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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mauboussin Appoints Thierry Chaunu As CEO

Thierry Chaunu

Luxury jewelry brand, Mauboussin, has named Thierry Chaunu as its new CEO for North America and the exclusive agent for Mauboussin North America, covering the US, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. He will be based at the company's flagship boutique on Madison Avenue and 63rd St., where he will lead the brand's expansion in jewelry, watches, fragrance, writing instruments, sunglasses and gifts.
Chaunu, considered one of the luxury goods industry's foremost experts and spokespersons, was most recently the CEO for North and South Americas for the Italian jewelry brand Damiani. He has 30 years of experience developing and expanding leading luxury brands.

Mauboussin, founded in 1827, is the second oldest jewelry brand at the famed Place Vendôme in Paris.

Chaunu began his jewelry career in the 1980s with Cartier as senior product manager in Paris, before being promoted and transferred to New York as VP of Marketing. In 1991 he joined Christofle as North America president, opening dozens of stores and retail corners. In 1999, he became president North America at Chopard where he opened several freestanding boutiques, key independent jewelry retailers and department stores, as well as establishing the brand at awards shows and on the red carpets with celebrities. 

In 2005, Chaunu became president & COO of Leviev Worldwide and launched the brand as a premier provider of large and rare diamonds, opening flagship boutiques in London, New York, Moscow, Dubai and Singapore and developed a wide collection of complication timepieces. In 2010, building on that success, Chaunu created a collection of Swiss chronographs for racing supercars Spyker and revived the Marina B jewelry brand, originally founded by Marina Bulgari.

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Another Robbery in Cannes, This Time a Luxury Watch Store

Empty watch cases at Kronometry. Photo credit: BBC

The Kronometry luxury watch store was the latest target for robbers in the French resort city of Cannes.

Two robbers on Wednesday threatened staff with a grenade and a gun before fleeing with an undetermined amount of watches, according to reports. Their faces were concealed. There were three employees and no customers in the store at the time. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

The store is located on the Croisette (Cannes famed beachside promenade), about a half-mile away from Carlton Intercontinental hotel. On Sunday, thieves made off with $136 million worth of diamond jewelry that was on display in the hotel lobby. The jewelry was from the Leviev diamond company, owned by billionaire diamond merchant, Lev Leviev. It is considered the largest jewelry theft in France and one of the largest of all time.

This is the second time the luxury watch store was robbed this year. In February, thieves stole 150 watches valued at approximately $1.3 million, according to reports.

Cannes is developing a reputation for high-profile thefts. In the video report on France 24, locals display amusement and disgust over the number of incidents.

In another report, a police union official criticized the city's approach to security.

In May, there were two high profile thefts at the Cannes International Film Festival:

* A necklace by Swiss jeweler De Grisogono reportedly worth $2.5 million was stolen at a celebrity party;

* A week earlier $1 million worth of Chopard jewels were stolen from the hotel room of an employee of the Swiss company.

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September Hong Kong Jewelry Show Opens More Space, Adds More Programs

The dragon dance that opened the 2012 September Hong Kong Fair. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

It’s difficult to imagine the world’s largest jewelry show adding more space but it has. The  September Hong Kong Jewelry & Gem Fair will occupy 135,000 square meters of exhibition space, making it the largest edition ever.

The tradeshow will be held September 11 - 15 at AsiaWorld-Expo for jewelry-making materials and machinery and September 13 -17 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre for finished jewelry. The tradeshow, owned and operated by UBM Asia, will host more than 3,500 exhibitors from 48 countries and regions and is expected to attract around 52,000 visitors from around the world.

Visitor pre-registration is now available by following this link. The fair’s Mobile App is also available for download.

The Trade Buyer ID project was rolled out in June 2012 to make registering at UBM Asia’s jewelry fairs in Hong Kong and China easier. It now allows direct access to all of UBM Asia's jewelry fairs around the world. Instead of getting an admission badge for each jewelry fair, visitors can present the Trade Buyer ID Card and walk directly into their chosen fairs. As of today, over 10,000 jewelry buyers from 92 countries and regions have received Trade Buyer ID Cards.

For those who have yet to upgrade their visitor’s badge, all they need to do is to bring their identity documents and visit the Trade Buyer ID Card service counter at the fair to receive the new card. The new Trade Buyer ID Card is valid until December 2015.

This year, the fair will host 22 group pavilions spanning over two world-class venues. Groups represented are from Antwerp, Brazil, China, Columbia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, and the International Colored Gemstone Association. There will also be a bigger antique and vintage jewelry section.

Russia’s Alrosa Group, the world’s biggest diamond miner by volume, will launch its first diamond auction at the tradeshow. In addition, a series of events focused on Japanese pearls will be staged, including pearl seminars and a fair reception, sponsored by the Japan Pearl Promotion Society and the Japan Pearl Exporters’ Association. The Fair will again feature the world’s largest diamond pavilion, Asia’s biggest gemstone marketplace and the biggest display of Hong Kong jewelry in the world.

AWE will display jewelry raw materials from approximately 1,700 exhibitors from around the world, while HKCEC will showcase fine finished jewelry from around 1,900 international fine jewelry exhibitors.

The Fair is open to jewelry trade professionals and members of the press. Free admission will be granted to visitors who present their business cards or official invitation together with Hong Kong Identity Card/ Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau/ National passport. Visitors under 18 will not be admitted.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

$53 Million Worth Of Leviev Diamond Jewelry Stolen In Cannes

Advertisement for the Leviev jewelry exhibition outside the Carlton International Hotel, where the theft took place.

At least one person made off with an estimated $53 million worth of jewelry from the Leviev diamond company that was on display at a hotel in Cannes, France, according to several reports.

