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5 Questions with AGTA Chief Douglas Hucker

He talks about color trends and responsible sourcing.

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Douglas Hucker

TUCSON — As the 2019 AGTA GemFair Tucson began to wind down on Saturday, AGTA CEO Douglas Hucker sat down for a quick chat about color trends and sourcing responsibilities.

Hucker says he’s pleased with the debut of the grand ballroom upstairs, which was opened up to jewelry designers and created more room downstairs for gem dealers this year. Upgraded carpeting, booths and elegant entryways created a more luxurious look, Hucker says, and garnered positive reviews from shoppers and vendors.

“It’s just the kind of elegant, inviting environment that many of those designers thrive in,” he says. “We’re very pleased with the result.

“We’re at a point now where we don’t have much room left. We benefit from the fact that if people are engaged with color, they really, really want to be here.”

Q&A with Douglas Hucker

What color trends are you noticing?

Morganite is not as crazy as it has been. Ethiopian emerald is still very, very strong, on the heels of the growth in ruby production from Mozambique. Spinels are in high demand. The more unusual, non-traditional pearls are very popular, where designers are mixing baroque shapes with interesting shapes of gold beads.

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How can retailers learn more about the sources of their gemstones?

Sources are general and sources are specific. Some gemstones come only from certain areas. Like Ruby from Ceylon, Africa, Burma. Sapphires, the traditional places are Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Burma. Those are the generalized considerations. When you’re talking specifics, you need to talk to your supplier. And in some cases that’s important from a financial standpoint. Kashmir sapphires will command a lot of money. And Colombian emeralds are considered to be among the finest in the world.

Then there are the issues of transparency and the supply chain. I would want to know what kinds of conditions exist in the countries that produce them. You don’t have the same kinds of issues of conflict regions that you have with diamonds. It occurs, but more of the focus should be on working conditions, on what environmental impact production has, and depending on where they come from, the impact can be apparent. But the vast number of them are from artisanal mines, where it’s not pronounced.

The AGTA code of ethics requires people to ask questions of their suppliers. What are the conditions? Is there any concern about child labor? Be consistent and be aware of the laws in the country that you’re doing business in. Is extraction helping and benefiting the community. Ask the right questions, know your suppliers to the extent you can and if you see issues report those issues and stop dealing with the people you’re dealing with.

What issues is AGTA specifically addressing when it comes to working conditions?

AGTA is working on issues like silicosis (an occupational illness) in the cutting centers, starting with Jaipur. We developed a protocol that specifies cutting procedures to reduce the impact of silica exposure in the workplace and to reduce the noise level. We’re testing out the protocol and everything seemed to work. We’ll be publishing the results in the next few weeks and we’ll be taking it to other parts of the world to cutting centers and introducing it into the mining community as well.

We have put our code of ethics together and encouraged members to behave responsibly, to follow laws and to beware of red flags, like illicit trading that benefits bad actors. We’re also working with other associations – IDCA, ICA, CIBJO – to reach consensus on the general framework of responsible sourcing. Because it doesn’t make sense to have three or four separate lists of rules. We have been committed to this for a long time and now what we’re trying to do is work with the global gemstone community to make things uniform.

How can retailers succeed at selling more color?

You need to take a look at how you engage your customers. They should see color when they come through the door. Since colored gemstones and pearls are such a visual thing, you need to understand, also, that a certain percentage of clientele needs to see these things on Instagram and on Pinterest, on visually based social media.

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You have to have trained staff who knows what to say about color. There is a wealth of information out there, some free, some that requires a little more investment. We introduced a new website last year and there’s a beautiful area in our website where they can learn about colored gemstones. They can certainly learn enough information to make a qualified presentation to a customer and answer most of the questions a client will have.

Marketing materials and social-media presence have to grow because one picture is worth a thousand words.

What are your goals for 2019?

The 35th anniversary of the Spectrum Awards is coming up. And we are going to be moving into development a program where we can support young new designers to compete in an area that is uniquely theirs. We’ll have a category where they can compete with their peers. And where they can get help with gemstones and gold.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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Rooftop Burglars Take Everything from Jewelry Store

They even stole repair items.

