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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Blue And Pink Diamonds Topped Auction Sales For 2016

As in the past few years statement blue and pink diamonds garnered the most attention and highest bids at Chrisite’s and Sotheby’s in 2016. White diamond earrings and a rare green diamond also made the cut.

Without further delay here are the top 10 jewelry auction sales of 2016: 

The Oppenheimer Blue (top photo), a 14.62-carat fancy vivid blue rectangular-cat diamond fetched a world record for any jewel sold at auction, more than $58 million, at Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale in May. 

The De Beers Millennium Blue, a 10.10-carat fancy vivid blue diamond sold for more than $32 million at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite sale in April. 

The Unique Pink, a 15.38-carat pear-shaped fancy vivid pink diamond sold for a world auction record price for any fancy vivid pink diamond, fetching more than $31.5 million at Sotheby’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in May. 

The Cullinan Dream, a 24.18-carat mixed-cut fancy intense blue diamond, sold for more than $25.3 million. It is the largest fancy intense blue diamond ever to be offered at auction. It was sold at Christie’s New York Magnificent Jewels & the Cullinan Dream sale in May.

A 17.07-carat fancy intense pink diamond with a step-cut sold for more than $20.7 million at Sotheby’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in November.

A 9.14-carat fancy vivid pink pear-shaped diamond sold for more than $18.2 million at Christie's Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale in November

Miroir de l'Amour (Mirror of Love), a pair of 52.55- and 50.47-carat pear-shaped D color, flawless type IIa diamond earrings, by Boehmer et Bassenge sold for nearly $17.7 million at Christie's Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale in November. They are the world’s largest perfect pear-shaped diamond drops ever to be offered at auction.

A 7.32-carat pear-shaped fancy vivid blue diamond sold for more than $17.1 million at Sotheby’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Sale in May.

The Sky Blue Diamond, an 8.01-carat fancy vivid blue diamond mounted on a diamond ring designed by Cartier, sold for more than $17 million at Sotheby’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels in November.

A 5.03-carat rectangular-cut fancy vivid green diamond, within a circular-cut pink diamond surround, sold for more than $16.8 million at Christie’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels sale in May. 

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Chinese Conglomerate Acquires 85% Stake in Buccellati

The Buccellati New York flagship store on Madison Avenue

Clessidra, an Italian private equity firm, and the Buccellati family said Friday that it sold an 85 percent share in Buccellati to Chinese conglomerate, Gangtai Group. 

Clessidra and the Buccellati family will retain a 15 percent stake in Italian high jewelry house. The company is reportedly valued at approximately $282 million. A source close to the deal would not confirm or deny the figure. However, the person did say that revenue in 2015 was approximately $42.8 million, making its valuation 6.6 times its annual revenue.

The new majority owners plan to expand into China and other Asian markets, according to multiple sources. As part of the deal the Buccellati family will retain creative control of the company.

Buccellati, founded in Milan in 1919, is one of the most prestigious jewelers in Italy, known for creating pieces using time-honored hand-crafted techniques. The company has an international presence, particularly in Europe and the United States with branded stores and distribution agreements.

Buccellati was 100 percent family owned until 2013 when Clessidra acquired a 67 percent stake, with the remaining 33 percent retained by the founding family. A year later the company announced a rebranding effort aimed at attracting younger customers. The company named Lucrezia Buccellati, 25-years-old at the time, as its first woman designer and the youngest person to hold that title. Her father, Andrea Buccellati, became president and creative director, later adding the title of chairman. In 2015, the company opened a five-story flagship store in Madison Avenue in New York as well as stores in Paris and Palm Beach.

The Buccellati creative team, Andrea Buccellati and his daughter, Lucrezia

Clessidra, in a statement, noted that since 2013, the family made significant investments to expand its distribution network, support the product offering and strengthen the management structure. Now it says Buccellati is ready to expand into China.

“We are particularly satisfied with the agreement reached with Gangtai Group,” Marco Carotenuto, managing director of Clessidra, said in a statement. “We have strongly supported Buccellati in the last three years achieving a 60 percent growth in revenues since acquisition. We believe that the company is now ready for a new growth cycle that Gangtai Group will support, considering also its experience in the jewelry market and its strong presence in China.”

Gangtai Group—which specializes in the consumer, culture, finance and health industries—has experience in the China jewelry market. Its subsidiary, Gangsu Gangtai Holding (Group) Co. Ltd, is one of largest gold jewelry distributers and a leading internet jewelry retailer in China, and is focused on growing its presence in international luxury, according to the statement. 

Andrea Buccellati will retain his role as creative director and honorary chairman of Buccellati. Gianluca Brozzetti will retain his role as CEO of Buccellati. Other members of the Buccellati family will also retain their involvement in the business, according to the statement.

“Our family founded this company almost 100 years ago and will continue to be fully involved to support its development, the creative mastery and production craftsmanship that enabled the establishment of a unique and recognizable style in jewelry and silverware,” Andrea Buccellati said. "We welcome the commitment of Gangtai Group to invest significant resources to further develop the Buccellati brand and platform.”

Buccellati one-of-kind gold earrings inspired by Odilon Redon's La Chute de Phaéton

Closing of the transaction is expected by the second quarter of 2017 and is subject to Chinese government approval. 

The deal team at Clessidra included Manuel Catalano, managing director, Marco Carotenuto, managing director, and Giulio Torregrossa, investment director. The sellers were advised by Mediobanca, Unicredit and Partners CPA as financial advisors and by law firms Gattai Minoli Agostinelli & Partners and Pedersoli e Associati for the legal aspects. The purchaser was advised by law firm Simmons & Simmons for the legal aspects. 

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Monday, December 19, 2016

C.F. Martin Works With Watchmaker For Its 2 Millionth Guitar

C.F. Martin & Co is widely known as the premier maker of acoustic guitars. For the milestone of the making of its two millionth guitar, it turned to the world of hand-crafted watches to create a one-of-a-kind instrument. 

“There is a connection between people who like fine guitars and fine watches and we've decided to bring those two together with something that’s pretty special. When we started this project we didn’t know where we would end up,” said Chris Martin IV, chairman and CEO of C.F. Martin & Co. “The budget became what it needed to be to get it done right.”

To do this the 184-year-old Nazareth, Pa.-based company partnered with custom watchmaker, Roland G. Murphy, owner of RGM Watch Co. in nearby Mount Joy, Pa. What they created is a fully playable guitar with the artistic interpretation of the mechanics of a watch on the front, back and fretboard; and with a RGM watch embedded into the headstock of the piece. 

In addition, custom Waverly steel tuners were fashioned by Murphy with rose gold guilloché-engraved inserts that resemble a watch crown. The center of the caps features the “keystone” shape that signifies the nickname of Pennsylvania as the “Keystone State.” The watch movement, clearly visible from the back of the headstock, has its own crown in the same style as the tuners. The shape of the watch was modified to fit into the wedge shape of the headstock.

It’s based on the Martin D-45 style body, with the back and sides constructed from Brazilian rosewood. The top is crafted from bearclaw Engelmann spruce. 

Robert Goetzl artist and illustrator who worked on the design, said it took 18 sketches to get it right. He consulted with Murphy to ensure the overall artwork was both aesthetically pleasing and technically accurate.

Martin did not disclose the value of the guitar and it will not be sold. However, it will be on view at the Winter NAMM 2017 music trade show in Anaheim, Calif., January 19 - 22, 2017. 

In addition to the one-of-a-kind guitar, Martin and RGM also collaborated on a D-200 Deluxe guitar with many of the same features. It’s based on Martin’s classic 14-fret Style 45 Dreadnought with the top crafted from bearclaw Engelmann spruce that features an aluminum rosette with guilloché engraving.

The guitar's back of pre-CITES Brazilian rosewood is inlaid with watch gears cut from reconstituted stone, mother-of-pearl, bloodwood, Hawaiian koa and ebony. The soundboard inlays feature a minute track in mother-of-pearl, birdseye maple, flamed Hawaiian koa and ebony, and a pickguard with pearl inlaid watch gears. Another decorative detail is the triple-strand abalone pearl striping that bisects the length of each side, referencing the early Spanish-inspired instruments of C. F. Martin Sr. The maple bound ebony fingerboard shows watch gear mechanisms. Each guitar comes with a newly designed watch from RGM that references details from the D-200 guitar design and bears a matching serial number with each edition of the instrument. 

Limited to 50, the guitar retails for $149,999 and also will be unveiled at Winter NAMM 2017. 

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

LA Museum Hosts Rare Colored Diamonds Exhibit By L.J. West

The Juliet Pink Diamond, set in a necklace with marquise, pear and round-cut white diamonds totaling 98.70 carats. Image courtesy of Brian Lazar.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is set to unveil “Diamonds: Rare Brilliance” that brings together rare colored gems never before seen in the United States. 

The exhibition inside the museum’s Gem and Mineral Hall will open Friday and run through March 19, 2017. The colored diamonds and jewels in the exhibition are owned by L.J. West Diamonds, which specializes in the sourcing, manufacturing and distribution of colored diamonds.

At the exhibition’s centerpiece is the “Juliet Pink Diamond,” an extremely rare pink diamond of more than 30 carats, and a Fancy Deep Grayish Bluish Violet named the “Argyle Violet Diamond” after the Argyle mine in Western Australia, where it was discovered in 2015. Through examples, such as the fluorescent lighting of a “rainbow” diamond necklace and a very rare Victorian Orchid Diamond, the exhibition will attempt to bring to light the rare properties of colored gemstones, the science behind natural colored diamonds, and how the interplay of light and chemistry gives diamonds color. 

The diamonds on display include the following:

Image courtesy of Brian Lazar.

The Juliet Pink Diamond – This 30.03-carat Fancy Intense Pink oval diamond, with a VVS2 clarity grade, is cut from a 90-carat rough from South Africa. It is set in a necklace with marquise, pear and round-cut shape white diamonds, VVS E-F, totaling 98.70 carats. 

Image courtesy of Brian Lazar

The Argyle Violet – The 2.83-carat oval shaped gem is the largest violet diamond unearthed from the Argyle diamond mine, polished from a 9.17-carat rough diamond. It possesses the unique color grading of Fancy Deep Grayish Bluish Violet, and served as the headline stone of the 2016 Argyle Pink Diamonds Signature Tender, an annual sale of rare pink, red and blue diamonds, unearthed from the Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia.

Image courtesy of Brian Lazar

The Rainbow Necklace – A jewel made of approximately 100 rare natural colored diamonds from the color spectrum. It features radiant-cut shape multi-color diamonds at a noteworthy 35.93-carat weight and is set in a custom 18k white gold arch necklace. It took more than five years to source and assemble the jewel. 

Image courtesy of Aaron Celestian, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The Victorian Orchid Vivid Purple Diamond – It is one of the rarest stones currently worldwide because of its unusual color, according to LJ West. It is a 1.64-carat Fancy Vivid Purple diamond with an SI2 clarity grade is fashioned in a cushion-cut shaped and is set in a platinum flower designed ring with a matching pair of kite- shape diamonds.

The exhibition coincides with the reopening of NHMLA’s Gem and Mineral Store. 

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Tie The Knot With Colored Gem Engagement Rings

Small Twig ring with a 19.99 carat aquamarine available in 18k yellow, white, or rose gold and platinum by K. Brunini Jewels

Thanks to the De Beers “A Diamond is Forever” campaign, white diamonds matched with white metals have been the standard for engagement rings for more than 60 years in the United States. However, it wasn’t always that way, particularly among the rich, royal and famous when tying the knot.

Likoma ring in 18k white gold with a 4.18-carat pear-shaped pink tourmaline enhanced with grey, white and golden natural pearls and diamonds by Mellerio dits Meller

In 1796, a 26-year-old up-and-coming soldier named Napoleon Bonaparte presented his wife to be, Joséphine, with a sapphire and diamond engagement ring. The stones, each weighing 1 carat and mounted in gold, rest side by side facing opposite directions. Osenat auction house in Paris sold the ring in March 2013 for more than $1 million.

Majestic emerald-cut intense honey citrine and diamond ring by Alexandra Mor

When John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953, he did it with a gold Van Cleef & Arpels ring with a 2.88-carat diamond and 2.84-carat emerald enhanced with baguette diamonds, which were later replaced with round and marquis cut diamonds. 

6.39-carat pear-shaped yellow sapphire ring by Robert Procop

Perhaps the most famous colored gem engagement ring is the 18k white gold ring centered with a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire surrounded by diamonds that Prince William presented to Kate Middleton in 2010 when he proposed marriage. The ring is a family heirloom, belonging to his late mother Princess Diana who received it as her engagement ring.

Eloise ring featuring three-stone paraiba by Erica Courtney

There are a number of modern day celebrity couples choosing colored gems for engagement rings. Among them:

* Singer and actress Jessica Simpson, who received a gold engagement ring from guitarist Eric Johnson in 2010 centered with an oversized ruby flanked by two diamonds on either side. The ring was designed by Neil Lane, who is known for his work with celebrities.

Platinum Stack Rings composed of the five individual rings shown, designed by Barbara Heinrich to collect, mix and match with your favorite colored gem and wear as an engagement ring, a wedding band, as a group right-hand ring, or individually

* Academy Award winner Halle Berry received a hand-forged gold ring flashing a 4-carat emerald in a one-of-a-kind setting. Designed by French jeweler, Robert Mazio, the square cut emerald is flanked by two smaller diamonds on each side of the ring. The ring reportedly has symbols and codes that only the wearer could see and tells the story of the love between Berry and her one-time husband Olivier Martinez. Unfortunately, the story didn’t end well for the couple. 

18k white gold ring with an aquamarine center stone surrounded by diamonds by Pasquale Bruni

* Australian cricket player Shane Warne proposed to actress Elizabeth Hurley with a 9-carat square-cut sapphire flanked by two trillion-cut white diamonds.

The Valentina 18k yellow gold ring by Anabel Higgins with an 18.74-carat rubellite surrounded by diamonds

There have been attempts by gem dealers, designers and jewelry retailers to bring the appeal of colored gems to bridal jewelry in the U.S., but consumers never took to it. When Kate Middleton, (now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) was married with the Ceylon sapphire, Sri Lankan gem dealers were anticipating a rush to buy similar gems for proposals, but even royal star power couldn’t sway the masses. 

18k rose gold Tourmaline Ring by Lucifer vir Honestus

However, in the luxury segment of the jewelry market, jewelers are willing to cater to those who want something different and unique. For example, earlier this year jewelry artist, Katey Brunini, unveiled a complete line of bridal jewels (engagement rings and wedding bands) featuring a variety of colored gems, including ruby, sapphire, emeralds and Beryl in hues that run from pastel to bold. The pieces include classic looks and organic, rough-textured shapes, described as “twigs” and “vertebrae.” 

Rose gold ring with a 6.23-carat emerald and diamonds by Vhernier

Venerable Parisian high jeweler, Mellerio dits Meller, recently released a collection of high jewelry cocktails ring, the “Private Collection,” that also could be used as engagement rings. They are designed by Laure-Isabelle Mellerio, the wife of M. Laurent Mellerio, the 14th Mellerio to head the family owned jeweler since 1613. 

Platinum ring with 2.11-carat blue oval sapphire solitaire set in a diamond filigree mounting by Alishan

Using colored gems is a way to create a ring that more fully describes the story of your marriage. 

Blue Topaz and diamond “Sea Leaf” ring by Miseno

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“Dearest” enamel stack ring by Alison Lou

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Southeast Asia Jewelry And Gemstone Directory Available For Purchase

The Jewellery & Gemstone Directory 2017 – Southeast Asia Edition is the ultimate sourcing guide for trade buyers seeking business opportunities in the region’s manufacturing and distribution sectors. 

First published in 2015, this annual directory is the most comprehensive resource on jewelry and gemstone suppliers and retailers in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Published by JNA, the latest edition of the directory lists more than 1,600, with more than 1,000 suppliers and 600 retailers, representing about 2,200 stores in the region. Specific sections in the directory cover jewelry and gemstone manufacturers, exporters and wholesalers; diamond and pearl dealers; gemological laboratories; trade organizations and training establishments. 

The “Suppliers” section lists companies by product and service and by country. The "Retailers" section features independent retailers, chain stores and distributors, providing information on the type of jewelry they sell and the source of their merchandise.

The directory is currently available at a special introductory rate of $40 per copy, as opposed to the regular cost of $60 and can be ordered by following this link

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Divisive Donald Trump Election Leads Jeweler To Donate 50% Of Sales To Charities

An Arizona jeweler became so disheartened with the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States that she decided to create a campaign to donate half of her company’s sales to causes that she fears will be neglected when the new administration begins.

Konstantina Mahlia, owner of the jewelry brand, Mahlia Collection, “impulsively” started this campaign a week ago out of frustration, and it quickly gained traction with several non-profit organizations. The National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Equality Arizona, Planned Parenthood and Sea Turtle Conservancy are on board with this campaign and in some cases are providing marketing assistance.

No one is more surprised by this initial success than Mahlia.

“I (cold-called) the presidents of these organizations saying ‘I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m looking for help to make it work’ and everybody called me back,” Mahlia said.

The name of the campaign is “We Can” and the impulsive nature of it shows as it is incorrectly listed as “Our Way,” on the Mahlia Collection website. It has since been corrected. The campaign is scheduled to run until December 31 but she may extend it. Mahlia also purchased the domain for “We Can” and is in the process of creating a dedicated web presence for the campaign. 

For Mahlia, this isn’t a marketing ploy to increase sales or brand awareness. “If I get any money out of this it will be a miracle,” she said.

Konstantina Mahlia

The campaign is being managed directly through the Mahlia eCommerce website. When someone purchases a product, right before paying a pop up window comes up with the list of partner organizations. Buyers can direct half of the cost of the product to the non-profit of their choice. Each organization has dedicated space on their website for the campaign for accountability and credit to donors for tax purposes (donations are tax deductible).

Buyers can also choose to opt out of directing the money to any organization. 

Ultimately, she says she hopes to build a network of people who have the same concerns as she. 

“I hope it inspires others to step up the plate to do something that is civic minded and empowering,” she says. “Hopefully, we can create an affiliation of like-minded people and know that you’re not just huddled in your world depressed at the demise of the world that is on the way.” 

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

A. Lange & Söhne Celebrates Anniversary With Lange 1 Time Zone In Honey Gold

A. Lange & Söhne released a special edition of the Lange 1 Time Zone in honey gold to celebrate the 22-year anniversary of the first Lange collection of the company’s modern era. 

The watch was released October 24, on the same date in 1994 when the German watchmaker held a press conference in the Dresden Residential Palace to unveil its first watches since the re-forming of the company. 

A. Lange & Söhne’s founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, is credited with helping to create a watchmaking industry in the German city of Glashütte near Dresden in 1845. The company’s watchmaking facility was bombed during World War II and the post-war Soviet administration expropriated the company’s property. That’s when the Lange brand ceased to exist. 

Following the collapse of the East German government, Walter Lange, the great-grandson of the company’s founder, and his partner Günter Blümlein re-formed the company in 1990 and presented its first timepieces four years later.

The clearly organized dial of the Lange 1 Time Zone provides a reading of the home time and the time in a second time zone. The time zone is set with a lateral pusher. It advances the rotating city ring with the 24 place names from west to east. On the ring, Dresden—instead of Berlin as in the standard version—represents Central European Time. In addition, the hour hand on the small subsidiary dial moves forward by one step with each use of the pusher. A synchronization mechanism makes it possible to transfer the zone time on the subsidiary dial to the main dial.  

Subtle color changes in the design of the city ring differentiate it from the standard version. The dots between the city names and GMT are blue instead of red. The previously black peripheral ring of the second time zone has the same blue hue as well. 

The 41.9mm case is made of 18k honey gold, A. Lange & Söhn’s proprietary gold alloy. The watch is powered by the hand-finished in-house caliber L031.1 with a three-day power reserve. 

Limited to 100 pieces, it is available exclusively in the 17 A. Lange & Söhne boutiques worldwide. 

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Salvatore Ferragamo Shows Its Heart With New Watch

It is simply named, Cuore, the Italian word for heart, and this particular heart has a beat. 

The distinguishing feature of the Cuore Ferragamo timepiece is a heart on the dial above 6 o’clock. The heart beats by opening and closing once per second, powered by a Swiss quartz movement. The user controls the patented function by pressing the crown. The time is set with a button at 2 o’clock using a special heart-shaped tool. The off-centre hours and minutes indicator is embellished by a circle of diamonds or an engraved Clou de Paris motif, a guilloché pattern of hollowed lines that intersect to form tiny pyramidal shapes. The “Ferragamo” logo appears on the dial at 3 o’clock.

The other feature of the dial and the silver 39mm case is the subtle appearance of the iconic Ferragamo Gancino, the shape of a hook used as the symbol of the fashion brand. 

The watch was introduced in March at the Baselworld watch and jewelry show and was available since June. However, events were held in cities around the world to formally introduce the product. Wednesday was the U.S.’s turn as the watch was introduced during an event held at the Hotel Eventi in New York.

The watch is available with a bi-color gold plated bracelet or a crocodile print calfskin strap in yellow, black, red, purple, pink and grey. It can be purchased at Salvatore Ferragamo boutiques, authorized retailers or online from the Ferragamo website. The price runs from $1,595 to $2,995.

Paolo Marai, president and CEO of the Timex Group Swiss Luxury Division—which manages the watch business for luxury brands Salvatore Ferragamo and other luxury fashion brands, through licensing agreements—says the watch is designed to be presented a gift, which is in line with the trends for fashion watches, in which more than than 50 percent are purchased as gifts.

It also is in line with the trend to wear watches as an accessory, he says.

“Brands such as ours, fashion brands, the design is more relevant than the movement inside,” he said. 

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Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace, Versus And Nautica To Leave Baselworld

Paolo Marai, president and CEO of Timex Group Swiss Luxury Division

The prestigious Hall 1 of Baselworld may have more empty space than originally planned as four fashion watch brands are the latest to pull out of the 2017 edition of the world’s largest watch and jewelry show.

The Timex Group Swiss Luxury Division—which manages the watch business for luxury brands Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace, Versus and Nautica through licensing agreements—is the latest to announce that it is leaving the annual fair held in Basel, Switzerland. 

Paolo Marai, president and CEO of the division of the Timex Group, in an exclusive interview, said the $3 million investment into the show could be better spent in other areas of its global business. The four brands occupied Hall 1.1, the second floor of the hall dedicated to “global” watch and jewelry brands. 

“I think that Baselworld is a huge investment for everybody and is in my opinion losing some effectiveness,” he said. “It used to be very important in different levels. First, it was a good opportunity to meet journalists but they’re coming less and less to Baselworld. And even those who come are reducing the time they are staying—running from one appointment to the next.”

He continued, “Second, in the past we used to meet a lot of retailers. This year not one single country sent retailers. So what you meet in Baselworld are distributors. But we know the distributors. I don’t need to go to Baselworld for that.”

Baselworld Hall. 1.1 (Photo Courtesy of Baselworld)

Marai says the changing luxury business demands that luxury brands, particularly fashion brands, need to be closer to the consumer. He argues Baselworld isn’t an efficient way to do this.

“Baselworld is becoming more of a place to show off. I’m there because I want to show that I’m at Basel rather than doing something that is really effective toward the end consumer,” said Marai, a native of Milan who now lives in Lugano, Switzerland, where the Timex Group Swiss Luxury Division is located. “We need to move the needle and be close to the end consumer…. I can put in the same amount of money to be closer to the end consumer and be more effective…. It is a cost I do not believe we can afford anymore. 

He added, “I’m not the only one (leaving) Baselworld. Plenty of brands have decided to step out of there. When the market is suffering I think you need to try something new. It is worth it for us to do something different.”

In May, luxury watch brands, Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux, announced that they were exiting Baselworld to exhibit at the Salon International de Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), which is held January in Geneva. Both brands—owned by Kering, the French luxury goods holding company—occupied the most prestigious space at Baselworld, Hall 1.0, the first floor of the Global Hall where the most prestigious independent and corporate-owned watch brands are located. 

Watch, jewelry and gem companies have been leaving Baselworld since the trade show unveiled its $454.5 million upgrade to the Messe Basel fair complex in 2013. The new renovations came with hefty price increases for exhibition space as the trade show began positioning itself as a luxury event. In response, in 2013 there were 355 fewer exhibitors, primarily smaller players and those who provide products and services within the trade. However, a few large brands also balked at the new asking price. International jewelry brand, David Yurman, was perhaps the most high-profile company to leave the fair in 2013. 

The change did attract some luxury brands, most notably Graff Diamonds, which began exhibiting at Baselworld in 2014 at Hall 1.1.

Baselworld Hall 1.0 (Photo Courtesy of Baselworld)

Meanwhile, UBM Asia established “Jewellery & Gem Fair – Europe” in 2014 in Freiburg, Germany. The dates and location line up nicely with Baselworld. Freiburg is less than an hour away from Basel, Switzerland. Many of the jewelry, gem and watch trade companies that used to exhibit at Baselworld now exhibit at the new show.

Despite the issues, Baselworld remains the world’s largest watch and jewelry fair. It is also the most important watch and jewelry show in the world for new product introductions and for international exposure. Show officials said in 2016 attracted 145,000 attendees—who include representatives from exhibiting companies, buyers and other visitors—a 3 percent decline from 2015. There were approximately 1,500 exhibitors. The number of journalists covering the event increased 3 percent to about 4,400 from 70 countries. 

It’s not just Baselworld. Large and small jewelry and watch trade shows throughout the world have been struggling to find their footing. The September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, the world’s largest fine jewelry trade fair, reported attendance declines for two consecutive years. In the U.S., JCK Las Vegas (the largest jewelry trade show in North America and at one time the largest in the world) has never fully recovered from the 2008-2009 global recession. SIHH, known for its exclusivity, has opened its doors to more watch exhibitors and buyers.

Marai says driving this move is a change in the way that consumers relate to brands. This has prompted his push to find new ways for his company to get closer to its customers through its marketing practices and sales. The search for these new practices is further complicated by the various economic and geopolitical issues throughout the world that are affecting distribution and sales. This ranges from the steep decline in sales from the once booming China and Hong Kong marketplace, to the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, the Western economic sanctions imposed on Russia and the surprise victory of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

He says the brands he manages through the Timex luxury division are doing better than most because they are a smaller and newer to the industry. The Versace and Versus part of the business was founded in 2004 and the Ferragamo and Nautica business three years later. However, he says it’s necessary to be proactive.

“In tough moments you have to be more active. The market is suffering, the economy is not perfect everywhere. We are still very satisfied with what’s happening this year but I have to admit the market is not doing well,” he said. “We’re still showing growth because we are relatively small. We can still grow but in general the market is not performing well.”

Part of being active is embracing what Marai calls the “new digital revolution” with a “shop now, buy now” mentality.

“Everything is going digital at this moment and we’ve been struggling the past two years trying to embrace it. Because we work under license so we have some constraints. The brands cannot go in that direction just for watches. But more and more all luxury brands need to understand this digital revolution and need to manage it.” 

This requires a more direct relationship by brands with consumers through social media and through the availability of their products. This approach, in and of itself, is not new to those in the luxury market. However, achieving this relationship has been difficult for established luxury and fashion brands.

“Those who have the money in the next 10 years need to be reached in a completely different way,” he said. “Traditional communication is over. Those with the capacity to understand and to translate this into the market will be more effective.”

Marai is interested in using the Internet as a tool to communicate directly with consumers and present their products and brand. As an eCommerce tool, he still says traditional retail will still be primary source of sales, noting the data indicates that that eCommerce will account for 20 percent of total luxury sales in 2025. 

“There is a long way to go still. I’m pretty sure traditional distribution is frightened by the Internet and they should not be because it is used more as an information tool rather than just a purchasing tool. (However) it’s the best way to present your products. You can have your best show, your best shop where you can present all of your products exactly as you want them to be presented.”

Marai also is aware that online shopping is a fast and convenient way for consumers to buy products. 

“Through digital you can supply your customer with whatever he wants so when he comes to us for a different dial or different strap it is very simple (to fulfill that order). We have to try to create a bridge between the traditional distribution and the new tools that are offered through eCommerce in order to be more effective with the end consumer.”

Often overlooked Marai says is that more than 50 percent of watches are purchased as a gift. “This means the presentation needs to be more luxurious, more than the product itself sometimes.”

In addition, he says watches from fashion brands are considered an accessory and a vehicle of self expression and should be further addressed by luxury watch brands. 

“Brands such as ours, fashion brands, the design is more relevant than the movement inside. We have a good opportunity at the moment. Who cares today what is inside? The new generation they do not consider watches high-end technology.”

One piece of technology that muddled the watch market was the smart watch, Marai says, which after their initial success have failed keep the interest of consumers. However, it did cause damage by creating confusion with consumers and within the industry. He said the rush by traditional watch manufacturers to create their own digital watches was a mistake. 

“Apple was a huge success in the initial phase but people that bought it don’t use it,” he said. “It has created confusion for the end consumer and the distribution channels. Everybody wanted to be the first to produce the product and I think it was a mistake. It was a little bit too early.”

Marai says the luxury watch industry is still a “relatively rich market,” meaning that compared to other industries the margins are high. But he hinted that this may change down the road as brands continue to market and sell directly to consumers. 

“The distributor buys the product from the industry and then sells it to the retailer. (This) is not something that will last forever. The industry has to come closer to the distribution and become more direct and more effective, reducing a lot of the costs in distribution and (thus) making a more effective proposition to the end consumer.”

He added, “Some activities would have to possibly disappear.”

These are just some of the reasons Marai and others are reconsidering their commitment Baselworld. 

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