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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Blue Nile Q3 Sales Up 10.1%, Net Sales Total $2.9 Million

Blue Nile, Inc. said Thursday that net sales increased 10.1% year-over-year to $98.9 million for the third quarter ended September 29. Operating income for the quarter totaled $2.5 million, representing an operating margin of 2.5% of net sales. Net income for the period totaled $2.9 million (compared with $1.7 million in the third quarter of 2012) or $0.23 per diluted share.

Non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA for the quarter totaled $4.6 million. 

"These results demonstrate once again that our strategy is working. Our third quarter sales increase of 10.1% is on top of 19.8% in the prior year and is our sixth consecutive quarter of double digit growth," said Harvey Kanter, president and CEO of the diamond and jewelry online retailer. 

Blue Nile's Board of Directors authorized the renewal of the company's share repurchase program. It has the authority to repurchase up to $100 million of its common stock over the next two years. 

Third quarter financial highlights for the Seattle-based company include the following:

* U.S. engagement net sales increased 7.1% to $57.9 million.

* U.S. non-engagement net sales increased 9.6% to $23.9 million.

* International net sales increased nearly 23% to $17.1 million. Excluding the impact from changes in foreign exchange rates, international net sales increased 27.6%.

* Gross profit totaled $18.7 million. As a percent of net sales, gross profit was 18.9% compared to 18.8% for the third quarter of 2012. 

* Selling, general and administrative expenses were $16.2 million, compared to $14.3 million in the third quarter of 2012. These expenses include stock-based compensation expense of $1.2 million, compared to $1.3 million for the third quarter 2012.

* Earnings per diluted share included stock-based compensation expense of $0.06 for the third quarter 2013 and for the third quarter 2012.

At the end of the third quarter 2013, cash and cash equivalents totaled $47.9 million.

In its outlook, Blue Nile said it expects fourth quarter net sales to be between $146 million and $161 million. Earnings per diluted share are projected at $0.37 to $0.46.

For the year, the company said it expects net sales to be between $450 million and $465 million with earnings per diluted share are projected at $0.84 to $0.93.

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Istanbul Jewelry Show Reports 27% Increase in Visitors

The Istanbul Jewelry Show October 2013 “ended on a high note,” according to show officials, with a “remarkable” 27 percent increase in total visitors compared to the 2012 edition. A total of 14,861 buyers, including 3,470 revisits, were recorded at the four-day event, which ended October 6. 

The trade fair (which just completed its 37th edition in 28 years) targets the Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Africa, Russia and the CIS Countries. Participation by the United States and Asia confirms its professional and international status in the jewelry industry, said show officials representing UBM Rotaforte, which organizes the trade fair held twice per year at the Istanbul Fair Center.

A total of 67 percent of visitors were domestic and 33 percent were from overseas representing 95 countries. Countries with the top visitors were: Turkey (9,990), Iran (730), Russia (482), United Arab Emirates (243) and Ukraine (207). 

They were there to see products and offering on 30,000 square meters of exhibit space from country and group pavilions of Hong Kong, Italy and Thailand, and more than 800 companies and brands from Belgium, mainland China, India, Lebanon, Spain, UAE, and USA. In total, companies from 14 countries participated in the trade fair.

Sermin Cengiz, managing director of UBM Rotaforte, said the sector in Turkey is currently planning a target of $5 billion worth of exports in the next three years, with the Istanbul Jewelry Show playing an important role in contributing to that target. 

“The show creates a meeting point that ranks high on the agenda of every professional in the industry,” he said. “I am comfortable to say that our October fair has become a brand just like our March edition…. The rise in exhibitor numbers, exhibition space and number of visitors this year not only confirms the fair's international status but also highlights Istanbul’s important role in the global jewelry trade.”

UBM Rotaforte, is a joint-venture company formed by UBM Asia and Rotaforte International Fairs Inc., owns the Istanbul Jewelry Show, an international exhibition for jewelry, gems, watches and related equipment.

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Montblanc Honors Sanford I. Weill With Arts Patronage Award

Sanford I. Weill accepting Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award.

Sanford I. Weill has amassed a fortune by buying a small business and through a series of acquisitions turned it into the world’s largest company. 

The former CEO and chairman of Citigroup has been praised and vilified as the person most responsible for the “shattering” of the Glass–Steagall Act (which separated banking and insurance businesses and limited the investing risk banks could take), creating the modern financial services industry.

On Monday, Weill was being honored not because of his business success but because of his longtime philanthropy. Among the organizations that have benefited from his and wife’s Joan’s financial and personal commitment are the Academy of Finance, a joint program with the New York City Board of Education that trains high school students for careers in financial services, and Carnegie Hall, where he serves as board chairman. 