The brazen theft occurred Sunday around noon in the lobby of the Intercontinental Carlton hotel where an exhibit of Leviev jewelry titled, "Extraordinary Diamonds," was on display in the lobby. The diamond company is owned by billionaire Lev Leviev.

Details are sketchy but reports indicate that a lone person who may have been armed made off with an undetermined amount of jewelry from the exhibition in a briefcase,
according to reports. The exhibit was schedule to conclude at the end of August.

If the value of the jewels is confirmed, it could be the second-largest heist ever in France, the BBC reports.

The French Riviera resort city has been a hotbed of jewelry robberies as of late. The famed Cannes International Film festival Held in May had two high-profile thefts: A necklace by Swiss jeweler De Grisogono reportedly worth $2.5 million was stolen at a celebrity party and a week earlier $1 million worth of Chopard jewels were stolen from the hotel room of an employee of the Swiss company.

The country's biggest robbery took place in 2008, when three men stole jewelry on display at an exhibition in Paris with an estimated value of $113 million, the BBC reports.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Former Tiffany VP Pleads Guilty to Stealing $2.1 Million of Jewelry

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun

A former VP of Product Development at Tiffany & Co., pled guilty Friday in Manhattan federal court to stealing over $2.1 million worth of jewelry from her former employer.

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, 46, of Darien, Conn., pled guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. As part of her plea agreement, she agreed to forfeit more than $2.1 million and further agreed to make restitution in the amount of more than $2.2 million, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.

She was arrested earlier this month and pled guilty Friday before U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe. She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Gardephe on December 10.

“Over a period of years, Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, an executive at a high-end jewelry company, looted her employer’s jewelry inventory and then resold millions of dollars’ worth of the merchandise in order to enrich herself,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Friday. Today, she stands convicted for her thievery and faces the prospect of prison.”

From at least January 2011 until February 2013, Lederhaas-Okun worked as a VP of Product Development at Tiffany’s midtown Manhattan headquarters, according to court documents. Her duties and responsibilities included ensuring that product designs could be manufactured. She had authority to check out jewelry belonging to Tiffany for work-related reasons.

Between November 2012 and February 2013, Lederhaas-Okun checked out more than 165 pieces of jewelry with a retail value of more than $1.2 million, including numerous diamond bracelets, platinum or gold diamond drop and hoop earrings, platinum diamond rings, and platinum and diamond pendants,” according to court documents. She then sold some if not all of this jewelry for $1.3 million to an unnamed international buyer and reseller of jewelry in midtown Manhattan. The jewelry reseller paid for the stolen merchandise by paying Lederhaas-Okun or her husband, in transactions arranged either by her or a friend working on her behalf.

It is unclear whether this reseller knew the jewelry was stolen.

In addition, on November 2012, following an announcement by Tiffany that it was going to undertake a full physical inventory review, Lederhaas-Okun said that approximately $1.5 million worth of jewelry which she had checked out would have to be written off, according to court documents. However, none of that jewelry was ever returned to Tiffany, contrary to the usual practice of accounting for inventory, such as damaged jewelry, that would have to be written off because it had been rendered unusable in some way.

To conceal her theft, Lederhaas-Okun made repeated false statements to Tiffany. For example, after her termination in February 2013, she told the luxury jeweler that she had recently checked out jewelry to create a PowerPoint presentation for her supervisor, and that a draft of the presentation could be found on her office computer. However, the missing pieces of jewelry had been checked out months earlier, her supervisor was unaware of any such presentation and there was no draft presentation on her computer. In addition, she claimed the jewelry could be found in a white envelope in her office, but a search of her office shortly after her departure did not yield any white envelope.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Royal China for the Royal Baby Available for Purchase

The official trust of the royal family has released a set of china commemorating the new son of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Royal Collection Trust presented the official range of china Wednesday and has made it available for preorder. The items are decorated with scrolls incorporating the name and birth date of their son (who has reportedly been given the title of Prince of Cambridge), with the lion and unicorn from the Royal Arms supporting the coronet of the duke and duchess of Cambridge, surrounded by oak leaves from the Middleton coat of arms.

The four-piece set was be made in Stoke-on-Trent, a pottery center in Staffordshire, England, by the same potteries that produced the official china celebrating the marriage of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, and marking The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the 60th anniversary of the Coronation this year. Using methods and techniques that have remained unchanged for 250 years, every item is hand-made from fine bone china and gilded in 22K gold before being gift-wrapped in tissue paper and boxes designed for the occasion.

The items include a pillbox for 30 British pounds ($46), a small loving cup for 39 pounds ($60), a dessert plate for 45 pounds ($70) and a limited-edition loving cup for 195 pounds ($300), of which 2,013 will be produced. Three of the items are pictured above.

All profits from the sale of the china are dedicated to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The Royal Collection is one of the largest and most important art collections in the world, and one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact. It is held in trust by The Queen as Sovereign for her successors and the nation. It is not owned by her as a private individual. The aim of The Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, which receives no public funding, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational programs.

“The range is contemporary in style, while maintaining the traditional formality of royal commemorative china,” said Nuala McGourty, Royal Collection Trust’s retail director. “The design also makes reference to the heritage of both parents.

The china can be preordered online by following this link.  

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Royal Gifts For Royal Babies Past

The Portland Font, a private christening basin commissioned by William Bentinck, third duke of Portland , for the birth of his first grandson in 1796. Photo credit: British Museum

Tradition is very much a part of Britain’s Royal Family but when it comes to newborns the practice of gift giving has a lot of leeway, said Geoffrey Munn, one of Britain’s foremost authorities on antique jewelry.

“In the past there’s been a whole range of things given to high ranking royal babies,” Munn said Monday from Wartski, where he serves as managing director. The antique dealership has a “royal warrant of appointment,” making it one of a handful of jewelers that supply goods and services to the royal family.

