The Federal Trade Commission is currently reviewing their Jewelry Industry Marketing Guides …and one of the areas that they are seeking public input about is Cultured Pearls. Hold that thought for a minute, because I am wondering who remembers the story about Mr. Cartier and Natural Pearls.
In 1917, Mr. Cartier needed, wanted and desperately sought to purchase the abandoned mansion on the busy corner of 5th Avenue and 52nd Street in NYC. Although the Cartier family was well known, the owner of the property, Mr. Morton Plant was not impressed. BTW, Mr. Plant was then a man in his 60’s with a wife in her 20’s. Mr. Plant was asking $1.5 million for the property and the Cartier family did not have it. What the Cartier family did have was a double strand of NATURAL PEARLS. As the story goes, Cartier dangled the pearls in front of the Plant couple. As husbands with wives a third of their age often do, Mr. Plant first and foremost wanted to keep his wife happy. So, Plant sold his property valued at $1.5 million for a strand of pearls. Although Plant didn’t get his desired cash, the transaction (given the value of the natural pearls) was considered a fair trade.
Soon after Mrs. Plant died in 1965, the auction house of Parke Beret sold her 5th Avenue pearls. Can you guess the auction price? The pearls did not sell for $1.5 million; they did not even sell for a ½ million dollars. The pearls sold for $151,000. What happened? The broadly distribution of Cultured Pearls is what happened. The cultured pearl industry has essentially replaced the Natural pearl industry with production of cultured freshwater, South Sea, Tahitian, and of course….what is considered the classic cultured pearl (salt-water) developed/introduced my Mikimoto: Akoya Pearls.
The FTC is seeking comments for possible revision of their Guides for the Jewelry Industry; FTC guides explain to businesses when/how they should make consumer disclosures to avoid unfair or deceptive trade practices. Regarding Pearls, they are reportedly looking at the word “cultured” and whether it should continue to be used to describe freshwater pearls (as well as traditional/salt-water cultured pearls)….. and whether or not consumers should be told about certain treatments such as dying pearls—different colors. August 27th is the deadline for sending comments to the FTC.
The Diamond Industry is currently whispering and trying to resolve their concerns & fears regarding synthetic diamonds (i.e. lab-grown). The drama started when recent parcels of synthetic diamonds were submitted to grading labs (in several countries) as natural diamonds. Most industry leaders, however, are calm and confident that detection systems and instruments are effective…and all is well.
Yet, as “officials” sourced-back to the suppliers of these covert and fraudulent submissions …there is evidence that even natural Diamonds are surrounded by disturbing fears. Remember the movie “Blood Diamonds”? This Oscar nominated movie told the horrific story of unimaginable human suffering due to diamonds mined in the conflict areas of chaos and civil war that enveloped 1990’s Sierra Leone. A blood diamond, also known as a conflict diamond, is rough diamond used by rebel movements to finance war against legitimate governments. Well, in 2000 The Kimberly Process (KP) began as a joint governments, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds. As of January 2012, KP members account for approximately 99.8% of the global production of rough diamonds and its important work continues throughout the world. In addition, every reputable jeweler in the US participates in the diamond industry’s “System of Warranties” to ensure their jewelry does not include even a single conflict diamond (aka blood diamond).
Yet, just a few days ago, a new episode of the TV series, “Covert Affairs” (USA Network) aired with conflict diamonds, again in the spotlight. When pop culture keeps blood diamonds in our conversation, all is not well (even in the US) from my point-of-view. To those of you who don’t follow the show: During a 36 hour assignment, Auggie (CIA) tells his friend and colleague (Annie) about his decision to propose to his new girlfriend (Parker). Now, never mind the “tension”/bond between Annie & Auggie….watch the show for that stuff. Simultaneous with the proposal-plan announcement, however, Auggie shows Annie the engagement ring he purchased. Auggie bought a Pearl Ring—not a Diamond Ring; YIKES, Auggie! He explains to Annie, “I couldn’t go the traditional route, because of the blood diamond trade.” Yes, I shed a tear for Diamonds & Covert Affairs.