Sanford Weill in center holding his award. From left: Jan-Patrick Schmitz, Montblanc North America CEO and president, Lang Lang, Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall executive and artistic director, and Lutz Bethge, vice chairman of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation.

The 80-year-old businessman and philanthropist received the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award during an intimate lunch at Per Se New York. In a soft voice, he explained why it is up to those who have had success in business to take a leadership role in supporting arts and education. 

“As we think about the world we live in most of the governments that we know of, certainly in the developing world, don’t have much money,” he said. “What we really count on for education, culture or art, and healthcare is really not the place we can look at anymore. We’re going to have to think about how we create more public-private partnerships.” 

Even though Weill has given hundreds of millions of dollars to various causes, he said it takes more than money to make a good philanthropist. 

“Philanthropy is not just about giving money because people can give money to just solve their conscience but it’s also about having passion for something, giving your intelligence. What makes you successful in the private sector is also going to make you successful in the public sector. People shouldn’t say I’m busy, the company’s growing. I don’t have the time to do this.”

He added, “It really is better to give than to receive and when you give, you receive so much more.”

Weill was presented with a 15,000 euro cash award and a “Patron of Art Edition 2013 Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan” writing instrument (one of 12), commemorating the life and influence of Sforza, one of the most prominent patrons of the Italian Renaissance and a great supporter of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Gold Patron of Art Edition 2013 Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan Limited Edition 888.

The public will have the opportunity of purchasing two editions of this writing instrument: a gold model limited to 888 units and a silver model limited to 4,810 units.

Silver Patron of Art Edition 2013
Ludovico Sforza,  Duke of Milan
Limited Edition 4810.
Cylindrical towers on the cap and clip design were taken from the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, home to the ducal dynasty. The writing instrument’s fittings replicate the pattern Da Vinci, used in his fresco in the “Sala delle Asse” (“Chamber of Boards”) as well as in the Mona Lisa’s robes and ornaments. The initials engraved on the cap’s ring originate from a silver coin issued in honor of Sforza during the Milanese Renaissance. 

The gold model is offset with a blue lacquered cap and barrel. The silver edition is in black lacquer.

Prior to the luncheon ceremony, Lutz Bethge, vice chairman of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation, explained that the patron of the arts awards, in its 22nd year, honors historical and modern persons who have a long history of giving their time and talents to supporting the arts and art projects. Each year an historical figure is chosen as the inspiration behind a limited-edition writing instrument. Then a modern-day patron of the arts chosen each year in 12 countries is presented with that pen, cash awards and the recognition that will hopefully inspire others to do the same. To bring the program to a larger audience, the brand made the same writing instrument available for sale in limited editions. In fact, Bethge said the popularity of this program spawned Montblanc’s highly-successful limited-edition business. 

“It was almost by chance and it is because of this award,” he said inside Montblanc’s new boutique at 600 Madison Ave.

While the award has been given to a broad group of people, Bethge and Jan-Patrick Schmitz, Montblanc North America CEO and president, did say that it is unusual to present such an award to someone from the financial services industry. However, Weill’s financial and personal contributions are part of a long history of patronage to the arts from royalty to today’s business leaders. 

“(In choosing Weill) we wanted to tell the story that the arts need patronage to flourish,” Bethge said. “This is a patronage award for arts and culture.” 

In addition, Weill’s commitment to education (as well as arts) is in line with the cultural commitment of Montblanc as a company that sells writing instruments, one of the most basic tools used for human communication. 

“Our mark is on the writing culture,” Bethge said. “It is the most important thing of mankind.”

Bethge and Schmitz explained in great detail that in each country there are juries that select nominees and then all of the juries together select the winner in each country. However, there is also a personal connection between the man and the brand: Lang Lang. 

Lang Lang performs for Sanford Weill.

The 31-year-old concert pianist is the chairman of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation. He has also known Weill since he was 17 years old and considers him a mentor as well as friend. Weill serves as director of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation.

The affection between the two was obvious throughout the event. Lang Lang gave him a big bear hug, something that Weill says he has been the recipient of throughout their 14-year relationship. He played three short compositions in Weill’s honor.

“Without you it would be a very different world,” Lang Lang said. “You really make our world better and because of you we have the confidence to shape our own world.” 

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Luxury Jeweler Mauboussin Brings ‘French Chic’ to US

Thierry Chaunu, Mauboussin North America CEO, is charged with reintroducing the luxury jewelry brand to a new audience in the US. Here, he demonstrates the technique of tying a ribbon on the hatbox-shaped package that customers take home. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Thierry Chaunu appears as if he is at home sitting in an oversized red chair with a white polka-dot pattern. The French native says he feels as if he has returned to his roots at the French luxury jewelry brand, Mauboussin.

