line with the [hotel's] professional standards,” according to media reports.

The hotel also reportedly said the tree was not a stunt but a way to boost the holiday mood for its guests.

Below is another video about the situation with coverage from multiple sources by

NRF Raises Holiday Forecast

After a solid start to the holiday season, the National Retail Federation has revised its forecast for the November and December holiday season to 3.3 percent, up from 2.3 percent. The upward revision is due to improvement in a variety of economic indicators including stock market gains, recent income growth, savings built up during the recession—all giving consumers the capacity to spend.

According to NRF, November retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted over October and 6.8 percent unadjusted over last year.

“The start to the holiday season has surpassed all expectations,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “While employment data is still a concern, we are starting to see improvement in other economic indicators that support an increase to our forecast. In order to sustain this momentum for retailers and the U.S. economy, there must be a renewed focus on jobs as we enter the new year.”

November retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted over October and 9.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year. 

“Consumers have not been suffering from a lack of spending power, they’ve just been missing the confidence to use it,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “With noticeable improvement in key economic indicators combined with great deals on merchandise, consumers have certainly shown they shouldn’t be counted out this holiday season.” 

Solid gains across the board indicate some pent up demand as consumers stocked up on items such as apparel, accessories and books and music. Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores increased 2.7 percent seasonally adjusted over last month and a strong 9.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores sales increased 2.3 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 15.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year. 

Health and personal care stores sales increased 0.9 seasonally adjusted over last October and 7.3 percent unadjusted over last year. General merchandise stores sales increased 1.3 percent seasonally adjusted over last month and 4.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Damiani Basks in the Glow of its Movie Star Power

Tilda Swinton wearing Damiani Chignon earrings in "Io sono l’amore."

Tilda Swinton and Sophia Loren provide the star power for Italian jewelry house Damiani for two separate events in different parts of the world. 

Damiani Chignon ring
First, in Los Angeles the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced its nominees Tuesday for the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards. The Italian film, Io sono l’amore (I am Love), directed by Luca Guadadigno, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010. Damiani played an important role in the stylish film by adorning the star of the movie, Tilda Swinton, in jewels throughout the entire production.

Swinton portrays the patriarch of one Milan’s upper class bourgeois dynasties. Her depiction is rendered all the more credible by the addition of Damiani’s jewels from the house’s Masterpieces collections, among which are the ring and earrings from the Chignon collection. (Left, Swinton and Silvia Damiani on the set of  "I am Love")  

This is not the first time the actress and Damiani shared the spotlight with the luxury jewelry house. In 2008, when Swinton was presented with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, she donned herself with Damiani jewels. It continues to be a winning combination.

Giorgio Damiani and Sophia Loren arrive at the Damiani boutique in the Thuraya Mall in Kuwait

Meanwhile, in November, Sophia Loren was the undisputed star during a tour of the Middle East promoting the Sophia Loren Collection. Loren, along with Giorgio Damiani, Damiani Group VP, and the local Damiani partners, visited Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai to meet local VIPs, personalities and customers at the Damiani Boutiques.

Sophia Loren jewelry by Damiani earrings

Events were held at Damiani boutiques in the Dubai Mall in Dubai (with the former captain of the Italian Football National Team, Fabio Cannavaro); the Thuraya Mall in Kuwait; and the Blue Salon in Qatar, with H.R.H. Sheikh Hassan Bin Mohamed Bin Ali Al Thani.

Loren first introduced in the jewelry collection in March during the Oscar awards in Los Angeles.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gary Roskin Interviews Maurice Galli

Image courtesy of Harry Winston

The career of a renowned jewelry designer and his relationship with the world famous Hope Diamond is the subject of a story on The Roskin Gem News Report.

Maurice Galli, 81, a professor of jewelry design, author and longtime senior designer for Harry Winston, Inc., has an illustrious career but there was one glaring hole in his résumé. Even though he has been employed at Harry Winston for more than 50 years and was mentored the company’s founder, Harry Winston, he never had the chance to design a piece of jewelry for the Hope Diamond, the famous blue diamond that was donated to the Smithsonian by Mr. Winston. Needless to say this has changed.

