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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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NFL Player Awarded $6.1M in Jewelry Fraud Lawsuit

The jeweler says he’ll appeal.

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Drew Brees, quarterback for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, has won $6.1 million in damages from a jeweler he claims sold him diamonds at grossly inflated prices.

Drew Brees

In a jury trial in San Diego, Drees said he bought $15 million in diamonds from Vahid Moradi and CJ Charles Jewelers over a four-year period ending in 2016, The Advocate reports. He said he’d become friends with Moradi and trusted him completely.

Brees said he and his wife, Brittany, were then told by an appraiser that they’ve overpaid by about $7 million.

The Breeses alleged fraud and breach of contract, as well as violation of California business law, according to The Advocate.

Moradi and his lawyer, Kevin Rooney, said they plan to appeal the jury’s decision. They said they “passionately disagree” with the verdict.

Moradi said he sold jewelry to the Breeses at a normal retail markup.

Read more at The Advocate

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Online Diamond Seller Files for Bankruptcy

Dozens of individuals and businesses are reportedly owed money.

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Enchanted Diamonds, a Manhattan-based diamond dealer, has filed for bankruptcy, the New York Daily News reports.

The company, which sells its products online, owes $1.8 million, according to the newspaper.

Much of the debt is to customers who claim they paid the company and didn’t receive their gems.

A filing in federal bankruptcy court indicates that the firm owes money to dozens of individuals and business entities across the U.S. and in other regions, including Asia.

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More than 50 customers are “pursuing restitution through a law firm hired by Rare Carat, an online aggregator for jewelers,” according to the Daily News.

Joshua Niamehr, president of Enchanted Gems, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday, according to the newspaper.

Read more at the New York Daily News

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Jeweler Accused of Stealing from Customers

He was arrested May 30.

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A jeweler in Lawrenceville, GA, has been charged with theft, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Timothy New, owner of The Bench Jewelers, is accused of shortchanging some customers who left their jewelry with him for consignment. He also allegedly failed to complete custom design jobs that he promised, and failed to return the money.

New, 55, has been charged with theft by conversion and theft by taking.

He was arrested May 30, according to the Journal-Constitution.

The business has been closed.

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“Detectives have served several search warrants, which yielded the recovery of a large amount of jewelry,” Lawrenceville police Lt. Jake Parker said in a press release. “We are seeking help and looking to return the jewelry to the confirmed owners, as well as identify additional victims.”

Read more at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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