In August, Chaunu was hired as the North American CEO of the company with its flagship store at Place Vendôme and a four-story US flagship on Madison Avenue where we spoke earlier this week.

The entrance of the Mauboussin Madison Avenue boutique. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

He talks excitedly about the introducing the brand to fashion-conscious women and educating consumers in the US, Canada and the Caribbean on the history of the company.

“Here in America I think people will develop a true appreciation of the history of the brand,” Chaunu said.

Mauboussin was founded in 1827 in Paris and in the 1940s moved its store to Place Vendôme. In the early to mid 20th Century, the company catered to European royalty and also Hollywood stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn and Greta Garbo. During this time the company had a boutique in Madison Avenue in New York about 10 blocks away from its current location. Its Art Deco jewelry from the period continues to be a staple look in its current designs.

Mauboussin Festival Necklace featuring the Mauboussin star logo. This diamond necklace is available in 18k white gold or platinum. 

In addition, its logo of a star that appears to be in flight is a constant theme in its boutique and jewelry designs. The branding extends to the packaging the customers take home, which are in the shape of hatboxes. This harkens back to its 20th Century heydays, however, the design is thoroughly modern with the star logo appearing like a flock of black birds pointing upwards, gradually turning the top of the white box to black.

The brand is well known in France where there are about 30 boutiques and hundreds of points of sale. It also has a strong presence in Singapore, Japan, Morocco and Dubai.

The bridal suite is bathed in layers of white with crinoline tufting on the ceiling, and padded and feathered wall finishes. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

In 2008, the company, which hasn’t had a presence in the US since the Second World War, opened a grand four-story boutique on Madison Avenue near 63rd Street. Elaborate modern paintings, sculptures and furnishings (such as the polka dot chairs) are scattered throughout the building. The third floor bridal suite is bathed in layers of white with crinoline tufting on the ceiling, padded white wall finishes and thick white carpeting. The fourth floor used for entertaining has a full kitchen and bar. The first floor main retail space has the words amour toujours (love always), in graffiti style red paint on a white, brick wall above caricatures of what looks like snowmen and snowwomen in top hats and fancy dresses from the early 20th Century. The jewelry and watches are housed inside what the brand describes as “treasure boxes,”—sleek and modern dark wood boxes that stand on top of long, thin legs.

Sleek, modern "treasure boxes," which in this instance contains timepieces, are one of the design details of the Mauboussin boutique. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

While a great deal of money went into the location of the store on one of the priciest retail districts in the world and its design, it appears little actually went into marketing and advertising.

Chaunu is working on a number of ways to bring the brand a larger audience. The French native and longtime US citizen is a veteran of the luxury jewelry and watch industry and has worked for some of the world’s most prestigious brands, including Cartier, Chopard and Leviev. In fact, Chaunu says he considers Mauboussin a bit of a homecoming as he began his career with Cartier, another jewelry tenant at Place Vendôme.

The 18k Alessandra Ring with a a 1-carat round brillant diamond, GVS quality, and flanked by diamond baguettes.

He is focusing on finding the right product mix and retail environments to introduce the brand throughout North America. The details of how this will be done haven’t been determined and he is open to just about anything. However, he will focus on self-purchasing women.

“Our goal is to penetrate the US and go after the fashion conscious fine jewelry buyer who is into style and design and reach out to them with this Parisian chic appeal,” he says.

He has been traveling throughout North America trying to find retail partners. He is talking with independent jewelry retailers and department stores. It could take the form of having pieces as part of store’s larger display having a branded space inside a store (“shop in shops”). He also said branded boutiques in other cities may be in the mix.

18K white gold Solitaire Star Chance of Love Ring with diamond pave. It is available with a diamond from 0.10-carat to 1-carat.

Over the years the brand increased and diversified its product lines to match the changing consumer. No longer just for royalty and Hollywood, the brand produces pieces that are as fashionable as they are refined in price points ranging from less than $1,000 to well into the six figures.

In addition to its logo appearing on many designs, the company focuses on platinum and white gold, said Laurence Bouard, the director of the Madison Avenue store. Other than that, gemstones, diamonds and other materials are used freely in its designs. Within this framework, there’s a great deal of versatility with each design in terms of the sizes and types of gemstones that can be used.

In France, by far its largest market, Chaunu said the company has been successful with pop up stores and other retail programs to attract a larger, younger audience.

Chaunu explains that while he has hit the ground running since his hiring two months ago, he is being patient, looking for the right mix of products with the right retailers.

“I don’t know how this will play out but it’s a logical development for a brand,” he says. “I’m taking a cautious, step-by-step approach and develop a presence where it makes sense…. You don’t want to rush, rush, rush. You need all the ingredients to come together.”