The story is told by Gary Roskin, who is no slouch himself in the world of precious gems. He is one of the world’s leading gemologists as well as a longtime educator and writer. Nearly a year ago, he was given access to the back room of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals while 10 gem experts documented and examined the Hope and Wittelsbach-Graff blue diamonds, the two most famous blue diamonds in the world, to try to determine whether they were ever related. He has been writing about the event and its findings in a series of stories on his website. The Galli story is part of this ongoing series.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Future Princess Kate Middleton Wears Links of London Earrings

Catherine Middleton wore a pair of Links of London earrings for the official engagement photograph with Prince William.

They were identified by Professional Jeweller as white topaz Hope earrings, which were worn to complement her diamond and sapphire engagement ring. It’s the same ring that William’s father, Prince Charles, gave to his mother, Princess Diana, on February 24, 1981.

They were photographed by renowned fashion photographer Mario Testino in the Council Chamber in the State Apartment in St James’s Palace.

Hublot Ad Spurs Discussion, Controversy

An advertisement using the bruised and beaten face of Formula 1 head Bernie Ecclestone with the statement, “See what people will do for a Hublot,” has created a bit a controversy. Ecclestone was mugged in London and his Hublot watch was one of the items stolen. He sent the picture, taken right after the mugging, with the statement used in the ad to Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot. The ad was attempt at humor and a way to draw focus to a serious issue, according to Biver, who said he created the ad at the insistence of Ecclestone. It appeared last week in the Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune as a one-off. But there are rumors that it may become a full-blown campaign. A story about the ad appeared in the Jewelry News Network Tuesday.

In the Wednesday edition of the Financial Times in its “Judgment Call” section (subscription required), the U.K.-based newspaper asked an executive, brand specialist and academic about their advice when trying to tackle this type of an issue and using humor to do it. Responses ranged from Barbara Stocking, chief executive of Oxfam, who cautioned about the long-term goal of such ads, to Rita Clifton, chairman of Interbrand London, who said that using topical events “can be a good route. But it depends who is doing it and how.” Meanwhile, Rohit Deshpande, professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, said the ad “is in poor taste, is bad marketing, and creates the wrong kind of long-term consumer impression.” What do you think?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Timepiece Tuesday Part 2: Hubot Ad Turns Tragedy into Comedy, Omega Wins Lawsuit, a Clock that Acts Like a Sail

There’s so much going on the world of timepieces that it takes two issues of Timepiece Tuesday to tell it all.

A Black Eye Becomes a Punch Line
Bernie Ecclestone, president and CEO of Formula One, was mugged by four persons and robbed of jewelry worth £200,000 ($315,000) in London, the BBC reports. Among the articles stolen was his Hublot watch. The robbery happened November 25 and on that day he sent his picture of himself taken the day of the assault to Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot, along with a note: “See what people will do for a Hublot.” Biver told the BBC that Ecclestone wanted to use the picture and statement for an advertisement. Biver agreed and the untouched photo of Ecclestone sporting an enormous black eye and a bruised jaw appeared with an ad for the F1 King Power watch, the official watch of Formula 1 racing. The ad ran as a one-off on December 8 and 9 in the Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune. However, the reality-based ad may actually become a campaign, JustLuxe reports, although the company has yet to make such an announcement.  

Omega vs. Cotsco
 The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Omega brand can effectively control the pricing of its luxury watches in the U.S., which means consumers will pay more, the Daily Finance reports. The decision was 4-4, with Justice Elena Kagan abstaining. Such a split decision upholds the lower court's ruling, which in this case was in favor of the Swatch-owned brand. However, divided 4-4 rulings don't have the same impact as true majority, the publication explains. So the collision of copyright law and "gray market" goods—items originally sold abroad, brought into the U.S. and resold here—is still largely unsettled. Costco was purchasing Omega watches on the gray market from middlemen abroad at prices below U.S. prices. More on the issues For example, Costco was able to sell Omega's Seamaster watch for $1,299, while other U.S. retailers were charging $1,995. Read more.

A Clock that Acts Like a Sail
A wall-mounted clock with a manifold that is connected to the two hands to create a 3D movement. At any given moment the manifold is located in a different position and different parts are seen. As the hour can be understood according to the traditional location of hands, a new reading of time is created. Called the Manifold clock, it was created by Studio Ve, an Israeli design company. A shout out to Fast Company's Co.Design, where I first learned about the product. Video of the clock in action below.

Manifold Clock from Studio Ve on Vimeo.

