Asteria Colored Diamonds

Asteria Colored Diamonds


TechForm Platinum Jewelry Casting

Leibish & Co

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Captain Sully Lands at Jeanrichard

Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

NEW YORK — The word, “hero,” is thrown around a lot these days and often used to describe acts that may indeed be considered special in one way or another but fall short of being heroic. If anyone truly earned the right to be tagged with this honor, it’s Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.

On Jan. 15, 2009, the former U.S. Airways pilot successfully landed (“ditched”) a powerless Airbus 320 into the Hudson River about three minutes after the aircraft hit a flock of Canada Geese causing its engines to fail, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew. NTSB board member Kitty Higgins called it “the most successful ditching in aviation history.” The name “Sully” will always be associated with Flight 1549 and the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger was at the Standard Hotel in Manhattan Monday for his first public appearance as the new ambassador for Swiss luxury watch brand, Jeanrichard, as it introduced new models to its 1681 and Terrascope collections.

There is no new “Sully” timepiece. Not yet anyway. But it is being discussed. He will visit the Jeanrichard headquarters in Switzerland in April to see how the watches are constructed.

“The more I learn about these incredible devices, how elegant, how beautiful they are, the craftsmanship that’s involved it’s just amazing. The more I appreciate them,” he said.

Bruno Grande, Jeanrichard COO, with Sullenberger.

At 62 years of age Sullenberger looks every bit of what one would expect a pilot to be. Fit and trim, enthusiastic, personable and articulate; he speaks with passion, whether analytically discussing the details of Flight 1549 or expressing his “fascination with time,” which has evolved since the flight.

“It’s obviously one of our more precious commodities in each of our lives,” he said. “It’s even more apparent to me now than before the flight four years ago. I’ve always intellectually knew that, but until you experience such an extreme challenge it’s not as real to you and now I think I have a greater appreciation for how each of our lives could change, in an instant, completely forever and in a moment. We really never know when and if that’s going to happen.”

Time also serves an important task in his profession as a way to determine fuel usage.

“It’s a necessary concept in flying because at takeoff, unless you’re going to do aerial refueling in a military airplane, you have a finite supply of fuel that equates to a finite supply of time. So you have to make sure you complete the flight within those constraints with a reserve, with alternatives and contingencies in mind.

“One of the things that we always did in flying is to have this discipline and habits focused so we could anticipate and plan and never be surprised by anything. That’s what made this Hudson River situation so shocking. Unlike every other flight I ever had that we worked so hard to make routine, we were suddenly confronted with something we haven’t trained for. I knew that in the first seconds that my life would change forever.”

Sullenberger knew he wanted to be a pilot from the time he was child. As a Mensa member at the age of 12, he certainly had the intellect for it. He flew his first flight at the age of 16, was a decorated cadet in the U.S. Air Force Academy and served as a fighter pilot and trainer for the U.S. Air Force before joining US Air in 1980 (the predecessor to US Airways). He credits the training he received and his lifelong commitment to all aspects of his job, including the more mundane parts, to being able to make the proper decisions at a critical time.

Jeanrichard 1681 timepiece

“Everything in my life in some important way has been available to me to access enough in that incredible moment when I needed everything I knew to solve very quickly a problem I never seen before and never specifically trained for,” he said.

Bruno Grande, Jeanrichard chief operating officer, said it is this commitment to the ordinary details of his profession that matched the watch brand’s “Philosophy of Life” motto and the brand’s namesake, Daniel Jeanrichard, who assembled his first watch in 1681.

“He found passion in an ordinary job,” Grande said. “It’s a huge thing. You can be a baker, a simple job but at the same time have great passion. It doesn’t matter what the passion is, his passion is his job. And the passion of Jeanrichard is the fact that today, 2013, we are still here, talking about him.”

Sullenberger combines doses of humility with strong helpings of pride when he talks about the ill-fated, six-minute flight from LaGuardia Airport and how he and his crew responded.

“I certainly feel like everyone on the airplane and I went through an extraordinary situation and many people did their jobs extraordinarily well. They went well above the call of duty,” he said. “The fact we got so much, so right, so quickly under the adverse conditions is a testament to what we were able to accomplish.”

One of the most remarkable parts of the successful landing (as you may have noticed in his earlier statements) is that, with all the training he’s received, there was no guidance for a water landing. Nor was there a protocol for having a total shutdown of an aircraft so soon after taking off and being so close to the ground. This meant that Sullenberger’s knowledge, skill, judgment and experience became even more critical.

