JEWELLERY EDITORIAL

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2015/08/30

Many gemstones come steeped in the history of trade, conquest, and adventure, but few have a past like Colombian emeralds

 

Nuestra Señora de Atocha Colombian emerald-set gold jewel. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

Nuestra Señora de Atocha Colombian emerald-set gold jewel. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

 

Colombian emeralds are very much a gemstone of the present, though. Approximately two million carats, with a value of US$147 million, were exported last year. While most head to the US, explains Luis Gabriel Angarita, president of ACODES the Colombian association of emerald exporters, most Colombian emeralds end up in Asia where they are revered not only for their rich green color but for their rarity and value. 

 

Rough Muzo emerald crystals. Photo Ron Ringsrud.

Rough Muzo emerald crystals. Photo Ron Ringsrud.

 

In the past, many difficulties have beset the Colombian emerald market. Low-paid miners often worked emerald areas illegally. Miners often lost their lives in poorly ventilated and constructed tunnels. Lastly, the value and rarity of emeralds entangled them in bloody drug wars. The end result was lost lives, poor living conditions, environmental destruction, lost revenue, unpredictable supply, and erratic pricing.

However, in the last few years, conditions have been changing. The Colombian government has begun certifying and regulating all types of mining, says Ron Ringsrud, Director of Operations and Sales for Muzo International. In addition, companies like Muzo International, have begun offering miners regular salaries at above average wages and safer working conditions. The result is reduced illegal mining, improved living conditions, better environmental safeguards, stable supply, and regular pricing. “It’s an improvement overall,” says Ringsrud.

 

Town of Muzo in the mountains of Colombia. Photo Ron Ringsrud.

Town of Muzo in the mountains of Colombia. Photo Ron Ringsrud.

 

Miners, Muzo Mine, Colombia. Photo Ron Ringsrud

Miners, Muzo Mine, Colombia. Photo Ron Ringsrud

 

Industry organizations, too, are playing an important part in the changes. ACODES helps members understand and deal with government regulations regarding emerald exports, and subsidizes members’ participation in international gem shows in order to promote emeralds, and develop the market for Colombian stones. Another step in standardization was the establishment of Colombian Emerald Technological Development Center or CDTEC, a gemological laboratory with up-to-date equipment. Supported by the Colombian government and the national emerald federation, FEDESMERALDAS, the lab verifies the identity of stones and issues certificates.

 

Round brilliant 3.08 ct. Colombian emerald. Photo Mia Dixon/www.palagems.com.

Round brilliant 3.08 ct. Colombian emerald. Photo Mia Dixon.

 

To further strengthen the Colombian emerald industry, ACODES, FEDESMERALDAS, and the National Mining Agency in association with the Colombian Ministry of Mines will host internationally recognized speakers from trade organizations, laboratories, and emerald-producing areas around the world at the First International Emerald Symposium in Bogotá, October 13 – 15, 2015. Their goal, says Angarita, is to “promote emeralds and help educate the consumer so they see the beauty of emeralds, and that they are a safe investment.”

 

Colombian emerald crystals from the Muzo Mine. Photo Ron Ringsrud.

Colombian emerald crystals from the Muzo Mine. Photo Ron Ringsrud.

 

Anyone attending gem shows recently knows that emerald prices are rising. While “nice consumer quality emeralds” average between $5000 and $15,000 a carat, says Ringsrud, prices can range from as low as $200 a carat to more than $70,000 per carat, says Zairon Rosero of Four C’s in Bogotá; untreated stones can command more than $100,000 a carat. “More and more people are aware of the incredible rarity of emeralds in general and of Colombian emerald specifically,” says Ringsrud. “They’re very limited. There is no stockpile of emerald like there is with diamonds.”

 

Emerald cut 1.28 ct. Colombian emerald. Photo Mia Dixon/www.palagems.com.

Emerald cut 1.28 ct. Colombian emerald. Photo Mia Dixon.

 

Square emerald cut 1.97 ct. Colombian emerald. Photo Mia Dixon/www.palagems.com.

Square emerald cut 1.97 ct. Colombian emerald. Photo Mia Dixon.

 

While Asia, the US and Europe provide strong markets for Colombian stones, gold and diamonds are more popular in Latin America and even in Colombia. It’s a gap Muzo International, at least, hopes to address. “It doesn’t make sense that ladies in South America shouldn’t enjoy wearing these emeralds,” says Ringsrud. What makes Colombian emeralds different from emeralds from other sources? “They have the spark of life. If you compare emeralds from around the world, you can see the difference. Colombian emeralds are much more beautiful,” says Angarita. “They’re the Rolls Royce of emeralds,” says Jose Rozo of Luxury Colombian Emerald Ltda CI.

 

 

 


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2015/08/26

The UK jewellery scene has been abuzz with news of a new fine jewellery launch from heritage British brand Boodles. The collection is called Pas de Duex, and as you might have already guessed, it is inspired by ballet.

Boodles has teamed up with The Royal Ballet to create a collection of diamond and platinum designs, with head of design Rebecca Hawkins, a keen ballet fan herself, working closely with the dance company’s associate director Jeanette Laurence.