Timepiece Tuesday: Christie’s, Antiquorum Auctions; IWI 'English' Watches; Mayors Opens Rolex Store

As I write, the Christie’s “Important Watch” auction in New York had just ended. It was the last auction of the year for the international auction house and judging from the early results, some people will be receiving some spectacular holiday presents.

The evening’s stunner was a limited-edition “Kanthara” diamond-set wristwatch from Piaget (above) that sold for $602,000, double its high estimate. The 32 mm wide watch has nickel-finish signed watch is literally covered in diamonds, including a dial set with baguette-cut diamonds, oval case enhanced by emerald-cut diamonds, diamond-set crown, 18k white gold Piaget bracelet and hidden clasp set with emerald-cut diamonds.

Other highlights include:

A Breguet (Reference 3857) limited-edition platinum minute-repeating tourbillon wristwatch sold for $434,500, well above the high estimate of $350,000. It was produced in 1997 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Abraham Louis Breguet, who invented the tourbillion, which counteract the effects of gravitational pull on timepieces.

Patek Philippe had seven of the top ten sales for the evening, according to early results. Among them was a stainless steel chronograph watch with Breguet numerals that sold for $386,500 (left), above the high estimate; an 18k gold perpetual calendar chronograph watch with phases of the moon sold for $314,500; and an 18k gold perpetual calendar chronograph that sold for $266,500. More to come.

Antiquorum Auction
On Dec. 8 Antiquorum held its final watch auction of the year, featuring a FP Journe set of six platinum watches with champagne dials that sold for $200,500 and a white gold “Double Tourbillon 30 Vision” watch (left) that sold for $160,000.

British Watches
There are quality watches made outside of Switzerland. A case-in-point is IWI, a new luxury sports watch brand headquartered in Lancashire, England. Calling itself a “truly English brand,” the company is headed by watchmaker Ian Walsh. Studying Classic Horology at Manchester and later working with Tag Heuer, Walsh said it was while working with vintage timepieces that he realized that he wanted to recreate classic designs. The IWI stainless steel watches pay homage to motorsport. The watches contain Swiss automatic movements and The IWI signature crown is situated at 12 o’clock. Walsh says the classic dials inspire the glory days of auto racing.

Mayors Opens Rolex Store
Just in time for Christmas, Mayors jewelers opened its first dedicated watch store in Orlando, Fla. Called “Rolex Presented by Mayors,” the new store is located in the Mall at Millenia. More than 300 luxury timepieces are on display in the 1,100-square-foot space. The store is Mayors' second retail location in the mall.

Customers Virtually ‘Try On’ Tacori Jewelry at Bloomingdales

There was fun and excitement on the third floor of the Bloomingdales flagship store in New York City this past weekend where customers had a chance to “virtually” try on jewelry from the Tacori 18k925 Collection.

In front of a video screen mounted with a webcam, customers were able to wrap a paper cutout of a piece of jewelry, such as ring, select which jewelry item from the new Tacori collection they would like to see by touching the screen and then holding the cutout to the webcam. On the screen the ring, or other jewelry, would appear as if they are actually trying it on.

The “Try It On” experience, known as augmented reality, was provided by Holition, a U.K.-based technology company that specializes in 3D and augmented reality solutions. The use of this type of technology isn’t brand new, but it has been very active during the past year. Earlier this year, Holition launched a Tissot 3D interactive touch screen window display experience at Selfridges department store in London.

“Shoppers today are busy, and sometimes don’t have the time or inclination to wait at a jewelry counter for a sales person to help them try on the below the counter items they desire,” said Paul Tacorian, SVP of sales and marketing, TACORI. “Our virtual ‘Try It On’ experience allows clients the fun and instant gratification of trying on beautiful gems, and customizing their style to quickly find what Tacori 18k925 design they like best.”

You can virtually try on the new Tacori 18k925 on a personal computer if you have a webcam by following this link.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Harry Winston Q3 Sales Up 88%

Harry Winston, said that third quarter consolidated sales increased 88 percent year-over-year to $140.9 million, led by a two-fold increase in rough diamond sales from its Canadian mine and a 50 percent increase in its luxury jewelry retail operation.

Consolidated earnings totaled $13.7 million for the period, ended October 31, compared to a loss of $4.9 million for the third quarter of 2009. Consolidated net income for the third quarter was $3.9 million.

