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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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Americans Don’t Spend Anywhere Near 2 Months’ Salary on Engagement Rings, Survey Finds

They shell out 4 percent of annual pretax income, on average.

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The typical American spends two weeks’ pay on an engagement ring, according to a new survey.

That equates to 4 percent of annual pretax income. The median spend in the poll, conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times, was $1,900.

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Of course, there were a few big spenders: 7 percent of respondents shelled out more than $10,000 for a ring. Prices were adjusted for inflation based on the year of purchase.

The online poll included 1,600 adults.

The results suggest that the “two months’ salary” popularized by industry marketing “is very much much an illusion,” the Times reports.

Amanda Gizzi, spokeswoman for Jewelers of America, told the newspaper: “That guideline has sort of been tossed out the window.

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“It’s not anything anyone in the industry promotes today.”

Another recent survey found higher spending levels for engagement rings. Brides’ American Wedding Study found that the typical couple spent $7,829 in 2018.

Read more at The New York Times

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Jewelry Store Robbed After Manager Tied Up in Home

The thieves made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars in goods.

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Icebox Diamonds & Watches in Atlanta was burglarized after masked gunmen tied up a jeweler and his wife in their home, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Cobb County police stated that on Friday, the culprits forced the couple into their home and took the store keys. The couple were not injured.

(The Journal-Constitution described one of the victims as the owner. Other news sources, including WXIA-TV, described him as the manager.)

Two men broke into the Buckhead store at about 11:30 p.m. and spent about two hours there, authorities said. They took jewelry and watches from safes.

The stolen goods were reportedly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in total. Cash and jewelry were also stolen from the jeweler’s home, according to the Journal-Constitution.

Icebox Diamonds & Watches is known for its celebrity clientele, the newspaper notes.

Read more at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Singer Katy Perry Shows Off $5M Engagement Ring — Take a Look

It’s one of the most expensive celebrity engagement rings ever.

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full bloom

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Singer Katy Perry took to Instagram to show off the engagement ring she got from actor Orlando Bloom when he popped the question on Valentine’s Day.

E! News explains that “the flower-shaped sparkler appears to have a pink center stone with diamonds surrounding it, along with a gold band.” She captioned the photo “full bloom.”

Andrew Brown, president of WP Diamonds, told E! News that the ring is likely worth about $5 million.

He said it appears to feature “a 4-carat fancy vivid pink oval shaped diamond.” That stone is encircled by eight white diamonds.

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The estimated price tag would put the ring among the most expensive ever worn by a celebrity.

Perhaps the most expensive celebrity engagement ring ever was the $10 million sparkler given to singer Mariah Carey in 2016 by Australian businessman James Packer. Their engagement was called off that same year.

Read more at E! News

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