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Eileen McClelland

U.S. Jewelry Council Adds Four Members

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Washington, D.C. – The United States Jewelry Council, a group of U.S.-based jewelry trade associations working to ensure the U.S. jewelry industry is collectively represented at government and international levels, announced the addition of four new members on Wednesday.

Eileen McClelland


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ashington, D.C. – The United States Jewelry Council, a group of U.S.-based jewelry trade associations working to ensure the U.S. jewelry industry is collectively represented at government and international levels, announced the addition of four new members on Wednesday.

The addition of the American Gem Trade Association, Diamond Club West Coast, National Association of Jewelry Appraisers and Silver Promotion Service brings the number of member groups to 13.

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The announcement was made at a press conference during the American Gem Society Conclave.

Ronnie VanderLinden, chair of the USJC, emphasized that the umbrella group is in its infancy, but said he is thrilled to embark on the mission of helping members grow their businesses by staying in front of the challenges they face.

James Evans Lombe, CEO of the council, said the group will work with the U.S. State Department on issues surrounding responsible sourcing, supply chain transparency and ethical business conduct. One goal is to maintain and enhance consumer confidence in the United States in the integrity and origins of jewelry.

The council, formed in October 2015, also includes: American Gem Society, Diamond Bourse of Southeast United States, Diamond Council of America, Diamond Dealers Club of New York, Diamond Manufacturers & Importers Association of America, Indian Diamond and Colored Stone Association, Jewelers of America; Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America and the Natural Color Diamond Association.

The council’s reach in the U.S. jewelry industry encompasses importers, manufacturers and retailers. While the council currently represents most aspects of the U.S. jewelry industry, other groups are welcome to join as well. “We are very much open to looking to any other organization to see where we can work together to promote and support shared goals,” Lombe says, including groups representing the watch industry.

The council formed when the individual associations realized they would have greater influence in dealing with challenges facing the U.S. jewelry industry by combining forces. Members work together to address key issues, such as those of social, ethical and environmental importance that might impact consumer confidence in the U.S. jewelry industry.

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Lombe said that while associations are starting in different places with different interests – metals only, diamonds only, colored stones only, for example – when considering issues such as artisanal mining, interests do converge. “You can bring the learning from other parts of the industry and other parts of the world and develop consistency. This is very much early days, but sharing information among the different associations is important both for education and because some of them might think they are dealing with a problem on their own but discover we are dealing with the same situation in different ways."

Doug Hucker, CEO of AGTA, said that while some member associations do have competing interests, their common goal of selling their products to American consumers erases many conflicts.

“NFL owners meet every year and develop things that are good for their businesses and then every week beat their heads in because they are competing. There’s no question the colored stone industry would love to crush the diamond industry. We can’t all be on the same sheet of music. It is brand new and I’m hoping for good things.”

The Council is a member of the World Diamond Council (WDC), working with the WDC to enhance the U.S. jewelry industry’s voice in the Kimberley Process. It looks to influence other global initiatives, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), tied closely to consumer confidence in the U.S. market.

 

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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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Eileen McClelland

Gem Adventure Tours Support East African Mining Communities

Group’s leader sought “to leave almost every individual that he interacted with better than when he started.”

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The 70 children of the Luzi Children’s Orphanage near Lilongwe, Malawi have all been orphaned by different circumstance and are cared for by the Orphanage, which provides shelter, food, and school fees. They are currently seeking to sustain themselves through gem rough sales.

Since 2010 Roger Dery has led retailers and other jewelry industry professionals on dozens of trips to East Africa to visit mines, lapidary schools and orphanages.

Amid the adventures, education and elephant spotting, his guests couldn’t help but notice that Dery, president of Roger Dery Gem Design, reached out to help everyone he encountered along the way.

Chrysa Cohen of Continental Jewelers in Wilmington, DE, joined him in June.

“Roger gives back wherever he goes, whether it’s visiting the miners and bringing them food and water, whether it’s tipping the drivers, bringing resources to gem-cutting areas,” she says. “If there is a need for knowledge as well as for resources, he finds a way to provide that.”

David McConnell of The King’s Jewelers in Walnut Creek, CA, joined Dery on trips in 2011 and 2014.

“One of the things that struck me the most was that he always strove to leave almost every individual that he interacted with better than when he started,” McConnell says. “If it was someone selling rough and there was nothing Roger wanted to buy, he would try to give the guy something, even if it was a new baggie to hold the rough. Supplies of any kind are hard to get and expensive.