Rough diamond sales for the quarter rose 192 percent year-over-year to $60.7 million. The Toronto based company supplies rough diamonds to the global market from its 40 percent interest in the Diavik Diamond Mine, located in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Mining giant Rio Tinto owns the remaining 60-percent share of the mine. The increase in sales resulted primarily from a 182 percent increase in volume of carats sold.

Meanwhile, retail sales increased 48 percent for the quarter to $80.2 million. The company’s retail division, Harry Winston Inc., is a premier diamond jeweler and luxury timepiece retailer with salons in key locations including New York, Paris, London, Beijing, Tokyo and Beverly Hills.

Robert Gannicott, Harry Winston chairman and CEO said the insatiable appetite for hard luxury goods in China and other emerging countries is the main reason for Harry Winston’s strong third-quarter performance.

“Diamond demand in the Far East continues to propel rough diamond prices as the Diavik mine transitions to underground production,” Gannicott said. “Marketing efforts and store openings are successfully burnishing the Harry Winston brand to capture the branded luxury appetites of the emerging wealth of the newly developing parts of the world.”

Bulgari Exhibit in Paris

Photo by Filippo Monteforte of AFP

If in Paris during the holidays it would be a good time to stop in the Grand Palais to view the Bulgari exhibit, which examines the history of the Italian luxury jeweler and its influence on world culture.

Photo by Filippo Monteforte of AFP

“125 years of Italian Magnificence” looks back over the key moments in the history of the celebrated jewelry maker and the development of Bulgari design, from the opening of the first boutique on Rome's Via Sistina in 1884 to the present day. More than 500 precious items illustrate the path followed by Bulgari on the way to becoming the world's leading exponent of precious, highly colorful jewelry.

Photo by Filippo Monteforte of AFP

Divided chronologically into periods, the retrospective begins with designs using silver and diamonds from the first half of the 20th century, then shows the creative turn taken in the 1960s with the emergence of a new style combining precious stones with rarely used original materials. The exhibition continues with the eclectic style inspired by 1970s pop art, the bold designs of the 1980s and 90s, right through to the spectacular designs of the 21st Century.

Jewelry, drawings, cinema stills and original items from private collections are contained in the exhibit, including Bulgari's own vintage collection and pieces owned by Elizabeth Taylor.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Antiquorum Auction Fetches $3.5M Led by FP Journe Platinum Watch Set

Antiquorum’s December auction of “Important Modern and Vintage Timepieces” in New York on Wednesday fetched more than $3.5 million with 83 percent of the 356 timepieces sold by lot and 119 percent sold by value, based on the low estimate. In addition to the telephone, room, and commission bidders, there were 419 registered Internet bidders competing for timepieces. Bids came in from across the world including, Australia, Italy, China, Hong Kong and United Kingdom.

The highlight of the sale was the FP Journe set of platinum watches (lead photograph). The “Invenit et Fecit” collection of six wristwatches with champagne dial sold for a notable $200,500.

Greubel Forsey also attained an important result with its white gold “Double Tourbillon 30° Vision” (above right) selling for $160,000. An A. Lange & Sohne Flyback Datograph sold for $74,500 (above left).

Patek Philippe achieved strong results with the ref. 3971 (left) selling for $ 98,500 after heated competition among bidders. Also achieving noteworthy prices were two Patek Philippe ref. 5146; the pink gold example achieved $27,500 while the white gold brought $26,875. The Patek Philippe lapel watch sold for $21,250 to a Chinese bidder for nearly three times its high estimate.

Vintage Rolex watches continue to achieve strong results at auction. At Wednesday’s sale, the Rolex ref. 6263 sold for $35,000. The Rolex 14K gold ref. 6238 “Paul Newman” (left) and the Rolex ref. 6239 steel “Paul Newman” each sold for $64,900. The Rolex ref. 6204 obtained $57,500—three times its estimate.

“We are delighted by the recent increase in strength in the vintage Rolex market with exceptional examples once again achieving significant prices as seen by the Rolex ref. 6204 in today’s sale,” said Charles Tearle, auctioneer, director and watch expert, Antiquorum USA.

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo “A Series” sold for $23,750—more than four times its high estimate. Also, Richard Mille obtained a noteworthy result for the RM010 in 18K white gold, selling for $43,750.

