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Monday, September 24, 2012

September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair in Pictures

The annual dragon dance that opens the fair.

HONG KONG — It’s the largest fine jewelry tradeshow in the world and it has become the most important event for the worldwide jewelry industry. The September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair lacks the product introductions, fashion trends and the glitz and glamor of Baselworld and the Las Vegas jewelry shows. But when it comes to the business of buying and selling, there's nothing that compares.

Etienne Perret's ceramic jewelry.

“This is the meats and potatoes that fill jewelry store shelves all over the world,” said U.S.-based independent jewelry designer, Etienne Perret, a longtime buyer at the show who was exhibiting for the first time.

My Hong Kong friend Payal Shah, owner of L'Dezen Jewellery showing her diamond earrings.

In some ways it’s a difficult show to cover. Few exhibitors are interested in discussing their products or the jewelry business in general. I spent much of my time arguing with exhibitors about taking pictures of their products. One threatened to call security even though I was authorized to take photos.

I managed to take plenty of pictures anyway as well as get a good overview of the enormity and importance of the show and how Asia has become the most important jewelry market in the world. Stories that I wrote about the show (which runs till September 25) can be read on the JewelleryNetAsia website. There will be more stories appearing on and the Financial Times newspaper. For my site, I decided to take a more visual approach by presenting a pictorial of the show. Enjoy.

Tara and Sons pearl display.

Jeweled sculpture by Stone Young, owner of Handosy Jewelry Co. of Guangzhou, China. He said it was inspired by Noah's Ark.

Colored gemstone jewelry from Chinese retailer Enzo.

Jewelry from Stefan Hafner

Coral sculptures by Lucoral's of Taiwan.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Will New Jewelry Show Compete With Baselworld?

Wolfram Diener (center) reading a prepared statement during a press conference at the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

HONG KONG — The competition among the numerous jewelry tradeshows around the world is fierce. So when a new show appears on the international calendar, one can’t help but notice which show will it be competing against.

UBM Asia has announced that it is entering the European market with Jewellery & Gem Fair – JGF Europe 2014, to be held in April 1 - 4, 2014 at the Messe Freiburg Exhibition and Convention Centre in Freiburg, Germany.

Wolfram Diener, senior VP, UBM Asia, Ltd., who made the announcement Thursday during a press conference at the September Hong KongJewellery & Gem Fair, made it a point to note its convenience to major jewelry trading hubs, such as Antwerp, Paris and Vicenza. What it’s really close to in both timing and distance is Baselworld, the world’s largest and most important watch and jewelry fair held in Basel, Switzerland. The two cities are so close that I stayed in Freiburg two years ago while attending Baselworld.

Diener downplayed that the new tradeshow will compete with Baselworld for exhibitors and buyers.

“It wouldn’t be our notion to rely on any other exhibitions for our success and lack of success and we expect that we can draw exhibitors or buyers from another show,” he said. “I think we have to build our own success. As for the timing of the event, it’s really difficult with a full calendar of jewelry tradeshows to not clash or be close to any other shows.”

However, a UBM official told me afterward that JGF Europe is most likely positioned to indeed compete with Baselworld. If this is true, then it will be the battle of titans. The September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, which UBM owns, is the largest fine jewelry tradeshow in the world. However, as already noted, Baselworld is the largest watch and jewelry show in the world. It is also the world’s most prestigious tradeshow and it is where trends are set in the watch and jewelry world each year.

One thing that the new show will not be involved with, at least at this time, is watches, which is the lifeblood of Baselworld.

There are plenty of jewelry trade fairs in Europe but Diener says that the continent lacks “a real and comprehensive sourcing fair.” This new show is an attempt to fill this void.

“JGF Europe is positioned as high efficiency, high level, face-to-face jewelry business platform that will create real business value for the international suppliers and buyers,” he said. “It’s going to be a comprehensive jewelry show with jewelry, raw material and packaging and equipment”, he said. “It’s going to be a good balance of European and non-European exhibitors. That will be refreshingly different from other shows in Europe.”

