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Monday, May 30, 2011

Jewelry News Network Turns 1

It’s hard to believe but my little blog that could is a year old today. It began with the idea that there was a need for a place online to bring consumers who are passionate about jewelry with jewelry, fashion and luxury professionals with stories that appeal to both groups.

The year has gone surprisingly well. Readership on the blog has grown at an average of 37 percent per month. I started a Twitter page that has grown as constantly and steady as the blog along with a facebook fan page. And, because of this blog, I’ve been able to reach larger audiences through, JewelleryNetAsia and Farlang.

This first year was an experiment to see if this type of format would have appeal. The answer is a resounding yes. There will be a number of changes for the second year. Among them is the Jewelry News Network will now be accepting advertising. In addition, there will be a newsletter for the blog.

Further down the road there are plans to expand the website and to increase our international coverage by building a team of correspondents in key jewelry markets around the world. The Jewelry News Network will be a network between the jewelry industry and passionate consumers and network within the global jewelry industry.

So thank you for taking the time to read this blog and I look forward to making this publication bigger and better in the upcoming year. As always, please contact me with any concerns, ideas or advice.

Anthony DeMarco
President and Editor-in-Chief

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Las Vegas Jewelry Week

Mandalay Bay, the new home of JCK Las Vegas

The upcoming week in Las Vegas is going to be one of the most important for the U.S. jewelry industry in some time. The performance of jewelry trade shows for the next several days will help determine whether the industry is returning to a period of sustained growth following the single event of the economic meltdown of 2008, or if it is the victim of something bigger and more widespread—a cultural and technological change that is steamrolling traditional ways of assessing luxury, beauty and fashion; while providing new ways of delivering messages and products that are beyond the reach of an aging industry.

Of course the big news is that one of the largest and most successful shows in the international jewelry industry—JCK Las Vegas and its affiliate shows, Luxury at JCK and Swiss Watch at JCK—will be held for the first time at Mandalay Bay.

The change is the result of some downsizing and rightsizing due to recent economic realities and competition within the industry. Celebrating its 20th year, JCK Las Vegas has always been held at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, one of the largest conventions facilities in the country, which along with the adjacent Venetian Las Vegas offers approximately 1.8 million square-feet of space. The show was so successful that even in this space there was an annual waiting list of hundreds of companies.

Things changed dramatically during the 2008 global economic meltdown, which resulted in a dramatic shrinkage of the jewelry industry. No more waiting lists. More empty spaces. Fewer buyers. So now the show will be held at the newer, nicer although smaller space. Still, at 1 million square feet, it is huge by normal expo space standards.

Things have been changing for some time as other jewelry shows have opened and taken away some JCK exhibitors. The most notable change is that what has been termed JCK Las Vegas for years by the industry is now known in the industry as “Las Vegas Jewelry Week” or “Las Vegas Jewelry Market Week.”

The week begins with JCK at Luxury (May 31 – June 6). The first three days of the show is an invitation only gathering of luxury jewelry retailers and consumer press, which the show has been since its inception. The next four days, the show is open for all of those attending JCK Las Vegas. This is in no doubt in recognition of the only segment of the jewelry industry that continues to grow during this sluggish recovery. Autore, Breuning, Carl Messler and Danhov are among the approximate 230 luxury exhibitors at the show.

Swiss Watch at JCK (June 2 - 6) remains an appointment only event. There is no desire and seemingly no need for the luxury Swiss watch industry to change the way it does business as it continues to experience exceptional sales growth and consumer passion for its timepieces. Exhibitors run from Breitling to Zenith who will be seeing buyers in suites at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and the Four Seasons Hotel in the same building.

Wynn Las Vegas, home of the Couture Show.  Photo Credit: Destination360

The Couture Show, over in the Wynn Las Vegas (June 2 – 6), features some of the best-known high-end jewelry brands in the world, including Damiani, John Hardy, David Yurman, Judith Ripka, Kwiat, Mikimoto, Roberto Coin and Stephen Webster. These are among the companies that broke off with JCK Las Vegas to form a show that is specific to their niche in the industry. In the past, the show lived off its close proximity to the Sands Convention Center. The question this year is whether enough buyers will want to make the trip from the south end of the strip to the Wynn. There are certainly enough destination brands for buyers to make the trip.

The American Gem Trade Association attached itself to JCK Las Vegas a number of years ago with its own show, AGTA GemFair Las Vegas. The collection of gem and pearl dealers from all over the world will continue its successful association with JCK at Mandalay Bay (June 2 – 7).

Then there’s JCK Las Vegas (June 3 – 6), still the dominate jewelry trade show on “The Strip” even if its status is slightly tarnished. This show contains all aspects of the jewelry industry from bridal to manufacturing equipment and technology suppliers. Low-, mid-, and high-end tiers of the market are resented as well as international jewelry manufacturers.

Planet Hollywood is the location for Niche: The Show

Finally there’s Niche: The Show at Planet Hollywood (June 4 – 6). This is show dedicated for designers of handcrafted jewelry and other materials and mediums, such as glass, ceramic and wood. This event is an answer to the long-term struggle small jewelry designers had at JCK. The show was just too big and attracted too many buyers from large-scale operations with orders that these types small businesses couldn’t fill.

There are other shows as well, specializing in antiques, dedicated for watch dealers and for bead makers that round out the festivities. But it’s the major trade shows that will determine the shape and scope of what the U.S. jewelry industry will look like in the coming years.

Many in the industry will be crossing their fingers.