Jeanrichard Terrascope with blue dial and rose gold details.

“In our flight simulators it’s not possible to practice a water landing. The data didn’t exist on our program for it. Believe it or not the only training we’ve ever gotten for a water landing is a theoretical classroom discussion,” he said. “Even in the most extreme demanding flights, their training scenarios never had everything going wrong at that so low of altitude with that little time to deal with it. It turned out that we only had 3 minutes and 28 seconds from the time we the hit the birds and lost thrust till we landed. It was just incredibly quick. So I had to very quickly assess what just happened; begin to take the immediate, corrective actions; search for a place to land; rule out the ones I didn’t have enough altitude to reach; and then settle on the one that I did. It was the river. That was the only place we could go that was smooth enough, strong enough, wide enough to try to land on.”

Most everyone credits Sullenberger’s decision to raise the nose of the aircraft right before the water landing as the most crucial factor to saving the lives on the plane. He said since there was no thrust he had to fight gravity in order to land, which meant he was coming in at a much faster speed and a steeper angle than normal. This is where his training came into play.

“It was like a normal landing on steroids because without engine thrust to moderate (the aircraft's speed), to make a shallower approach to the runway, we were using gravity to provide the forward motion of the airplane and we were coming down much more steeply, much more rapidly than a normal landing—two stories per second,” he said.

“I had to very precisely judge, within a fraction of a second the height at which to begin raising the nose so that I didn’t either get the nose too high a height to drop it in or wait too long and hit nose first. I had to judge the height just so that I was able to stop the descent as much as I could and get the nose up just as we touched the water. And of course over a featureless water terrain depth perception was very difficult. So it was a difficult thing to do and some.

Then he adds: “I never made a water landing before.”

He says he doesn’t consider himself to be a hero but he understands that the story of the landing has touched the lives of a lot of people.

“I don’t call myself a hero but I certainly understand how people feel about this, how this flight makes them feel, still touches and inspires people, even those who weren’t directly associated with it.

“It’s what I call the enduring power of this story.”

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Royal Asscher Targets Young Consumers with Lab-Made Diamond Brand

Rebel Chique diamond engagement ring, 18k white gold with pink man-made diamond brilliant cut, VVS1 clarity, set in white pave. The prices is listed on the website at $8,445.

The Royal Asscher diamond company has introduced a man-made diamond brand it calls, “Rebel Chique.” The name represents a break from the traditional view of a diamond as once-in-lifetime heirloom to a fashion accessory that offers a more personalized diamond experience, the company said. 

To bring this point home, the opening page of the brand’s e-commerce enabled website and accompanying advertising campaign features a picture of the ring on a women’s middle finger in what the company describes as a “wink of rebellion.”

The diamond industry is largely a stodgy, old place where innovation comes slowly. Royal Asscher, even though it's history spans nearly 160 years, is attempting to break this mold with this new brand.

“Diamonds have traditionally been an expression of purity and beauty,” Mike Asscher, Royal Asscher, vice president, sixth generation to work at the family-owned company. “We want them to be also about confidence and independence.”

Laboratory grown diamonds use heat and pressure to recreate how a diamond is created beneath the earth’s surface, turning a natural process that stakes more than 1 billion years to something that could be done in a laboratory in less than a week. Man-made diamonds have traditionally been used for manufacturing process such as cutting and polishing tools. In recent years the technique to create these diamonds has grown to the point where it can produce gem-quality products. These stones currently makeup a tiny portion of the gem-quality diamonds in the marketplace and have until recently been limited in terms of size and color. But as the process continues to progress more of these diamonds are appearing in stores in more varieties.

The Rebel Chique brand is available in at least six colors (including colorless) and a variety of cuts and sizes for rings pendants and earrings. Browsing the website, prices range from about $2,000 to $13,000, depending on size and quality of the diamond. There is also a pure bespoke category.

Mike Asscher, who is in his 30s, is making it clear that the brand is targeting a younger audience.

“We have grown up in an on-demand, made-to-order culture. We are a generation that wants to create our own icons,” he said. “Rebel Chique opens a new world for a next generation of diamond lovers, tapping into an entirely new mentality and experience.”

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hollywood Stars Come Out for Montblanc’s Pre-Oscar Charity Brunch

Hilary Swank signs a brick, which is the symbol for Montblanc's 2013 pre-Oscars charity brunch. She is wearing Montblanc's Pétales Entrelacés motif bracelet.

