Juicy Jewelry News!

Juicy Jewelry News! recaps some of the biggest news from top insider industry sources. Here are just a few of the latest stories and events taking place in the jewelry world:

Geneva: IWC Schaffhausen to launch high tech “IWC Connect” (as reported by National Jeweler, article by Brecken Branstrator)

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The “IWC Connect” is not a standalone smartwatch – it is digital technology with motion-sensing and bluetooth capabilities embedded into the strap of IWC’s Big Pilot Watches (shown). There is no screen on the IWC – instead, it connects to smartphone software that allows it to link with other devices. CEO George Kern indicated that the goal was “to develop an elegant, aesthetically complementary solution that eliminates the need to have additional devices on the opposing wrist to your IWC.” No word yet on date of launch or cost.

Coming This Fall: 4 “Macy’s Backstage” Pilot Stores to Open in NYC (as reported by National Jeweler – Market Developments)

Macy’s, the company that operates over 880 stores across the country (45 states and DC) plans to launch an off-price outlet division called “Macy’s Backstage” this Fall. Four 30,000 square foot pilot stores are designated to open in New York City, offering clearance merchandise from Macy’s full-line stores as well as special discounted purchases from select Brands. Products will include fine jewelry, clothing, shoes, fashion accessories, and housewares.

The “Macy’s Backstage” pilot locations are Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, Queens Place in Elmhurst, Queens, Lake Success Shopping Center in New Hyde Park, and Melville Mall in Huntington. The stores will have free Wi-Fi and one pilot store will include a cafe.

Macy’s Backstage is designed to delight bargain hunters not only with incredible prices, but also with continuously updated merchandise focused on current fashion and an enthusiastic customer-focused sales staff.

Record $5.1 Million Paid at Auction for Pearl Necklace (as reported by Gemological Institute of America, article by Russell Shor, senior industry analyst at GIA in Carlsbad)

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2013 and 2014 were banner years for unprecedented record prices paid at auction for high-end jewelry and rare gemstones. While 2015 is slightly off from this peak, record prices are still being set in the high-end jewelry markets. At Christies, an Asian buyer paid a record price of $5.1 million for a 4-strand natural color pearl necklace (pictured).

US and Canada: Jewelry Industry Decline Continues in 2015 (as reported by National Jeweler, article by Michelle Graff)

While high-end jewelry sales are exploding with record prices, the latest statistics from Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT) showed that in the United States and Canada, the number of retail jewelers, repair shops, wholesalers and manufacturers that closed business operations first quarter of 2015 was up 40% from 2014 figures, and that this decline was anticipated to continue into second quarter 2015. Also in first quarter 2015, jewelry industry bankruptcies were up, while consolidations were down.

What’s the major causes of the shrinking US jewelry industry? The obvious big factor is our still sluggish economy, and this crippling condition is coupled with the difficulty of continuing through successive generations by family-owned businesses, as many in the trade are – the next generation of family owners is lacking. For stores not counting on continued family ownership, there is difficulty in finding qualified help. Another hurdle for jewelry stores is the competitive pressure brought on by the economy, including the need to manage several social media accounts as well as internet sales platforms. Some tired business owners have decided to liquidate and move onto the next chapter of life.

One of the most well-known stores to close this year is Fragments in NYC’s SoHo neighborhood. Owner, Janet Goldman, indicated that rents in SoHo have become untenable.

Update: Luanda – Trial of “Blood Diamonds” Angolan journalist Delayed until May 14th (as reported by National Jeweler, article by Michelle Graff)

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Photo Credit: Maka Angola

Rafael Marques de Morais (pictured), the Angolan investigative journalist who exposed corruption and abuse in his country’s diamond industry and who heads the anti-corruption watchdog organization Maka Angola, is being charged with libel by the very same parties (generals and mining companies) that he implicated in his 2011 book “Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola.”

The trial in Luanda, based on criminal defamation charges stemming from de Morais’ 2011 book, began on March 24th and has been adjourned until May 14. If convicted, de Morais faces jail and more than $1 million in fines. Amnesty International USA has been advocating dismissal of all charges, and a spokesperson has indicated that most of the complainants (two mining companies and seven generals) are working toward a settlement with the journalist, but that one of the mining companies seeks trial and has so far refused to enter into settlement negotiations.

Several days before his trial began, de Morais was in London receiving an award for his contribution to free speech by the organization Index on Censorship. Some giants in the jewelry industry, including Tiffany & Co. and Chicago independent Leber Jeweler, have made public statements in support of de Morais, urging the Angolan government to drop its case.

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