Neiman Marcus Q3 Sales Up 10%, Net Earnings Up 150%

Neiman Marcus reported a year-over-year increase in revenues of 9.9 percent to $983.8 million for its fiscal third quarter. Comparable revenues increased 9.7 percent. Operating earnings for the period ended April 30 increased 45 percent year-over-year to $123.2 million.

The Dallas-based luxury retailer said Friday that net earnings totaled $46.2 million for the 13-week period compared to $18.5 million in the prior year, a staggering 149.7 percent increase. EBITDA increased 23 percent to $169.9 million for the period.

For the 39 weeks ended April 30, the company reported total revenues of $3.08 billion compared to $2.87 billion in the prior year. Comparable revenues increased 7.3 percent. The Company recorded operating earnings for the 39 weeks ended April 30, 2011 of $312.3 million compared to $227.3 million for the comparable period a year ago, an increase of 37 percent.

The company’s year-over-year net earnings rose 200.9 percent to $93 million for the 39-week fiscal period, ended April 30. EBITDA increased 18 percent for the period to $457.2 million.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

WFDB and Local Zimbabwe Group at Odds Over Diamond Sales

The Marange diamond fields.

Two organizations are sending different messages on whether Zimbabwe should sell diamonds from its controversial Marange diamond fields, where human rights abuses and smuggling have happened in the past and are alleged to be continuing, according to reports from Zimbabwe newspapers. 

The World Federation of Diamond Bourses is urging the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to allow the country to sell diamonds from the mine, which is considered by many to contain the largest deposit of diamonds in the world. 

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Blood Diamonds Campaign, an advocacy group, warned against any rushed decision to allow Zimbabwe to resume diamond trading, saying the local industry is still not compliant with international standards. 

Zimbabwe, for its part, has maintained that it adheres to the guidelines of the Kimberley Process and will sell its diamonds with or without its permission or certification scheme. 

The Kimberley Process, for its part, is divided over the issue and has been at a stalemate that is threatening to bring down the entire organization, which is charged with ending the trade in "blood" or "conflict" diamonds, which have fueled decades of devastating conflicts.

To read stories from the Zimbabwian newspapers, go to the Jewelry News Network Twitter feed, @JewelryNewsNet. To read more about the issue go to the Jewelry News Network search engine on the home page and do a search with the words "Zimbabwe" or "Kimberley Process."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Signet Q1 Same Store Sales, Total Sales Up 10%

Signet Jewelers, the world’s largest specialty retail jeweler, reported strong sales results for the first quarter of FY 2012 led by a 10.2 percent increase in same store sales, compared to a rise of 5.8 percent for the first quarter of the prior year. Total sales for the period, ended April 30, also rose 10.2 percent to $887.3 million.

Operating income for the Bermuda-based company, which operates jewelry retail chains in the U.S. and U.K., improved by 310 basis points to 13.4 percent. As a result, income before income taxes and diluted earnings per share rose to $117.8 million, compared with $74.1 million during the prior fiscal year.  

“We are very pleased with our strong start to the year, leading to record results for the first quarter. Our performance was led by our U.S. division, with the U.K. division continuing to operate well in a challenging economy,” said Mike Barnes, Signet Jewellers CEO  “The strong sales momentum has continued into the start of the second quarter ... We remain well positioned to continue to increase sales productivity and achieve our financial objectives for this year.”

In the U.S., which accounted for 83.2 percent of total company sales for the period, sales increased 11.4 percent to $738 million. Same store sales rose 12.5 percent for the period. Signet operates 1,314 in the U.S., under the brands Kay Jewelers, Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry and a number of regional brands.

At Kay Jewelers, the company’s largest retail chain operation and the largest retail jewelry operation in the U.S., sales rose 13.4 percent to $435.4 million with same store sales up 13.9 percent. The average selling price was $360, a year-over increase of 11.8 percent. At Jared, total sales rose 12.7 percent to $227.8 million. Same store sales increased 11.8 percent for the period. The average selling price per unit for the period was $798, a 7.7 percent increase compared to the prior year.

In the U.K., which accounted for 16.8 percent of total company sales for the period, sales rose 4.5 percent to $149.3 million, mostly due to the strength of the British pound over the U.S. dollar. When the exchange rates were removed sales fell for the period by 1.3 percent. Same store sales rose 0.2 percent. Signet operates 538 stores in the U.K. under the brands H.Samuel, Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis.
On May 24, Signet, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, entered into a $400 million senior unsecured multi-currency, five-year revolving credit facility agreement that will be used for working capital requirements and general corporate purposes. The new loan replaces an existing $300 million credit account entered in June 2008, which was due to expire in June 2013.

Signet operates approximately 1,852 specialty retail jewelry stores.

Royal Asscher to Display Original Cullinan Diamond Tools at JCK Las Vegas

Even in the rarefied world of statement diamonds and jewels, the venerable Royal Asscher Diamond Company has few peers. In an effort to showcase its heritage and history, the Dutch company will have on display at this year’s JCK Las Vegas shows the original tools used to cleave the world-famous Cullinan diamond. Also on display will be a replica of the Imperial State Crown, one of Great Britain’s Crown Jewels, containing one of the two largest stones cut from the Cullinan.

The Cullinan diamond is the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found, at 3,105 cts. The diamond was presented to Great Britain’s King Edward VII entrusted the cutting of the gem to the Asscher brothers. In 1908, Joseph Asscher cut the stone into 9 large stones and 42 small ones.