From the beginning of the royal monarchy to the early part of the 20th Century, baby deaths were a common occurrence, even among royal families. Because of this, a popular gift to a royal newborn in past centuries was a gold rattle with a handle made of red coral.

“The coral was used as a talisman to keep away evil spirits,” Munn said. “Some people adhere to it now with the use of a red silk, but it’s a very, very, ancient thing.”

Gifts to newborns are often conservative, Munn said. A small string of pearls for a girl and cufflinks for a boy were common gifts. The more elaborate gifts were reserved for the christening, the most important moment in a royal infant’s life. Again, in the past baptisms were done as quickly as possible because of the high chance of infant deaths. Of course, they are still done while the baby is an infant.

“The baptismal is a crucial part of an existence of a child and a royal child even more so,” Munn said. “Until the 17th Century its offspring was thought to be there by divine right, and thought to be chosen by God. Then the baptism was even more crucial.”

For the royal baby who has everything probably the most elaborate christening gift is the personal baptismal font (basin). They were often kept in the possession of families to be used for generations. The only known example of a private basin is on view at the British Museum: The Portland Font (top photo). It was commissioned by William Bentinck, third duke of Portland (1738-1809) for the birth of his first grandson in 1796.

The detachable bowl of the gold and marble basin rests on four winged cherub feet, surrounded by three free-standing sculptural figures representing the Cardinal Virtues. These are: Faith (standing with a cross and her hand held over the bowl in the act of benediction), Hope (seated, holding a symbolic anchor) and Charity (seated and shown comforting children). It was designed by Humphrey Repton and built by Paul Storr, one of the best known goldsmiths in London.

Christie’s London held an auction in November 2009 of “Property From the Late Duke and Duchess of Kent and Families,” which gave other examples of the types of gifts given at christenings. 

Austrian-made silver gilt service was given in 1907 to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, who would become the Duchess of Kent. The gift was from Princess Thayer of Hanover and Duchess of Cumberland. Photo Credit: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013

For example, a tasteful Austrian-made silver gilt service was given as a christening gift in 1907 to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, who would become the Duchess of Kent. The gift was from Princess Thayer of Hanover who was also the Duchess of Cumberland. The tapering on the beaker and the flatware are stamped with husks and shells. The set consists of a tablespoon, teaspoon, fork, a knife with silver-gilt blade, and a knife with steel blade. Each piece is engraved with the initial M below a Royal crown. The leather covered case was marked with J.C. Klinkosch, Vienna, dated 1907 with Imperial Warrant. The inscription reads “from Great Aunt Thyra 1907.” 

George VI silver flatware set given in 1942 to Prince Michael of Kent. Photo Credit: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013

An even more modest example of a christening gift was given in 1942 to Prince Michael of Kent. It was a George VI silver flatware set of a fork, knife and spoon with facetted plain handles in a fitted case with an inscribed note. It was made by London silversmiths, Wakely and Wheeler. It sold at auction for 525 pounds ($806).

A personally inscribed Victorian silver gilt cup and cover from King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1903 for their grandson, Prince George, Duke of Kent. Photo Credit: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013

A more elaborate christening gift came from King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1903 for their grandson, Prince George, Duke of Kent. It was a Victorian silver gilt cup and cover with an inscription that reads: “To George Edward Alexander Edmund 4th Son of George, Prince of Wales and Victoria Mary, Princess of Wales from his Grandparents and Sponsors King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at his Christening at Windsor Castle January 26th 1903.”

Shaped like an inverted bell, it is adorned with scroll handles and a detachable cover with baluster finish. A silver medallion depicts King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. It has the mark of Elkington and Co., London, 1900.

Munn said that engravings that appear handwritten, such as what is on the gilt cup, are popular among royalty and is a common service of jewelers used by the royal family, including Wartski.

“What we usually do is engrave small cups of silver and that can be done in the facsimile of the parents handwriting,” he said. “Every generation of royalty has enjoyed facsimile of handwriting. It’s a very interesting procedure, taken up by the great jewelers. They all know how to do it.”

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More Than 10,000 People Attended Asia Fashion Jewelry Fair

A total of 10,218 visitors from 94 countries and regions attended the16th edition of Asia’s Fashion Jewellery & Accessories Fair – June, held at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Of the visitors that came to the mid-year trade event for the fashion jewelry and accessories industry, about 63 percent were from outside the Hong Kong region, reflecting the show’s international status. Excluding Hong Kong region and mainland China, the Top 10 source of visitors were the United States, India, Japan, Taiwan region, Korea, Thailand, Australia, the Russian Federation, the Philippines and Singapore.

This year’s event gathered 380 exhibitors from 15 countries and regions, namely, mainland China, the Czech Republic, France, India, Israel, Italy, Korea, the Philippines, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan regions. More than 80% of the total number of exhibitors is from outside Hong Kong.

Big attractions at the fair included seven group pavilions representing mainland China, France, India, Korea, the Philippines, Spain and Taiwan. 

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Swatch Group Sees Strong Growth Potential For Harry Winston

The Harry Winston salon in Paris.

The Swatch Group has big plans for the recently acquired Harry Winston brand, finding it an asset that is both complimentary and with plenty of room for growth.

The Swiss conglomerate on Tuesday for the first time partly revealed what it plans for the luxury
retail brand during its earnings report for the first half of the year. The company, which now owns 20 watch and jewelry brand, said that gross sales for the period increased 8.7% year-over-year to 4.18 billion Swiss francs ($4.47 billion). Net income increased 6.1% compared to the first half of 2012 to 768 million Swiss franc ($821,700), with a 19.2% return on net sales. Sustained growth was reported in all regions.

“The continued integration of the Harry Winston brand will … make a significant contribution, as this brand has huge, almost untapped market potential in the high jewelry and watches activities,” the company said, adding that this potential will start to be seen in the second half of the fiscal year.