Like most brands, the company also has other product lines, such as eyewear and very popular fragrances for women and men. However, aggressive promotion of these products will be done down the line. For now, Chaunu says the focus is on jewelry.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Winning Jewelry Designs From 2014 AGTA Spectrum Awards

Best of Show: 'Tropical Storm' Ring by James Currens of J.W. Currens. Platinum ring is centered with a 22.10-carat emerald surrounded by swirling patterns of diamonds (11.47 ctw.). This piece also took first place in the Classical category.

Colored gemstone jewelry took center stage Monday as the American Gem Trade Association announced the winners of its annual Spectrum Awards competition and allowed the press to view nearly all of the entries at an undisclosed location in New York. 

Best Use of Color: Erica Courtney's 18k yellow gold earrings feature boulder opals (22.84 ctw.) and fire opals (2.62 ctw.) accented with orange sapphires (1.75 ctw.) and Paraiba tourmalines (.70 ctw.). 

Lined up on tabletops in an unadorned room was a variety of pieces representing the wealth of diversity and creativity of the worldwide jewelry industry. The competition and showcase, in its 30th year, is organized by the American Gem Trade Association, a North American trade organization representing the colored gem and cultured pearl industries. This competition is by far the largest and most prestigious for those who create with natural colored gemstones and cultured pearls.

Best Use of Platinum and Color: "Coleman's Smokey Blues" earrings by Deirdre Featherstone of Featherstone Design feature cushion-cut blue spinels (3.86 ctw.) and lavender spinels (4.02 ctw.) accented with multi-colored sapphires, garnets, tourmalines and diamonds.

The AGTA Spectrum Awards serves as the closest thing in the jewelry industry to gauge fashion trends. Unlike the other industries, the production cycle involving jewelry is much slower. Gather the materials, building the pieces and distributing them takes time. Plus, fine jewelry of the quality on display at the Spectrum Awards is designed to be a long-term purchase—even an investment. Finally, these pieces are largely created by individuals and small firms. They are more inclined to reflect a personal style rather than international fashion trends. These pieces, particularly the winners, will help set the standard for the coming year. 

1st Place Fashion Forward: Sterling and 18K yellow gold 'Robot Heart' necklace BY Katey Brunini OF K. Brunini Jewels. This extremely large piece features a 1363.96-carat heart-shaped opal accented with Diamonds (1.53 ctw.). The heart lights up in several patterns.

As far as trends do go there were a few. The mixing of colors seemed more dramatic this year. The best example of this is Erica Courtney’s 18k yellow gold earrings (second picture) with its mix of boulder opals, fire opals, orange sapphires and Paraiba tourmalines

Best Use of Pearls: 18K white gold drop earrings by Anil Maloo, Baggins, Inc., that feature 32 Japanese Akoya cultured pearls accented with round brilliant Diamonds (4.43 ctw.). It was also the winner of the Bridal Wear category.

Pearl jewelry showed more variety. There were necklaces made with carved pearls and multicolored pearls. For bridal, white is still the way to go but Anil Maloo, who took first place in the “Bridal Wear” category, managed to mix shades with drop earrings in a cage design using white gold and white diamonds with white Japanese Akoya cultured pearls peeking out through the openings of the cage (pictured above).

Business/Day Wear - 1st Place: 22K and 18K yellow gold "Blue Waters" necklace with opal doublets and diamonds (1.86 ctw.) by Jonathan Lee Rutledge of Jonathan Lee Rutledge, Inc. 

The one trend that involves color has been going on for so long now that it’s difficult to still describe it as a trend. Obviously color was always part of the mix in jewelry. However, during the global recession, jewelry designers and manufacturers were looking for ways to create less expensive jewelry with high design. One way was to creatively add color through a mix of less expensive gemstones to offset the spike in gold prices and more expensive diamonds. 

Evening Wear - 1st Place: Platinum and white gold "Blue Fin" ring by Leon Mege of Leon Mege, Inc. This ring features a 12.75 ct. Paraiba Tourmaline cabochon accented with diamonds.

This has created an explosion of creativity in all price points that continues today and now serves as a dominate part of fine jewelry design.

Men's Wear - 1st Place: 14K white and 18K yellow gold men's lapel pin by Mark Schneider of Mark Schneider Design. This lapel pin features carved black Jade accented with white Diamonds (.28 ctw), Rubies (.04 ctw.), and cognac and yellow diamonds (.99 ctw.).

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Kanye Gives Kim Kardashian 15-Carat Diamond Engagement Ring

The news is out. Kanye West popped the question to Kim Kardashian. The more important part of the story is the 15-carat engagement ring he gave her. 

The diamond on the ring is more than a carat smaller than the center stone of the $2 million, 20-carat engagement ring given to Kardashian in 2011 by her former husband Kris Humphries. 