“And that endears people to him. That certainly helps in his business, but that’s not why he does it. He really cares about these people.”

McConnell is one of many jewelers who urged Dery and his wife, Ginger, to set up a non-profit organization so that other people can help, too. “When you’re THERE, there are opportunities to give, to throw in some cash for the school. But when you go back to the U.S. and you’re doing gem roundtables and talking about gemstones and all the good they do, it’s hard to NOT have an organization set up for people to contribute to.”

“Over the years, that’s something I’ve been whispering in his year,” McConnell says.

In 2017, a group he led got together, contributed some money and again encouraged the Derys to start a fund.

“They wanted us to have ready funds and also something they could easily contribute to,” says Ginger. “It wasn’t our idea and we probably wouldn’t have thought of it. We were humbled and overwhelmed. It’s pretty amazing that people who came from all different walks of the retail industry would come together and want to make such an incredible difference in East Africa. Only in retrospect can we say that we were showing them how a small amount of money can make a big difference in people’s lives.”

As a result, Roger, Ginger, and their daughter Rachel launched Gem Legacy in August, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to education, vocational training and local economies in East African mining communities.

“Gem Legacy is dedicated to what we’ve been doing in Africa for over 20 years,” says Roger, “In our 57 combined trips to Africa, we have met thousands of people in East Africa’s remote villages and bush mines where gems have had a remarkable influence on their lives. Gems bring hope, make a difference, and leave a lasting change, a timeless legacy.”

The organization has several initiatives, including Gem Faceting Training, Kitarini Primary School, and Gemological Training. One hundred percent of every donation will return directly to the communities where gems are mined.

Dery was featured in SHARING THE ROUGH, a 2014 documentary about the journey of gems from mine to market, directed by filmmaker and jeweler Orin Mazzoni. The film traces the path through the supply chain of a single gemstone and touches on the potential of the gem industry in Tanzania and Kenya and the importance of gemological education there.

“The first time I went in September 2011 it changed my perception of the industry, my ability to talk about it, my heart for the people, the miners, the kids,” Ginger Dery says. “And so that’s what we want to share with retail jewelers. If it can do that for me, and I live colored stones, what can it do for them, to be able to say `Yeah, I was there. Let me tell you about it. Let me tell you about this school in Africa that we support.”

Roger encourages retail jewelers to travel to Africa, or if not Africa, then to Oregon sunstone mines or Maine tourmaline mines or gem shows in Tucson. “If clients know you just order something from New York or LA, that’s not very exciting. You would like to be able to say, `I traveled to this particular mine in Kenya, bought the miners a couple cases of water and a 5 kilo bag of corn, sat and talked to the guys and had a pretty good feel about what they were going through that day.”

McConnell says his visit to the school in northern Tanzania, in a ruby mine area, made a deep impression on him. “A school has been put together by the local mine owner to benefit the miners’ children. It’s a direct result of having ruby in the area, and there’s Western money coming in. There are hundreds of kids there, who have enthusiasm for life and for interacting with us. That was one of the absolute highlights of my trip.”

McConnell says his African experience also added to his credibility and confidence when he’s selling gemstones in his store. Now he has a first-person story to tell about where the gems come from and how they can change people’s lives.

Gemologist Meredith Schlessinger of Byard F. Brogan in Pennsylvania made the trip in 2016. “Just the little bit we donate goes a long way. A couple hundred dollars can feed children at an orphanage for close to a year. I was so moved by what they do that that was why I decided to go on that trip.  I’m excited for the people of Eastern Africa because they are the ones who are going to benefit.”

Just the little bit we donate goes a long way.

Maggie Szekely-Lusso, president and jewelry designer for Servis & Taylor in Los Angeles, says her socially conscious California customers are impressed knowing their jeweler has gone to the source. “We bought rough and had Roger cut it. People just love it. Customers have adopted foster elephants in Africa, and if they haven’t been to a gem roundtable yet, they ask to be put on the list for next time.”

Szekely-Lusso’s trip was in 2017. “For us, being independent jewelers, having the challenges with the diamond world, we were already interested in color. But recently we made a huge turn toward color. There’s more happiness in it and better margins. Selling loose gems, we create a lot of custom work.

Cohen of Continental Jewelers met Dery three years ago when she hosted a viewing of “Sharing the Rough” in her store. “Roger has developed a relationship with people to understand what they need and what he can do to help.”

