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Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence Among Topics at Plumb Club’s Symposium ‘24

A select 225 industry executives were treated to two days of education on a wide variety of topics.




Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence Among Topics at Plumb Club’s Symposium ‘24
Lori Greiner with Jewelers Mutual

(PRESS RELEASE) New York – Former chief sustainability officer of Sweden-based IKEA, Pia Heidenmark Cook, drew upon her experience to help attendees at Symposium ’24 this month understand how sustainability can be turned into an opportunity.

A select 225 industry executives were treated to two days of education on a wide variety of topics at Symposium ’24, a forum presented by The Plumb Club this month in partnership with JCK and Jewelers Mutual. The event took place in a private venue in midtown Manhattan, rounding out New York’s “Jewelry Week.”

Speakers ranged from Lori Grenier, a “Shark” on ABC’s show, “Shark Tank,” who talked about bringing a good idea to the mass market, to a variety of jewelry industry authorities.

Michael O’Connor, Plumb Club marketing director, says one of the group’s core pillars is education. Retailers are beginning to make more buying decisions earlier in the year, and Plumb Club members decided the timing of New York’s Jewelry Week is an opportunity to talk about trends and issues on the horizon that will impact the jewelry industry.

“We left invitations up to our members,” O’Connor says. “They targeted major retailers and higher-end independents who are in tune with things going on in the world, and want to use that information for the betterment of their business. We formed an invitation committee from our membership.”

Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence Among Topics at Plumb Club’s Symposium ‘24

Networking Cocktails


One theme of the Symposium was sustainability.

Cook is the author of the upcoming book, “Embedding Sustainability. How to drive organizational transformation.”

Cook urged U.S. jewelers to figure out where things are going, rather than struggle to meet minimum legal requirements about sustainability and sourcing. “Don’t be reactive,” she says. With climate change, there will be less biodiversity and less clean water, so regulations are likely not to ease, but to become more stringent in the future, she says.

“Jewelry ranks third as the category of product most often purchased based on sustainability, after only food and clothes,” Cook says. “And one-third of global consumers say it’s the most valued factor ahead of all others when deciding to buy a natural diamond.”

Thirty percent of millennials in the U.S. have bought what they would describe as sustainable jewelry compared to just 8 percent of baby boomers.

When IKEA began to focus on sustainability more than 20 years ago, the company did so because it meshed with its culture, vision and values. But it soon became obvious it would also save money. “Everything you do for the first time is often expensive,” she says. “But when it comes to being smart with resources, not wasting resources, that can be cost-conscious.


Within the last 10 years, this approach has become a competitive factor in Europe, in particular. Trust drives sales. And what drives trust for IKEA is both quality and sustainability. Major efforts began in the 1990s when the company was accused of child-labor violations. Executives went to the sources to develop a code of conduct. “Fundamentally, sustainability is about understanding your supply chain,” she says. “Understanding that means you take lower risks and are less oblivious to what is going on.”

“Consumers want it all,” she says. “Great quality products, sustainability and they want it cheap. But when they define value, sustainability is part of that value now.”

Melanie Grant speaks on Responsiblity

Melanie Grant speaks on Responsibility

Melanie Grant, director of the Responsible Jewellery Council, says that by 2025, 20 to 30 percent of global fine jewelry sales will be influenced by sustainability considerations. That represents $110 billion in sales, which is a three to four-times increase just since 2019.

Sustainability, she says, is an umbrella term for responsible, ethical and sustainable practices. Organizations benefit from adopting such practices by experiencing higher motivation among employees and an enhanced reputation.

As Gen Z replaces millennials as the dominant jewelry consumer in the next decade they will have strong expectations. “They will want you to have an opinion, a position and a whole level of engagement that didn’t exist 10 years ago. They want jewelry to have meaning beyond the story of the collection.”


In fact, 42 percent of Gen Z would not buy from companies whose values do not align with their own.

“We have to get ready for what’s coming. The new consumer buys into a business’s values.”

Artificial Intelligence and what it will mean for jewelry companies and customers was also addressed.

David Edelman, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and author of the upcoming book, “Personalized Customer Strategy in the Age of AI,” offered insight into the growth of artificial intelligence and what the consumer will (very soon!) expect from a jewelry retailer as a result: “Table stakes will be: Here’s a picture. What do you have that looks like this?” But those expectations may also include: “Here’s a picture of my outfit. I need something made to go with it in two weeks.” Or “I want to look like a certain celebrity. What would be a series of purchases I could make to achieve that goal?”

AI will make each customer journey much more personal and will enable seamless integration between online and brick-and-mortar experiences. “What happens online, what the salespeople have showed you, what you’ve browsed, we want all these channels to work together,” he says. “The second part is feeding all these channels the information about the individual. All that information moves with the customer right to the sales rep in a completely integrated way. So, whenever you connect with the customer you will have the best understanding of them and what is possible.”

Trend spotting was also a popular topic.

Michelle Orman moderated a panel of Kathy Lee (The Zoe Report) and Severine Ferrari (Engagement 101) about evolving metal trends.

Ferrari says as more women are involved in the purchase of engagement rings, and in many cases, paying for or contributing to those purchases, styles have become much more varied. That trend extends to metal choices. “For a long time, it was only cool metals but in the past three or four years there’s been more yellow gold and more two-tone rings. Rose gold is coming back.

“A lot of women are upgrading in five years when it used to take much longer,” she says. While brides may initially choose a thin band, they may notice that those styles are difficult to wear every day.

When they upgrade, they may well choose thicker bands, even a signet-style band or a sturdy three-stone ring. Metal is important in these rings. “You see the metal much more than with a basic solitaire,” she says. She also expects to see more ornate settings with engravings and vintage detail.



This Third-Generation Jeweler Was Ready for Retirement. He Called Wilkerson

Retirement is never easy, especially when it means the end to a business that was founded in 1884. But for Laura and Sam Sipe, it was time to put their own needs first. They decided to close J.C. Sipe Jewelers, one of Indianapolis’ most trusted names in fine jewelry, and call Wilkerson. “Laura and I decided the conditions were right,” says Sam. Wilkerson handled every detail in their going-out-of-business sale, from marketing to manning the sales floor. “The main goal was to sell our existing inventory that’s all paid for and turn that into cash for our retirement,” says Sam. “It’s been very, very productive.” Would they recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers who want to enjoy their golden years? Absolutely! “Call Wilkerson,” says Laura. “They can help you achieve your goals so you’ll be able to move into retirement comfortably.”

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