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76-Carat Archduke Joseph Diamond Expected to Fetch $15 Million

The Archduke Joseph Diamond ©Tony Falcone

It has royal origins and was owned by royalty and now the legendary Archduke Joseph Diamond will be offered at Christie’s auction in Geneva on November 13. The auction house says it is one of the rarest and most famous diamonds in the world that combines an impressive size of 76.02 carats, perfect color, and internally flawless clarity.

Christie’s says the estimate is available on request but it is expected to achieve $15 million in the upcoming auction.

Its origin is traced to the ancient Golconda mines in Central India, the source of the world’s most coveted historical diamonds, including the Koh-i-noor, in the Royal Collection at the Tower of London; the Regent, considered the finest diamond in the French Crown Jewels, at the Musée du Louvre in Paris; and the Hope, gifted by Harry Winston to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

This same diamond “created a sensation when Christie’s Geneva offered it for sale the first time in November 1993 where it realized CHF 9.7 million (US$ 6.5 million)—the equivalent of $10.5 million today,” said François Curiel, International Head of Christie’s Jewellery Department. “The magic of auction sometimes brings back great gems to our salerooms more than once.”

Although it is not known exactly when the diamond entered the House of Habsburg, it has been officially recorded as the property of the Archduke Joseph August of Austria, Palatine of Hungary (1872-1962), and was subsequently named after him.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Early Reports at Hong Kong Jewelry Fair: Moderate Sales, Moderate Optimism and Diverse Offerings

Buyers crowd around a Japanese Pearl dealer.

HONG KONG — Acres of diamonds, miles of pearls and nearly every gemstone on earth were on display during the second day of the SeptemberHong Kong Jewellery & Gem tradeshow.

I arrived for the second day and while the show had a slow comfortable pace early, by afternoon the aisles were jammed with buyers. This is the first part of the two-tier tradeshow. The first being held now (September 19-23) at the Asia World Expo Centre for raw jewelry making materials along with technical equipment and packaging. The finished jewelry portion of the show, which attracts the most attention, will open Thursday and run till September 25 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre near the center of this bustling, business-minded city.

An assortment of gemstones from Marcel Poncet.

Jewelry manufacturers from around the world are the primary buyers at the Asia World Expo portion of what has become the world’s largest fine jewelry show, finding equipment and materials to meet their diverse needs.

One person representing a Filipino-based gold jewelry manufacturer said he was happy with the compact size and technological advancements in the new laser soldering machines at the show and was ready to purchase.

A pearl jewelry manufacturer from Hawaii said she was easily able to find the types of pearls she needed for her market. Hawaii depends on tourism, particularly from Asia and the U.S. She said in recession has left only the high-end Asian market and the low-end U.S. market.

“The middle has disappeared,” she said. She was also a bit perplexed by the cost of pearls these days. All pearls have risen in price dramatically she said, noting as an example that an average-sized golden South Seas pearl costs about $3,000.

Coral art displays from Lucoral's of Taiwan.

According to reports, the first day of the show was on the moderate side but diamond dealers are cautiously optimistic, citing recoveries in both the China and U.S. market. Leibish Polnauer, founder and CEO of Leibish & Co., a fancy-colored diamond company, said one- to three-carat fancy light yellow diamonds have been popular lately because they present a value.

“The world is not coming to an end,” Polnauer said. “They (Chinese consumers) maybe making less money then they made a couple of months ago but they made money and they’re happy and they’re looking forward to enjoy what they made. The American market altogether is improving.”

He continued, “I think the show has a better momentum than the last one (held in June). “The prices (of diamonds) are settled and with the fancy colored stones, there’s no downturn at all…. In general the mood in America is not bad and in China, it’s getting back from the temporary slowdown they experienced in the summer and I think the jewelry consumption will go up.”

Diamond dealers at the show and on the flight arriving to the event said large statement diamonds continue to be popular as an investment for wealthy consumers.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Susy Gubelin, Tom Moses Join in the Judging of the JNA Awards

Susy Gubelin and Tom Moses

Susy Gubelin of the Gubelin Gem Lab and Tom Moses, Gemological Institute of America senior VP, Laboratory and Research, have become gem expert advisors to the panel of judges of the JNA Awards 2012. Their expertise will be used specifically on the "Wonder of the World" category, which recognizes rare and precious natural gem material.