In honor of this legacy, Royal Asscher is releasing a special vintage-inspired engagement ring. Royal Asscher invited Toronto-based designer Reena Ahluwalia to visit the headquarters in Amsterdam and recreate the romance, with a look back at some of its most celebrated pieces.

“Legacy,” a vintage-inspired platinum engagement ring by Ahluwalia, takes its inspiration from the fabled jewelry vault of the Royal Asscher Diamond Company from the 1920s-1930s, conjuring the old Hollywood glamour and romanticism.

“The 1920-30s are a reminder of stylized and warmly organic forms,” Ahluwalia says. “Traces of this style can be seen in the Legacy collection. Buds form the shank of the ring, with a centrally mounted Royal Asscher Cut diamond representing a bloom with promise of a new future and creation of a lasting legacy together.”

Joseph Asscher
The company, founded in 1854, is known for its craftsmanship and signature diamond, the Royal Asscher Cut.

The Cullinan diamond tools, as well as Royal Asscher’s new Legacy and “Shining Stars of Africa” collections will make their debut at the Luxury at JCK and JCK Las Vegas, Booth 1120. All are welcome to view the collections and celebrate alongside Royal Asscher with a glass of champagne on June 3 or June 4, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Tiffany Q1 Sales Up 20%, Profits Up 26%

Tiffany & Co. on Thursday reported that worldwide net sales increased 20 percent to $761 million while net earnings rose 26 percent to $81.1 million due to sales growth and improved margins. Management increased its earnings forecast for fiscal 2011 based on this higher than expected performance.

“We are pleased with the very strong start to the year,” Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “We achieved healthy sales growth in most regions, were able to improve gross margin despite higher product costs and achieved a significant increase in our operating margin.”

On a constant-exchange-rate basis, which excludes the effect of translating foreign-currency-denominated sales into U.S. dollars, worldwide net sales and comparable store sales increased 16 percent and 15 percent, respectively, the New York-based luxury jewelry retailer said.

Net sales highlights by region for the quarter ended April 30 are as follows:

* In the Americas, which includes the U.S., Canada and Latin America, sales increased 19 percent to $374.7 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales and comparable store sales rose 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Comparable Americas' branch store sales increased 15 percent and sales in the New York flagship store rose 23 percent. Combined Internet and catalog sales in the Americas rose 14 percent.

* Asia-Pacific sales increased 37 percent to $167.2 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, sales increased 31 percent and comparable store sales rose 26 percent due to substantial growth in most countries, particularly in the greater China region.

* Sales in Japan rose 7 percent to $123.4 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, both total sales and comparable store sales declined 3 percent. Stores that had closed due to the earthquake have since re-opened. Comparable store sales on a constant-exchange-rate basis increased in February, declined in March and rose in April.

* In Europe, sales increased 25 percent to $85.6 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, sales increased 19 percent while comparable store sales rose 15 percent due to strong growth in Continental Europe and modest sales growth in the U.K.

* Other sales declined 18 percent to $10.1 million. A decline in wholesale sales of rough diamonds more than offset increased wholesale sales of finished products to independent distributors within emerging markets.

The company currently operates 232 stores (96 in the Americas, 55 in Japan, 52 in Asia-Pacific and 29 in Europe), versus 221 a year ago.

Tifffany plans to open 19 new stores this year with—seven in the Americas, four in Europe and eight in Asia-Pacific, while closing a store in Japan.

“Worldwide sales growth in the early part of this second quarter is continuing to exceed our expectation, with solid performance in most regions,” Kowalski said. “Based on the better-than-expected first quarter results, we are increasing our earnings forecast for the year to $3.45 - $3.55 per diluted share (not including nonrecurring expenses) from $3.35 - $3.45 per diluted share previously.”

The company said that for the year, ended Jan. 31, 2012, it expects a net earnings increase of 18 percent.

It forecasts a mid-teens percentage increase in worldwide net sales. By region, it expects a mid-teens percentage increase in sales in the Americas, a mid-twenties percentage increase in both Asia-Pacific and Europe, and a modest sales decline in Japan.

Tiffany Joins CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund

Tiffany & Co began a three-year partnership with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund with a $1 million donation. Part of the grant includes a donation of $250,000 for one of nine jewelry designers who have been a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist who best demonstrates his or her ability to develop their designs as an independent entity. The money will go towards the brand’s business development.

The jewelry designers eligible for the grant are: Eddie Borgo, Philip Crangi, Monique Pean, Subversive Jewelry, Dean Harris, Irene Nuwirth, House of Waris, Pamela Love and Anthony nak. They were selected among CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund since its inaugural year in 2004.

The nine jewelry designers nominated for the prize have been sent applications to apply for the $250,000 grant. The applications—which require; a portfolio, financial information and information on the brand—will be judged by Tiffany & Co. chairman and CEO Michael J. Kowalski, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Vogue senior accessories editor Filipa Fino and CFDA executive director Steven Kolb. Applications for the grant are being accepted through July 8. The the winner will be announced this summer.

“As a leader in the jewelry industry, it is important to us that the next generation of talented jewelry designers are able to succeed in the face of the many business challenges they face,” Kowalski said. “Partnering with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, this grant is intended to continue to develop jewelry as an important field of design.”

The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund helps emerging American designers pursue their design and business plans. In addition to grants of $300,000 to the winner and $100,000 each to the two runners-up, the awards include a yearlong mentorship with an industry professional whose business expertise is tailored to the designers’ needs and future goals.

Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc., is a not-for-profit trade association that leads industry-wide initiatives and whose membership consists of more than 370 of America’s foremost womenswear, menswear, jewelry, and accessory designers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

MB&F Unveils New Exotic Frog Time Machines

HM3 Chocolate Frog features a "chocolate" PVD coated Grade 5 titanium case and a 22K red gold rotor. It is available in a limited edition of 10 pieces.
Its protruding eyes and its mouth-like front are actually instruments and complications that differentiate the “horological machine” from the frog where it gets its inspiration.

The HM3 frog, as it is known, was actually released a year ago by MB&F, the Geneva-based company that creates highly limited editions of artistic and technically innovative timepieces. Its latest timepiece creations are two new versions of the frog, the Chocolate Frog and the Frog Zr. HM3 refers to the third version of the company’s groundbreaking horological machine, which powers the watches and serves as the foundation for its elaborate and unusual designs.

HM3 Frog Zr in zirconium with a purple 22k gold rotor. It is available in a limited edition of 18 pieces.

The case of the Zr watch is made of zirconium, a metal highly resistant to corrosion that, to my limited knowledge, is rarely, if ever, used for watches. The chocolate frog’s case is made of PVD-coated Grade 5 titanium.

The two sapphire-encased bulbous domes of the HM3 Frog are designed to replicate the protruding eyes of the frog. They are actually conical gauges used to display the time. One displays the minute and the other the hour. Aluminum time indicators rotate beneath the sapphire crystal, enabling them to be easily seen from many angles, the company said. This is substantially different from the previous versions of the HM3, in which the hour and minute hands rotate around their respective stationary cones. (pictured: HM3 Frog available in Grade 5 titanium with blue 22k gold rotor.)  

Maximilian Büsser, the company’s founder, said creating the domes in such a way was a challenge. Solid aluminum was chosen for the time indicators because of its optimal strength to weight ratio. The domes weigh just over 0.5g. They are milled first from the outside and then the inside to arrive at a paper-thin wall thickness of just 0.28 mm, which reduces their energy requirements to an absolute minimum.

Even the fabrication of the semi-spherical sapphire crystal domes was demanding because any slight imperfection in the shape might introduce a disconcerting magnification effect, Büsser said.

The Frog's unusual method of indicating time necessitated the development of a new gear train for the HM3 engine. This was because the aluminum hour dome of the Frog rotates in 12 hours compared to the 24 hour revolution of the HM3 hour hand. And as the date wheel is driven from the hours, the gearing driving the oversized date display had to be reworked as well.

While the Frog is playful in its application, the work behind it is serious. A close inspection of the case displays a carefully thought out detailing that includes a figure 8 engraved around the domes that mirrors the form of the display back (revealing dual ceramic bearings); distinctive clover-head white gold screws; and an engraved arrow discreetly indicating the easy to read over-sized date.

Zale Corp. Sales Up, Losses Decline

Zale Corp. on Wednesday said year-over-year third quarter revenues increased 14.5 percent to $412 million. Same store sales for the period ended April 30, increased 15.2 percent, compared to a decrease of 2.2 percent during the same period last year. At constant exchange rates, which exclude the effect of translating Canadian currency denominated sales into U.S. dollars, same store sales increased 14.2 percent for the quarter.

The specialty jewelry retailer with operates jewelry chains in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico reported a net loss from continuing operations of $10 million in the third quarter, compared to a net loss from continuing operations of $15 million in the comparable quarter last year.

For the quarter, gross margin on sales was $206 million, an increase of 13 percent compared to $183 million in the same period last year. The company achieved gross margin on sales of 50.1 percent, compared to 50.8 percent in the comparable quarter last year.

“We continue to make progress in our multi-year initiatives to return the company to profitability,” said Theo Killion, Zale Corp. CEO. “Our results validate that the work we’ve done to improve our marketing, our product and our guest experience is beginning to take hold.”

Zale Corp. operates approximately 1,845 retail locations throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, as well as online. The company’s brands include Zales Jewelers, Zales Outlet, Gordon's Jewelers, Peoples Jewellers, Mappins Jewellers and Piercing Pagoda.

Cartier Timepieces to go on Museum Tour

Cartier will host a traveling exhibition of its timepieces titled, “Cartier Time Art.” The Parisian luxury jewelry and watch brand will showcase more than 100 items from its historical collection and 20 contemporary fine watches, making it the largest collection of Cartier timepieces ever to be seen in public. Its first stop will be the Museum Bellerive in Zurich, Switzerland, August 26 till November 6.
The exhibition traces Cartier's technical and aesthetic aspects of complicated watches from a 1911 Santos wristwatch, a 1929 Tortue single pushpiece chronograph created in 1929, to the large "Billiken" mystery clock (1923). The collection also will include chatelaine-watches, wristwatches, travel clocks.
(Pictured left: Cartier Tank à Guichets Wristwatch, 1928, sold to Sir Bhupindra Singh, Maharajah of Patiala, photo: N. Welsh, Cartier Collection © Cartier)

The exhibition space is being created by designer Tokujin Yoshioka.

Cartier Pocket Watch

GIA Symposium Exhibit to Feature 100-ct. Yellow Diamond

The Steinmetz “Sunrise,” a cushion-cut, 100.67-ct. fancy intense yellow diamond, will be the feature gem in an exhibit of 1,000 gems, jewelry and sculptures at the GIA Symposium 2011. The display will be a part of the international gem and jewelry conference, being held May 29-30 at Gemological Institute of America headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif. The event also commemorates the 80th anniversary of GIA, which provides gemological research, education, laboratory services, and instrument development for the worldwide gem and jewelry industry.

