2017 Las Vegas Trade Spotty, Designers and Diamonds Lead

Russell Shor
June 28, 2017
A 4.10 ct colorless diamond “slice” pendant with black inclusions set in white gold and surrounded by colorless to brown pavé diamonds by Rachel Boston, London. Photo courtesy Rachel Boston

The bling look continued to retreat at the annual Las Vegas shows earlier this month as retail buyers favored smaller pieces, especially those that could be layered or paired to create a personalized look.

Designers at the Couture and Luxury shows used pale-colored faceted amethyst, corundum, tanzanite and varieties of tourmaline bezel set in gold or silver. Also, designers were using diamond slices – thin-cut pieces of highly included or opaque rough diamonds – to create distinctive pieces.

Their aim, they explained, was to create jewelry that could be worn, in the words of one, “…in the gym or an evening out on the town.”  

Business was spotty, but diamond traders at the main JCK show found demand better than expected. All exhibitors agreed that traffic was down, although serious buyers were there to do business.  At the Couture show, geared to higher-end exhibitors and up-scale independent retailers, some exhibitors reported strong demand, while others found the show slow going.

Luxury, the part of the JCK show geared to higher-end exhibitors, was slow across the board. Most of the buying occurred during the invitation-only portion of the show (two days before the main show opened), but exhibitors reported traffic was down from last year.  

In general, retailers stuck to their open-to-buy and avoided expensive, showy pieces unless they had a specific customer in mind.

As noted, diamond dealers who went into the JCK show expecting sales declines of 10% to 15%, generally found demand slightly ahead of last year. As usual, some of the dealers who did best were those who discounted to other dealers before the show opened to raise cash.  

Trading at the American Gem Trade Association show also saw diminished traffic and slow sales.

The “Candy” bracelet by VTse Jewelry is comprised of a red oval cabochon tourmaline and multi-colored sapphires. Courtesy VTse Jewelry

DIAMONDS

The Diamond Producers Association announced at the JCK show that it will up its spending on the “…real is rare...” campaign to $57 million ($50 million in the U.S.) for the fall holiday season. The funds will be used for a fourth quarter advertising campaign though various channels, as well as in-store retailer support.

In addition, ForeverMark plans to increase its diamond advertising with an emphasis on women’s self-purchase, which accounts for 31% of all diamond sales. This is up 6% from three years ago. De Beers noted that engagement rings accounted for 28% of diamond sales last year and men’s gifts to their wives comprised an additional 37% of the diamond jewelry market in the U.S.

The company, which recently acquired LVMH’s 50% share in their joint retailing venture, said its entire growth strategy would be focused on China “where heritage brands are powerful … and trusted,” according to CEO Bruce Cleaver in an interview with JCK.

Cleaver said he doesn’t see significant growth for the De Beers’ store brand in the U.S., but the retail operation will remain “an important part of (De Beers’) brand proposition.”  

COLORED STONES

Gemfields, the ruby and sapphire mining company, is the object of a bidding war.

The company’s largest shareholder, Pallinghurst Resources, London, offered to buy the 53% of the company it does not own. Some analysts criticized the offer of $275.6 million in stock trades as low, even though the gem company’s stock has languished. The company earned $23.5 million on revenues of $191.1 million in 2016.

Now, however, Fosun Gold, a Chinese holding company based in Shanghai, has offered a cash price 10% above Pallinghurst’s offer and 15% above the current stock price.

Gemfields operates the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia and the Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique. The company claims to be the single largest producer of both gemstones and also owns a 100% stake in the luxury jeweler, Faberge. 

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