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Late Rush Arrives to Rescue the Holiday Season

Check out results from our final mini-survey of the holiday season.

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A GREAT LAST WEEK helped turn what had been shaping up as a disappointing holiday season into a good one for many jewelers. Overall, however, the season could be best described as a mixed bag as record sales throughout 2018 fueled high expectations ahead of the peak selling period, only for December to fail to deliver.

The share of jewelers who described the season as either “better than expected” or “terrific” – 37 percent – just edged the proportion who said it was either “worse than expected” or “dismal” – 35 percent. That marked a solid improvement from our previous survey done in mid-December, when only 25 percent of jewelers rated their season up to that point positively and 37 percent said it was looking like a bust.

“It was very late getting started but we pulled it out. Not our best Christmas but good,” said Valerie Savvenas, of Manoli’s Jewelers in Springfield, MO.

“I was truly broken and worried by the 12th because sales had see-sawed the first half of the month,” said Denise Oros, owner of Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL. “Then the steady, sweet daily tallies started rolling in and then just roared to a stop on Christmas Eve when we shut the doors,” she said, adding that she ultimately finished with her best December on record.

HOW WAS CUSTOMER TRAFFIC COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

WHAT WAS YOUR AVERAGE SALE THIS HOLIDAY PERIOD?

HOW WAS YOUR AVERAGE TICKET COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

PLEASE RATE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON FOR YOUR STORE

For many other jewelers, though, 2018 simply ended with a whimper.

“Our year was very strong, at a 30 percent increase, so we projected our December to keep track” said one respondent who answered the survey anonymously. “But we were very disappointed to just keep up with December 2017. Our ARS declined as we saw people spending less, and some of our larger spenders didn’t come.”

For those who missed their targets, there was no shortage of culprits from online sellers to stock market turmoil, to the government shutdown, rising interest rates and even the full moon.

“Tell the Fed not to raise interest rates during Christmas. And take our president’s phone away,” pleaded Georgie Gleim of Gleim the Jeweler in Palo Alto, CA, who said she actually had a surprisingly strong holiday season despite all the chaos being reflected in the news headlines.

Following on from the trend seen in recent weeks (and years), store traffic continued to fall while average tickets increased and custom design jewelry went from strength to strength.

If there was a recurring word in the jewelers’ comments to describe the season, it was “weird.”

“Christmas 2018 was strange,” said Susan Kauffman of Black Dog Jewelers in Lewisburg, PA, “Traffic was way down but the people who did come in bought without a sale price or without asking for a deal. I closed my store on the 26th and we went around to some malls and the parking lots were full; more so than in the beginning of December. I have been in this biz for 30 years and really couldn’t figure the season out.“

Marc Majors, owner of Sam L. Majors in Midland, TX concurred: “We had a strong rush on Saturday and Christmas Eve and that was it. Other than those two days there was no sense of urgency. This holiday season was the strangest I’ve been through yet in my 15-year career and I wouldn’t mind if I never saw one like this again.”

Lisa McConnell of Lisa McConnell Design Studio in Fort Worth, TX said her holiday season was dominated by repairs – really big ones. “Slowest holiday ever. I repaired some of the most expensive jewelry I’ve seen in a long time. Several four-carat solitaire diamond rings, 10-carat solitaire diamond rings and one 23-carat pear shape diamond ring. Lots of high pressure jobs but few big-dollar jobs. Not sure what to think.”

Weird or not, jewelers said they were looking forward to tackling the new year with what they’ve learned over the last two months, including making tweaks to their hours, marketing and inventory.

“We have done a no-strings-attached gift certificate for the last five years. We will not do those going forward,” said Joel Wiland of J.David’s Jewelry in Broken Arrow, OK. “The people that came in to only claim the face value of the card this year definitely ruined it.”

Tom Ozment Jr. of Fincher & Ozment Jewelers in Tuscaloosa, AL, said it appeared customers “still want deals’ so we’ll be having a massive sale next December to give them what they want.”

Wadeana Beveridge, of Community Jewelry in Brandon, FL said many of her customers appeared to be looking at the $150-or-less bracket, mostly earrings. “So I think next year we need to make a point of having a lot of options for birthstones and diamonds.”

In contrast, Jo Goralski, owner of The Jewelry Mechanic in Oconomowoc, WI, said she’d be aiming higher. “I am done with selling trinkets. Purchased goods sales have been sliding for a decade, so with fewer and fewer shoppers in the store, and fewer and fewer years left to be in this business, we are finally going to focus on what we have always wanted to be: studio jewelers,” she said. “We have so many designs yet to create that we are going to focus on what we do best, make things.”

More than 300 jewelers from around the United States and Canada answered the survey, which was sent out on the morning of Dec. 26.

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US Claims Overseas Jewelry Chain Supports Terrorism

It’s among 15 entities being targeted for sanctions.

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The U.S. Treasury Department is targeting al-Hebo Jewelry Co., which has stores in Turkey and Syria, for allegedly supporting ISIS.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control hit the company, along with more than a dozen other organizations and individuals, with counterterrorism sanctions, according to a press release from the department.