The diamond will be on display for three days at the GIA Museum while all of the other pieces will be on display through the fall. The work of several jewelry and gem artists and craftsmen are part of the display. Among them is Wallace Chan, who is known for his innovative designs intricate sculpting, carving and stone setting, that features titanium and vibrant colors to represent living creatures. More than 30 of Chan’s pieces will be on display. (Pictured left: Unfettered: Pink sapphire, diamond, 18k white gold and titanium by Wallace Chan. Image © GIA.) 

Also on display are 15 gemstone sculptures by Perry Brent Davis, a master carver best known for pioneering the confluence between the mineral and lapidary trades and the fine art world. The pieces represent his interpretation of art deco, abstract and surrealism

In addition, the award-winning Vega jewelry set by Robert Wan—a Tahitian cultured pearl necklace, bracelet and earrings—will also be on view. The set is made up of 111 Tahitian cultured pearls and six carats of diamonds mounted in 18k white gold. The center of the necklace features five diamonds that fluoresce under ultraviolet light to mimic the Lyra constellation, whose principal star is Vega.

If that’s not enough, the exhibit also features a 111-ct. Burmese star sapphire courtesy of Benjamin Zucker.

Diamond Rings to Highlight Upcoming Auction at Christie’s New York

Two diamond rings will lead Christie’s Important Jewels to be held June 14 at Christie’s New York.

The first is a ring set with an oval-cut diamond, weighing approximately 46.51 cts., flanked on either side by a pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 1 and 1.01 cts., mounted in platinum (pictured above). The oval cut diamond is graded as E color with VVS2 clarity. The two pear-shaped diamonds have been graded as D color, VS1 and VS2 clarity respectively. The presale estimate is $2.5 to $3.5 million.

The second piece is a ring set with a pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 10.01 cts., flanked on either side by a pear-shaped diamond, each weighing approximately 1.02 cts., mounted in platinum. The 10-ct. pear-shaped diamond is D color, internally flawless clarity and the two side diamonds are rated as D color and internally flawless. Its estimate is $1.1 million to $1.5 million.

The auction of 125 lots will also feature a number of statement jewels from the top jewelry houses, including multiple pieces from Cartier and Tiffany. Among the items is a diamond, sapphire and emerald “Panther” ring by Cartier. Designed as a pavé-set diamond panther, the ring is set with cabochon sapphire spots, pear-shaped emerald eyes and a black enamel nose with a cushion-cut sapphire, mounted in platinum on the tip of the tail. Its estimate is $20,000 to $30,000.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chopard Sparkles at Cannes

Catherine Deneuve in Chopard diamond earrings and a diamond cuff.

Chopard, the Swiss luxury watch and jewelry manufacturer, has been the official partner of the Cannes Film Festival since 1998. During the 11-day event, which ended May 22 at the French Riviera beach city, Chopard hosts several events, designed the film festival’s most important awards and released its new “Red Carpet” collection of jewelry, which was worn by world’s most famous movie stars throughout the festival, as shown below.

Uma Thurman in Chopard diamond drop earrings.

Supermodel Karolina Kurkova in Chopard drop earrings.

French actress Ludivine Sagnier in Chopard diamond pendant necklace.

Jane Fonda in Chopard chandelier earrings and a cocktail ring.

Rosario Dawson in Chopard sapphire earrings, a diamond and sapphire cuff and cocktail rings.

Argentinean actress Martina Gusman wearing Chopard diamond floral cluster earrings.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Global Gold Jewelry Demand Strong in Asia while Weak in U.S., Europe and Middle East

Gold Jewelry demand increased 7 percent, year-over-year, to 556.9 tons in the first quarter of 2011, which translates to a record value of $24.8 billion, the World Gold Council said Thursday. India and China, the two largest markets for gold jewelry, together accounted for 349.1 tons or 63 percent of the total, $16 billion by value.

In the U.S., gold jewelry demand declined 10 percent to 20.5 tons, according to the WGC’s Gold Demand Trends report.

Demand for gold jewelry also fell in other parts of the world. In Europe, demand declined 11 percent to 4.7 tons and in the Middle East it dropped 39 percent to 10.9 tons.

India alone accounted for 37 percent of global jewelry demand. Demand increased 12 percent to 205.2 tons, translating to a 38 percent increase in value, according to the report. Demand in China increased 21 percent, year-over-year, to 142.9 tons ($6.4 billion). In percentage terms, Hong Kong was the largest growth market for gold jewelry, with demand up 32 percent to 7.3 tons.

“The regional breakdown of jewelry demand shows a story of two halves: strength in India and much of the east Asian region contrasting with broad weakness in the western and Middle Eastern markets,” WGC said in its report.

Jewelry demand accounted for 57 percent of all gold demand during the first quarter, according to the report.
(2010 Gold Statistics and 2011 Outlook after jump) 

Pandora Q1 Sales Up 41%

Danish charm jewelry company Pandora reported a 41 percent increase in sales to 1.74 billion Danish Krones ($333.8 million) in the first quarter. Net profit increased 90.7 percent to 515 million Danish krones ($98.8 million).