But what it lacks in size it may have been made up by the quality of the stone. The diamond is being described in reports as “flawless.” If the diamond is indeed “flawless” or “internally flawless” it could potentially be more valuable than the ring Humphries gave her. That ring was graded as I color and VS1 clarity, which is generally an above average grade. It sold at auction a week ago for $749,000, less than half of the original purchase price. 

Reports also describe the new ring as being much more expensive than the Humphries ring. 

“For a frame of reference, a 10 carat, D, Internally Flawless diamond cost about five times more than a 10 carat I, VS1,” said Joe Murawski of Joden World Resources, an antique and estate jeweler. 

David Cooper of Jeff Cooper Designs, a bridal jewelry manufacturer, said that while the improved grade of the diamond (if the reports are true) will add value, there are other more personal considerations that should go into a successful engagement ring purchase. 

“To me, what’s most importance when viewing any stone is what the stone says to you,” Cooper said. “A diamond like a person is unique and it should have a presence, personality and beauty all its own—regardless of color and clarity.” 

This ring, as the previous one, is designed by Lorraine Schwartz, jewelry designer to the Hollywood stars and a personal friend of Kardashian. The one photograph of the ring being circulated from the Instagram account of hairstylist Clyde Haygood, is difficult to see the diamond clearly. Cooper and I think it might be an emerald cut but a better view is needed. No matter the cut, Cooper approves of the design. 

“I honestly can't see the ring well but I can say the ring is clean and is designed in a very traditional style,” Cooper said. “I love how the metal is minimized and allows the diamonds to take the spotlight. Regardless of their clothing and other fashion choices, this is a 100 percent winner no matter the day, year or decade. Classic never goes out of style”

Meanwhile, Murawski says buying a serious diamond engagement ring is a question of “what you like and what makes sense.”

“The D, Internally flawless diamond is certainly more valuable, but the I, VS1 is more sensible, because there is a far greater market for that stone…. (However) There are those customers who would say, ‘Why would I have something that’s less than the best when I can afford the best?’ Then it is less about making a judgment of sensibility, and is more about making a judgment of preference--what the buyer likes. Both judgments are valid.”

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mouawad Designs $10M Victoria’s Secret Royal Fantasy Bra

Candice Swanepoel models the $10 million bra.

The $10 million Victoria’s Secret Royal Fantasy Bra and Belt designed by Mouawad will be worn by Victoria’s Secret Angel Candice Swanepoel. The bejeweled bra will be unveiled in the 2013 Victoria’s Secret Dreams & Fantasies Catalogue as well as at The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show airing December 10 on the CBS television network.

The Royal Fantasy Bra and Belt features more than 4,200 precious gems from around the world including rubies, diamonds, and yellow and blue sapphires. Handset in 18k gold, the bra is completed with a 52-carat, pear-shaped center ruby.

The luxury jeweler said it was inspired by the “colorful, wild and trend-setting” 1960s “when models like Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton and Patty Boyd ruled the runways and dominated the covers of Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper's Bazaar.” The jewelry on the Royal Fantasy Bra and Belt also used the British Royal Crown Jewels as an inspiration with diamonds, rubies and sapphires in a patriot display of red, white and blue. 

This will be the first time Swanepoel will wear the bra. Since 2001 when Supermodel Heidi Klum wore the first Victoria’s Secret Fantasy Bra, it has been a tradition for the lingerie and beauty products retailer. Other supermodels that have worn fantasy bras over the years include Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, Selita Ebanks, and Gisele Bündchen.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2013

9th China International Gold, Jewellery & Gem Fair – Shanghai opens Nov. 8

The key fine jewelry trade fair in Eastern China, the 9th edition of the China International Gold, Jewellery & Gem Fair – Shanghai, will be held from Nov. 8 – 11 at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center.

More than 300 exhibitors from 17 countries and regions will showcase contemporary jewelry, classic bestsellers and up-and-coming trends in 17,000 square meters of exhibition space.

“The trickle-down effect from China’s booming economy has contributed to the robust growth in jewelry consumption in China,” said officials representing UBM Asia, which owns and operates the tradeshow.

Retail sales of consumer goods in Shanghai totaled RMB388 billion ($63.63 billion) in the first half of 2013, according to the Shanghai government, and sales during that period increased by 60 percent.

With its November schedule, the Shanghai fair provides a last-minute opportunity for buyers to replenish inventories for the Christmas and Chinese New Year seasons.

The fair will have several pavilions and special product displays. They include:

* Premier Pavilion, which features world-renowned high-end jewelry retailers;

* Taiwan Pavilion with 30 exhibitors, featuring with its translucent jade and jadeite jewelry;

* Sri Lanka and Thailand Pavilions with 40 exhibitors featuring colored gemstones;

* The Australia Pavilion will make its debut at the Fair featuring its national gem: opal. It will include the National Opal Collection with its display of rare opal fossils and specimens from the dinosaur age.

