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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Collectible Jewelry, Watches In Demand At Hong Kong Jewelry Fair

The “Antique & Vintage Jewellery” section of the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair is perhaps the least talked about area of the world’s largest jewelry trade fair. This year, from my perspective, it was among the busiest, if not the busiest, section of the show. This is despite the fact that prior to fair there was a sense that sales would be down based on recent headlines concerning the turbulence in China's stock market. 

“The world press exaggerated the negative business in Asia,” Edward Faber, co-owner of Aaron Faber Gallery, said at his very active booth. The retailer specializes in vintage and period jewelry and timepieces and in contemporary collectible jewelry. 

Faber said for both jewelry and watches, buyers are looking for unique, unusual pieces at a good price.

“Value is winning out in watches and motivating buyers,” he said.

Patricia Kiley Faber, the other half of the husband and wife team, said buyers are looking for jewelry they can “easily resell”. Also, one-of-a-kind pieces that are a bit different. 

This didn’t surprise specialists in the international auction houses I contacted prior to the show.

“Many collectors that we work with in the mainland are still buying. If anything the pressure on the financial markets pushes collectors to invest more of their wealth into a hobby that they love and enjoy,” said Sam Hines, Phillips International Head of Watches, who is based in Hong Kong. “They also feel more comfortable having something with intrinsic value rather than a piece of paper that can suddenly be worth much less. Many collectors also say to us that they prefer having something to wear and enjoy which is hopefully increasing in value.”

Graeme Thompson, Bonhams Asia director of Jewellery, added, “Colored stones are doing incredibly well. Vintage (pieces over 100 years old) and period jewelry (representing a specific time frame and style) markets are up. There are opportunities to be had.” He also notes that wealth is being created in China “unlike anywhere else in the world. That’s going to have a clear impact on collectible market in the next five to 10 years.” 

The bottom line is that in good times or in bad, there always seems to be demand for collectible jewelry and watches. 

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Mixed Results For Diamonds And Gems At Hong Kong Jewelry Fair

Registration on opening day at the materials portion of the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. Photo Credit: UBM Asia
Final figures for the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair haven’t been released yet but it appears that visitor numbers for the portion of the fare dealing with jewelry making materials, equipment and packaging will be flat or slightly down. 

This portion of the show (which is held at two venues) was hosted at the Asia World-Expo. It hosts the largest diamond pavilion in the world, the largest gemstone marketplace in Asia and a pavilion representing all of the major pearl regions. It also includes jewelry-making equipment and displays and boxes for jewels.

The diamond industry has had a difficult year and going into the show expectations were low. 

“The diamond industry in general, like a lot of other commodities, was geared toward rapid Chinese growth. Now things have slowed which created a lot of inventory,” Russell Shor, senior industry analyst with the Gemological Institute of America, said prior to the fair. “What you’re going to see is cautious buying and hard bargaining on prices. They have an idea of what they can sell for the year and they are not going to take a chance on buying anything extra…. It’s a buyer’s market.”

However, during the fair, he said most dealers “did better than expected.”

Ernie Blom, president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, said in a statement the fair turned out to be good sign for dealers.

“The Hong Kong show, due to the global nature of its exhibitors, buyers and visitors, serves as a useful barometer of industry sentiment, so it is very promising that demand at the fair was stable.”

In the colored gem area, Gary Roskin, executive director of the International Colored Gemstone Association, said about 100 members exhibiting in a pavilion managed by the organization, another 100 vendors in the 22 country pavilions and about 200 members attending as buyers.

“With the Chinese economy slowing down, our ICA members came in with modest expectations. However, like any trade show, some of our ICA exhibitors had very good shows despite the economic news. There were also a number of our members who were happy to see established clients return to place good orders, while a few ICA members mentioned actually meeting new clients who saved the show.”

He adds, “As an exhibitor, you have to be at the shows consistently, in good times and bad, so that you establish yourself as a reliable company.”

The most crowded part of the show was the equipment area, where throngs of people were viewing everything from 3D printers to finishing and polishing equipment.

Wolfram Diener, senior VP of UBM Asia, said this was promising for the industry because it shows that jewelers and manufacturers expect to do more business. If not, many wouldn’t be looking to upgrade their equipment. 

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Hong Kong Jewelry Fair Exceeds Expectations

Inside the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre where the finished fine jewelry portion of the fair was being held. Photo credit: UBM Asia

Since the global financial crisis of 2008, economic instability, geopolitical tensions and outright war has factored into the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. But world’s largest trade fair proved to be resilient and kept growing.

This year, the fair (which ran from 16 - 22 September) may have faced its biggest challenge with a slowdown in the China market. For the show that bills itself as the “gateway to China,” this could have easily meant fewer visitors. However, the fair is on pace to achieve another year of record (although modest) growth, perhaps eclipsing 60,000 visitors. It should be noted that this is in comparison to a very strong 2014, when attendance grew by 12 percent.

Wolfram Diener, Senior VP of UBM Asia, which owns and operates the trade fair, acknowledged that not only China, but all the other BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are struggling this year. However, he also notes that jewelry sales grew 5.2 per cent for the first half of 2015 and the country's Gross Domestic Product grew by 7 per cent for the same period.

“I just came back from Shanghai furniture show and it had a 15 to 20 percent increase in buyers,” he says. “It’s not the market has perished but it’s a mixed picture.

In terms of sales it’s a little early but Diener says that business was better than the modest expectations going into the show.

“Most notable is that many exhibitors saw a more diverse buyer activity,” Diener says. “There were more orders from Japan, Korea, Philippines, US, whilst Chinese visitors appeared to buy more than earlier in the year.”

The number of vendors exhibiting this year totaled 3,748—53 more than last year—at the show’s two venues: The Asia World-Expo where jewelry making materials and equipment vendors are located; and the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, for fine jewelry exhibitors. The small increase is because both convention facilities are full. Any growth is due to the creative use of the 135,000 square meters of exhibition space.

“It’s a small increase but it reminds you that the show is worldwide and it reflects our constraints,” Diener says. “If we have more convention center facilities we could grow much more.” 

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Christie’s To Sell World’s Largest Cushion-Shaped Fancy Vivid Pink Diamond


The world’s largest cushion-shaped Fancy Vivid Pink diamond to be offered at auction will be one of the highlights of Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale on November 10 in Geneva. Its estimate is $23 - $28 million.

The diamond is set in a ring and surrounded with a double row of pavé-set white diamonds and a third row of small pink diamonds underneath. The band is comprised of small circular-cut white diamonds set in platinum.

The diamond will tour Christie’s locations around the world, starting with Hong Kong, and continuing to New York and London prior to the exhibition and sale in Geneva.

Diamonds of a distinct pink hue are among the most sought-after, Christie’s said. While most pink diamonds exhibit a color modifier like purple, orange, brown or grey, this 16.08 carat gem shows no trace of a secondary color. In addition, it’s classified as a Type IIa diamond, which means it contains little if any nitrogen and accounts for less than 2 percent of all diamonds. 

In almost 250 years of auction history, only three pure vivid pink diamonds of over ten carats have appeared for sale, the auction house said.

“As large and rare colored diamonds of this caliber become increasingly hard to locate, this 16.08 carat Fancy Vivid pink diamond comes to market at a time when great gems are mirroring prices achieved for masterpieces in the world of fine art,” said Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewellery. 

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50-Carat Hope Spinel Shatters Estimates, Fetches $1.4 Million

A rare colored gem from one of the world’s most distinguished collections set a world record Thursday at Bonhams London Fine Jewellery Sale.

The 50.13-carat Hope Spinel fetched $1.4 million at the auction, setting a world record for achieving a price of $30,000 per carat, nearly double the previous record. It also shattered its high estimate of $310,000. 

The octagonal step-cut gem was owned by London banker Henry Philip Hope whose collection of approximately 700 gems included the Hope Diamond (The 45.52-carat blue diamond that is part of the permanent collection in the Smithsonian National Natural History Museum). He kept the collection until his death in 1839. It’s been 98 years since the spinel was last offered for sale. 

The gem is set within decorative old brilliant and rose-cut diamond claws, framed by larger old brilliant-cut diamonds (total diamond weight 6.50 carats), mounted in silver and gold and worn as a brooch/pendant with detachable fittings. There’s a handwritten note in the case describing it as a “spinel-ruby” from the Hope Collection.

“It was an exceptional gemstone with a priceless provenance and these pieces just don't come to the open market often,” said Jean Ghika, director of Bonhams Jewelry for the UK and Europe.

Based on its color and large size, the gem was traced to the ancient Kuh-i-Lal mines, in Tajikistan, where some of the most celebrated ancient spinels were found. 

“These historic mines are geographically difficult to access and by the 20th century they weren't used due to political reasons,” Ghika said. “Spinels of this size and quality are therefore exceptionally rare even without the provenance of the Hope Spinel.”

Other top lots from the auction include the following: 

* An Art Deco enamel, gem-set and diamond “Tutti Frutti” bracelet, by Cartier, New York, 1929 that sold for $700,599. The articulated geometric strap, with carved emerald and ruby and black enamel vine motifs, against an old brilliant and single-cut diamond ground, mounted in platinum, diamonds approximately 10 carats total, signed Cartier. The luxury jeweler’s Indian-inspired Tutti Frutti jewels are some of its most celebrated designs. 

* A sapphire and diamond necklace, ring and earring suite that sold for $315,537. The necklace is designed as a graduated series of claw-set oval-cut sapphire clusters, within double and single-tier brilliant-cut diamond surrounds, alternating with pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamond cluster floral motifs. With the earrings and ring, the sapphires totaled 128 carats and the diamonds approximately 84.80 total carats.

* A natural pearl ring in a circular shape between baguette-cut diamond shoulders that sold for $315,537. 

* A diamond “Torsade” bangle, by Suzanne Belperron, circa 1932, sold for $251,360. The jewel consists of a “gadrooned” cuff of alternating pavé-set old brilliant-cut diamond and polished platinum sections (diamonds approximately 20.70 carats total).

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Monday, September 14, 2015

The ‘Esperanza’ Diamond Story

The 8.52-carat Esperanza diamond as it is being cut into a rare Triolette shape. Photo credit: Gretchen Friedrich 

Gretchen Friedrich Jewelry News Network’s social media manager, spent two days watching a rare 8.52-carat diamond found in an Arkansas state park, as it was being cut and polished at Stanley Jewelers, North Little Rock, Ark. This is her first-hand account. 

By Gretchen Friedrich

I fully buy into this song lyric, “Diamonds are a girl's best friend.” For Bobbie (Brooke) Oskarson, this famous line rings very true.

The story begins in June with the Colorado resident heading south to Arkansas with her boyfriend, Travis, at the wheel. They are traveling to see a family friend of his in the Northeast corner of the state. Their vacation budget was limited, and fun was concentrated around inexpensive activities.

Travis is a mining enthusiast. It was his idea to visit the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Ark. to dig in the dirt.

Diamond cutter Mike Botha working on the Esperanza,  Photo credit: Gretchen Friedrich 

They paid the state park fee of $8, received the customary introduction to the park and education on diamonds. This is likely the only open-to-the-public diamond mine in the world. It is actually a field, not a dark, cavernous hole in the earth. The bad part about the mine not being a cave is that it is hot in the summer months.

Twenty minutes into their digging, Oskarson is searching for shade. As she makes her way to an area of the park near a tree, she noticed a clear stone. Oskarson had never seen a rough diamond before, so she stuck it in her pocket thinking it was quartz—another mineral abundant at the site, along with calcite, garnet, and a plethora of other semi-precious stones.

Photo credit: Gretchen Friedrich

She hands the stone to Travis, regroups after her break in the shade and keeps digging. Hours later they take their findings to the state park rangers for inspection. The ranger on duty takes the stone and excuses herself. She comes back several times telling the couple to please wait. Needless to say, their patience paid off.

The ranger finally returns to congratulate Oskarson on her find. It was indeed a diamond. A large diamond weighing 8.52 carats. Oskarson’s initial reaction was a combination of colorful phrases not suitable for work. She promptly apologized to the people gathered around her and immediately went into shock.

Fast forward to September, 2015. Oskarson has assembled a crew of professionals to help auction the Esperanza diamond (Spanish for Hope), named for Oskarson’s niece.

Bobbie Oskarson with the Esperanza diamond. Photo credit: Gretchen Friedrich

Oskarson is auctioning the diamond (which will be turned into a jewel) in December to fund her dream of becoming a homeowner. She works as an administrative professional for a non-profit in Denver. They help mentally disadvantaged adults find caring homes. Her pay is small compared to the stacks of good deeds she does on a daily basis.

Oskarson’s new diamond family consists of Neil Beaty, certified gemologist and appraiser in Denver, his wife Sheri Allen, Mike and Evert Botha, a father and son team (respectively) who own Embee Diamonds, Prince Albert, Canada, and the Stanley family, owners of Stanley Jewelers, North Little Rock, Ark. The one thing they have in common is they are members of the American Gem Society, a jewelry trade association.

This is where the fun begins. Neil and Sheri Beaty have taken Oskarson’s dream to heart and are helping to maximize her “big bag of money” as Neil states, at the end of this process. Neil taps into his AGS connections to continue this American story.

Mike Botha gives someone an up close look at the the diamond.  Photo credit: Gretchen Friedrich

Neil reaches out to the Bothas, who are willing to temporarily relocate to Arkansas with all their cutting gear in tow. Mike is an expert diamond cutter with more than 20 years of experience. He likes to tell jokes while delicately shaping a priceless gem. I asked him why he chose diamond cutting. His response: “Because accounting is boring.” He says this while dressed like every accountant I know.

The father and son are camped in the showroom at Stanley Jewelers with the public invited to view the process. This family business is in its third generation, and exhibits an extensive knowledge of jewelry with a flair for making everyone feel welcome.

Loyd Stanley, representing the jeweler’s second generation, can be found smiling at everyone, coffee cup in hand, telling stories of his years in the business. Laura Stanley, Loyd’s daughter is shifting her time between design and operations. Her sister Caroline Stanley flew in from California to be part of the show. Caroline owns Red Jewel, jewelry industry marketing firm. Their brother Steve is also on board, occupied constantly with the stream of clients walking through the doors.

Shirley Strawn, the woman who discovered the 3.09-carat Strawn-Wagner diamond in 1990 at Crater of Diamonds State Park with two park officials. Photo credit: Gretchen Friedrich

It's a packed house and a bevy of activity. Media from all outlets, plus curious customers, and the park rangers from the Crater of Diamonds make for a constant buzz. There was even a diamond reunion on September 10. The Crater of Diamonds park rangers arrived with some of the prize winning diamonds found at the park.

Shirley Strawn, a fourth generation diamond digger, was there with her Strawn-Wagner diamond, a D color Internally Flawless gem she had mounted into a ring. She told me that day, “Every diamond has its own energy and its own place.” It’s a perfect summary for my experience with Esperanza.

Oskarson, who had only been in a jewelry store once before, found her destiny in Esperanza and set off a domino effect of events. The culmination resulted in one of the cleanest diamonds Mike Botha said he’s ever seen in his years as a diamond cutter. The energy that all the players brought to the table was one of excitement and camaraderie. Information exchange was constant as were laughs and stories.

Another look at the 8.52-carat Esperanza diamond as it is being cut into a rare Triolette shape. Photo credit: Gretchen Friedrich 

When my time to depart arrived I was sent off with hugs, an invitation to Denver, a coffee mug identical to the one Loyd Stanley uses and a treasure trove of education, memories and new friends. Esperanza is well on her way to becoming a one-of-a-kind gem.

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Will The September Hong Kong Jewelry Fair Overcome Global Tensions Again?

Opening day registration crowd at the 2014 September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair

The world’s largest fine jewelry tradeshow opens Wednesday amid a global backdrop that remains volatile and unpredictable. 

As a true international event, the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair is susceptible to economic swings and geopolitical tensions throughout the world. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, this instability has heightened significantly. But somehow the world’s largest fine jewelry tradeshow not only remains resilient but manages to continue its robust growth. 

The tradeshow will be held September 16 – 20 at the AsiaWorld-Expo for jewelry making materials and equipment and September 18 – 22 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre for finished fine jewelry ranging from inexpensive silver pieces to high jewelry art creations. My first day at the fair will be September 17. 

Last year seemed to be a particularly difficult time as military actions in the Middle East and the Ukraine were exacerbated by the build up that led to mass protests in Hong Kong and a category 8 Typhoon. But despite all of this the number of visitors to the show, owned and operated by UBM Asia, grew by an outstanding 12 percent. 

This year while unrest in the Middle East and the Ukraine as well as other geopolitical hotspots around the world remains, the big issue is China. The dramatic decline and instability of the country’s stock markets has changed a lot of this. Not only did big investors lose out but the markets are full of retail traders who lost their life savings. This is in addition to the ongoing government-imposed austerity measures on China’s elite. 

This change in the Chinese economy was evident by a 5 percent year-over-year decline in gold jewelry demand for the second quarter of 2015, according to the World Gold Council. China is the world’s largest gold jewelry market. 

It’s the same story for many emerging markets. For example, India, the world’s second largest gold jewelry market, saw its second quarter demand fall by 23 percent. Brazil’s gold jewelry demand declined 8 percent.

The good news is that GDP growth in China is at 7 percent this year. The other modest bright spot is the US, which is growing at a slow, stable pace. Europe’s economy remains flat. 

Talking to several people this past week, few have high expectations in terms of sales. The fair has the world’s largest diamond display but the slowdown in jewelry demand in China (as well as other issues) has hit this industry segment particularly hard. 

Colored gems found a larger and broader audience in recent years but the anticipation is for steady sales at the show. 

As far as collectible and estate jewelry and watches, those I spoke with still expect good positive growth as the wealthy buy in good times because they have the money and in bad times as a hedge against other investments. 

As far as overall show attendance, UBM Asia officials are being conservative saying it will be about the same as last year, at just over 59,100. However, that’s the same thing they said last year.  

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

The ‘First Omega in Space’ Speedmaster Chronograph

This Omega Speedmaster Chronograph is modeled after the first Omega watch that went into space and would soon become known as the “Moonwatch.”

On October 3, 1962, astronaut Walter "Wally" Schirra wore his personal Omega Speedmaster onboard the “Sigma 7” spacecraft of the Mercury program that orbited the earth six times. It marked the start of a long history of space exploration for the Speedmaster Chronograph as the official watch for all NASA manned missions and marketing gold that the Swiss watch brand has mined for more than 50 years.

Named “The First Omega in Space,” the look of this watch includes many of the original Speedmaster’s details along with some new touches. It is driven by the Omega caliber 1861, the same movement used in the Moonwatch.

The updated 18k Sedna gold case is based on the original “pre-professional” Speedmaster, with symmetric lugs and a 1962 Seahorse medallion on the caseback. Sedna gold is an alloy created by Omega.

On its face, the timepiece features a brown polished ceramic bezel ring and a matt chromium nitride tachymeter scale. The same brown color is included on the PVD subdials and minutes track that encircle the opaline silvery dial. Along with the applied indexes, the hands are all made of 18k Sedna gold and contain a mix of “Alpha” and “Baton” designs.

Each watch is numbered and the caseback has an engraving that reads “The First Omega In Space, October 3, 1962.”

The finishing touch is a vintage looking brown leather strap with beige stitching. 

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Hermès Adds Elegance to the Apple Watch

Apple Watch with the Hermès Double Tour strap

Apple on Wednesday unveiled a new version of the Apple Watch with leathers straps designed and crafted by Hermès. 

It’s a small but important touch as Apple has been selling its smartwatch as a luxury item, competing against Swiss timepieces. I think the only people the Silicon Valley giant convinced of this were some of the leaders of Swiss watch companies. What Hermès provides is a touch of elegance for this consumer electronics product. 

Apple Watch with Hermès Single Tour strap

The Apple Watch Hermès collection consists of the Single Tour, Double Tour and Cuff leather straps designed by the Parisian luxury brand. There are several color and style options. 

The Single Tour with the 38 mm stainless steel case comes in fauve Barenia leather, noir box leather and capucine Swift leather, while the Single Tour with 42 mm stainless steel case comes in fauve Barenia leather and noir box leather. The Double Tour pairs with the 38 mm stainless steel case and is available in fauve Barenia leather and bleu jean, capucine and etain Swift leather. The Cuff pairs with the 42 mm stainless steel case and is available in fauve Barenia leather only.

Apple Watch with Hermès Cuff strap

“Apple and Hermès make very different products, but they reflect the deep appreciation of quality design,” Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, said in a statement. “Both companies are motivated by a sincere pursuit of excellence and the desire to create something that is not compromised. Apple Watch Hermès is a true testament to that belief.”

Across the collection, each stainless steel case features an etching of the Hermès signature and includes a customizable face with three exclusive dial designs inspired by Clipper, Cape Cod and Espace Hermès watches.

Hermès strap with four color options for the Apple Watch

“At Hermès, we strive to provide our clients with elegant, creative and functional objects for their everyday lives,” said Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Hermès’ executive vice president in charge of artistic direction. “What more contemporary and relevant expression of this principle could there be than this collaboration with Apple. We are strongly united by the same deeply held ideas and principles. I see it as the establishment of an alliance in excellence.” 

Apple Watch Hermès starts at $1,100 for the 38 mm stainless steel case with the Single Tour, $1,150 for the 42 mm stainless steel case with the Single Tour, $1,250 for the 38 mm stainless steel case with the Double Tour and $1,500 for the 42 mm stainless steel case with the Cuff. The collection will be available at select Apple retail stores, select Hermès stores, specialty stores and department stores beginning October 5.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bringing The Success Of Bond Street, Hatton Garden and the Diamond District, Online

Bond Street, London Photo credit: Nando Machado /

By Chris Benham, co-founder and director of Inspired Jewellery Ltd., and Angelka Vegar, marketing coordinator of Inspired Jewellery Ltd.

Why do jewelry stores cluster together in the same place? Go to Bond Street in London, and you’ll find the likes of Cartier, De Beers, and Tiffany & Co., all vying for your attention. Head down to Hatton Garden in London and you’ll find a lineup of jewelry stores complete with an eager jewelry salesperson trying to entice you in. However, Bond Street and Hatton Garden, as well as the Diamond District in New York, are more than a geographic location—they are in fact brands.

The reason jewelry stores set up in these areas is that when competing or complementary businesses band together under a central brand, whether that be Bond Street, Hatton Garden, or the Diamond District, everyone benefits from increased sales. Buyers flock towards the central brand to browse and buy their dream piece of jewelry. The association with a globally recognized central brand is not at the expense of the individual brands that are connected to it. Far from it. The value of each brand increases by way of positioning themselves within an esteemed group and ensuring everyone knows where they are situated.

Hatton Garden, London Photo Credit: Nando Machado /

In the online retail world, standing out from the crowd can be even more challenging as there’s no inherent ‘foot traffic’ to tap into when companies launch their online store. They are mostly at the mercy of Google, which actually isn’t that good for product shopping. This is why bringing central brands online is trending. There are of course lots of online directories that tap into the online “foot traffic” of a destination location such as Hatton Garden but few go deeper and offer customers the ability to search products across all stores. Amazon is good for searching for products but brands lose their identity on there so many luxury brands tend to shy away.

So what are progressive jewelers doing to ensure they are ready to take advantage of this trend? They are becoming experts in their chosen niche. Niche experts, such as the Fair Trade Jewellery Company in Toronto and their passionate, considered and in depth knowledge of the stakeholders in their supply chain, allow them to stand out from the crowd while at the same time connecting with the collective Fair Trade movement.

By establishing a niche, jewelry retailers are maintaining margins in an online world where consumers have access to products from all over the world. In addition, operating within a niche provides an opportunity for jewelers to grow their audience. Where once a retailer was limited by their geographical boundaries and lack in numbers to service a niche, now, by adopting a multi-channel strategy which includes physical retail and eCommerce, they can tap into already-established communities of customers around the globe who are passionate about what they are selling. And by joining collectives, jewelers can effectively sell to the converted.

The online retail world is set to increasingly mirror the physical one, with collective brands surfacing in ever increasing numbers. Before your trip to New York you’ll be jumping online to find products from your favorite brands, or discover new brands, before even setting foot in The Big Apple. Or maybe you don’t have the luxury of a trip to New York and that’s okay too, because in the future of retail, you can bring the Diamond District to your very own living room.

Jewelry News Network guest columnist, Chris Benham, is co-founder and director of Inspired Jewellery Ltd., Wellington, New Zealand, a global creative studio for specialist jewelry design.  

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Saturday, September 5, 2015

50-Carat ‘Hope Spinel’ Could Surpass $310,000 Estimate

Among the top lots of the Bonhams London Fine Jewellery Sale on September 24 is the 50.13-carat Hope Spinel. The octagonal step-cut spinel is expected to fetch $240,000 - $310,000. However, Emily Barber, director of Bonhams jewelry department in London, said it could sell for much more.

“It not only had the amazing provenance but it’s also an exceptional gemstone in its own right,” she said. “You just don’t see pieces of this quality and provenance on the open market very often. It’s very exciting.”

The gemstone is part of one of the world’s greatest gem collections and will be offered for sale for the first time in 98 years.

It was owned by London banker Henry Philip Hope whose collection of approximately 700 gems includes the Hope Diamond (The 45.52-carat blue diamond that is part of the permanent collection in the Smithsonian National Natural History Museum). He kept the collection until his death in 1839.

The Hope Spinel’s origins are from the Kuh-i-Lal mines, in Tajikistan, according to the Swiss gemological laboratory, SSEF.

“The mines are geographically difficult to get to and politically in the 20th century weren’t being used,” Barber said. “That makes spinels like these exceptionally rare even without the provenance of the Hope Spinel.”

A spinel is a gemstone sometimes confused with ruby because they’re found in the same rock formations, are chemically similar and often have a pinkish-red coloring, Barber explained. But very large specimens are often more transparent and have fewer inclusions than ruby.

“Incredible transparency and impeccable cut of the Hope Spinel mean it is classed as an ‘exceptional treasure,’” she said.

The gem is set within decorative old brilliant and rose-cut diamond claws, framed by larger old brilliant-cut diamonds (total diamond weight 6.50 carats), mounted in silver and gold and worn as a brooch/pendant with detachable fittings. There’s a handwritten note in the case describing it as a spinel-ruby from the Hope Collection.

Henry Philip Hope never married and secretly gifted his gem collection to a nephew to avoid inheritance tax. Family wrangling caused the collection to be split among two nephews.

The spinel was eventually sold at auction in 1917 for approximately $1,600 (about $120,000 in today’s currency). It eventually turned up in the collection of Lady Mount Stephen, who was married to a Canadian philanthropist living in the UK. When Stephen died in 1933, the spinel went to her niece-by-marriage, Elsie Reford, who along with her husband, amassed one of the most important collections of art in Canada. The spinel was gifted to Elsie Refords’ granddaughter, who was also Lady Mount Stephen’s god daughter.

“The current owner is a direct descendant who has always known it as being ‘Aunt Gian’s (Lady Mount Stephen) Hope spinel,’” Barber said.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Wallace Chan, Chow Tai Fook Unveil Sparkling Necklace From 507-Carat Diamond

"A Heritage in Bloom"

Hong Kong-based jewelry retailer, Chow Tai Fook commissioned world-renowned jewelry artist Wallace Chan to create a jewel from diamonds cut from the Cullinan Heritage, an exceptionally rare 507.55 carat Type IIa rough diamond. The result is “A Heritage in Bloom,” a necklace made of green and white jade, colored diamonds and 24 D-color, internally flawless diamonds from the original rough.

Integration of jade and diamonds–including the centerpiece of the necklace: the 104-carat, D color, internally flawless, brilliant round Forevermark diamond

The centerpiece of the necklace is a 104-carat, D color, internally flawless, brilliant round diamond with the highest possible cut grade of “3-Excellent,” according to the Chow Tai Fook, making it one of the largest diamonds ever with these characteristics. Forevermark, a De Beers Diamond brand, said Monday the diamond was one of theirs.  

Butterflies represent eternal love

The diamond necklace unites an entire family of diamonds cut from the same rough stone within a single piece of jewelry, “an artistic decision unheard of in a contemporary piece,” according to the company. It also brings together thousands of white diamonds and hundreds of pink diamonds, totaling 383.4 carats, as well as more than one hundred pieces of green jadeite and mutton fat white jade. The ornate necklace includes figures of a bat (for good luck) and butterflies (for eternal love).

If that’s not enough, the necklace is created with a modular design that can be worn in 27 different ways. The company says this is an example of the sophistication of Chan’s “design and exquisite composition” for the necklace

The bat represents good fortune

It required more than 47,000 hours from craftsmen who specialize in various areas of jewelry making. 

Chow Tai Fook, one of the world’s largest retail jewelers by market capitalization, said it paid $35.3 million for the 507-carat, Type IIa (almost or entirely devoid of impurities) rough diamond in 2010. The company then spent three years cutting and polishing the diamond.

Mutton fat white jade beads

“Today we complete a journey we began five years ago, and we could not be more proud of the exceptional and historic creation that has emerged," Dr. Henry Cheng, chairman of Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Limited, said Thursday while unveiling the diamond in Hong Kong. "Continuing the Cullinan legend, the world-renowned master jewelry artist Wallace Chan has brought the Cullinan diamonds to life.” 

The back of the necklace’s centerpiece

Chan is recognized by many as the greatest living Asian jewelry artist. He founded his own gemstone carving workshop when he was 17 and in 1987 he invented the “Wallace Cut,” an illusionary carving technique that transcends dimensions. He was the first Chinese jewelry artist ever invited to exhibit and deliver speeches at the Gemological Institute of America headquarters. In 2012 and 2014, he was the first and only Asian artist ever invited to exhibit at the prestigious Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris.

Chow Tai Fook operates approximately 2,260 Chow Tai Fook and Hearts On Fire standalone shops spanning 500 cities in Greater China, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and the United States.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The MB&F Arachnophobia Spins A Web Of Time

Arachnophobia may be its name but there’s no reason to fear this high-precision clock that takes the form of a spider.

The clock represents the newest collaboration of two very different Swiss timepiece companies: The contemporary luxury watchmaker MB&F and the traditional high-end clock manufacturer L’Epée 1839.

The concept was conceived and developed by MB&F’s founder Maximilian Büsser and engineered and crafted by L’Epée. It was inspired by a giant spider sculpture called Maman (mother in French) that Büsser had seen in Geneva and Doha, created by Louise Bourgeois (1911 - 2010).

The new timepiece resembles a spider that can be displayed as a table or wall clock. It’s available in black or 18k plated gold and comprises no fewer than 218 components.

A L’Epée eight-day clock movement was re-imagined as the mechanical head and torso of a spider. The head houses the regulator with its oscillating balance wheel, while the other end contains the mainspring barrel, which powers the movement. The hours and minutes are read on a high dome representing the spider's body, with rotating curved hands indicating hours and minutes on a polished, central dome featuring MB&F’s signature numerals.

Attached to the abdomen are eight legs articulated where they join the body by ball-and-socket joints. The legs can be rotated so that Arachnophobia can stand tall on a desk, splayed flat for wall mounting, or the front legs can be moved forward while the six others maintain the standing position. With the legs fully extended the clock measures 405 mm. In order for it to be hung on wall, a catch was developed underneath the movement that hooks on to a stainless steel wall bracket.

Injection molding was used to create the parts for the legs. The material is first subjected to high heat and forced into the mold cavity. It then cools to the desired shape before being removed from the mould. While this is a very common process for shaping plastics, it is less common for shaping metals. The gold-colored edition features gilded brass legs, while the black version’s legs are made of injection-molded aluminum, which is hand-finished and lacquered black.

The key winding and setting mechanism is on the underside of the spider.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Chopard’s First Diffusion Jewelry In Fairmined Gold

Palme Verte earrings

Chopard has spent the past three years publicly heralding its “Journey to Sustainable Luxury,” program by introducing jewelry and watches made with gold acquired from sustainable sources. 

The first efforts were limited to very specific items using Fairmined Gold. Now the company has released its first diffusion jewelry collection. 

Palme Verte bracelet

Chopard’s Palme Verte collection makes ethically sourced gold jewels available on a wider scale at a more affordable price that is suitable for daily wear. The collection of four jewels is made entirely of 18k Fairmined gold. It’s modeled after the design of the Palme d’Or, the award given to the director of the best film at Cannes, serving as tribute to the award’s 60th anniversary. 

Chopard first released jewelry made with ethical gold in 2013 under its sustainable luxury program when a few high jewelry pieces known as the “Green Carpet Collection” debuted on the Red Carpet at the Cannes Film Festival worn by actress Marion Cotillard. The program is a long-term partnership with Eco-Age and its creative director Livia Firth promoting sustainable development within the luxury industry. The gold used for this program is extracted by artisanal and small-scale miners certified under the Fairmined standard created by the Alliance for Responsible Mining.

Palme Verte ring

For the 2014 Cannes Film Festival Chopard upped its stakes in ethical gold by making the Palme d’Or entirely of Fairmined gold. The design, in which a single piece of cut crystal forms a cushion for a hand-cast 24k gold palm, was created in 1998 by Caroline Scheufele, artistic director and co-president of Chopard. It is as much of a symbol of the luxury brand as it is of Cannes.

The four pieces of the Palme Verte collection (earrings, pendant, ring and bracelet) is directly inspired by the award’s single palm frond, applied in a simple curved and polished design. The pieces run from $2,360 to $10,840 and will be available in Chopard boutiques at the end of September.

Palme Verte pendant

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