Diamonds & Pearls are both classics within the world of fashion. Oh, how I love the old movies with Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn wearing their pearls! Yes, I have a strand (or two)…and sometimes I am in the mood to wear a pair of simple, elegant pearl stud earrings. Diamonds, however, are in another league. Only a Diamond is the ultimate symbol of beauty, because a set-diamond is more than a jewelry accessory. Diamonds become part of us as soon as these natural beauties touch our skin. (BTW, pearls can be damaged if they are not gently wiped after being worn or touching our skin.) More importantly, a Diamond remains the ultimate symbol of love. Diamonds communicate what many men cannot seem to get out of their mouths – LOL. So, as I delight in the fact that more and more confident women purchase diamonds for themselves, (refusing to wait for a man to buy them ), many of these same confident women (like me)ALSO remain moved, breathless or teary-eyed when a man pops “the” question with a Diamond Engagement Ring.
As the character on “Covert Affairs” chose a pearl stud ring for his engagement ring last week, I shed a tear, because I believe that most women (and some great men) feel the same as me. Above all else, a Diamond means love and publicly “says” love like no other gemstone or gift. My last post, “Changing the World with Jewelry Activism” also spoke of the good Diamonds do for so many throughout the world. In the US, an estimated 80% of engagements remain sealed with a Diamond Engagement Ring (DER), but I am obviously concerned that the DER may not remain the cultural imperative it is. The Diamond Industry must do a better job communicating the status of global Diamond trading. So, this article is my attempt to contribute to that discussion…and I’m not whispering!
Changing the World with Jewelry Activism
Quality Jewelry enhances our lives for sure. Whether we receive jewelry for a Birthday, Anniversary or “Just Because” …fine jewelry makes our important occasions more memorable. Gifted fine jewelry is always an intimate expression of love and who doesn’t know that a Diamond is the ultimate expression of love! Jewelry we purchase for ourselves also enhances our lives. Unlike other accessories, we don’t just feel more “put together” with fine jewelry; we feel more confident and more beautiful, because quality jewelry and natural gemstones become part of us versus part of our ensemble.
WHAT ABOUT THE SOURCE OF OUR JEWELRY? Following one of my recent seminars, I received a “thank-you-gift” of pink beads that perfectly matched a designer’s pink jacket that I was wearing. BEADS, REALLY? Most people know that I am about natural gemstones, diamonds and only precious metals—the “noble metals”. Well, I graciously accepted the gift and simultaneously learned about a great initiative: “Bead for Life”. The beads are hand-made in Uganda, Africa with recycled paper ….and have been featured on NBC Nightly News, O Magazine, Vanity Fair and more. In 2004, when the founders launched BeadforLife, they had no idea of how their endeavor would expand to help so many!
MJ Christensen Diamonds (Jewelers since 1939; located in Las Vegas) is the jeweler that bestowed upon me the Beads for Life …but more important, they host an Annual Runway for Life Event at both of their jewelry locations. BRAVO, MJ Christensen!
Click this link to see one of their events: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3klizEpUb4w
There are other independent jewelers that are “doing good” for their communities and beyond….find out who they are in your area. If you are around Phoenix, Arizona, you should stop-in and say hi to Molina Fine Jewelers who operates with a mission: CHANGING THE WORLD ONE JEWEL AT A TIME™. Over the past 20 years, along with the time and talents of CEO, Alfredo J. Molina, Molina Fine Jewelers has proudly donated over $30 Million in support of local and national charitable organizations…in addition to hosting hundreds of events that motivate others to give.