According to the release:

As of late 2017, al-Hebo’s location in Gaziantep, Turkey was involved in an ISIS scheme to convert gold into cash to more efficiently and secretly send funds via hawalas in Turkey to ISIS sleeper cells in Iraq and Syria.

As of early 2017, Raqqah-based al-Hebo was a cash transfer business used by ISIS members.

In September 2016, an employee of Raqqah-based al-Hebo likely coordinated a money transfer on behalf of a now-deceased, Syria-based, ISIS senior operations official.

Turkey-based al-Hebo owner Muhamad Ali al-Hebo is named specifically. As of late 2016, he was “involved in procuring precious metals to enable ISIS to produce its own ISIS coinage,” according to the release.

In all, the Treasury Department is targeting “15 leaders, individuals, and entities affiliated with terror groups,” according to the release. They include entities affiliated with HAMAS, al-Qa’ida and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods-Force (IRGC-QF), as well as ISIS.

“Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, the U.S. government has refocused its counterterrorism efforts to constantly adapt to emerging threats,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “President Trump’s modernized counterterrorism Executive Order enhances the authorities we use to target the finances of terror groups and their leaders to ensure they are as robust as possible.

“These new authorities will allow the U.S. Government to starve terrorists of resources they need to attack the United States and our allies, and will hold foreign financial institutions who continue to do business with them accountable. These new tools aid our unrelenting efforts to cut off terrorists from their sources of support and deprive them of the funds required to carry out their destructive activities. They serve as a powerful deterrent to radical terror groups and those seeking to aid their nefarious goals.”

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Woman Watches Video on How to Find Diamonds, Finds 3.72-Carat Yellow Diamond

It’s the largest diamond registered at the Crater of Diamonds since March 2017.

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Miranda Hollingshead apparently knows how to choose the right video.

The Bogata, TX, woman recently visited Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park for the first time and found a 3.72 carat yellow diamond, according to a report on the Arkansas State Parks website. After searching for about an hour, Hollingshead, 27, found the diamond at the base of a hill on the northeast side of the park’s 37.5-acre diamond search area.

“I was sitting in the shade, watching a YouTube video on how to find diamonds. I looked over at my kid for a second, and when I looked down, I saw it mixed in with other rocks,” she said.

It’s the largest diamond registered at the Crater of Diamonds since March 2017, when a teenager from Centerton, AR, found a 7.44-carat brown gem. It is the largest yellow diamond since a visitor from Oklahoma City found a 3.85-carat jewel there in October 2013.

Park interpreter Waymon Cox said, “Every diamond found at the park is beautiful in its own way, and this one is certainly no exception. It’s about the size of a pencil eraser, with a light yellow color and a sparkling, metallic luster. Ms. Hollingshead said her gem’s unique shape reminded her of a rounded molar, with a small indentation in one end.”

Miranda Hollingshead found this diamond at Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park.

Cox said rainfall likely played a role in Hollingshead finding her diamond.

“Much of the ground where Ms. Hollingshead found her diamond is made of unweathered volcanic rock. When it rains, flowing runoff often leaves loose gravel, and sometimes diamonds, on the surface in these areas. Diamonds have a brilliant, adamantine luster that makes them easy to spot, and Ms. Hollingshead happened to be sitting in just the right place to see the diamond sparkle in the sun.”

About one in every 10 diamonds is found on the top of the ground by observant visitors. Park personnel plow the diamond search area, the eroded surface of an ancient, diamond-bearing volcanic pipe, periodically to loosen soil and assist with natural erosion.

Many visitors choose to name the diamonds they find at Crater of Diamonds State Park. Hollingshead and her son named her gem the Caro Avenger. “He chose the name Caro, and I am a fan of superheroes, so it seemed like a good fit.”

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Hollingshead said if she doesn’t sell the diamond, she’ll probably have it mounted in a ring.

In total, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at the Crater of Diamonds since the first diamonds were discovered in 1906 by John Huddleston, a farmer who owned the land long before it became an Arkansas State Park in 1972.

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Jewelry Retailer Expands With Store Acquisition

It will be the company’s third location.

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Hustedt Jewelers, which has locations in Gibson City and Pontiac, IL, has acquired William MarKen Jewelers in Bloomington, IL.

The store will be rebranded, The Pantagraph reports.

“This is an exciting time to expand,” said Kevin Hustedt, owner of Hustedt Jewelers. “We look forward to taking care of all the William MarKen customers just like we do in our other two stores.”

Hustedt took over the business from his father, Larry Hustedt, in 2013. Larry Hustedt started the business in Gibson City with his wife, Ursula, in 1983.

William MarKen Jewelers was started in 1996 by Bill Lyddon, Mark Meins and Ken Criser in Normal, IL. The store moved to Bloomington in 2007.

Kevin Hustedt said MarKen Jewelers’ inventory was being liquidated.

Read more at the The Pantagraph

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