“We experienced strong underlying growth in Q1 and implemented price increases in most markets to balance the impact of rising gold and silver prices,” Mikkel Vendelin Olesen, Pandora CEO, said in a statement Thursday. “Our performance was based on a combination of good volume and product mix developments in existing and new stores across markets…. We remain focused on delivering very strong growth by increasing penetration in existing markets, upgrading existing stores as well as developing new markets.”

Pandora recently increased its prices and the reaction to the increase has been mixed, the company said, depending on timing of the price increase, the current consumer environment and the strength of the brand in that market.

Performance in Americas—including the U.S., Pandora’s largest market—and Asia were in line with first quarter performance, the company said, while some European markets were more moderate, particularly Germany, which they said called their results “unsatisfactory.” The company said its market position in Australia remains strong.

“Germany we see as an opportunity market, not a mature market,” the company said in its financial statement. “Our current performance is not satisfactory and we have taken steps managerially and in terms of trade and consumer interface to drive what we believe to be considerable long-term growth.”

Pandora said its outlook for 2011 remains unchanged, expecting a revenue increase of no less than 30 percent.

Royal Asscher Walks on the Wild Side with its ‘Shining Stars’ Collection

18k rose gold ring with plating on sterling silver, floating-diamonds and black enamel. $1,950.  Photo credit: Royal Asscher

Toronto-based jewelry designer Reena Ahluwalia has been keeping busy updating the designs of Royal Asscher’s “Stars of Africa” jewelry collection. This new, affordable line, called “Shining Stars,” is made with new materials and designed to be a touch “wilder,” than the original collection, while still maintaining the iconic free-floating diamonds centerpiece. In addition, proceeds from sale will continue to support African charities.

Ahluwalia says the new line is inspired by the day and night of the African savannah and its animal magnetism.

Pendant in rhodium-plated sterling silver, floating-diamonds and black enamel. $2,950. Photo credit: Royal Asscher

“African savannah, abstract leopard and cheetah prints became my inspiration source for “Shining Stars” collection,” Ahluwalia says. “We are seeing this exotic trend hugely influencing runways and street fashion. The new collection is versatile because patterns are so compatible and classic.”
(More photographs after jump)

Richemont Reports Record Jewelry and Watch Sales

Cie. Financiere Richemont SA reported Thursday that sales for its fiscal year increased 33 percent to nearly 6.9 billion euros ($9.84 billion). Operating profit for the year, ended March 31, increased 63 percent to 1.35 billion euros. ($1.92 billion).

The Geneva-based luxury goods company reported strong sales across all segments and regions. Among the big winners for the year were jewelry and watch sales.

Richemont’s jewelry “masions,” Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, reported a 29 percent increase in sales to a record 3.48 billion euros ($4.9 billion), based on broad-based popularity in terms of geography and product lines. Brand owned boutiques did particularly well.

Its watch properties ( Vacheron Constantin, Baume & Mercier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lange & Söhne, Officine Panerai, IWC, Piaget, and Roger Dubuis), reported a 31 percent sales increase for the year to a record 1.77 billion euros ($2.52 billion), with all specialist watchmakers performing well, with the expected exception of, Baume & Mercier, which is undergoing restructuring. Operating margin increased to 21.4 percent of sales, in spite of higher costs of sales due to the appreciation of the Swiss franc and higher precious material prices.
(sales by region, outlook and CEO quotes after jump)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Boucheron’s CEO to Step Down

Jean-Christophe Bedos
Jean-Christophe Bedos, president and CEO of Boucheron has announced his resignation, effective June 10. He led the Parisian luxury jewelry house for seven years. He will be replaced by LVMH executive, Pierre Bouissou, allowing for a smooth transition.

Boucheron is a subsidiary of PPR, the Paris-based retail conglomerate.

“We are glad to welcome Pierre to Boucheron and PPR,” said Alexis Babeau, deputy CEO of PPR Luxury activities. “With Pierre I am confident we have someone with the skills and experience necessary to build on the work done so far and accelerate the positive trends that have already been put in place. For the past seven years, Jean-Christophe Bedos has dedicated himself to returning Boucheron to a position of health and growth. Under his leadership, Boucheron was re-launched on the international stage as one of the world’s most prestigious jewelers. We thank Jean-Christophe for his significant contribution and wish him the very best as he now turns to new challenges. ”

Jean-Christophe Bedos added: "I am proud and delighted to have successfully achieved the objectives that had been set for Boucheron. After seven years, the time has come for me to pursue new challenges.”

Bedos was one of the first persons to appear on the Jewelry News Network. He spoke at the FT Business of Luxury Summit, discussing Boucheron’s leadership role in e-commerce and social media. Among luxury goods companies, Boucheron was a very early adapter to e-commerce, as it began selling its products on line in the late 1990s.

“The web to me … is like a street,” he told the luxury professionals at the conference. "You have the best. You have the worst. You have dirty streets. You have clean streets. You have affluent streets. You have down market streets. And when as much as a street could be, you can find everything. The question is not whether you should be on the street or not. The question is not whether you should be on the Web or not. The question is how you want to be there and how you want to be perceived there.”
Bouissou has extensive experience in brand management and development. He joins PPR from LVMH where he served most recently as managing director of Berluti, a bespoke shoemaker. Prior to Berluti, he served as business unit manager of the beauty and skincare products at Parfums Christian Dior.

Before joining LVMH, Bouissou held various marketing and development roles for Laboratoires Pierre Fabre and L’Oréal. He began his career as International Product Manager for Skincare at Unilever in Paris. A French national, Bouissou earned business degrees from Institut D’Administration des Entreprises (IAE) in Nice and ISA/ HEC (École des Hautes Études Commerciales) in Paris.