Click to see a video of just one of Molina’s dedicated fundraising initiatives: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYBjXkvlnWo
No matter where you shop, I want you to know that buying DIAMONDS is good for many…and provides critical revenue for some countries. Few people know that Diamond revenues enable every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13. An estimated 5 million people have access to appropriate healthcare globally thanks to revenues from diamonds. Still more can be done and here are my favorite organizations that are involved:
The Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF) is an international non- profit organization supporting education initiatives in diamond producing countries. Website: http://www.diamondempowerment.org
The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) works to ensure that Diamonds become an engine for development in countries where artisanal diamond-diggers labor in poverty, outside the formal economy. Website: http://www.ddiglobal.org/
The heart and soul of the luxury business is the understanding that luxury is inexpressible, because it is aesthetic based….captivating all of our senses. That is why a simulant or synthetic gemstone doesn’t make it. No matter how beautifully it is described and no matter how good it looks at first glance or on TV, a fake has nothing to do with luxury. The reason is simple: Natural gemstones captivate us emotionally, physically and mentally. If we know we are wearing a fake or if we see our faux gemstone next to the real thing…we will feel differently. In other words, the luxury experience will also be simulated and fall short.
If you love Diamonds, I bet you have heard more than once that “You can see the difference”! The reality is that most people (including many diamond jewelry sellers) can NOT see the difference between most diamonds. Watching people buy & sell diamonds is for me sometimes like a store performance of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.
People are also bombarded with grades of diamonds represented by letters, numbers and various “certificates”. You’ve seen them (VVS1, VS2, SI1, F, G, H, triple 0’s, etc.) By the way, did you know that if you read the back of 99.9% of certificates from the most prestigious gemstone labs in the country, they clearly say (in very tiny print), that the certificates are NOT guaranteed? Diamond Certs are just written and signed grading opinions; you should know that the range of differences-of-opinions is wide!
After 25 years in the Diamond & Jewelry industry, I want you to know that you need to learn how to trust your own eyes …and stop feeling like you have to agree when someone important says that you can see something that you can NOT! Remember, the 4C’s are just guidelines and someone’s opinion. Two Diamonds with the exact same grades will look different…& not just because every diamond is different. Some diamonds have a Sparkly Personality that dances with the light and some do not…. no matter how great the Diamond grade on a certificate!
Now for some Diamond Sparkle that everyone will see easily! There is a new cutting method (NOT a Diamond treatment or an enhancement – which I hate as much as synthetics and simulants!) and it uses nano-technology to create really tiny facets on a diamond. The tiny facets are microscopic prisms….which increase the FIRE of a Diamond. When a diamond moves or the person looking at a Diamond moves, the flashes of COLOR is called FIRE. Fire is technically referred to as Dispersion, while Brilliance refers to the return of WHITE light. All diamonds have brilliance (return of white light) and some Fire (flashes of color)…but never before could anyone improve a Diamond’s Sparkle…or Fire with a natural cutting method! Ask to see a Fire Polish Diamond & YOU WILL DEFINITELY SEE THE DIFFERENCE. The bigger the better ; )
Natural Diamond WITH Fire Polish nano-facets
Natural Diamond WITHOUT Fire Polish Nano-Facets
Many marketers feel that Quality is all about perceived value. In fact, it is “value” that is perceived… when the quality of something is thought to be worth its price. There are true standards of Quality …that have little to do with price and nothing to do with perception. In the past, when a fine jeweler sold a Diamond, it was real, natural and untreated…NOT necessarily today. In the past, the words “Fine Jewelry” distinguished real, quality jewelry from the fake….but NOT today. I have worn and promoted quality diamond jewelry valued in the millions of dollars …and I also promote sterling silver jewelry that is under $50. Quality is not about the price, but it is based on reality!
I remember wearing a beautiful $100,000+ diamond necklace and matching $25,000 diamond ring for an important industry gala….and they both scratched my skin and constantly tangled my hair (OK, my hair is always a bit long). I personally own and often wear another expensive diamond ring that never scratches my skin and never catches my hair or any fabric of my clothes…I don’t even feel it; it is part of me. Most recently, I promoted and wore a Sterling Silver Necklace with diamond accents, which was so well crafted and manufactured that it felt like silk on my fingertips. It was quality. Quality jewelry is first and foremost about craftsmanship!