Watches with exceptional provenance continue to generate interest. The Rolex GMT that belonged to Captain Don Walsh, who co-piloted the Bathyscaph Trieste to the deepest part of the world’s oceans at 35,800 feet, sold for $30,000. Also, Joe DiMaggio’s Imexal clock, which was presented to him as the Casey Stengel Award in 1974, attained $13,125, more than four times its low estimate.

A Girard Perregaux vintage 1945 Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges (left) sold for $57,500 while the Girard Perregaux World Time Perpetual Calendar with special order dial sold for $ 22,500.

Finally, in keeping with current trends, certain modern limited edition examples are drawing attention from the collector community and realizing strong prices at auction. An excellent example of this is the Jaeger Le-Coultre Aston Martin limited series wristwatch in titanium sold for $17,500—more than double its high estimate.

This was the last auction 2010 for Antiquorum. Its next auction will be held Feb. 26, 2011, in Hong Kong.

Neiman Marcus Q1 Sales Up 6.7%, Core Customers Return but are Cautious

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus, Inc. said Wednesday that revenues increased 6.7 percent to $927.2 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2011. Comparable revenues increased 6.4 percent and operating earnings were $99.8 million compared to $74.8 for the same period of the prior year. Sales were driven by an increase in customer demand and higher levels of full-price sales, something the company has been the focusing on during the past year.

Specialty retail stores sales increased 5.5 percent to $761.1 million with comparable sales up 5.1 percent for the quarter. Operating earnings increased 22 percent to $108 million. The company’s direct business sales (Internet and catalog) increased 12.8 percent to $166.1 million—led by a 16.9 percent increase in Internet sales to $139 million, offsetting a 4.6 percent decline in catalog revenue.

Prior to the recession, Neiman Marcus defined its core customer as spending $12,000 per year at its store. Karen Katz, Neiman Marcus new CEO, said that customer has returned but is spending more thoughtfully and is looking for value.

“I would generally say the core customer is actually shopping,” Katz said. “(But) she is being much more deliberate in how she’s shopping so her spending is not back up to the levels of pre-recession and we don’t have an expectation that it will get back to that level. As a result the way we are thinking about our strategy is that we need to attract other affluent customers into the Neiman Marcus group.”

Katz noted the most affluent customers are again purchasing the highest priced items but other consumers are slow to return to buying more affordable luxury items. This caused the company to make some changes to pricing strategy.

“Generally speaking, things at the high end are doing very well,” Katz said. “We went through what we call the rebalancing of profit in terms of price point. We needed to fill in better in the middle and the opening price points of what we offer and those where we’ve done that we actually had nice success with it. Our handbags division for an example, everything had grown to the high end in handbags and we came back and balanced out the prices there with existing vendors and it’s worked extremely well. And we think that that is helping fuel the success of our handbag business right now.”

Neiman Marcus Internet Sales Up 12.8 percent, New CEO looks to Reach Customers through Mobile Devices

Karen Katz photo by Jeanne Prejean
Neiman Marcus’ direct business sales (Internet and catalog) increased 12.8 percent year-over-year to $166.1 million in the first quarter of the 2011 fiscal year—led by a 16.9 percent increase in Internet sales to $139 million, offsetting a 4.6 percent decline in catalog revenue. Karen Katz, the new CEO, said the company will continue to invest in Internet and social media initiatives.

“At the heart of our strategy is an idea that a customer should be able to shop a Neiman Marcus group brand anytime, anywhere and anyplace she chooses,” Katz said during an earnings conference call Wednesday.

The luxury retailer’s e-commerce business includes Web sites for its Neiman Marcus brand, its Last Call clearance brand and Horchow, its catalog and Internet business that offers home furnishings, linens, decorative accessories and tabletop items.

Now Katz, who replaced Burt Tansky as CEO in October, said she is trying to reach customers through their mobile devices.

The company recently introduced a Neiman Marcus gift app for iPhone and iPad, a The Shoe Salon Bergdorf Goodman iPhone app (pictured left) with an emphasis on affordable gifts, a gift of the day and gift suggestions at different price points, Katz said. There’s an interactive iPad app for all Neiman Marcus catalogs in which users can shop right from the catalog.

“There’s clearly a need as the customer is getting more connected between their mobile devices, their iPads and those kinds of things we really have to ramp up how we’re connecting with the customer in that way,” she said. “Obviously we have a large e-commerce business and we are going to continue to fuel that but even in our stores we’re studying how to be better connected with our customers."