Montblanc held its annual “Charity Brunch” Saturday at the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles. Every year the luxury brand hosts this event the day before the Academy Awards presentation and selects a charity initiative. This year the charity is UNICEF’s “Signature for Good” program. 

UNICEF Ambassador Alyssa Milano.

Academy Award winning actress, Hilary Swank, led the event. She recently joined Montblanc and UNICEF on a field trip to Ethiopia and she shared her experience with those in attendance.

Christopher Lambert wearing Montblanc Star 4810 Chronograph.

Montblanc pledged to raise at least $1.5 million for the initiative, primarily through its recently unveiled “Signature For Good” collection, which includes special edition writing instruments, jewelry pieces and leather accessories. The feature design element is a brick that symbolizes the joint effort of building a better future for all children and their communities, through the creation of proper education programs and the construction of schools—brick by brick. Parts of the proceeds raised from the sale of the collection will be donated to UNICEF to build and maintain schools for underprivileged children for its schools in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Actress Emmy Rossum wearing Montblanc Star Classique Lady Automatic watch and Montblanc Seven Stars Collection.

In addition to Swank, celebratory guests included Emmy Rossum, Rosario Dawson, UNICEF Ambassador Alyssa Milano, Louise Roe, Alan Arkin, Billy Zane, Jesse Metcalfe, Peter Fonda, Jesse Williams, Madalina Ghenea, Alexander Ludwig, Danny Huston, Stacey Keach, Martin Landau, Alfrie Woodard, Mimi Rogers, Maria Bravo, Jane Seymour, Clemens Schick, Navid Negahban, Michael Nouri, Lana Parilla, Samantha Barks, Rachel Griffiths, Bailey Chase, Pal Sverre Hagen, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Natasha Henstridge and Michael York joined Lutz Bethge, Montblanc CEO, and Caryl M. Stern, U.S. Fund for UNICEF CEO and president. 

Montblanc CEO Lutz Bethge and U.S. Fund for UNICEF President and CEO Caryl M. Stern wearing Montblanc Star 4810 necklace.

Guests supported the program by signing bricks of a school specially recreated inside the hotel. 

Montblanc brand ambassador, opera star, Shenyang, performed.
Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Vacheron Constantin's New Paris Boutique

Vacheron Constantin has brought its luxury Swiss timepieces to a storefront in Paris. It is the company’s 35th boutique around the world and its first in the “City of Light.”

The interior of the 915-square-foot space at 2 Rue de La Paix uses neutral light colors contrasted with dark materials—such as woods, bronze, wrought iron and leather—to create a discreet, luxurious atmosphere. The brand brought in French master artisans to create statement details.

Mathieu Lustrerie, a specialist in light restoration for historical monuments, created a “Saturn” chandelier made of rock crystal, while mosaic artist Pierre Mesguich bejeweled it by hand with 35,000 tiny marble cubes (pictured above). The boutique’s artistic wrought iron decorative elements were tailor-made by Les Métalliers Champenois, whose other works include the restoration of the Statue of Liberty.

The boutique will contain a full line of Vacheron Constantin timepieces as well as a vintage collection named Vacheron Constantin les Collectioneurs,” which are accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

The collection includes a boutique-exclusive of its 1972 Prestige timepiece, known for its ultra-thin, asymmetrical shape, its 1003 movement and the Prestige de la France coat of arms engraving on its back. The dial of the 18k gold watch shines like silver. It is available at the boutique in a limited-edition of 40 units.

To mark the opening of the Parisian boutique, the Geneva manufacturer commissioned photographer Thierry des Ouches to illustrate his vision of Vacheron Constantin in Paris through his lens. Five owners of Vacheron Constantin timepieces tell the tale of their watches, their Paris, their love of the exceptional and the values they share with Vacheron Constantin on

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Bulgari Unveils Elizabeth Taylor’s Jewels

Julianne Moore wearing the Elizabeth Taylor emerald and diamond
Photo credit: Getty Images

Italian luxury jewelry house, Bulgari, officially opened its Rodeo Drive boutique Tuesday in true Hollywood fashion with an intimate viewing of some of its greatest creations owned by Elizabeth Taylor. It included the famed mirror Taylor used on the set of the movie, Cleopatra, a sapphire and diamond sautoir and a set of emerald and diamond jewelry.