Swatch Group said that following its $1 billion acquisition of Harry Winston in March, the conglomerate invested in infrastructure, settled all debts, expanded its equity capital base and increase inventory. “The latter was initiated in order to ensure that our clientele has access to the best selection of jewelry as well as to increase its availability,” Swatch Group said in its earnings statement.

“The acquisition of the Harry Winston brand did more than simply round off the group’s already broad brand portfolio; it also expanded the high jewelry segment, along with the segment’s value chain from production up to and including the retail network,” Swatch added.

In May, Swatch Group, in Harry Winston’s name, purchased a 101.73-carat diamond at auction for $26.7 million and renamed it the “Winston Legacy,” explaining that it “reconfirms the number one position of this high jewelry brand.”

Swatch says that its see the luxury watch segment of the brand as having the best potential for worldwide growth.

“The Harry Winston brand has an extremely large and almost untapped potential in the watch sector, which the group now aims to expand further using its experience around the world,” the company said. “The necessary funds will also be invested into this activity.”

In fact, the acquisition led to some company restructuring by integrating the production division into the watches and jewelry business unit. “This integration will also provide a more uniform view of activities, facilitating comparability with our competitors.”

Other highlights of the company’s first-half report include:

• Benchmarked to the 1.5% export growth for wristwatches of the Swiss watch industry in the first half of 2013, the segment Watches & Jewelry (now including production) growth was more than 9%.

• An operating profit of 910 million Swiss francs ($973,500) was recorded, with an operating margin of 22.7%, despite a high marketing spend, important investments in products and production methods, and the integration of Harry Winston.

The company said its outlook “remains very promising,” expecting a strong second half. 

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Gemfields Emerald Auction in Zambia Raises $31.5 Million

Gemfields spokesperson Mila Kunis.

Maybe holding emerald auctions in Zambia isn’t such a bad idea. The ongoing tug of war between the Zambian government and colored gemstone mining and marketing company, Gemfields, over where to sell Zambian emeralds hasn’t dampened demand.

Gemfields’ most recent auction of higher quality rough emerald and beryl from the Kagem mine in Zambia resulted in revenues of $31.5 million, the second highest total to date for the company. The average price per carat reached $54, the highest unit value achieved at any auction and a 26 percent increase over the previous highest value achieved in July 2011. In addition, a 54-carat rough gem, offered as a single lot, set a new per carat record for prices achieved at a Gemfields auction.

A total of 40 companies were invited to the auction held July 15 - 19 in the Zambian capital city of Lusaka and 37 attended, with 36 attendees placing at least one bid, Gemfields said in a statement Tuesday. A total of 583,448 carats of emerald extracted from Kagem was placed on offer, with all lots being sold. The auction format is how Gemfields chooses to sell its Kagem emeralds, which account for nearly all of the company’s revenue.

The auction was held in Lusaka at the request of the Zambian Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development. The government first issued the directive in April, which appeared to be a surprise to Gemfields. Particularly since the two entities are business partners, with Zambia owns a 25 percent stake in the Kagem mine with Gemfields owning the remaining 25 percent.

The government in a statement said the directive is designed to promote transparency and accountability in the marketing of emeralds, stimulate local demand for emeralds, create more opportunities for small-scale miners to have access to colored gemstone markets, and increase tourism.

“Zambian gemstones have for a long time been sold on foreign markets, a situation that has contributed to capital flight and denied Zambians of the much needed benefits from the resource,” Yamfwa Mukanga, Zambia mining minister, said in the original statement.

This is the second auction of Kagem emeralds held in Lusaka. It was originally scheduled to be held in Singapore June 10-14, but was postponed and rescheduled to Lusaka due to government pressure.

Gemfields insists that it needs to sell Kagem emeralds at places that will likely get the most interest and the best price in order to compete with other emerald hubs, such as Colombia and Brazil. With the most recent sale showing such strong results the government seems to have the upper hand in this argument.

In a statement, Ian Harebottle, CEO of Gemfields, credited “favorable market conditions and particularly strong demand from our customers” for the strong results. “All indications show that demand for colored gemstones, and especially emeralds, will continue to increase at a steady pace over the coming year.”

Gemfields said its 13 auctions held since July 2009 have generated $207.3 million in aggregate revenues.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Record Crowds at the June Hong Kong Jewelry Fair

The June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair had 25,925 visitors from 113 countries and regions and 1,841 exhibitors from 37 countries and regions—both new records. Overseas visitor attendance at the tradeshow held June 20 - 23 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre was up about 5 percent from 2012.

This year, additional space was made available to accommodate more gemstone exhibitors, expanding the amount of exhibition space in the convention center to 64,000 square meters.

Among the highlights of the event:

* Nearly 11,000 visitors from Hong Kong, accounting for 39 percent of the total number of visitors. The rest of the visitors, 15,751, or 61 percent, were from overseas.

* The largest group of visitors from outside Hong Kong came from mainland China with 8,029; followed by India (894), Taiwan region (791), the Philippines (627), and the United States (537).

“The robust jewelry markets in Asia are filling some of the gap brought about by the weakness in the European and US markets,” said Celine Lau, director of Jewellery Fairs, UBM Asia. “This year, we again saw a double-digit growth in the number of buyers from the mainland China. This figure illustrates the continued strength of the country’s jewelry market and its potential for further growth.”

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Dramatic Fall of India’s Largest Jewelry Company

Mehul Choksi, managing director of Gitanjali Group, is under investigation for stock market manipulations.

One of the world’s largest diamond and jewelry companies has quickly fallen on hard times. The Gitanjali Group, which bills itself as the “world’s largest integrated conglomerate of diamonds, jewelry and lifestyle brands,” has seen its share price fall 79 percent in a month, largely due to the Reserve Bank of India's recent restrictions on gold imports that has damaged much of the jewelry trade in the country. However, the latest setback on Thursday appears to have been self afflicted.