 

“Speaking to Jeanetta helped me get a feel for ballet as a dance form, and helped me see everything that makes The Royal Ballet so special,”

says Hawkins, who would often trace the outlines of images of dancers to incorporate them into the designs.

“We discussed what sets ballet apart, the feeling of being on stage, and what makes the perfect dance partnership.”

 

During the design process she was given exclusive access to rehearsals, the costume department and The Royal Ballet archives. What emerged is the Pas de Duex collection, inspired by the dance duet and comprising more than 30 elegant platinum jewels, from studs to collars, set with kite-shaped diamonds, rock crystal, kunzite and Paraiba tourmaline.

 

Earrings from the Pas de Duex collection by Boodles

Earrings from the Pas de Duex collection by Boodles

 

Fellow London jeweller Kiki McDonough also recently released a gold and diamond collection inspired by ballet, which was designed in collaboration with dancer Lauren Cuthbertson. Like the Boodles collection, the Lauren collection is free from ballet slippers and ribbons. Instead it takes a wider approach to the design and centres on leaves, in reference to Cuthbert’s habit of battling stage fright by pretending to be a child kicking in the leaves, and also her performance in Alice in Wonderland.

 

A gold and diamond pendant from the Lauren collection by Kiki McDonough

A gold and diamond pendant from the Lauren collection by Kiki McDonough

 

This Lauren collection follows on from Aurora, another ballet-inspired collection, this time inspired by Sleeping Beauty, also created by Kiki McDonough, who is well known for her love of the ballet and support of dance charities.

Other jewellers inspired by ballet include ethical brand September Rose. Its gold Couru pendant is inspired by Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty and was first designed for founder Samantha Rose’s mother, who is a retired ballet dancer.

 

A Couru pendant in Fairtrade gold by September Rose

A Couru pendant in Fairtrade gold by September Rose

 

Cindy Chao last year teamed up with actress Sarah Jessica Parker to create a gold and titanium Ballerina Butterfly brooch set with brown and white diamonds, slices of brown rough diamonds and conch pearls to raise funds for the New York City Ballet through a sale at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. It sold for US

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.2 million.

 

The Ballerina Butterfly brooch created by Cindy Chao and Sarah Jessica Parker

The Ballerina Butterfly brooch created by Cindy Chao and Sarah Jessica Parker

 

For some brands, just the association with ballet and its elegance and grace is enough, and it is a popular theme for marketing materials. Continental Jewellery has run a particularly successful advertising campaign for its wholesale jewellery collections that stars ballerinas in action.

There are many parallels between ballet and jewellery design – grace, elegance, precision, beauty, purity – and it is proving to be an alluring theme in jewellery design and promotion.

 

An image of a ballet dancer used by Continental Jewellery for its ad campaign

An image of a ballet dancer used by Continental Jewellery for its ad campaign

 

 


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2015/08/26

In the US, digital media has become an extremely important way for retailers to “capture” customers. According to a recent survey, the growing influence of social media has caused these merchants to adjust their digital media strategy.

 

 

While paid search and email marketing still top retailers’ list of effective customer acquisition channels, social media has also become an important tool for engaging with and attracting new customers, according to the State of Retailing Online 2015 report, conducted by Shop.org, Forrester Research Inc. and Bizrate Insights. About 25 percent of retailers surveyed cite Facebook as a top acquisition platform.

 

Underscoring retailers’ heightened use of social media to complement other marketing tactics, 58 percent are increasing their year-over-year budgets on social media marketing, second only to the number of companies who are spending more on search engine marketing (63 percent).

 

“It was not a surprise to see that search and email marketing tools are still powerful, but to further engage consumers, retailers understand that using complementary marketing channels, including the use of social media, makes a tremendous difference in reaching new markets and diversifying their outreach,” said Vicki Cantrell, NRF senior VP and Shop.org executive director.

 

When it comes to paid social media, half of retailers surveyed say they are spending more this year than last year on paid Facebook options, such as promoted posts and paid ads. YouTube came in second with 29 percent saying they will spend more on paid options for the video website, followed by Pinterest (27 percent), Twitter (22 percent), Instagram (20 percent) and Snapchat (6 percent).

 

I’m a bit surprised Instragram scored on the lower end. It is one of the hottest social media platforms in the world and it continues to experience phenomenal growth. Many, including me, are waiting for when eCommerce is available through the platform. I’ve heard the potential described as the “Holy Grail” of eCommerce.

 

Retailers are also exploring online retail marketplaces – where a retailer sells goods via another retailer’s site – to acquire new customers. The study found that merchants rank online marketplaces in fifth place for effectiveness among customer acquisition tools, and 32 percent are spending more on this marketing tactic this year than last. On average, retailers surveyed allocate 16 percent of their digital marketing budgets to online marketplace initiatives and operations, second only to search engine marketing (33 percent).

 

Website merchandising has become vitally important. Retailers are looking at ways to improve to improve their customers’ online shopping experience through a variety of devices. The study found that this year retailers are prioritizing site redesigns for smartphone (55 percent), tablet (46 percent) and desktop (41 percent), and are also enhancing product pages and improving the checkout process across devices. To that end, 63 percent of retailers surveyed increased their online merchandising budgets this year compared to last, while half (49 percent) also increased their online merchandising staffing. 