Items on display at the Bulgari Rodeo Drive boutique. Photo credit: Getty Images

The highlight of the evening, according to reports, was when actress Julianne Moore, a longtime ambassador for Bulgari, strolled into the event wearing the emerald and diamond necklace from the suite, which features the 83.5-carat emerald pendant. It was the first time anyone other than Taylor had worn the necklace. Other Hollywood stars who attended the event included Kirsten Dunst, Drew Barrymore, Naomi Watts, and Clotilde Courau.

Drew Barrymore and the Cleopatra mirror. Photo credit: Getty Images

For those who did not receive an invitation, fear not, as the eight-piece exhibition—all purchased by Bulgari at the auction of Taylor’s jewelry at Christie’s New York in December—will be on display at the store until March 10.

View more pictures from the party on the Bulgari Facebook page by following this link.

Read more about the jewelry on display by following this link.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Girard-Perregaux Presents Watch to Basketball Giant Yao Ming

Yao Ming with limited edition Chrono Hawk watch.

Luxury watch brand, Girard-Perregaux, presented NBA star Yao Ming with a Chrono Hawk timepiece during a gala honoring the seven-foot, six-inch basketball player for his achievements on and off the court.

Yao was honored by the Asia Society Southern California with its “Visionary of the Year” award at the organization’s annual gala, held Tuesday at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.

The “Yao Ming” Chrono Hawk watch features a manufacture chronograph automatic movement housed in a 44mm stainless steel case. The rubber strap and sapphire caseback are embossed with Yao’s special symbol in vivid red. Girard-Perregaux only created two watches of this design. The second was auctioned at the event for $16,000.

The Yao Ming Chrono Hawk timepiece.

Yao is an eight-time All-Star center with the Houston Rockets and played on three Olympic basketball teams for China He is a veritable ambassador of the sport on behalf of China. In 2011, he became the founder and proprietor of Yao Family Wines, cabernets from Napa Valley. He is also a giant in the philanthropic world through his foundation and through partnerships with the Special Olympics and WildAid in its quest to prevent the eradication of sharks and African elephants.  

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Mila Kunis Featured in Global Advertising Campaign for Gemfields

Mila Kunis, recently named “Sexiest Woman Alive,” by Esquire, is the newest ambassador and the face of the latest advertising campaign for colored gemstone producer, Gemfields.

In a statement Gemfields said that Kunis was chosen “for her natural beauty, versatility, intelligence and love of rare colored gems.”

Gemfields primary business is the mining, distribution and marketing of emeralds from the Kagem mine in Zambia. It is working to produce a mine-to-market strategy for their emeralds that it says will be ethical, transparent and sustainable. The company recently acquired Fabergé, and is supplying the luxury brand with Kagem emeralds for its newest creations. Both companies are controlled by Pallinghurst Resources, a private equity company focused on the mining sector.

The advertising campaign with Kunis is photographed by Mario Sorrenti and styled by Anastasia Barbieri, featuring “a fresh-faced and modern Kunis wearing one-of-a-kind emerald and ruby jewelry created by six of Gemfields’ designer partners: Alexandra Mor, Amrapali, Dominic Jones, The Gem Palace, Sutra and Fabergé.”

Kunis toured Kagem, accompanied by Ian Harebottle, Gemfields CEO, and visited several Gemfields-sponsored community projects, including schools and a farming cooperative.

“While in Africa, I learned that the entire journey that each Gemfields stone takes is carefully considered and that the environment and the local communities where its mines are located are held in the highest regard,” said Kunis.

“Mila has blown me away with her energy, enthusiasm and dedication,” Harebottle said.

The global advertising program is running in leading publications in India and is part of a several initiatives in a multi-pronged consumer campaign that Gemfields will roll out this year.

The Kagem mine also produces amethysts. Gemfields other business include a mine in Mozambique for rubies, and prospecting licenses for other gemstones in Madagascar.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari Jewelry Exhibit on Rodeo Drive

Elizabeth Taylor sapphire and diamond sautoir will be among the Bulgari jewels on display.

Elizabeth Taylor fans will have another opportunity to view some of the most important jewels from her legendary collection.

The Beverly Hills Bulgari boutique on Rodeo Drive will showcase an eight-piece exhibit of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels on Tuesday, according to published reports. The jewels are on display as a preview to the Academy Awards, which will be held Sunday.

Emerald and diamond suite.

The Italian luxury jewelry house purchased its own pieces during the record-breaking auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels held at Christie’s New York in December 2011. Among the items on display are an emerald and diamond necklace that it bought for $6.1 million, setting records for an emerald jewel and emerald per carat; and an 8.26-carat emerald and diamond pendant brooch that Bulgari purchased for $6.5 million (both pictured above as part of the emerald and diamond suite). The brooch was Taylor's first piece of Bulgari jewelry, according to reports.