Judging for the "Wonder of the World" category will take place on September 19 and the recipient of the award will be announced during the JNA Awards ceremony and gala dinner on September 20 at the The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong. GIA and the Gubelin Gem Lab will be the official gem testing laboratories for this category.

“To have the world's two leading gem laboratories advising the JNA Awards judging panel attests to the importance and recognition of this award in the international gemstone industry,” said Letitia Chow, founder of JNA and director of Business Development - Jewellery Group at UBM Asia, and the Chair of the JNA Awards judging panel.

At the ceremony, JNA will also be honoring Nicky Oppenheimer, former chairman of De Beers Group, with a Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize his significant contribution to the global diamond business, particularly in Asia.

The shortlisted honorees for the first nine categories of the JNA Awards were announced on the first day of the June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The JNA Awards is an industry-wide event that honors and recognizes excellence and achievement in the jewelry trade. The event, the first of its kind in Asia, is organized by Jewellery News Asia of UBM Asia in collaboration with UBM Awards.

The JNA Awards 2012 is a ticketed event by application only. Interested parties may submit their request by logging onto

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TimeCrafters Brings the Excitement of the Luxury Swiss Watches to the Public

A display of Frederique Constant timepieces at the TimeCrafters exhibit.

NEW YORK — The Swiss watch industry does understand that the view consumers have of luxury is changing. No longer are they passive buyers and fans, accepting the products and marketing from the temple of the brand. Consumers now want to be engaged, active participants in the luxury lifestyle process. Digital media is the cause of this and the Swiss watch industry is still reluctant to engage in social media and e-commerce fully. Instead, they prefer providing consumers a personal touch. One example of this was the TimeCrafters luxury watch event this past weekend at the Park Avenue Armory.

This second-annual event billed as a museum-quality exhibition of timepieces, is more like an industry tradeshow showcasing the newest luxury timepieces on the market from 21 brands. No matter how it appeared, TimeCrafters provided the general public with an in depth look at watchmaking precision and craftsmanship. It also provided a look at the newest luxury timepieces on the market.

In addition to an upclose view of timepieces, there were actual museum-quality exhibitions, historical presentations, watchmakers showing their craft and a even some presentations. There were several highlights. Among them:

* Baume & Mercier brought an historical collection of its timepieces, several are the inspiration for current models, along with watchmaking tools from the early 1900s.

* Girard-Perregaux was busy for this event. The brand introduced to the U.S., one of its newest hires, legendary watchmaker Dominique Loiseau, who gave a brief presentation Thursday of the company’s “Manifesto of Time,” a philosophy of watchmaking he is leading that will culminate in the release of a luxury timepiece that will include a grande sonnerie and integrated chronograph.

* Girard-Perregaux also released a new timepiece for the exhibition: the Bi-Axial Tourbillon. It combines two concentric cages that enable the regulating part of the movement to make multidimensional rotations. An internal cage with the balance wheel, balance spring and escapement completes one full turn on its axis in forty-five seconds. An external cage completes one revolution in one minute and fifteen seconds, enabling a rotation on its second axis. A full revolution is completed in three minutes and forty-five seconds, which can be seen in the watch dial.

* Frederique Constant had a full array of its watches on hand, including its Slimline Tourbillion, a completely in-house manufactured timepiece that combines its Slimline ladies watch with a tourbillion movement.

* Dior brought a new collection of ceramic watches for women adorned with diamonds and gemstones. It includes the Dior VIII Grand Bar Resille watch, with a “Dior-inverse” caliber with an oscillating weight made of white gold that is set with either white diamonds or, the more flamboyant white-painted Italian rooster feathers.

There were some museum-quality exhibits as well, including:

The Blum Collection. The largest collection of Swatch watches, including prototypes, hybrids and variations. The collection of Peter and Linda Blum recently sold at auction in Hong Kong for $6.5 million.

A grouping of Swatch designer prototypes from the Blum Collection..

Sotheby’s Diamond Collection. Jewelry was not left out this timepiece exhibition as the auction house brought in a stunning collection of hand-crafted diamond jewelry, with the diamonds cut and polished by the Steinmetz Diamond Group.

A jewelry display from the Sotheby's Diamond Collection exhibit.