 

 

 

 


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2015/08/25


 

DeBeers is reacting to market pressures by reducing prices and production. According to Bloomberg, rough prices are falling by 9%. Rapaport News reports reductions over 10%. Last month DeBeers cut its yearly production goal to 29 million to 31 million carats from a target of 30 million to 32 million carats, a far cry from their earlier predictions of 34 million carats. This is in response to complaints by cutters that rough is priced too high to be profitable.

Had DeBeers been proactive about supporting diamond manufacturers a few months earlier this might be a strong move. Instead they held off until sightholders began refusing significant numbers of parcels before making an adjustment. They waited for that wake up call to take action but now it may be too late.

The diamond industry relies on the retail market. Sales of finished goods have been lagging due to a weak economy resulting in lower prices and less demand. Lower rough prices at the beginning of the year could have brought stronger sales in jewellery stores. But now, the economy worldwide is crashing. The plunging stock markets in China were mirrored in the US, decreasing consumer wealth in the two major markets for diamonds. It is human nature…when times are difficult luxury spending is the first place to cut back. Right now, diamonds are a hard sell at any price.

DeBeers, through their Forevermark brand, is taking steps to create demand at the retail level with an aggressive marketing campaign focused on the US and China.  Along with the reprise of the old standby of “A Diamond is Forever” they will be introducing a multi-channel holiday campaign to include digital platforms and is designed to impart both traditional and emotional components to boost seasonal sales. A good marketing program can be effective in driving sales and this one should tweak Baby-Boomer’s heartstrings. If the economy recovers by the time the holidays roll around there should be some positive results. If the economy still lags, sales will be weak.

While decreased rough prices and increased advertising is a step in the right direction, it may be a temporary bandage covering a severely wounded industry. A strong end to 2015 may not carry over into 2016. DeBeers needs to stop reacting and start being proactive.  They must find way to thwart problems before they surface instead of waiting until it is too late.  

 

 

 


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2015/08/24

The global diamond industry may be passing through a bad phase these days but Indian diamond traders feel that fundamentals of our industry are still strong and they expect that the industry may soon bounce back in near future. Weak business conditions have not been able to defeat or discourage their morals and in fact some of them are thinking in terms making the base and structural capacity of India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotional Council (GJEPC) still stronger by floating a novel and unique concept of ‘ISHA’.

 

India’s gem & jewellery sector looking for higher growth

 

The basic idea of the IIJS Stakeholders Association (ISHA) as spelled out by the promoters is to support, coordinate and co-operate GJEPC in taking the India International Jewellery Show (IIJS) to the next level by making it the world’s biggest trade show. ISHA is an international Gem and Jewellery trade forum formed with the objective to address the ‘IIJS industry’. It is a non-profit organization founded and incorporated in Mumbai, India.

India’s diamond industry has become more mature and the stakeholders understand that situation like the current one is temporary which the industry would definitely cope up with. In fact, India’s gem and jewellery industry plays very pivotal role in the Indian economy and occupies a major segment of the country’s exports and has shown remarkable growth over the last four decades, with exports growing from USD 28 million in 1966-67 to USD 39.91 billion in 2014-15, as claimed by the GJEPC.

The figures further establish that diamonds account for 58.03% of the total export basket of the industry with gold jewellery contributing 24.63% and colored gem stones and others contributing 1.14% each whereas rough diamond contributes 3.55%.

As far as the IIJS is concerned, it has now reached a saturation level because of the acute space constraint the show has been experiencing in the recent years. The organizing body GJEPC has been constantly requesting the government of Maharashtra since last many years to allot a suitable plot to construct a specious and ultra-modern Convention Centre in Mumbai, but with no results.

The ISHA aims to help and coordinate the GJEPC to sort out such issues. Of course the GJEPC has been doing its best to solve every problem of the industry. But the ISHA feels that responsibility to solve the industry problems should not be limited the GJEPC only. Every stakeholder of the industry should come forward to share concerns of the GJEPC. This is the basic thinking of the ISHA on which it is formed. The forum aims to promote the growth and progress of the IIJS while protecting the IIJS interests. As a self-regulated trade body, ISHA also aims to serve as a link among the Government, GJEPC, exhibitors, visitors, service providers and the trade as well as to undertake various initiatives on behalf of and for the industry and the IIJS. Besides, ISHA also aims to address issues which would surface as vital and indispensable for the total healthy growth of the industry in close connection with the GJEPC.

Indian diamond sector has been enjoying an undisputed global leadership by manufacturing 14 out of 15 diamonds in the world. The country has already taken a step further towards becoming a global trading hub by establishing a Special Notified Zone (SNZ) in the Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB). Major share of credit for developing the modern Indian diamond industry goes to the GJEPC. But it has still miles to go in the coming years.

ISHA is unique in the sense that it aims to support and co-operate the GJEPC in scaling much higher peaks of growth in the future. Certainly, cooperation is the key to success!

 

 


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