Another item is a sapphire and diamond sautoir that Bulgari bought at the auction for $5.9 million (top photo).

A special preview of the display will be held Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m., according to reports.

Follow this link to view more of Taylor's jewels from the Christie's New York auction.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Global Gold Jewelry Demand Shows Signs of Life Thanks to India

Gold for jewelry fabrication measured by value saw a 13 percent increase during the fourth quarter of 2012, primarily due to robust demand in India, according to the World Gold Council. It was strongest quarter for global jewelry demand since the first quarter of 2011 and may signal signs of strength after years of sluggish consumer demand.

In 2012, gold demand for jewelry saw a 3 percent rise in terms of value to $102.4 billion, year-over-year, “as consumers continued to allocate greater sums to gold jewelry, despite the 6 percent year-on-year rise in the price,” according to the WGC in its quarterly Gold Demand Trends report for the full year of 2012.

However, don’t open those champagne bottles just yet. In terms of volume, gold jewelry demand fell 3 percent in 2012 to 1,908 tons.

India, the world’s largest gold jewelry market and the world’s largest gold market, had by far the largest increase in gold jewelry demand. By volume the increase was 35 percent to 153 tons and by value it was 37 percent to $8.47 billion, according to Gold Demand Trends, released Thursday.

Gold jewelry, particularly in the economically struggling Western markets, has been a difficult sell since at least 2008 because investor demand caused the price of the precious metal to skyrocket. Outside of India and China, by far the two largest gold jewelry markets (and to a lesser extent the global luxury sector), there is really no indication that gold jewelry’s sluggish performance will change soon in most regions of the world.

Even in China (the world’s second largest gold jewelry market), 2012 was a year where gold jewelry demand was largely flat. In terms of volume the increase was 1 percent to 145.8 tons. In value, demand rose by 3 percent to $8.03 billion. India too had several serious economic issues during the first half of the year (including high import duties, market turmoil and a local spike in the price of gold) that resulted in a reduction for gold jewelry. The second half of the year saw a “strong revival” in gold jewelry leading to the exceptionally strong fourth quarter.

The WGC report also noted “a further erosion of tonnage in the Western markets,” again caused by the high price of the precious metal. Italy, which has one of the largest gold jewelry manufacturing centers in the world, saw demand by tonnage decline by 15 percent in 2012.

In the U.S., jewelry demand in 2012 fell 6 percent by volume to 108.4 tons and fell 2 percent by value to $2.21 billion.

All of the Far Eastern markets, not including China and India (which now account for 56 percent of the gold being used for jewelry), saw weaker demand in 2012, according to Gold Demand Trends.

Egypt surprisingly saw a 35 percent increase in gold jewelry demand by volume but the WGC noted that it was still far below levels prior to the 2011 political uprising. Demand in Russia (the fourth largest gold jewelry market) increased for the second straight year. The market expanded in volume by 7 percent in 2012 to 81.9 tons.

In addition to jewelry and various investment vehicles, gold is used by the world’s central banks and for a number of technological purposes (such as electronics and dentistry). Overall gold demand measured by value increased to an all-time record of $236.4 billion. By volume, gold demand fell by 4 percent to 4,405.5 tons.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Luxury Brands Lift PPR’s Sales and Profit for 2012

PPR, the Parisian holdings company, said net profit in 2012 increased by 28.2 percent to €1.27 billion ($1.7 billion). Revenue increased 20.8 percent to €9.73 billion ($13 billion).

The company, which has divided its high-end businesses into the categories of luxury and sport and lifestyle, said its luxury goods division reported a 27.6 percent increase in operating profit to €1.61 billion ($2.14 billion). This more than offset a 12.1 percent decline in operating profit in its sports and lifestyle division.

The company’s brands include Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Brioni, Christopher Kane, Stella McCartney, Sergio Rossi, Boucheron, Girard-Perregaux, JeanRichard, Qeelin and Puma. 

Read PPR Shopping for Jewelry and Watch Brands

“PPR's results for 2012 are excellent, thanks to the exceptional performances of all brands in our luxury division,” said François-Henri Pinault, PPR chairman and CEO. “Our strong performance also highlights the good geographic balance of our activities and the consistency of the Group's strategy.”