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Burglars cut through the roof of a jewelry store in Laguna Niguel, CA, and took “all items in the store, including repair pieces,” the Jewelers’ Security Alliance reports.

KCAL-TV identfied the business as Nuggets and Carats Jewelry Store.

According to JSA, the burglars “cut through the roof, used a rope to lower themselves in, and cut into the safe.”

They also “removed another safe from the store, which was dragged out a back door into a parking lot.”

The crime took place on the evening of March 23.

JSA states that it has seen a nationwide uptick in the number of reports of burglaries involving rooftop entry or cutting through sidewalls, with some involving cutting alarm wires.

According to KCAL, store owner Brian Hassine said of the safe: “It’s a 6-inch deep safe. It’s got a plate on the outside that needed to be cut with some type of a laser or saw, and they had to cut away at the concrete, and then another plate they had to go through.”

Find out more at KCAL-TV

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100 US Jewelry Retailers Closed in the First Quarter

The rate of closings slowed considerably.

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The Jewelers Board of Trade reported that 100 U.S. jewelry retailers closed their doors in the first quarter of 2019.

That number represented a decrease from 282 closings in the first quarter of 2018.

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The total included 73 retailers in the category of “ceased operations” as well as 22 “consolidations (sale/merger)” and five bankruptcies.

The total number of U.S. jewelry businesses that closed, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers, was 125. That was a decrease from 343 in the first quarter of 2018.

Meanwhile, JBT reported that 48 new retailers opened their doors in the U.S., up from 45 in the first quarter of 2018.

The total number of new jewelry businesses, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers, was 57. That was down from 62 new businesses in the year-ago quarter.

JBT listed a total of 18,920 jewelry retailers in the U.S. as of the first quarter of 2019, down from 19,554 in the same quarter a year ago.

The group listed 25,037 jewelry businesses in all, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. That was down from 25,898 in the first quarter of 2018.

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Forevermark Names CEO

She’s stepping up from the role of COO.

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Forevermark has announced that Nancy Liu will become its CEO, stepping up from her current role as chief operating officer.

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Liu said: “At Forevermark we’ve come a very long way in a very short space of time, yet we believe the future will be even more exciting. The brand has taken a number of bold steps in recent years, and the positive consumer response to these show that there’s a real resonance with our approach. As we continue to develop consumer concepts, campaigns, products and designs, Forevermark will play a vital role in the diamond ecosystem for diamantaires, designers, jewelers and consumers, and I’m delighted I’ll be leading the business as it writes its next chapter.”

Nancy Liu

Liu has served as Forevermark’s president of Asia Pacific for 11 years, and she was responsible for overseeing the brand’s global launch in China.

She was appointed COO of Forevermark and member of the De Beers Executive Committee in August 2017.

Prior to her tenure at Forevermark, Liu specialized in corporate management at The Boston Consulting Group, consulting global luxury brands with the aim to develop their businesses in China. Previously, Liu was the vice president of merchandising at Louis Vuitton Asia Pacific, servicing Louis Vuitton across 14 countries, and general manager for the LVMH Watch and Jewelry division managing TAG Heuer, Zenith, Dior, Ebel, Chaumet and Fendi.

Stephen Lussier, executive vice president of consumer and brands for De Beers Group, will continue to oversee the strategic role Forevermark plays within the Group’s brand portfolio as Forevermark chairman. By stepping away from the day-to-day accountability for Forevermark, Lussier will be able to increase his focus on shaping De Beers Group’s strategy at the consumer level.

Lussier said: “This is a moment of great opportunity for diamonds. As symbols of nature, uniqueness and positive social impact, they have huge potential to inspire consumers of all ages, and with a new CEO at the helm for Forevermark I will be able to spend more time ensuring we build even stronger consumer connections with these miracles of nature across all our activities.

“Fortunately, we have an outstanding candidate to take over as CEO of Forevermark. As the brand sees rapid growth in Asia, Nancy’s exceptional expertise and knowledge of the region provide us with excellent continuity as Forevermark goes from strength to strength.”

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