The story that most resonated with Cohen was that of Esther, widow of miner Gichuchu OKeno (featured in Sharing the Rough), who had to work hard to support her children when her husband died. A single mom, Esther founded Precious Women Mining and now spends her days crawling in holes with a hammer and chisel searching for tsavorite. Cohen is working on raising funds for Esther, whose most immediate need is a new $5,000 compressor to push more air into the mine. Cohen is donating a percentage of her colored-gem sales to Esther’s endeavor.

For more information about Gem Legacy Inc. or to donate, email info@gemlegacy.org or visit gemlegacy.org. To learn more, follow Gem Legacy on Instagram @thegemlegacy and on Facebook @thegemlegacy.


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Eileen McClelland

What Jewelers Must Understand About Millennials, and 8 Other Takeaways from AGS Conclave

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After a few days immersed in education at the 2018 AGS Conclave, I’m eager to share some highlights from sessions I attended.  One theme is the fact that as demographics and lifestyles are changing, opportunities for growth and new directions arise along with all of the well-known challenges.

MILLENNIALS MEAN OPPORTUNITY. Retailers convinced that millennials don’t buy diamonds may not have all the information. In fact, millennials, who are now 24 to 38 years old, are much more likely to buy diamonds than any older generation, according to research from the Diamond Producers Association. Millennials spent $16 billion on diamonds last year, of which 50 percent was wedding and engagement jewelry. There are big numbers there, and big opportunity. By 2020, the generation’s disposable income will exceed $1.4 trillion. DPA focus groups reveal that millennials especially find value in the authenticity and rarity and individuality of diamonds. — From “Focus Group Confidential: Surprising Things We Learned From Millennials,” presented by Sarah Gorvitz, strategic communications and insights lead for the Diamond Producers Association.

CATER TO SELF-PURCHASING WOMEN. Women’s roles, attitudes and empowerment are affecting all consumer purchases. When it comes to jewelry, women are celebrating myriad moments in their lives, which can be unrelated to family or relationship milestones. A 2017 diamond acquisition study revealed that bridal represented 24 percent of diamond purchase value in the U.S; gifting, 47 percent, and self purchasing, 29 percent, which reflects a 50 percent increase over the past decade. Women’s spending power has increased, and they are buying more diamond jewelry for themselves. – From “De Beers Group Insights to Influence Your Marketing and Selling Strategies,” by Charles Stanley, president of Forevermark U.S.

CUSTOM IS KEY. Jewelry sales are growing ($91 billion in 2017) but jewelry sold by “other sellers” is rising much more rapidly than independent jewelry store sales. There are 91,000 places to buy jewelry but just over 23,000 jewelry stores. Today, 15 percent of engagement ring sales are custom; a decade ago, it was just 5 percent. So the ability to customize your offerings is key to increasing your sales. – From “State of the Jewelry Industry: Facts, Figures and the Future,” by Harold Dupuy, VP of strategic analytics at Stuller.

RECOGNIZE CASUAL TRENDS. Dress has become more casual and jewelry needs to reflect that trend, too. Remember that business casual is now the norm for office workers, while those working at home are likely to be wearing yoga pants and T-shirts. Make sure you can offer casual, wearable jewelry styles that fit today’s culture.  “Very heavy gem-set jewelry is the equivalent of Queen Anne dining sets or heirloom silver they have to polish. But it doesn’t mean they don’t want expensive jewelry. They just don’t want it to look like their parents’ jewelry. They value story, authenticity and individuality. You can’t count on younger customers growing into the taste for traditional fine jewelry.” – From “Too Old To Start Over But Too Young to Retire? Strategies to Balance Risk and Reward Amid Constant Change,” by Hedda Schupak, industry analyst and editor of the Centurion Newsletter.

HIRE CAREERISTS. It’s possible to shape millennial hires into serious sales people, but you’ve got to take hiring seriously yourself, first. That means no shortcuts or impulse decisions made to quickly fill a staff gap. Figure out who the job candidate is before he or she shows up for the first interview.  Joshua Pruschen, manager of Maxon Fine Jewelry in Springfield, MO, interviews each candidate three times. But before the first interview occurs, he asks each candidate to take a personality and skills assessment. If they’re joining the staff, he wants to make sure they’re interested in and capable of committing to a career. – From “Management 101.5, Managing Effectively, Efficiently and With Confidence.”