Quality, like Luxury also has an aesthetic and an emotional component… both quality and luxury can engage us emotionally. A home, a car or an item of jewelry are some of the most emotionally loaded purchases we can make. I think it is funny, that people commonly say we should never buy a home based on emotion, but diamond sellers and jewelry sellers generally agree that they are selling emotion. Well, I love that I am emotional about what I buy …. I love to “feel” right about a purchase. That does NOT mean that I do not need expertise and experience to validate the quality of which I am emotionally drawn. And therein lies the rub.
I am motivated to share my expertise and inside information on this site to:
1. Help those that want real quality jewelry…so they don’t settle for less.
2. Demonstrate that quality jewelry is available for everyone, at every price point.
3. Honor those jewelry sellers & manufacturers that offer real quality gemstones and jewelry.
By now, you all know that I believe every woman deserves REAL Quality Jewelry …No Imitations, No Simulations & No Synthetics! Most importantly, we all deserve to know what we are buying! The challenge is to look beyond any Marketing Spin…which I call “Marketing SPAM”.
If you are a Jeweler who hides some facts and has not yet stopped the spam, learn from brands in other industries. For example: The Four Seasons website integrates customers’ comments (all the negative criticism, as well as the positive reviews; & BTW I had a great stay in Vegas during Jewelry Week.) My favorite example this week is Miracle Whip: their campaign boasts about “not being for everyone” …. It does not pretend to be real mayonnaise, LOL.
So, back to the jewelry industry:
All of my girlfriends out there who love jewelry and are contemplating their next purchase, you need to look at the information carefully, while you listen to your jewelry sellers… and most importantly, ASK QUESTIONS!
If a seller says a gemstone is GENUINE, he does NOT necessarily mean it is Natural and Untreated. For example: lots of jewelry sellers are offering Blue Diamonds at bargain prices…without telling the whole story. Natural Color Diamonds are even rarer than Colorless Diamonds. Natural Blue Diamonds are extremely rare and can be priced in the millions of dollars. Genuine Blue Diamonds set in Jewelry offered at Bargain Prices…are likely BROWN DIAMONDS or faint yellow Diamonds that were first Irradiated and then given a high heat treatment,which turns the browns/yellows into colored diamonds, including: greens, vivid yellows, blues, purples and reds! This created color is usually permanent, but could possibly change during Repairs or Re-settings that require high heat.
Is there something wrong about buying treated gemstones? Not necessarily, but you should know what you are buying! For example: one of my friends is a manufacturer and seller of beautiful affordable Blue Zircon gemstone jewelry. Blue Zircon is a real gemstone (not to be confused with Cubic Zirconia; Zirconia is Synthetic & Fake). ALL Blue Zircon gemstones are heat-treated, yet the lively light blue color and refraction can be appealing. Now, if you are an investor or among our elite affluent who can own a Natural Blue Diamond…then go for it; a Blue Diamond is on top of my list for you…right after a Natural Pink Diamond 😉 As for the rest of us, let’s buy, wear or sell beautiful, rare, gemstones, but nothing fake or simulated; if you have an urge to get close to a natural blue diamond … go visit the HOPE DIAMOND, the most famous Natural Blue!
Sotheby’s Hong Kong – 10-5-2011; 6.01 carat vivid blue & pink diamond ring; Sold for $10.1 million ($1.68 million per carat)
Hope Diamond – 42.52 Carats; Most visited object in the world; Smithsonian’s Geology, Gems & Minerals Exhibit (Harry Winston Gallery)
Sometimes, though….we look in our jewelry box and see fashion-styled forever pieces that no longer get us excited, because our style has taken a turn. I myself swing between classic, contemporary and what I call “in-my-moment” style; but NEVER will I build my style with anything not genuine or fake!
So, what can we do with our quality treasures …until the style recycles back into vogue with us or the runway? Quality lets us restyle and transform our investments, so we can enjoy them today, tomorrow and forever!
