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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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Jewelers to Pay $16,000 in Restitution for Scheme Targeting Military Families

They were convicted last year.

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SACRAMENTO, CA – A California jeweler must pay restitution in connection with a scheme targeting military families.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered defendants Ramil Abalkhad, owner of Romano’s Jewelers, and Melina Abalkhad, owner of MBNB Financial Inc., to pay the victims $16,440.56 by May 4, 2020.

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Video: It’s Not My Problem When You Buy a $120 Ring and Your Wife Finds Out It’s ‘Fake’

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Video: Things to Remember When Dealing with ‘Gonna Buy’ Jewelry Customers

“Individuals who participate in despicable crimes by targeting our young men and women in uniform will pay the price,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “We hope today’s announcement brings healing and closure to the victims of this scheme. Our office will continue to protect all Californians from all types of fraud – large or small. The California Department of Justice will always have the backs of our military families.”

Romano’s Jewelers had several retail locations in California, including stores near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, according to a press release from Becerra’s office. The Abalkhads were alleged to have targeted young Marines and sailors, encouraging the purchase of jewelry using MBNB Financial for credit. According to the criminal complaint, Ramil Abalkhad failed to provide legally required disclosures about monthly payments, interest rates and others terms of financing.

Those customers who fell behind on their payments were allegedly harassed by the defendants’ debt collectors. In addition, the complaint alleged that Romano’s Jewelers used debt collectors who falsely posed as attorneys and illegally threatened servicemembers with court martial and other military disciplinary actions.

The California Department of Justice filed a 14-count felony complaint charging the defendants with conspiracy to violate the Unruh Act, which protects consumers who buy goods or services on credit, and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects Californians against unlawful debt collection practices.

Becerra announced the sentencing of the defendants in December 2018. Ramil Abalkhad was sentenced to three years of felony probation, including a requirement that he serve 90 days in jail.

He will also be required to cancel outstanding MBNB debts owed by the victims identified in the criminal complaint and was also ordered to remove any negative credit reporting by MBNB from the victims’ credit history.

Melina Abalkhad was sentenced to complete a misdemeanor diversion program for her role in operating Romano’s Jewelers affiliate MBNB Financial.

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Jewelry Distributor Arrested With $15M in Counterfeit Goods, Police Say

$15M in counterfeit merchandise was seized.

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The owner of a business in the downtown Los Angeles jewelry district has been arrested for allegedly selling counterfeit jewelry.

Moossa Lari is accused of felony trademark violation, according to a press release from the LA Police Department.

Moossa Lari

Investigators conducted several undercover buys and surveillance operations and determined that he was “a major distributor of counterfeit jewelry nationwide,” the release states.

Search warrants were served at multiple locations in the jewelry district on Nov. 7 by LAPD in collaboration with the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and Custom Border Protection.

Officers seized about $58,000 in cash and over $15 million counterfeit jewelry with Street value of over $1 million, according to the release. Counterfeit jewelry recovered included fake Hermes, Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Michael Kors, Cartier, Tiffany Co., YSL, Dior, Calvin Klein, Guess, Van Cleef and Bvlgari pieces.

The counterfeit jewelry was tested at the scene and did not meet U.S. safety standards, the release states.

The standard of acceptable lead and cadmium is 90 parts per million. The seized counterfeit jewelry tested as high as 200,000 parts per million.

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Video: It’s Not My Problem When You Buy a $120 Ring and Your Wife Finds Out It’s ‘Fake’

It’s not the jeweler’s fault she got mad.

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LIKE ANY JEWELER, Cullen Wulf sometimes runs into customers who aren’t looking to spend much money.

Unfortunately, sometimes their expectations are way out of line with what they’re willing to pay.

In the video below, Cullen re-enacts a scenario where he encountered just such a customer — a customer whose wife was unhappy with her sterling silver and CZ anniversary gift.

The customer felt that Cullen was to blame, and Cullen set the record straight.

Take a look.

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