EDUCATE SHOPPERS ON DIAMOND SHAPES. The appeal of a diamond shape to an individual seems instinctive, says jewelry designer Jade Lustig. Lustig is founder and creative director of Jade Trau, and a fifth generation diamantaire. If you’re selling a diamond ring, figure out which shape your customer is naturally attracted to. “A girl who wants an emerald cut doesn’t even see the other shapes,” Lustig says. “Her eyes glaze over.” Diamond shape should be a basic of everyone’s education, she says. – From “The Majesty, Mystery and Miracle of Diamonds: Why Jewelry Designers Love Working With Them,” moderated by Deborah Marquardt, chief marketing officer of the Diamond Producers Association.

MAKE EYE CONTACT. Studies show that 75 percent of the time the client is making eye contact with the seller – trying to assess their honesty — while the seller is looking at the client only 40 percent of the time.  If you were to increase your eye contact 50 percent or more, your credibility automatically goes up. But don’t do it 100 percent of the time – that’s just weird. – From “Sales Influence: Find the Why in (How People) Buy,” by Victor Antonio.

SLOW ‘EM DOWN. How can you get repair clients to look at jewelry while they’re popping in and out of your store to pick up or drop off repairs? In some strip center stores, it’s tough; a customer can literally walk down the middle and zing — right to the service desk. Consider adding an island, to create more of a flow around the cases. “You can’t make people look at things, but you can slow them down on their rush to pick up whatever the are there for. There may be a way to reuse your existing cases to create more of a meandering path, or maybe buying one new case would make it work.” – Interior designer Ruth Mellergaard of Grid 3 International, from “How a Store Renovation Improves the Customer Experience,” moderated by Trace Shelton, editor in chief of INSTORE.

PROTECT YOUR WORK. Any original work of artistic expression qualifies for copyright protection.  If a jewelry designer creates earrings in the shape of a bumblebee, for example, the designer can’t stop someone else from creating their own interpretation of bumblebee earrings. But a copyright can protect the specific design. The copyright is automatically secured when the work is created and fixed in a tangible medium. Notice of copyright is not required in the U.S., but filing for registration with the copyright office will help you prove you had the design at a certain date. To apply electronically, registration costs $35. JVC has published a guide titled “I Have An Idea! JVC’s Guide to Intellectual Property Law.” – From “Intellectual Property Laws for Jewelers,” by Sarah Yood, senior counsel for the Jewelers Vigilance Committee.

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Eileen McClelland

Vote for Your Favorite Charity: Jewelers Mutual Offering $2 Million

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Jewelers Mutual is launching an all-out social-media campaign to encourage jewelry lovers to vote online for their favorite cause among four charities in the U.S. and Canada, which will receive a total of $2 million.

The organizations include Feeding America and Food Banks Canada, Habitat for Humanity and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The contest is part of the company’s “Band Together” campaign.

Retailers who promote the initiative can help demonstrate to their customers how the jewelry industry bands together to do good, says Trina Woldt, chief marketing officer for Jewelers Mutual.

“We’re hoping the jewelers will participate in this and help fuel it,” she says. “It’s a way to have a conversation with customers beyond the jewelry conversation. Certainly the jewelry industry has a heart for this.”

Millennials in particular favor working with companies who can demonstrate their commitment to the community and the greater good. In fact, Horizon Media’s Finger on the Pulse Study reveals that 81 percent of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to giving and to be good corporate citizens.

There is also a drawing each week for jewelry. The first drawing, for a set of three stacking bands from Stacked New York, is scheduled on July 15.

Jewelers Mutual has long supported local charities in Wisconsin, where the company is based, but has decided to extend the reach of its charitable giving this year to “engage with our personal policy holders in the U.S. and Canada,” Woldt says.

From July 11-31, people across the United States and Canada can cast ballots online at jewelersmutual.com/bandtogether to support the charities. The charitable cause that receives the most votes by the end of July will receive a $1 million donation from Jewelers Mutual.

Of course, there are no real losers in this contest: The runner-up will get $700,000 and $300,000 will go to the third-place winner.

The focus of the company’s giving is traditionally along the themes of health, hunger and home.

The donated money will help:

  • Find a family a decent place to live. Habitat for Humanity serves nearly 1,400 communities across the U.S. and is in over 70 countries. Financial support and volunteering can add a voice to support affordable housing, stability and self-reliance.
  • Provide food for more than 46 million people through 60,000 pantries and meal programs across the U.S., through Feeding America.
  • Feed at least 850,000 Canadians each month through Food Banks Canada.
  • Find cures for life-threatening diseases and save children’s lives through St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
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