Gitanjali’s managing director, Mehul Choksi, has been suspended of trading activities by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), as part of a probe into suspected market manipulations, according to reports by the Economic Times of India and other publications in the country.

Choksi is one of 26 individuals and firms that were suspended Thursday, according to reports. They are all suspected of being linked with a securities and stock brokerage services company called Prime Broking Company (India) Ltd., which also operates under the name Prime Securities. The company is described by The Economic Times as a “significant shareholder” of Gitanjali. Choksi is the leading shareholder of Gitanjali with a 51 percent stake. They are being investigated for allegedly making trades while concealing their identities, according to the report. 

According to a second story in The Economic Times, Gitanjali shares appear to be in the center of this investigation. Several investors reportedly purchased Gitanjali shares through Prime Broking, “which allegedly pledged these without their consent to take exposure on the derivatives segment of NSE.” Two of the suspended parties have filed police reports against Prime Broking.

The company that began in 1966 as a cutting and polishing diamond operation for the jewelry trade has undergone dramatic and expansive growth. Gitanjali now operates on five continents and in just about every sector of the jewelry industry. It is one of India’s largest diamond manufacturers, jewelry manufacturers and retailers. It manufactures rough diamonds, designs and builds jewelry, creates jewelry brands and distributes diamonds and jewelry for wholesale and retail—including its own stores in India, the US and other parts of the world. It claims to be:

* The world’s largest number of established jewelry brands under one roof;

* A distributor and retailer with 4,000 points of sales throughout the world; and

* The largest precious jewelry manufacturer in the world, with the ability to produce 235,000 jewelry pieces per month across nine manufacturing facilities.

In India—in addition to its vast manufacturing, design, distribution and retail operations—it owns approximately 20 jewelry brands, each one fronted by a Bollywood star.

Among its holdings in the US is Samuels Jewelers, the country’s fifth largest retail jewelry chain with 111 stores. In Italy, it owns five jewelry brands under the name “Leading Italian Jewelers,” with the most prominent being luxury jewelry brand Stefan Hafner. It also has large operations in Belgium, UK, Japan, China, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

If that’s not enough, the company owns 17 watch brands (including Italian brands Morellato and Pirelli) and several brands that deal in household products, particularly tableware and silverware, that include the Italian companies Greggio Argento and Donatella.

Gitanjali’s influence on the worldwide jewelry trade cannot be underestimated. Its suffering may have a domino effect—particularly in India..

The company trades on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE). Since June 24, the company went from a high of 550 rupees ($9.21) to a low of 115 ($1.93) on the BSE. It last traded at 115.60 rupees.

The impact of this setback will soon be known as markets will open in a few hours.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Christie’s To Hold Inaugural Online-Only Jewelry Auction Beginning Wednesday

Amethyst, diamond and gold necklace by Lily Gabriella. Estimate:
$3,500 – $4,500

“Summer Jewels," is the name of Christie’s first ever online-only sale of jewelry. It will include 100 lots of price accessible pieces from contemporary designers that include Lily Gabriella Elia and Olivia Wildenstein and the venerable names such as Marina B, Roberto Coin and Salavetti. The sale will open for bidding on Wednesday and run through July 26. It is accessible through

This isn’t the international auction house’s first foray into e-commerce for jewelry. It has included online bidding for some time during its regular auction, which operates in a similar way as phone bidding. The monumental Elizabeth Taylor auction in December 2011 had an online-only auction component that included jewelry for the record-breaking sale. 

Sapphire cufflinks by Trianon. Estimate: $3,000 – $3,500

Highlights of the upcoming jewelry sale include items from Brazilian born designer Lily Gabriella Elia and her namesake Lily Gabriella collection such as a diamond pendant necklace (estimate: $4,000 – $5,000), an 18K white gold and diamond ring inspired by Elia’s South American heritage (estimate: $2,800 – $3,800) and an amethyst, diamond and gold necklace (estimate: $3,500 – $4,500).

Keemee designer Olivia Wildenstein creations are comprised of rounded and organic jewels worked in 18K gold, diamonds and cultured pearls. Top items include a citrine and diamond ‘Bonbon’ ring (estimate: $1,000 – $1,500), a garnet and diamond ‘Bonbon’ ring (estimate: $1,000 – $1,500), and a pair of cultured pearl and diamond “Coeurs Enlacés” ear pendants (estimate: $6,000 – $8,000).

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Diamond Empowerment Fund Unveils Jewelry And Watch Collection At Donna Distefano’s Atelier

Banneker watches, Royal Asscher Pendant and Donna Distefano “Illumination” bracelets that are being sold to fund DEF charities. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Jewelry industry representatives crowded into the Donna Distefano atelier in New York recently to view new products that will be sold to raise funds for educational programs in the diamond-producing countries of Africa.

Three members of the Diamond Empowerment Fund, a diamond industry charity, unveiled the following items, which are being called "Empowerment” products: A green tsavorite and diamond pendant from Royal Asscher, the Dutch diamond company; “Illumination” bracelets from goldsmith Donna Distefano; and three watches from the Banneker watch company. About 10 percent of the retail cost of each product will be donated to DEF.

DEF was co-founded by Russell Simmons, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Benjamin Chavis, civil rights and business leader, and diamond industry leaders. It provides higher education opportunities for youth in diamond producing countries of Africa.

The crowd attending the DEF event at the Donna Distefano Atelier. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Among those in attendance to show the new products were Distefano, Lita Asscher, president of Royal Asscher America, and Derrick Holmes, CEO of Banneker, Inc. Phyllis Bergman, DEF board president, and Nancy Orem Lyman, DEF executive director, were also in attendance. 