Translation services will be provided on site for free, upon request. An on-site professional product testing service to examine the quality of products. In addition, a free shuttle bus service will be provided to take visitors from Exit 4 of “Yaohua Road” Metro Station to the fair venue.

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

JJ Number 8 Jewelry Releases ‘Freedom’ Video

I have been following the JJ Number 8 jewelry brand since I first met the founder of the company, Jamie, at the 2011 Centurion Jewelry Show, where she was selected as an “Emerging Designer” winner.

The brand specializes in marquise-shaped gemstones with cabochon finishes as well as hoop earrings. The pieces are colorful and playful. Jamie (who prefers to be called “JJ”) also has a knack of presenting her brand in a stylish way through her marketing and advertising programs by focusing on the Southern California lifestyle that is so much of a part of who she is. 

She has now extended her branding to a new medium with the release of the video “Freedom,” featuring a beautiful woman in beautiful jewelry enjoying the Southern California beach lifestyle.It has become the centerpiece of all of her new marketing activities. 

“When I design JJ Number 8 jewelry, I have this world I escape to in my imagination,” Jamie said. “It’s a world that brings me peace. Up until now, it’s been a world that I've only been able to express through my jewelry. But I wanted to share this world and bring the story to life through film and artistic cinematography and invite everyone to experience it with me.”

Jamie said the video mixes a nurturing calmness, fun and soft energy, and playful femininity.

“To me, it celebrates what it really feels like to be a woman,” she said.

It's good for me to see young jewelry brands with quality products and a strong focus continue to grow and prosper. The video is below:


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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Big Pink and a Big Blue Diamond Fetched Big Bucks At Christie’s

Two fancy colored diamonds were the top sellers at Christie’s New York Magnificent Jewels sale Tuesday. Meanwhile, the diamond engagement ring that Kris Humphries gave to Kim Kardashian at the same sale made lots of noise but ended up only having the 12th highest sale price at $749,000.

The top lots among the 389 offered were:

* An 8.77-carat rectangular-cut fancy intense pink VVS1 diamond that sold for more than $6.3 million, or $721,200 per carat (top photo). The buyer was Moussaieff Jewellers, a luxury retail jeweler with stores in London and Geneva.

* A 3.81-carat rectangular-cut fancy vivid blue VS1 diamond that sold for nearly $4 million, or more than $1 million per carat (pictured above). The buyer requested anonymity.

The other top lots are as follows:

* A 25.30-carat rectangular-cut D color VVS1 diamond that sold for more than $3.1 million.

* An 18.28-carat cushion-cut D color VVS2 diamond that sold for more than $2 million.

* A 15.88-carat cushion-cut Kashmir sapphire that sold for more than $1.8 million.

* A 10.75-carat rectangular-cut D color internally flawless diamond that sold for nearly $1.4 million.

* A 17-carat rectangular-cut F color VS1 diamond ring that sold for more than $1.2 million. The ring was part of Diana Dollar Knowles Collection. Knowles, who died March 4 at the age of 95, was a noted San Francisco philanthropist and patron of the arts.

The auction at Christie’s Rockefeller Center headquarters took in more than $46.6 million with 75 percent of the items sold by lot and 85 percent sold by value.

However, the sale also notable for a number of big-ticket items that failed to sell. Among them:

* An 18k pink gold and platinum ring set with a 2.47-carat heart-shaped fancy purple-pink diamond and flanked on either side by a modified heart- shaped fancy intense blue diamond, weighing approximately 1.22 and 1.16 carats. Its high estimate was $1.55 million.

* A 37.20-carat modified pear-shaped fancy deep brown-yellow diamond mounted in 18k rose gold with a high estimate of $800,000.

* An 11.70-carat circular-cut diamond, with the shoulders set with baguette-cut diamonds, mounted in platinum that had a high estimate of $800,000.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kim Kardashian’s 20-Carat Engagement Ring Fetches $749,000 At Auction

Kris Humphries reportedly said he just wanted to move on so he can’t be too disappointed for the price his 20.5-carat diamond engagement ring to Kim Kardashian achieved at auction Tuesday.

The NBA basketball player, who paid a reported $2 million for the diamond and platinum ring for the reality TV star in 2011, saw the ring sell for $749,000 during Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction. While the ring did not sell for its original price it did easily exceed the high auction estimate of $500,000.

Listed simply as an “Impressive Diamond Ring,” the ring designed by Lorraine Schwartz is set with a 16.21-carat rectangular-cut diamond with I color, VS1 clarity. The diamond is flanked on either side with a trapeze-cut diamond, each weighing approximately 1.80 carats. 