The company, which operates in more than 120 countries, said revenue generated outside the Eurozone rose 11.6 percent in 2012 based on comparable data and accounted for 78.6 percent of sales for the year, versus 77.9 percent in 2011. Sales contribution from France remained unchanged from 2011, representing 5.5 percent of total revenue on a comparable basis.

In 2012, PPR said it continued its expansion in rapid-growth markets where revenue advanced 13.7 percent on a comparable basis and accounted for 37.6 percent of sales, representing a 100 basis-point increase on 2011 on a comparable basis. Sales in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) accounted for 25 percent of the total sales of the Group's brands versus 24.5 percent in 2011 on a comparable basis.

The company also is in the process of strengthening its position in the luxury and sports and lifestyle categories while divesting its holdings in other areas. For example, in December 2012, it acquired of a majority stake in Chinese luxury jewelry brand, Qeelin, and last month announced it acquired a majority stake in the luxury designer brand, Christopher Kane. It is also announced in January that it has found a buyer for Redcats children and family divisions.

The company added that it’s in the process of speeding up and expanding the scope of its transformation of Puma “in order to increase efficiencies in terms of organization, processes and systems and to streamline its cost structure, notably in Europe.” In October, Jean-François Palus was appointed chairman of the Administrative Board of Puma SE, replacing Jochen Zeitz.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cindy Chao’s Masterpiece Royal Butterfly Added to Smithsonian Gem Collection

Masterpiece Royal Butterfly, front view.

Cindy Chao has made a bit of history by becoming the first Taiwanese jewelry designer to have a work included into the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History.

Chao’s Masterpiece Royal Butterfly will be added to the museum’s celebrated gem collection on March 5 in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals. The 2009 creation, part of Chao’s Black Label collection, was gifted to the museum by the artist.

The Royal Butterfly is composed of 2,328 gems, totaling 77 carats. The brooch is set with fancy-colored and color-changing sapphires (16.64cts.), rubies (8.74cts.), diamonds (19.67cts.), rough diamonds (16.63cts.), emerald-cut diamonds (1.64cts.), yellow diamonds (4.75cts.), fancy-colored diamonds (4.75cts.), and tsavorite garnets. The centerpieces of the butterfly’s wings contain four large faceted diamond slices stacked atop a pave layer of faceted diamonds, creating a pattern resembling the microstructure and scale of a living butterfly’s wings.

Masterpiece Royal Butterfly, back view.

When viewed under ultraviolet light, the brooch evokes what the Smithsonian describes as a “surreal quality,” with many of the gemstones appearing fluorescent and animate through an array of bright colors and reflected light. While some gems may appear colorless in daylight, under ultraviolet light they can burn a bright blue or green. Others burn a fiery orange or red.

Since the piece will be viewed by daylight, images of the Royal Butterfly under ultraviolet light will be featured on the museum’s website.

“The awe-inspiring array of colorful and glistening gems are indicative of Cindy Chao’s masterful designs,” said Jeff Post, curator of the museum’s Gems and Minerals collection. “She has artfully combined design, gem and setting to create a unique, exquisite jeweled butterfly.”

Chao’s artistry, her attention to detail and her architectural understanding is gained from her father who is a sculptor and her grandfather who was a noted Taiwanese architect.

She founded her company, Cindy Chao The Art Jewel, in 2004. In 2007, she became the first Taiwanese jewelry artist to take part in a Christie’s New York fine jewelry auction. Chao’s Black Label Masterpieces consist of one-of-kind jewelry artworks, limited to 36 pieces per year. Each Masterpiece is handcrafted over a period of at least two years, working from an original sketch and a wax mold and with rare, fine gemstones, which ultimately forges the three-dimensional works of art. Chao is considered by many to be one of the world’s most outstanding contemporary jewelry artisans, whose collections are pursued globally by influential and expert art connoisseurs.

“I believe that a piece of jewelry can reflect the history of an era, and being inducted into a leading institution like the Smithsonian is a dream for any artist, Chao said. “It is humbling to know that millions of visitors will be able to experience the Black Label Masterpiece Royal Butterfly brooch and be exposed to my art of high jewelry craftsmanship and creativity.”

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

UBM Asia’s Shenzhen Fair Begins February 26

China International Gold, Jewellery & Gem Fair – Shenzhen will be held February 26 till March 1 at the Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center.

The host city, Shenzhen, is known as the jewelry hub of China because it accounts for more than 70 percent of the country’s annual jewelry production. In terms of value, jewelry produced in the city totals around RMB50 billion (or about $8 billion), according to the Gems and Jewelry Trade Association of Shenzhen.