Distefano’s line of “Illumination” bracelets (pictured above) depicts symbolic African designs in sterling silver and diamonds. Each bracelet represents core values of DEF: transformation, tranquility and strength. The collection of three bracelets is made of suede with a silver and diamond and buckle. They retail for $200 each and are available through the Donna Distefano website. For every purchase, DEF receives a $20 donation. 

The DEF green tsavorite and diamond pendant (pictured above) is part of the Shining Stars of Africa collection by Royal Asscher. The pendant contains green tsavorite and diamonds encased in a fluid-filled natural sapphire dome allowing the jewels to fall freely like snowflakes in a snow globe. The price is $1,250 and can be purchased through the Royal Asscher website. With every pendant purchase, a $125 donation is made to DEF.

Banneker DEF watches (pictured above) have a Royal Asscher diamond at 12 o’clock, green crystals on the dial and bezel, and natural Ebony wood from Indonesia or Mahogany wood from Madagascar on the dial and band. All Banneker watches contain real wood as a way of paying homage to its namesake Benjamin Banneker who, in 1753, engineered and built the first working clock in America constructed entirely from parts he carved of wood. The “Euro Face” collection (gold and silver availability) retails for $390 and a $39 donation is made to DEF. The “Large Face” collection retails for $490 and $49 donation is made to DEF. The watches, which are scheduled to be available in time for the holidays, can be purchased through the company’s website.

Empowerment jewelry will also be available in the future through a dedicated DEF e-commerce website.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Glashütte Original Uses $35 Million Mansion To Introduce Ladies Watch Collection

The Waterfall Mansion in New York was the setting for the Glashütte Original unveiling of the Pavonina Collection. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

German watch manufacturer Glashütte Original presented its Pavonina Collection of ladies watches during a 1920’s theme party at the Waterfall Mansion in New York City.

Cushion-shaped 18k red gold case and white mother-of-pearl dial and guilloche finished. The settings and date window enhanced with red gold; rhodium and red gold plated feuille hands. 18k red gold metal bracelet design mirrors the cushion shape of the case.

A total of 20 new models of the watch line were presented in an exhibit setting on the second and third floors of the townhouse mansion, which has a listing price of $35 million. The multi-story waterfall, the signature highlight of the building on New York’s Upper East Side, was backlit in the Pavonina color of “royal purple” with the design theme of petals containing the names of the guests in attendance.

The Waterfall Mansion signature waterfall backlit with the "Royal Purple" and petal display of the Pavonina Collection. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Dieter Pachner, Glashütte Original Global VP of Sales, explained that the cushion-shaped case design of the watches is the same design of popular ladies watches in the 1920s. The period is important for women as time of liberation and independence from the constraints of society, he said. The case comes in stainless steel, 18k red gold, and in a stainless steel and red gold combination.

Cushion-shaped stainless steel case with a dial made of galvanized ruthenium with guilloche finish; set with 12 diamonds. Settings and date window enhanced with red gold; rhodium and white gold plated feuille hands. Anthracite satin strap attached to lugs set with 42 diamonds.

As part of the 1920s theme of the event, several rooms contained portraits of women pioneers from the 20th Century and furnishings represented the period. One case contained vintage Glashütte Original ladies watches.

One of the Glashütte Original's 1920s-era watches on display. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

The dials for the quartz-powered watches were created in house in a range of designs that include mother of pearl and diamond motifs. The stainless steel models are offered with dials in either galvanized silver or ruthenium (a platinum group metal); with cabochon or diamond indexes as hour markers. bi-color models are available in mother of pearl or galvanized ruthenium dials. There are other options.

18k red gold case, galvanized black dial with guilloche finish and 12 diamonds as hour markers. Settings and date window enhanced with red gold; rhodium and red gold plated feuille hands. Fine black Louisiana alligator bracelet attached to flexible lugs set with 42 diamonds.

The collection also includes several choices of metal bracelets and colorful satin straps along with a “quick-change” pin that makes it easy to replace straps and bracelets. The metal bracelets are available in stainless steel, red gold and bi-color versions—the latter with alternating stainless steel and red gold links. The satin straps are offered in petrol green, violet or rich anthracite, or high-gloss patent leather in mocca brown and violet.

A couple of the new watches on display. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco
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Cushion-shaped 18k red gold case and white enamel dial set with 98 diamonds. The settings and date window are enhanced with red gold; rhodium and red gold plated feuille hands. Violet satin strap nattached to lug decorated with 21 diamonds.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Signet Replaces CEO for UK Division

Signet Jewelers said Tuesday that Rob Anderson, CEO of Signet's UK division, will leave the company at the end of July. He will be replaced by Sebastian Hobbs who has been promoted to the new position of managing director for the UK division, effective immediately. Hobbs will report to Mike Barnes, Signet CEO.

The Bermuda-based company is the largest specialty retail jeweler in the US and UK with approximately 1,952 stores (1,449 in the US and 503 in the UK). Its retail chains in the US include Kay, Jared and Ultra Diamonds. In the UK, it owns and operates the H.Samuel and Ernest Jones jewelry chains.

“Seb has made important contributions to our UK division and we believe his experience in UK retailing and strategy make him a perfect fit for this role,” Barnes said.

Hobbs joined Signet's UK division as commercial director in March 2011. From November 2006 till March 2011, he was commercial director of Blacks Leisure Group. Prior to this, he was trading controller for WH Smith, a retail consultant for KPMG, and held management positions at Mothercare and British Home Stores.

Signet’s UK division has been struggling since the financial crisis. In its 2013 fiscal year, the division reported that sales fell 0.8 percent to $709.5 million. Same store sales increased 0.3 percent compared to an increase of 0.9 percent in Fiscal 2012. Sales performance was primarily attributed to lower traffic particularly in the fourth quarter.

