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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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Failed Fashion Jewelry Chain Is Coming Back

It will operate primarily as an online brand.

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Jewelry and accessories retailer Charming Charlie may have gone bankrupt and closed its 261 stores, but you can expect to see the brand resurface in coming months.

Charlie Chanaratsopon, founder of the company, is acquiring its trademarks, internet properties and other intellectual property for about $1.23 million, the Houston Chronicle reports. He was approved to buy the assets following a bankruptcy auction.

He plans to revive Charming Charlie as primarily an online brand. It will have only a few permanent brick-and-mortar stores, which will open early next year.

The company’s main advantage is its 10-million-strong customer base, said Chanaratsopon, former CEO of Charming Charlie.

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“In this age of retail, we still see an opportunity for the brand to thrive in the online ecosystem,” he said, according to the Chronicle.

The company said in July that it was closing all of its stores in connection with its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed July 11.

Read more at the the Houston Chronicle

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Online Jewelry Brand Raises $6.2M in Funding

Ross-Simons has taken a majority stake.

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CRANSTON, RI — Luca + Danni Inc., a online jewelry brand based in Rhode Island, has closed on $6.2 million in funding, with Ross-Simons Inc. becaming the majority investor in the deal.

PJC, a Boston-based VC Fund and early investor in Luca + Danni, will retain a stake in the company.

The investments “create a powerful partnership between an iconic jewelry company and three-year-old digital brand,” according to a Luca + Danni press release.

Fred Magnanimi, founder of Luca + Danni, will remain as CEO and board member.

“I started this brand to honor my family’s 50+ year heritage in US made handcrafted jewelry and help others embrace the journey of life as I learned to do after losing my brother to leukemia,” said Magnanimi. “With the amazing resources and strategic support of Ross-Simons and PJC, I am confident we will help millions embrace their own journey and continue to build our community.”

Ross-Simons, also based in Rhode Island, has a long history in retail and direct-to-consumer jewelry sales.

“Luca + Danni is a digitally native brand rapidly taking market share in the jewelry space,” said Jim Speltz, president of Ross-Simons. “Our resources, product expertise, and go-to-market experience matched with Luca + Danni’s powerful brand will foster meaningful growth in the evolving e-commerce world.”

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She Woke Up Without Her Engagement Ring. Guess Where Doctors Found It …

It all started with a dream. (Story with video.)

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A San Diego woman woke up without her engagement ring, and she immediately remembered a dream she’d had the night before.

One where she’d swallowed her engagement ring.

Jenna Evans immediately told her fiance, Bob Howell, and they headed to urgent care. She told the story in a Facebook post that has gone viral, garnering 62,000 shares as of Sept. 16.

She ended up seeing a gastroenterologist, who performed an upper endoscopy.

“Everything went great, they found my ring just beyond my stomach in my intestines, retrieved it and gave it to Bobby, not me,” she wrote.

She also divulged a bit about the dream that got her into the predicament.

“I was having a dream that Bobby and I were in a very sketchy situation involving a high speed train and bad guys (I have very exciting and vivid dreams) and he told me I had to swallow my ring to protect it; so I popped that sucker off, put it in my mouth and swallowed it with a glass of water riiiight about the time I realized what I was doing,” she explained. “I assumed this too was a dream, because WHO ACTUALLY SWALLOWS THEIR ENGAGEMENT RING, so I went back to sleep.”

The ring was made by Simone Jewelry Designs in Houston. CBS8 reports that it includes a 2.4 carat diamond.

Watch a news video about the incident:

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