More than 370 exhibitors from 10 countries and regions are expected to fill more than 22,000 square meters of exhibition space. Exhibitors are coming from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Korea, Poland, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand and the United States.

Shenzhen has been stepping up brand promotion in recent years in response to the increasing sophistication of China’s luxury goods consumers. The Shenzhen Fair will feature companies that have made branding a part of their strategy. Among them are Ballet Jewellery, Beijing Fine Jewellers, Dame Bijoux, Fairly Diamond, Gold Point Jewellery Manufacturer (Shenzhen), Sunny Gem and Zorab Creation Jewelry Mfg. The range of products being offered includes gold, platinum, silver, pearl, gemset and diamond jewelry; jadeite, gemstones, pearls, jewelry making equipment and packaging and displays.

Special events at the fair include “Gold Day,” hosted by the China Gold Association, will help participants keep abreast of this lucrative market and explore China’s gold consumption trends for 2013; as well as seminars on precious gems and pearls, the retail jewelry market and jewelry design.

Friday, February 15, 2013

10 New Jewelry Designs from the Centurion Show

8k gold ring with diamond pave is centered with a large emerald cabochon.

It appears that luxury jewelry designers are through experimenting with less expensive materials (due to the economic collapse and high cost of materials) and have returned to producing creations with high-karat gold and platinum as well as big bold gemstones and lots of diamond pavé, if the Centurion Jewelry Show is any indication of what’s to come this year. And I believe it is.

The first major U.S. tradeshow of the year was held Feb. 3 - 5 in Scottsdale, Ariz. The invitation-only event caters to the luxury end of the market. One of the things it provides is the first chance for those in the U.S. to view new designs for the year. I presented an early appetizer of the pieces on display with the Centurion Design Award winners. Now here are 10 more jewelry designers that caught my attention during the show. Enjoy.

Erica Courtney is one of the few designers who can be on trend while maintaining exceptionally high standards, presented an entire collection based on green, including this 18k gold ring is centered with a large emerald cabochon (top photo). The intricate, sculptural-like details of gold are further enhanced with 18k diamond pave.

The Tilley engagement ring by Jeff Cooper Designs features a single row of pave diamonds that tapers toward the center, giving extra emphasis to the center stone. It is available in platinum or 18k gold.

Damiani has come out with a ceramic jewelry line called D.Icon, which includes this ring made of white ceramic with pink gold and diamonds (0.21 cts.).

The Mimi So Phoenix Stackable Band has18k rose gold and leaf work covered in diamonds. It is stackable with other rings in the collection.

Fope Gioielli introduced a flexible cross-over bracelet with elastic wrapping features to the Flex'it Solo line. It is made of 18-carat gold, with or without diamonds.

18k white gold heart shaped hoops with detachable London Blue Topaz drops by Lisa Nik.

Syna Jewels, a new exhibitor, presented a series of highly polished chalcedony drops set with 18k yellow gold from the Mogul collection.

All of the operations of the Frédérique Constant Classics Manufacture Worldtimer is done through the crown, which simplifies setting the time and date, and calibrating the worldtimer. The watch is powered by the FC-718 caliber movement, built in house. The dial is available in a guilloché design or with a silver world map in its center. The watch is also available in steel for $3,450 and rose-gold for $4,150.

The Links of London 8-carat rose gold necklace with a rose gold and black pearl pendant from the Effervescence collection.

18k white gold diamond band in a leaf pattern with yellow gold accents sprinkled with diamonds by Beverley K.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Blue Nile Q4 Net Sales Up 21%

Blue Nile said Tuesday that net sales increased 21.2 percent to $136.1 million for the fourth quarter, led by a 30 percent increase in bridal jewelry sales. Operating income for the period, ended December 30, 2012, totaled $7.1 million, representing an operating margin of 5.2 percent of net sales. Net income totaled $4.9 million, or $0.39 per diluted share. Non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA for the quarter totaled $9.1 million.

For the full year, the online diamond and fine jewelry retailer reported that net sales increased by 14.9 percent to $400 million. Operating income for the full year was $12.3 million, compared to $16.9 million in the prior year. Net income for the year was $8.4 million and earnings per diluted share totaled $0.63. Non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA for 2012 was $20.6 million.

Harvey Kanter, Blue Nile president and CEO of the Seattle-based company, noted that non-engagement jewelry sales for the holidays did not meet expectations but growth for the fourth quarter was still greater than 5 percent.