Think Time, Think Swiss Excellence. This is a grouping of interactive panels by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry that presents an overview of the Swiss watch industry along with a detailed look at the watch manufacturing process.

This event is one of several ways that the industry is reaching out to the public. Maybe someday this outreach will include full-scale digital media.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

JNN to Return to the September Hong Kong Fair

Once again I’ll be attending the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, the largest fine jewelry tradeshow in the world. It’s an event that has grown so large it is now held at two separate venues:

* The Asia World-Expo next to Hong Kong International Airport for diamonds, colored gemstones, pearls and equipment will be held September 19-23; and

* The Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, in the Wan Chai district overlooking Victoria Harbor for finished jewelry, September 21-25.

The combined exhibition space totals more than 1.4 million square feet. For the first time since the show was expanded to two venues, I will attend the Asia World-Expo portion of the show.

In 2011, the show saw 16 percent growth in attendance to 51,500 industry professionals from 155 countries and regions who had a chance to look at the products and services of more than 3,450 vendors from 46 countries. Obviously, the draw is the high-growth Asian market led by China. Hong Kong bills itself as the gateway to the economic powerhouse.

Luxury, designer and mass-produced and antique jewelry will be on display using all known jewelry making materials, including, a pavilion dedicated to jadeite, extremely popular in China.

One of the new additions to the show is free digital marketing workshops. Presentations will include know-how and practical tips but also statistics and data taken from JewelleryNetAsia’s original research and analytics.

Another new focus is The JNA Awards, an industry-wide event that honors and recognizes excellence and achievement in the global jewelry trade with an Asian focus. The awards ceremony and gala dinner will be held on September 20 at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong. The awards are organized by Jewellery News Asia in collaboration with the UBM Awards.

I am looking forward to seeing the luxury and designer jewelry coming out of Asia to see how much it has grown and changed from last year. 

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Girard-Perregaux’s U.S. President Goes After the Aspirational Consumer

Michael Margolis
You may remember in February a piece on Michael Margolis being named as U.S. president of Girard-Perregaux. Well I caught up with Margolis in June and we discussed what he's been doing along with his future plans for the luxury watch brand.

It’s been a busy time for Margolis. In that short time span, he was involved in updating the brand’s website, helped build a new advertising campaign, started a lifestyle blog and made a key personnel change at the Girard-Perregaux’s boutique in New York.

One of the major reasons for all of these changes is to attract the younger aspirational customer to the venerable Swiss luxury watch brand.

“I think our average customer today is probably 45 or 50 years old. We love our 45- and 50-year-old customers,” Margolis said. “But we also need the 25- and 30-year-old customer. We need the young guys who have their first big job and they’re going to reward themselves with a watch.… We need that aspirational G-P buyer. I want the 15-year-old kid who looks through a watch magazine and I want him cutting a picture of our watch out and posting it on his refrigerator and telling his parents: ‘Someday I’m going to own that watch.’”

There are probably few people in the Swiss watch industry who understand this perspective more than Margolis, who is an outsider in a largely inbred industry. His background is in the high-tech industry but has always been a passionate watch collector. Through his passion he became a forum moderator at, a popular website for watch enthusiasts.

“I was a watch fanatic,” he said. “So I bring a little different perspective to the table. I bring a consumer’s perspective, a collector’s perspective. I see things a little differently I think because I’ve been to the other side of the counter. Most of the people were born in the industry.”

In 2005, Margolis was approached by Jean-Claude Biver, a very successful figure in the Swiss watch industry, who at the time was working for the Swatch Group. He told Margolis his plan to take over and rebuild a dormant watch brand. Biver wanted Margolis to manage a forum on Timezone about the brand. The brand was Hublot, which under Biver’s leadership, experienced spectacular growth to become one of the world’s best-known watch brands. During this time (2005 – 2012), Margolis’ role grew into communications director and eventually sales director of the brand.

Margolis is using his high-tech background, his communications and sales skills, his understanding of the passionate watch customer, and his newly acquired Swiss watch industry experience, to create ways to appeal to watch lovers in the modern world.