By contrast, US division sales for the 2013 fiscal year increased 7.9 percent to $3.27 billion. Same store sales increased 4 percent for the year compared to an increase of 11.1 percent in Fiscal 2012.

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Buccellati Appoints New CEO

The Buccellati 18k “Star Collection,” necklace and earrings made of more than 1,700 white and yellow diamonds and 20 pieces of Imperial jade.

Italian luxury jewelry brand, Buccellati, has named Thierry Andretta as its new CEO, according to reports.

Andretta, was most recently CEO of the French couture house, Lanvin, where he doubled sales to more than 236 million euros during his four-year tenure. Prior to Lanvin, he worked in senior positions at Ungaro, Céline, Moschino and Gucci Group.

Monday's announcement came less than four months after Italian private equity fund, Clessidra, took a majority stake in Buccellati, Reuters reports.

Buccellati is known for its signature lace rings and necklaces (many one of a kind) worn by monarchs and movie stars. Some of its pieces sell for more than $1 million. Members of its founding family still design many of its pieces. The company also is known for not routinely lending its jewelry to actresses on the red carpets at high-profile events such as the Cannes film festival or the Oscar ceremony.

Andretta told  Reuters the brand will develop its watch business as well as its presence worldwide, particularly in new markets such as the Middle East and Russia.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

The Complicated Process of Defining A Grand Complication Watch

Patek Philippe Reference 959/J Grand Complication Timepiece at Aaron Faber Gallery.

The question of what are the components that define a grand complication timepiece seems fairly straightforward and at least two members of an esteem group of panelists discussing this topic said there is an absolute answer to this question. However, the definitive explanation proved to be elusive during a discussion about this and other timepiece topics during a rainy June evening at Aaron Faber Gallery in New York.

The fact is the discussion of grand complications is … well … complicated. First, you need agreement of what is a complication. In its simplest definition a complication is any feature to a timepiece outside of the simple display of hours, minutes, and seconds (for example, a date/day display). However, that doesn't quite cut it when trying to define the term in a grand complication, considered the most complex achievement of haute horlogerie.

Grand complications panelists (from left): Gary Girdvainis, Edward Faber, Michael Friedman, Osvaldo Patrizzi and Alexis Sarkissian.

Osvaldo Patrizzi, best-known as the founder of Antiquorum, the international auction house for timepieces, is one of the most connected, most respected and best known people in the world of haute horlogerie. He said the reason grand complications are so expensive and so rare is because it’s extremely difficult to fit several complications into such a small space and because the type and number of complications in a watch will affect its appearance.

“The more complications you want the more problems you have,” he said in his Italian accent.

He noted that he was among a small group of people who worked at creating a definition for a complication in an “ultra-complicated” watch.

“We spent one day to define what is a complication on a normal size watch,” he said. “A complication is when you are able to give one (piece) of information.”

Panelists were in relative agreement on this. The next question by the moderator, Gary Girdvainis, publisher and editorial director of the publications, WristWatch Magazine and AboutTime, was: Is a toubillon a complication?

The toubillon was invented by French-Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, to (in simple terms) negate the effects of gravity on the accuracy of a timepiece. It is housed in a rotating cage that is often seen on the dial. It is a beautiful, complex device that is widely sought after among watch collectors. But does it provide information?

On this, Patrizzi, the man who in his own words helped give the definition of a complication, gave a long response that was noncommittal. 

[Update, July 24] Patrizzi clarified his statement saying that he has always considered a tourbillion a complication.

Michael Friedman, a timepiece auctioneer, a museum curator and noted expert on the history of horology, was more direct.

“The tourbillion is an incredibly complicated escapement but in my mind it’s not necessarily a complication,” he said. “It was a complicated escapement that Breguet designed to solve a very specific problem.”

The panelists, which also included Edward Faber, founder of Aaron Faber Gallery and author of American Wristwatches: Five Decades of Style and Design; and Alexis Sarkissian, founder of Totally Worth, a boutique distribution network for luxury timepieces; seemed to be in agreement. If Patrizzi was cornered I think he would agree as well.

So what are the complications that make up a grand complication? Again the panelists were in relative agreement: minute repeater, perpetual calendar, phases of the moon, grand and petite sonnerie, and split-seconds chronograph.

Friedman strayed a bit with his answer, saying a simple chronograph would be acceptable in his view.

“I’m a bit of a traditionalist for a definition. I view that it has to have minute repeater, perpetual calendar, phases of the moon (and) grand and petite sonnaire. These are the classic complications that need to be part of the grand complication,” he said. “Once we get beyond those basics, it’s a matter of definition. It’s a matter of companies marketing themselves in a particular way, whether something has an alarm, whether something has a split-second chronograph versus a standard chronograph. For me a grand complication can have a standard chronograph. It doesn’t have to have a split-second chronograph, partly because if we’re talking about a complicated watch from the 1870s, it likely would have had a standard chronograph function of a watch. So for me those are the classics.”

Friedman also noted that the same conversation would have been different if it was held at certain periods during the last 150 years.

“That’s one thing I love about this topic,” he said. “It’s a moving target and the definitions change over time.”

Panelists also discussed variations in the auction market for high-end watches, maintenance and repairs of ultra-complications watches, the increase of watch brands under corporate ownership and the need for more watchmakers throughout the world. These are all topics that need their own space.

The discussion was held the day before Christie’s was auctioning the earliest and most significant example of a Patek Philippe grand complication. The Stephen S. Palmer Patek Philippe Grand Complication No. 97912 is a minute repeating perpetual calendar split-seconds chronograph watch with grand and petite sonnerie and moon phases. It was manufactured in 1898. It has never been seen in public and it was the first time it ever appeared at auction. The watch was purchased on Oct. 3, 1900, for 6,500 Swiss francs by Stephen S. Palmer.

It sold for more than $2.25 million, a world auction record for a Patek Philippe grand complication.

Aaron Faber Gallery held a week-long exhibition that featured a similar grand complication as its centerpiece: a Patek Philippe Reference 959/J (top picture). Made in 1992, it has a perpetual calendar, moon phases, split seconds chronograph, grand and petite sonnerie, and minute repeater. 

It’s a steal at $1.5 million. 

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Centurion 2014 Call for Entries for Emerging Designer Competition

Blue sapphire and diamond earrings by Sharart Design, one of last year's winners.

Entries are now being accepted for the sixth annual Centurion Emerging Designer Competition. Two winners will receive a showcase and exhibit space at the next Centurion Show. The invitation-only luxury jewelry tradeshow will be held Feb. 1-5, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The competition is open to any jewelry designer who has never before exhibited in a U.S. fine jewelry tradeshow. It’s open to all designers, regardless of experience, formal training, or background in jewelry design, but entrants must show lines or one-of-a-kind designs that are suitable for a luxury jewelry store environment and be capable of both exhibiting at a trade show and fulfilling any wholesale orders received at the show.

Deadline for entry is September 30. Entrants are required to submit up to three images of finished jewelry; no renderings or CAD drawings will be accepted. Images must be .jpg format, and each image must include a detailed description of the piece and the materials used (metals, gemstones, etc.). Entries will be judged by a special panel, as well as by Centurion’s Board of Retail Advisors.

For more information and to access the entry form, follow this link:

The competition is sponsored by Stuller, a Lafayette, La., jewelry manufacturing and distribution business and a domestic and international wholesale jewelry supplier.

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Swiss Watch Exports Saw a Dramatic Drop in May

The Breguet Classique Chronométrie 7727 in 18k rose gold. Both gold watches and timepieces of more than $3,000 saw declines in May.

The value of Swiss watch exports for the month of May fell 3.9% year-over-year to 1.8 billion francs ($1.86 billion), according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH). The culprits are a double-digit drop in gold watch exports and double-digit declines in exports to China, Hong Kong and France,

Swiss watch exports grew 1.7%, year-over-year, during the past five months.

The decline in May is mainly attributable to gold watches, FH said, which posted a year-over-year 13.9% drop in terms of units and a 12.2% value decline. Silver and gold-plated watches saw a remarkable 163.2% increase in units but suffered a 46.3% drop in value. Meanwhile, platinum watch exports fell 2.5% by unit while its value increased 12.8%. Steel watch exports increased 1.2% by unit and 2.1% in value. Over the past five months, 840,000 fewer watches were exported—a year-over-year decline of 7.3%.

Watches between the export price of 200 and 500 francs showed positive growth in May (nearly 20% by unit and about 15% by value). “This was significant, but affected only a limited number of timepieces,” FH said in its report.

All other price segments saw a decline, “in some cases quite pronounced,” FH said. Timepieces costing less than 200 francs saw its volume contract by 14.2%. Between 500 and 3,000 francs, the decline was near 7%. Watches costing more than 3,000 francs recorded its first monthly decline in more than three years, “a relatively minor setback however since the value fell by 4.1% from a very high level in May 2012,” FH said.

Among the main markets, Hong Kong, China and France registered double-digit declines (15.7%, 19.4% and 14.7%, respectively). Exports to the US, the second largest Swiss watch market behind Hong Kong, recorded an increase of just under 1%. Italy and Germany continued to grow, but at a slower rate (4.7% and 8.4%, respectively), FH said.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

A French Company Acquires Another Prestigious Italian Jewelry Brand

Tilda Swinton, a spokesperson for Pomellato.

Less than two years after French conglomerate LVMH acquired luxury Italian jewelry brand Bulgari; its French competitor, holding company Kering, finalized its acquisition of Italian jewelry brand Pomellato.

The agreement for Kering to purchase a majority stake in Pomellato was announced in April. On Thursday, Kering, formerly known as PPR, announced in a brief statement that the agreement received clearance from the antitrust authorities and has been finalized.

Pomellato was one of the few truly prestigious independent Italian jewelry brands left to acquire. The brand was founded by Pino Rabolini in Milan in 1967, pioneering the concept of ready-to-wear jewelry. The idea was that jewelry is not just a status symbol but an accessory to be worn and replaced at any time of the day. The current CEO, Andrea Morante, will remain in this position with the company.

Pomellato ranks among the top five European jewelers by sales, with 2012 revenues of €146 million ($190 million). It has a distinct style, an international following and an aura of exclusivity. The brand is known for its colorful rounded cabochon gems and its tactile forms. For example, pavé patterns are created with gemstones of various sizes and irregular forms. In recent years, the company was also known for its advertising partnership with actress Tilda Swinton, who appeared in company photographs and videos.

In 1995, Pomellato launched a second brand, Dodo, an accessible line of 18k gold charms in the shapes of animals. The name, after an extinct bird, was chosen as a way to exemplify the need to protect nature. The brand supports the Italian World Wildlife Fund, working to prevent the extinction of other animal species.

Pomellato’s distribution network includes 86 mono-brand stores (45 Pomellato, 41 Dodo) as well as approximately 600 independent points of sale around the world. More importantly for Pomellato and Kering is that there is plenty of room for growth. Pomellato has expressed an interest to extend its international distribution. Kering, with its immense size as an international player in the apparel and accessories markets, can fuel that growth.

Kering is present in more than 120 countries and generated revenues of €9.7 billion ($12.4 billion) in 2012. With the acquisition Pomellato finalized, the company now has a majority stake in 19 brands that include international luxury fashion brands Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent; French luxury jewelry brand, Boucheron; Chinese luxury jewelry brand, Qeelin; luxury Swiss watch brands, Girard-Perregaux and Jewn-Richard; and sports brand, Puma.

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