Designer Erica Courtney says: “Repurpose, Relove!” . . . her designer collections often catch my eye, but she also has a “REPURPOSE, RELOVE” program that encourages her customers to bring in their old jewelry treasures to be recreated, combined and transformed into new exciting jewelry items.
I Love you Erica Courtney!
Antique Art Deco Ring - Walton's Antique & Estate Jewelry
Always purchase quality and you will have it forever, for your next celebration, for next year or for your next generation, because we all deserve to celebrate our life with Real Quality NOT Imitations!
So, if you yearn for some new Sparkle in your life, while you have quality lingering and neglected in your jewelry box…use those pieces to create something new and you will love and enjoy your quality jewelry all over again!
We all have heard sales people tell us to make the investment in fine jewelry so that we can pass it on to our children, to our family, etc. But I say buy quality, because you deserve to celebrate your life with quality today! This website and blog is designed to show you how to find the affordable real thing!
So, let me start with my Quality Rules . . .
#1: You Deserve the Real Thing!
Nothing Fake, Nothing Faux, Nothing Phony and Nothing Fleeting should take your hard-earned dollars.
#2: Don’t be Tricked by Marketing Spin.
If someone says it is “Brilliant” . . .they may mean it is brilliant in their hand or studio that is filled with Fake and Faux gems. Most people who look at a fake gem next to a real gem…will see the difference. Most importantly, you should KNOW & FEEL the difference. You know you deserve and want the real thing! So don’t let yourself be conned, mislead or manipulated!
Remember, everyone wants to sell their products and unfortunately, they often use words that make their products seem better than they are! Do you remember reading about “PINK SLIME” that is added to Beef in most grocery stores with the name “Lean Textured Beef” – ugh!! If some people are comfortable tricking us about the food we eat and give our children…what do you think their boundaries are for jewelry and gemstones?
#3: Real Jewelry & Real Gemstones are Available at Every Price Point!
Real natural gemstones can be Affordable; there is no reason to break your piggy bank…unless you want to LOL. Follow me and I will be your curator for all that Sparkles…or send me your questions and in keeping with my reputation – I will tell it like it is!
#4: Only Natural Diamonds are FOREVER.
We all love diamonds, want diamonds, buy diamonds or ask for diamond jewelry because a Diamond is the ultimate gift of love and the ultimate self-expression! Don’t be fooled by clever Brand Names that make you think Fake or treated diamonds are real Diamonds – ugh! ALWAYS be sure to ask if they are Natural, untreated Diamonds! If you get some answer that is a beautiful description about how beautiful they are…go back to your question and make sure they are answering your question: “Are the beautiful things, Natural Untreated Diamonds”?
#5: Build a Jewelry Wardrobe
If you invest in Quality, then each piece of jewelry should be purchased as part of a jewelry wardrobe…that will build and grow in flexibility and beauty over the years. Buying one piece of jewelry without thinking about your jewelry wardrobe…can be like buying that blouse, or skirt or suit in your closet that you never wore, because you don’t have anything to wear with it! Follow me for future posts that will discuss the Jewelry Basics that every woman needs….and the right ways to build the jewelry wardrobe that you want and deserve!
Working as a business consultant that supported the DEBEERS GROUP for over ten years, the words “A DIAMOND IS FOREVER” continue to make me realize how lucky I am to work with my best friend for so long. Yes it is true: “Diamonds are my best friend—LOL.” I also have come to believe that ALL JEWLERY should be up to diamonds…and last FOREVER!.
Quality is important, not just for an engagement ring or a wedding band… quality is important for all jewelry that is given, received or purchased to celebrate our life! Working in the wonderful jewelry industry for decades, I am known world-wide as the educationalist, who tells it like it is …and helps educate the jewelry industry to do the same. Today, as I work with Diamontaires, Jewelry Manufacturers, Jewelry Designers, Jewelry Retailers or women everywhere, I continue to only support and promote jewelry that offers the best possible quality for the price…and it should last forever!
Follow me and I will be your and curator for all that sparkles!