Net cash provided by operating activities totaled $34.4 million for the year compared to $15.4 million for the prior year. Non-GAAP free cash flow for the year was $31.9 million compared to $10.1 million for the prior year.

In its outlook, Blue Nile said it expects net sales to be between $94 million and $100 million with earnings per diluted share projected at $0.05 to $0.08. For the 2013 fiscal it expects net sales to be between $440 million and $470 million and earnings per diluted share are projected at $0.75 to $0.85.

"The fourth quarter caps off a great year of growth at Blue Nile, building upon our sequential growth while posting greater profitability versus the prior year. Investments we made in 2012 paid off with the highest annual levels of revenue growth and customer acquisition in five years, exceptional strength in engagement sales in the U.S., and a return to strong growth internationally,” said Harvey Kanter, Blue Nile president and CEO. “While we fell short of our expected sales of non-engagement jewelry during the holiday season, in part due to a weaker environment for consumer discretionary spending, we gained valuable insight that will guide the evolution of our product mix. We believe that our strategy to accelerate this part of our business is on track."

The company also announced it has entered into an agreement with U.S. Bank National Association for borrowing under a $35 million revolving credit facility maturing in 2014.

Among the highlights:

* U.S. engagement net sales for the fourth quarter 2012 increased 31 percent to $73.6 million. U.S. engagement net sales for the full year 2012 increased 21.7 percent to $226.6 million.

* U.S. non-engagement net sales for the fourth quarter 2012 increased 5.3 percent to $42.5 million. U.S. non-engagement net sales for the full year 2012 increased 4.9 percent to $111 million.
* International net sales for the fourth quarter 2012 increased 26.8 percent to $20 million. International net sales for the full year 2012 increased 11.7 percent to $62.4 million. Excluding the impact from changes in foreign exchange rates, international net sales increased 12.6 percent for the fiscal year.
* Gross profit for the fourth quarter totaled $25.7 million. As a percent of net sales, gross profit was 18.8 percent compared to 20.7 percent for the fourth quarter of 2011. Gross profit for the year totaled $75.1 million.
    New customers, which are defined as individuals who have not made a prior purchase from Blue Nile, grew 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. For the full year, new customers grew 17.6 percent compared to the full year of 2011.
* Selling, general and administrative expenses for the fourth quarter were $18.6 million, compared to $16.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Selling, general and administrative expenses for the full year were $62.8 million, compared to $55.2 million for the full year 2011.
* Earnings per diluted share for the fourth quarter included stock-based compensation expense of $0.06 for the fourth quarter of 2012 and 2011.
* Cash and cash equivalents at the end of the fiscal year totaled $87 million, compared to $89.4 million at the end of the fiscal year 2011.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Centurion Design Award Winners

Heather Moore, first time Centurion exhibitor, won in the Gold category for this wrap ring framed in cognac diamonds and personalized with the names of Moore’s children.

Part of the festivities of the recently concluded Centurion luxury jewelry tradeshow in Scottsdale, Ariz., was the third annual Centurion Design Awards. The competition was open to all exhibitors at the show and about two-thirds participated, according to show officials. Retailers who attended the show voted for their favorite pieces, which determined the winners.

The winners in each of the 11 categories were announced by The Centurion E-Newsletter and are as follows:

Bridal: Frederic Sage for a diamond pave engagement ring.

Colored Stone: Jack Abraham (above), with a ruby ring, and Jewels by Star, with an emerald ring (below), tied.

Colored Stone Fashion: Spark Creations with a pair of green tourmaline drop earrings.

Contemporary Metals: Todd Reed with a palladium and diamond cuff bracelet.

Diamond Classic: Kwiat, for its limited-edition “Revel” earrings.

Diamond Fashion: Roberto Coin with a black and white diamond and green garnet cobra bracelet (above), and Siera Jewelry with a diamond floral pendant in 18k gold and black rhodium on a black rhodium chain (below), tied.

Gold: Heather Moore with a special-order wrap ring framed in cognac diamonds and personalized with the names of Moore’s children (top photo).

Pearl: Yvel with a one-of-a-kind 18k white gold and diamond necklace set with a baroque freshwater pearl.

Platinum: Gumuchian with its versatile platinum and diamond “Bow-lero” necklace.

Silver: Charles Garnier Paris with its “constellation” finish wavy cuff bracelet.

Watches: Frederique Constant’s Lady Slimline Joaillerie.