PPR owns and operates global brands in several markets distributed in more than 120 countries. In addition to Boucheron, the brands in its luxury group are Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Sergio Rossi, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.

Emerald and Diamond Tiara Fetches $12.7M, Pink Diamond Sells for $10.8M

An emerald and diamond tiara, circa 1900, formerly in the collection of Princess Katharina Henckel von Donnersmarck, sold for a staggering $12.7 million, setting the stage for a glittering night at Sotheby’s Magnificent and Noble Jewels Sale, held Thursday night in Geneva.

Sotheby’s said that this tiara was the most important to have appeared at auction in more than 30 years and apparently those assembled at the auction Hôtel Beau-Rivage agreed as the bejeweled headpiece sold for more than $2 million above its high estimate. It is composed of 11 rare Colombian emerald pear-shaped drops, which weigh over 500 cts. in total and may well have originally adorned the neck of a Maharajah. These emeralds are also believed to have been in the personal collection of Empress Eugénie.

The tiara was commissioned circa 1900, possibly from Chaumet, the Parisian jewelry house, by Guido Count von Henckel, First Prince von Donnersmarck, for his second wife Princess Katharina, Sotheby’s said. It was worn whenever royalty was present.

Another highlight of the evening was a 10.99-ct. rare pink diamond that hasn’t appeared on the market for more than 30 years. It sold for $10.8 million, the third highest price for a pink diamond at auction.

The diamond features a classic emerald cut, normally associated with white diamonds, Sotheby’s said. This gem, mounted as a ring, has been graded “fancy intense pink,” natural color and VS1 clarity. It’s further assessed to be type IIa, meaning it is almost or entirely devoid of impurities with extraordinary optical transparency. Fewer than 2 percent of all diamonds in the world are given this grade of purity and most of those diamonds are white.

These were the two headline pieces on a night that totaled $89.1 million sales, the third highest for a sale of jewelry at auction. More than 90 percent of the 479 lots were sold, with 97.5 percent of its total estimated value achieved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Scott Kay’s Cobalt Wedding Bands

With the price of gold, platinum and even palladium and silver breaking records daily, jewelry designers and manufacturers have been looking for low-cost alternative metals. For jewelry designer Scott Kay, an answer for men’s wedding bands is Cobalt.

More specifically the answer is BioBlu 27, a metal alloy made of 65 percent cobalt, 29 percent chromium, and 6 percent molybdenum. According to Dan Scott, Scott Kay chief marketing officer, this non-magnetic, naturally white metal alloy has high strength, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance.

"This metal is as white as platinum. It doesn’t tarnish, chip or fracture,” Scott said Monday. “And it isn’t plated. It’s white, through and through.”

Scott Kay introduced the product two years ago in a limited launch, under the brand name SK Cobalt. However, now the company has begun full-scale product push with eight collections that will be shown at the upcoming Couture Show in Las Vegas, June 2-6. The product is already available at Helzberg Jewelers where it is marketed as Scott Kay Brute Cobalt and at Jared the Galleria of Jewelry marketed as Brawn Cobalt by Scott Kay. By the time the jewelry tradeshow begins, Scott Kay cobalt wedding bands will be available at 1,000 retail locations, Scott said.

BioBlu 27 received its name from the metal alloy’s creator, Carpenter Technology, a Reading, Pa.-based metals developer, manufacturer and distributor. “Bio” refers to the biocompatibility of the material, which can be used in other applications such as prosthetics, and “Blu” refers to the cobalt in the material. The number 27 is the number on the atomic table for cobalt.

The rings, without additional precious metals or gemstones, run from about $225 to $370. This is competitive with other wedding bands made with alternative metals, particularly tungsten carbide rings. This is the second part of the story.

In addition to talking up the benefits of its BioBlu 27 rings, Scott Kay has been literally hammering home the message (more on that later) that tungsten carbide rings are not as strong and resilient as many claim, such as on this website. In fact its extreme hardness is most likely its ultimate weakness, according to Scott.

“We came to a shocking revelation that when you drop a ring on a hard surface it breaks,” Scott said. "It cracks and shatters after being dropped and in contact with a hard object.”

To attempt to prove this, two years ago Scott Kay himself held a press conference where he broke tungsten carbide rings with a hammer. I included the video below of the event along with a video by Titanium Kay, a company that sells tungsten carbide rings, that provides some perspective and balance on the “hammer test.”

This is as far as I’m going with these dual claims, at least for now. However, if you have any experiences with either of these metals as jewelry, please share them in the comments section below.

Will Signet Sell its U.K. Brands?

Signet Jewellers, the world’s largest specialty retail jeweler, is in talks with private equity companies about the possibility of selling interest in two of its U.K. retail jewelry chains, H Samuel and Ernest Jones, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph.

Signet’s longtime financial advisors, Lazard Ltd., have initiated the talks, according to the report, which estimates that the two jewelry chains would sell for 400 million to 600 pounds ($650 million to $975 million).

Signet, based in Bermuda and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, owns jewelry chain operations in the U.K. and the U.S. in several markets. H.Samuel and Ernest Jones make up all of Signet’s 540 stores in the U.K., although Signet says it also owns the brands Leslie Davis, Forever Diamonds and Perfect Partner.

Signet’s U.K. business had sales of $693.2 million in fiscal 2011, accounting for 20 percent of its total company sales—a year-over-year decline of 5.5 percent. Same store sales fell 1.4 percent for the year.