One of the most creative ways Margolis is attracting both the current Girard-Perregaux client and the aspiration person is by the creation of the Mechanics of Style blog. It is basically an online luxury lifestyle publication with articles from professional writers on a variety of topics, including food, travel, wine and spirits, sports, collectibles and just about anything that would be of interest to the timepiece connoisseur.

“We’re talking about all kinds of things that a person who buys a Girard-Perregaux or another watch might be interested in, such as custom shirts, fragrances, espresso machines, wine and cigars,” he said. “I won’t say it’s completely independent of Girard-Perregaux because it’s not. There’s some history and some facts and some fun things about GP as well. We have the World Timer watch that’s been an icon of GP for many years. We have a travel segment where we’re visiting all 24 of the cities that are on the World Timer’s bezel. It will be a 24-month campaign to visit all the cities on the dial.”

The website, which was not discussed during the interview, is a sleek, fast site that doesn’t use flash, which I consider groundbreaking. In the stodgy world of luxury Swiss watches and luxury in general, the industry has seemed incapable of letting go of the slow, cumbersome flash platform. Featured prominently on the new site is the company’s new advertising campaign. It focuses on a group of the band’s young watch makers, discussing their passion for the trade and their interests outside of work. The campaign includes an ongoing world tour where the young watchmakers give one-on-one workshops to watch connoisseurs and guests for insight on watchmaking and how complicated timepieces are built.

On the retail level, Margolis hired a new manager at its Madison Avenue boutique, the only brand-specific, brand-operated Girard-Perregaux boutique in the world: Chip Henderson, a veteran watch retailer.

“He’s not a guy who grew up in the industry,” Margolis said. “He’s a guy who has passion for the product and he’s exactly what we need for our Madison Avenue boutique.”

Margolis has big plans for the boutique.

“I want to turn the boutique into what I’m calling a Girard-Perregaux embassy. Yes of course it’s a retail space where a customer can come in and buy a watch and we don’t apologize for that. But I want it to be much more than that. I want it to be where the customer can come, he can be educated, he can buy just a strap for his watch, he can learn about the brand. We have a full-time watchmaker on staff. When you walk in the door he’s right in front of you. We take in a tremendous amount of repairs. We have repair facilities in the U.S. but it’s rare that brand boutiques on Madison have a watchmaker on staff so we’re very happy about that.”

Margolis said Girard-Perregaux has no plans to build more boutiques. Instead, it will continue to enhance its relationships with its retailers.

“My opinion as a watch guy is that we are manufacturers and distributors and wholesalers. It’s not our place to be retailers,” he said. “We have a number of boutiques in China but they’re all owned by retailers. The only boutique that we have in the world that’s not owned by a retailer is Madison Avenue and if you look at the rent structure for what a square-foot of space on Madison Avenue in the 60s costs, it’s nearly impossible for a retailer to make a business model that works. For us, the boutique becomes an advertising expense.”

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Montblanc Celebrates Endless Love With Its Infiniment Vôtre Jewelry Collection

Infiniment Vôtre earrings

Montblanc has released a new collection of delicate, simple and elegant rose gold jewelry based on the variations of the symbol that represents infinity.

Known as Infiniment Vôtre (infinitely yours), the collection celebrates true romantic love or the everlasting bonds of friendship through the graceful intertwining curves that represent variations on the horizontal eight configuration: the universal symbol for infinity.

Infiniment Vôtre bracelet

Created by Susie Otero, Montblanc’s managing director of Jewelry, the collection consists of six crafted pieces: a ring, earrings, necklace, pendant, bracelet and bangle. They are all made of pink gold, which she says “echoes the depth of the emotions evoked.” On each piece, a brilliant diamond is set within a Montblanc star emblem, “at once a discreet signature and a sparkling reminder of the uniqueness of each special relationship,” she adds.

Infiniment Vôtre ring

While the motif may be simple, as with all Otero’s work, the complexity is in the details. In this case the symbol changes from the more basic form on the necklace to more complicated interpretations for the rings and earrings. The other hallmarks of her style are highly polished surfaces and the endless use of subtle curves. All of this adds movement to her pieces when the light hits them and as they move with the woman. The hint of diamonds adds a delicate bit of sparkle to her highly feminine jewelry. 

The collection is now available at Montblanc boutiques worldwide.

Infiniment Vôtre necklace

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