The celebrity couple separated after 72 days of marriage in 2011. The divorce became final in 2012.

Although reports started circulating as to the owner of the ring, the provenance wasn’t confirmed until an unidentified person representing Humphries told E! News that it was indeed being sold by him. 

“He has long-since moved on and is very much looking forward to a successful auction at Christie's on Tuesday, and of course to returning to the court this upcoming NBA season as a Boston Celtic,” the representative said in a statement to the entertainment news network.

Rahul Kadakia, head of Jewelry for Christie’s Americas and Switzerland, who led the auction, announced that a portion of proceeds will benefit a charity. 

Bidding began at $200,000 and quickly rose to $480,000. After a pause it went to $520,000. It then slowly climbed to reach a final bid of $620,000. Commission and fees bought the price of the ring to $749,000.

It was the last item of the morning session of the auction. It is scheduled to resume at 2:30 p.m.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Largest Known Orange Diamond May Fetch $20 Million at Auction

The largest fancy vivid orange diamond ever to appear at auction will be the top lot in Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale to be held in Geneva on November 12. Weighing approximately 14.82 carats, this diamond, being called “The Orange,” is expected to fetch between $17 million and $20 million.

Pure orange diamonds, also named ‘Fire diamonds’ by gemologist Edwin Streeter in his book The Great Diamonds of the World (1882), are exceptionally rare in nature. It is more common to find orange diamonds with secondary colors. The orange color is the result of the presence of nitrogen during the diamond's creation. Among the very few fancy vivid orange diamonds that were ever sold at auction, the largest was less than 6 carats. “The Orange” is more than double that size.

At 5.54 carats, the Pumpkin diamond was largely considered to be the largest known fancy vivid orange diamond. It was purchased by Ronald Winston for $1.3 million and made into a ring by Winston and Phillip Bloch. Best Actress winner Halle Berry wore the ring to the 2002 Academy Awards.

A 4.19 carat fancy vivid orange diamond sold for a record price of $2.95 million in October 2011 at a Sotheby’s auction.

The Gemological Institute of America, which graded the diamond and issued its report, recently said: “Strongly colored diamonds in the orange hue range rarely exceed three or four carats in size when polished. (This diamond) is almost four times larger than that size range. In GIA’s colored diamond grading system, as the color appearance of strongly colored diamonds transitions from orangy yellow to orange the occurrence becomes progressively more rare—that is—the less yellow present the more rarely they occur.”

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‘If you have a piece of nice jewelry you should really enjoy it and wear it every day,’ Coffee with JNN: Dennis Chan of Qeelin

Dennis Chan (left) describing Qeelin's new "King & Queen" collection. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

As I walked into the sun-filled grand ballroom of Club Lusitano, a Portuguese heritage club in Hong Kong’s Central district, the Qeelin press conference was already underway. What I didn’t expect was a three course formal western style lunch that included New Zealand sole and a cheesecake with mixed berries.

On a stage speaking enthusiastically in Cantonese was Dennis Chan, the creative director and co-founder of the luxury jewelry brand. Towering over him is a model dressed in a long formal black dress wearing pieces of the just released jewelry from Qeelin’s “King & Queen” collection. Chan is dressed in a crisp black suit and white shirt with the collar unbuttoned. On his neck is a dragon pendant from the new collection. His shoes are the showstopper, a tiger-themed (I believe) print with gold-colored studs in the back. When I ask him about the shoes he just laughs and says they’re Italian and they matched his clothes.

Dennis Chan's Italian shoes. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Afterward, Chan went from table to table with another tall model dressed in a formal full-length red dress discussing the individual pieces in rapid-fire Chinese.

Dennis Chan demonstrating Phoenix necklace at Qeelin press conference. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

When compared to its peers in the international luxury jewelry world, Qeelin is different in several ways. It’s a relatively small and young company and it’s headquartered in Asia, not Europe.

The Hong Kong-based company combines traditional Chinese themes with French craftsmanship, a design-first philosophy, the use of precious materials and a bit of whimsy. Not yet 10 years old, the brand has 14 boutiques in China, Hong Kong and Europe; and other points-of-sale in Singapore, Tokyo and Europe.

18k rose gold, diamond pavé and ruby bracelet, part of Qeelin's King & Queen collection. The ring has a dragon head (shown) and phoenix head, which represent King and Queen, respectively.

While the company has European influences and distribution, it is focused on the China and Asian markets. This is precisely why French luxury conglomerate Kering (formerly PPR) purchased a majority stake in the relatively small and little-known brand. The December, 2012, acquisition surprised many observers.