H. Samuels has 338 stores with sales of 240 million pounds ($390 million) in 2011. It is listed as the number one specialty jewelry retailer store chain in the U.K, according to Signet’s website. Meanwhile, Ernst Jones consists of 202 stores with 2011 sales of 206 million pounds ($334.7 million). Signet says it is the top chain among the upper middle jewelry market in the U.K.

Signet operation in the U.S. consists of approximately 1,317 stores and accounts for 80 percent of total sales for the company. Its store brands in the U.S. include Kay Jewelers, Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry and a number of regional names.

Devon Pike Named CEO of De Beers Diamond Jewellers U.S.

With the news of the hiring of Philippe Mellier as De Beers CEO on Monday, another high-profile hiring by a division of the diamond giant went a bit under the radar.

De Beers Diamond Jewellers said Monday that Devon Pike has joined the company as chief executive officer of its U.S. business. Pike is a veteran merchandising, marketing and retail executive, who previously served as a senior vice president at Juicy Couture after spending six years at Polo Ralph Lauren.

De Beers Diamond Jewellers was established in 2001 as an independently managed and operated company by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s leading luxury products group, and De Beers SA, the world’s premier diamond mining and marketing company.

“She (Pike) is a highly respected retail industry executive, who understands how to develop and expand sought-after brands,” said Francois Delage, De Beers Diamond Jewellers CEO. “The US market is strategic for us and the recruitment of Devon is a sign of our commitment to further developing our activities in one of the world’s largest jewelry markets.”

Before joining De Beers, Pike was SVP of Digital at Juicy Couture, where she had been since May 2009. She previously held the position of SVP GMM for Juicy Couture’s North America and Travel Retail business.

Prior to Juicy Couture, she spent six years at Polo Ralph Lauren, where she held roles managing global business development, and as VP, General Merchandise manager of the Rugby Ralph Lauren brand. Pike joined Polo after holding a series of positions of increasing responsibility first at May Department Stores and subsequently Federated Department Stores. She is a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Business School.

Patek Chrono Sells for $815,000 at Sotheby’s Geneva Auction

A Patek Philippe, ref. 2499, 18k yellow gold perpetual calendar chronograph watch sold for $815,637 Sunday during Sotheby’s Important Watches sale in Geneva. It was sold to a private U.S. collector.

All totaled, the auction held at the Hôtel Beau-Rivage took in $8.75 million, with 69 percent of the 280 lots offered sold by lot and 73 percent sold by value.

Other highlights of the auction after the jump:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Platinum and Palladium Jewelry Demand Fell Sharply in 2010

The purchasing of platinum by the worldwide jewelry industry fell by 14 percent to 2.42 million ounces in 2010 following an extremely strong 2009, according to a platinum group metals report by specialty chemicals and advanced materials company, Johnson Matthey.

Demand from the Chinese jewelry sector remained robust, at 1.65 million ounces, but this was significantly below the exceptional level of 2009, according to the report, Platinum 2011, released by the London-based company Monday. A combination of higher metal prices and full stock levels contributed to the decline. However, demand in China was substantially higher than in 2008, the last time platinum's price was at similarly high levels to 2010.

Meanwhile, global gross palladium demand in the jewelry sector fell by 20 percent to 620,000 ounces, largely due to a decline in manufacturing of palladium jewelry in China, which more than offset an increase in manufacture of palladium jewelry in Europe and North America. China by far is the largest market for palladium jewelry.

De Beers Names French Transport Exec as New Group CEO

Philippe Mellier

The De Beers Group has gone outside the diamond industry to appoint Philippe Mellier as its new chief executive officer.

Mellier, currently the president of Alstom Transport and executive vice president of Alstom s.a., was selected after what the diamond giant described as “a wide-ranging search.” He will formally join De Beers in July and will chair the company’s executive committee and be appointed to the De Beers s.a. Board.

As president of Alstom Transport, a French multinational conglomerate with interests in the power generation and transport markets, Mellier oversaw a growing business of 27,000 employees with sales of almost 6 billion euros ($8.5 billion) during the last fiscal year.

“Having led the transformation of the diamond industry over the past decade, this appointment signals our determination to lead in a rapidly changing world,” Nicky Oppenheimer, De Beers Board chairman said in a statement Monday. “In Philippe we have found a proven leader with a reputation for delivering results while shaping businesses for the long-term.”

Oppenheimer added, “With several large upstream projects underway and the rapid emergence of major downstream markets, De Beers stands on the cusp of an exciting new period of growth. To seize this moment, we were determined to find a leader with a world class track record of delivering large projects, understanding the needs of key stakeholders including government partners and clients, and an instinct for shifting consumer patterns.  I am excited by the dynamism and fresh perspective that Philippe will bring to De Beers.”

Mellier was named president of Alstom Transport and member of the Alstom Executive Committee in 2003. A year later he was appointed executive VP of Alstom Group.

Prior to Alstom, he was named chairman and CEO of Renault Trucks in 2001 and served as a member of the Volvo Group Executive Committee. In 1999, he was senior VP in charge of European Sales for Renault and was a member its management board.

He began his career in 1980 with the Ford Motor Company where he occupied various senior management positions over 19 years, including an appointment as vice president of Marketing, Sales and After Sales Activities in 1997 for Ford of Europe.

Mellier graduated from ENSTA, the Paris-based French institute for engineering education and scientific research, with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1979. He received an MBA from INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France-based business school in 1980. He is fluent in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese.