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The October Jewelers International Showcase (JIS show) in Miami Beach is the primary venue for jewellery and gift stores in Florida, The Caribbean, Central and South America to prepare for the all-important tourist season. This year was the largest show to date with around 1250 booths. New international pavilions representing Spain, Turkey, and Colombia joined the existing entries from Brazil and Hong Kong. The High-End Galleria was twice the size of last year.


There were some good signs of the economy getting stronger. During the recession there were dozens of booths offering to buy scrap, break-out stones and excess inventory as well as several competing refiners. This year there were a few regular refiners that have been there for years and none of the newer scrappers. That is an indication that retail jewellery stores are getting back to the business of selling instead of relying on over-the-counter buys.


Emeralds were everywhere this year and not just with the Colombian dealers. Coloured diamonds, both natural and treated, were strongly featured. While silver was still a strong seller, gold is making a good comeback, especially yellow gold. Fashion jewellery was abundant. Unstrung beads were scarce while finished beaded jewellery was plentiful.

There was a shift in buying patterns for the Caribbean retailers. In the past they shopped mostly for loose diamonds and generic mountings or finished goods. This year found them in designer’s booths. Designers offer consistent quality, advertising support, liberal stock exchange policies, exceptional customer service, favourable terms or memos and protected prices and territories. This adds up to less worry and hassle for the retailers. Generic goods have a greater margin but all of the risk and service problems fall on the retailer’s shoulders.


With a healthier economy, Caribbean jewellers seem to be backingaway from experiments with silver preferring the better cash flow associated with gold and platinum. Silver and fashion jewellery was popular with retailers from the US and The Americas.


Overall there is a gradual return to normal. Retailers are finally seeing steady sales and not falling back on scrapping. Lower gold prices are helping to raise sales of higher price-point goods. There is a move toward branded jewellery lines; any name is better than no name. Coloured diamonds and gemstones are adding spice to inventories. Business is moving forward. This season may not bring shouts of joy but for many retailers it will bring a long awaited sigh of relief.



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De Beers recently delivered somewhat alarming report which may have disappointed the global diamond lovers. In its first annual ‘Diamond Insight Report’ (Download PDF) released in September 2014, De Beers has stated that growing diamond demand would almost outstrip growth in carat production because of the lack of major new discoveries of diamond mines in the last decade and the diminishing production in several existing mines.


Be Prepared to Pay Heavy Price for Diamonds!


The report states that a moderate growth in supply would not be able to meet the ever increasing demand up to 2020 after which unless major new discoveries are made in the coming years, the diamond supply may decline gradually. Mr. Philippe Mellier, Chief Executive of De Beers Group, commenting the findings of the report says,

"The global diamond demand remains the one true source of value for the industry. With demand prediction to increase further from 2013's record level, the opportunity for further growth is clear. But this must not be seen as cause for satisfaction. The diamond industry would continue to lose grounds to other categories if the industry players do not invest significantly in production, marketing and advancement of technology."


The global demand for diamond jewellery reached to a record height of USD 79 billion in 2013 thanks to the rapidly growing preferences for diamonds in China and India. China is the world's fastest growing market for diamond jewellery where the number of diamond jewellery retail doors have increased by almost 30% between 2010 and 2013, states the report. India and China both have witnessed their domestic diamond jewellery demand grow by a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12% from 2008 to 2013. Market of polished diamonds in the US grew by 7% in 2013. Keeping this trend in mind, with the continuous recovery of the US, the global diamond demand is expected to keep on growing over the long-term.


On the other hand, the World Diamond Mark Foundation (WDM) is about to launch generic promotion of the diamond very soon to create global awareness and to increase demand of diamond. This initiative, if proved successful, would surely boost the existing growth rate of the global diamond market. But, as mentioned in the De Beers’ report, with the global diamond production diminishing and the demand increasing, a time would come in near future when the demand would almost outstrip growth in carat production.


So, as an obvious solution, exploration expenditure “is expected to go high with the chase to discover the next major source of diamonds,” the report states. Most of diamond exploration today takes place “in underexplored African countries like Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe and the vast swaths of arctic Siberia and Canada.”


Now, as far as De Beers’ findings of widening gap between diamonds supply and demand as well as exploration of new mines are concerned, there’s nothing new about it. I have been hearing this alarm since last 3-4 years during my talk with various global industry leaders. The industry is well aware of this fact.


To sum up, the De Beers report indicates that diamonds would remain forever even if the production goes down drastically in comparison with the demand, but the diamond lovers will have to be mentally prepared pay a heavy increase in the prices of the ever-shining stones in future because of its short supply!



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The announcement came suddenly and without warning. Michael Barnes, CEO of the largest specialty jewellery retailer in the US, UK and Canada, announced his resignation. Signet Jewelers Ltd., the company Barnes led for fewer than four years, made the resignation public last week. It includes Barnes’ resignation from the company’s board of directors.


Barnes’ last day will be 31 October. It was the standard two-week resignation that any employee is expected to give an employer. Usually, leadership changes are either immediate through a forced resignation or announced months in advance to allow for a smooth transition.


Mike Barnes


It’s unknown whether this was planned in advance or was sudden but there was no indication of a change in leadership. The public announcement was well orchestrated. In the same statement the company named Signet veteran Mark Light, currently president and chief operating officer, as the person to succeed Barnes as CEO and on the board.


The reason given for Barnes’ resignation was so he could be closer to his family in Dallas. Signet is headquartered in Bermuda, with its US headquarters in Ohio, where Barnes primarily worked. He joined Signet in December 2010 to become its CEO a month later. His family never moved.


The timing of the announcement was right after Signet’s

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.46 billion acquisition of its biggest US rival, Zale Corp., providing Signet with approximately 3,500 retail outlets in the three countries. It has more than 1,400 in the US. In terms of size, no other jewellery business comes close. Barnes is not staying to complete the integration, although the company says a plan is in place.


“Mike has been the leader of the Signet executive management team during a period of outstanding transformation and growth,”

Todd Stitzer, Signet chairman, said in the announcement.

“Mike has been an instrumental part of Signet's success. He has played a critical role in Signet's recent acquisition of Zale Corp. and its continuing integration. He has also led the development of Signet's Vision 2020 Initiative for the future. We understand and respect his personal desire to relocate nearer to his family and pursue opportunities closer to his home in Dallas at this time.”


The company, in a SEC filing, said it will pay Barnes accrued but unpaid benefits or obligations, his base salary for 12 additional months and an annual bonus at the end of the fiscal year.


Light has been with Signet for more than 30 years, with primary responsibility for the Sterling division, by far Sterling’s largest division, until the Zale Corp. acquisition.


“It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to lead the outstanding Signet team through a period of significant transformation,”

Barnes said in the same announcement.

"Over these several years, I've worked closely with Mark, collaborating with him on all of Signet's strategic initiatives, including the Zale acquisition and ongoing integration. I have every confidence in Mark and wish him success in his new role.”


It all appears to be an amicable, well-planned split. But the timing is suspect.



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Your first introduction to the cruise directors and destination hosts begins with the required lifeboat drill. At your assigned muster station, one of the host staff will be on stage directing the drill. The message is clear: Follow us, do as we say, go where you are told and we will always keep you safe. It is our job. We take our job seriously because we care about you. Trust us; we know what we are doing.


Cruise directors and hosts seem to be everywhere; introducing port lecturers, speaking of their own experiences while shopping at the destination, showing off their own jewels found in the next port, hosting the evening’s entertainment. They lead you in silly games to get you out of your comfort zone, breaking down your usual pattern of cautious behaviour. You’re here to have fun and let loose. Try something new. We will protect you. You don’t worry.

The host will become your best friend, confidante, and advisor. They know everything...even where to get the best deal on jewellery. While you wait to exit disembark at the port they keep you entertained and get you excited about all the magnificent jewels and the “lowest on the planet” prices. You are on holiday. It’s time to splurge. You are safe if you follow our suggestions.


You hit the port armed with a map of recommended stores, a little bit of knowledge and a boat-load of confidence. You’ll have a handful of coupons for free gemstones, free pendants, free water, gifts and other incentives at different stores. Now the store takes over.


The salesman has about 15 seconds to get your attention and start a dialogue. His first step is to up-sell the coupon to turn the free gift into a sale. A free gemstone can be upgraded to one set in a pendant for $29.95 or a bigger and nicer piece for $59.95. Whatever the free gift, it can turn into a sale. They have a five minute window to close the sale or move on to the next level...the good stuff.


These guys are experts, practising their craft on dozens of customers per day. They ask what ship you are on. They will remind you that their store is approved and guaranteed by your ship so they must be one of the good guys. They even know your cruise director/best friend personally! They can obviously be trusted. And somehow or another that free gem becomes 5ct bracelet, a 2ct pair of studs or even a 5ct centre stone in a new ring. Maybe you’ll take them all. Get something nice for yourself. You deserve it!


Back on the ship you can’t wait to show your new best friends what you bought and thank them for all their help and guidance. The next step is to register your purchase with the ship. This activates your guarantee. More gives the ship a way to account for their expected commissions and verify that the store is reporting all the sales.


If you forgot to buy worries. Once the ship is on the way home and no longer in competition with the advertisers, the overpriced jewellery store on the ship will have a huge sale.


Next: Summing up the industry



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It’s difficult for me to believe but Amber, the prehistoric tree resin that is used for jewellery and art objects in the Baltic region, now costs more than gold. The reason is China is buying as much rough amber as possible, driving up the price to unheard of levels, and using it to make inexpensive jewellery to sell inside its borders.


This escalation in its price has had a detrimental impact on low-end market for amber. This means, in order to diversify its jewellery exports, the Polish jewellery industry has turned to the creativity and originality of its top jewellery designers to distinguish itself in the international marketplace. Poland also is looking to other materials, such as silver, as it is already the world’s second largest producer of silver jewellery. Many of these designers primarily work with silver, gold and other metals.


3D necklace made of oxidized and gold-plated silver by Alicia Jakub Wyganowscy. Photo by Anthony DeMarco  

Bracelet made with exotic wood, silver and gold by SzwedDesign

  Amber and silver dragonfly resting on a piece of amber by Malgorzata Wasowska Jewellery Company


At the recently concluded Gold Silver and Time tradeshow in Warsaw, which I attended, several designers were featured in a special exhibit that coincided with the 25 year anniversary of Poland’s Solidarity movement. Tradeshow officials also dedicated about 60 exhibit spaces to these designers at a discounted price. That’s a significant number considering the tradeshow hosted a little more than 300 exhibitors.


“The young people are creating jewellery that is interesting and different … very creative,” says Rafał Galimski, president of the MCT International Fair Centre, co-organizer of the trade fair. “We try to help them with the 60 stands.”


One of the selling points of Polish jewellery design (in addition to originality, design and craftsmanship) is value. The Polish currency, the Zolty, is worth about 25 percent of what the euro is worth. Poland’s largest jewellery markets for designer jewellery are Germany, China, Italy and the US.


Many of the designs combine a modern aesthetic with a unique artistic perspective from being isolated from the rest of the world during the Soviet occupation. In fact, the approach of many of the designers is artistic rather than market driven.

Colorful cuffs by Marcin Zaremski


“Poland is a post-Soviet country,” said Warsaw-based Marcin Zaremski, the veteran of seven jewellery designers who presented their works to reporters. “We didn’t have the formal education, so we had a lot of artists that created jewellery. I think we developed in that direction very well.”

Amber and silver "Dragon" ring by Jacek Ostrowski


A younger designer who is getting international attention is Jacek Ostrowski from the northern Polish city of Gdansk. He works with silver, colored acrylic, crystal Swarovski Elements, and of course, Baltic amber.


Pendant necklace made with layers of amber and driftwood by Marta Wlodarska of Amberwood


Meanwhile, Marta Wlodarska of Amberwood is a purist. As amber is fossilized tree resin, she chooses to create jewellery by pairing the material, sometimes in its natural state, with driftwood from the same beaches of the Baltic Sea where amber is found. However, she doesn’t shy away from using more exotic woods, such as African ebony, brick-red Padouk, and violet Amaranth.


There is plenty of creative talent in Poland. The industry needs to work harder to let the world know.



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