“Qeelin is a small brand, but with strong growth potential. We focus much more on the brand’s ability to grow rather than on its current size,” said Alexis Babeau, Kering managing director. “As examples, Balenciaga or Bottega Veneta were very small brands too when we bought them back in 2001. Look at them now…. Qeelin is well positioned to tap the growth potential of the Asian market.”

Qeelin Dragon and Phoenix ring (with the phoenix head shown) made of 18k yellow gold, diamond pavé and rubies.

I had finished my work at the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair so being in the city provided me the opportunity to attend the press conference. Afterward, Chan and I sat for coffee and a short discussion about Qeelin and its future.

Chan said Hong Kong and China are Qeelin’s biggest markets; followed by Europe and Ukraine. “We have a lot of followers,” he said. “They collect everything we have.”

With the Kering acquisition, the boutique brand will have the ability to grow at a rapid pace. Chan said the company will open six to seven stores in China soon. However, he stresses that expansion won’t be rushed.

“We are expanding quite steadily, (but) we try not to expand and suddenly to be very big because it takes time for a luxury brand to grow,” the Hong Kong resident said. “But I think we have our own position in the industry … we rely a lot on design and craftsmanship and at the same time a lot of our jewelry could really touch people’s hearts.”

Chan said that the differences between Qeelin and its European brand counterparts are its advantages.

“If you look at Qeelin, you will find that it is very different,” he said. “We are not like Cartier and Van Cleef who have a long history. We’re a young brand. The interesting thing is we try to bring out the charm of Chinese design. It is traditional but it’s very much hip and fashionable.”

Phoenix necklace made of 18k white gold, diamond pave and rubies. The wings move.

Specifically, the brand creates modern, fashionable versions of traditional Chinese images. For example, its King & Queen line is based on variations of the Dragon (king) and the Phoenix (queen). The collection of rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings are made of 18k white and rose gold with diamond pavé and touches of rubies. In some cases the parts move, such as the wings on the Phoenix. The jewelry is light and lively and designed to be worn daily.

“The jewelry in my point of view shouldn't be very heavy and you should enjoy it,” he said. “Like my mom. She collects a lot of jewelry but then it always ends up in the safe. She’ll bring it out one or two times a year. If you have a piece of nice jewelry you should really enjoy it and wear it every day.”

Phoenix necklace made of 18k white gold, diamond pave and rubies. The wings move.

Chan began his career in London as a product designer before adding engineer and architect to his resume. His designs ranged from phone booths to the 33-meter high Millennium Clock Tower in Scotland.

“I really wanted to be a product designer,” he said. “In college all the lecturers tried to put me into fashion design because I got the highest marks in fashion. I’m still very much someone who falls in love with product.”

Over the years, his passion grew to include jewelry and watches and was inspired to design his own pieces based on what he felt was a gap in the marketplace.

“I became more intrigued about the world of luxury jewelry,” he said. “I love fashion and I’m a collector of watches. I started collecting jewelry as well. We couldn’t find something that has a Chinese touch but also very, very modern. It just did not exist in the market.”

While Chan has a partner (French entrepreneur Guillaume Brochard) this company is his vision. He stresses that it’s a design-first company. There is very little market research before determining new products. Nor are gems used to determine designs. And he is deeply involved in how the brand is positioned. The glass walls in the ballroom that overlook the crowded streets below were fronted by poster-sized black-and-white photographs of models dressed in Art Deco period clothing wearing Qeelin jewelry. These images were taken by Chan using 100-year-old lenses and a new version of a vintage camera.

“The pictures are very soft and different from digital,” he said.

Below is a promotional video for the new collection using the same imagery as the photography.

Chan says he gets his design ideas based on what’s around him.

“We don’t have a marketing sense,” he said. “It’s very much for me and also the friends around me. For example, at a dinner party I would notice what is lacking on my friends’ and I would feel this kind of product would fit them perfectly. That is more of the information and source when I’m designing new pieces of jewelry.”

He continued, “Unlike a lot of jewelers, we don’t start from the stones. We start from the design and then we try to find the best stone to go with the product. This is why when you look at the collection you always see a story or a design behind it, rather than seeing 10 carats of stones or big rubies and big sapphires. It doesn’t mean we don’t put attention on the stone it just means the stone serves as an enhancement of the design.”

18k white gold earring with diamond pavé and a ruby from the King & Queen collection.

There’s also a sense of fun. Chan said one collection called Ling Long, which is a bejeweled bell, is an example of this. Bells are common gifts for newborn children because the sound is thought to ward off evil spirits. In this case, the clapper of the bell is a diamond so the first sound the baby hears is the sound of a diamond.

“Qeelin is more like that,” he said. “A bit humorous, more fun, very fashionable and it’s still fine jewelry.”

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