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1990: Diamond Promotions by De Beers Will Help Industry Win the Competition

September 1999

With a total of 1,650 exhibitors and 12,021 buyers, JA/NY seems to have turned itself around. “We are extremely pleased with the turnout at this year’s JA/New York. When attendance is up and there’s an increase in exhibitors, you have the strongest possible indicators that the show is moving in the right direction,” said Drew Lawsky, JA/NY show director.

From the glow of the Gate 2000 sculpture from the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) to the Broadway tunes of Footloose, the JA/NY Show glittered. The party atmosphere initially encountered was only the surface, though, and the real “meat and potatoes” of the revitalized show was its program of seminars.

Opportunity 2000

De Beers’ Diamond Promotion Service’s Opportunity 2000 program should have been the biggest draw of the show: It had terrific speakers – some of the best in the industry – and brass-tacks sales techniques not just for diamonds but for all sorts of jewelry. Unfortunately the program carried a charge of $150 charge which kept a number of jewelers away and left the audience noticeably underrepresented.

Discounting the small attendance, the program was quite a success. Keith Harrell, author of Attitude is Everything, spoke on Embracing Change: The Power for Growth, the concept of change and its impact on the industry from the individual up. Using the old ‘You can’t handle perfume without getting a drop on you’ story, Harrell’s positive self-talk message motivated his audience so well the volume and energy levels went through the roof. In the style of an old-fashioned revival, Harrell had his audience shouting back to him, “I am the best! I’m wonderful! I can do it!” Even the Best of the Best Yearbook, a workbook for the participants, was filled with motivational language, among which was the classic, “Don’t forget, the only thing you can change is yourself, and sometimes that changes everything.”

Other speakers included Diane Warga-Arias of the Diamond Promotion Service whose talk was entitled The Future is Now. Indeed, opportunity, change and future could be used as the key words for both this seminar and for JA/NY in general. Robert Meyer EvansGlobal Trends Institute and author of Megatrends spoke on Major Forces Driving the 21st CenturyMatthew Runci, president & CEO of Jewelers of America talked about JA in the New Millennium.

William Boyajian, president of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) spoke on Change in the Jewelry Industry, and covered the most difficult issues facing the individual jeweler today. Are you in tune with the next generation of jewelry buyers? Is your staff equipped with basic gemological knowledge? Are you aware of the technological revolution taking place in gemology? His well-received message carried the strong point that only those jewelers who are prepared to answer the hard questions will survive.

Of great interest to the participants was Runci’s definition of the three most important things that would undermine consumer interest in fine jewelry:

Information overload, including price-lists, lab certificates and consumers having just enough information to be dangerous;

Competition pressure from one jeweler over another;

And most dangerous, ethical dilemmas and a poor image of the jewelry trade including moissanite and synthetic diamond scams, and the LKI/GE/Pegasus issue.

The response to the entire seminar from attendees was overwhelmingly positive and despite the high cost for attendance, next year’s may prove much higher due simply to the quality of the program. This may prove to be a case of you get what you pay for as, with Opportunity 2000, you get a lot.

Diamonds on the Internet

Another high-response program included panelists chosen to represent all aspects of the Internet. Jacques President; Joseph Schlussel, representing the traditional diamond wholesaler using the Internet and Publisher of the Diamond Registry BulletinMayer Herz, the treasurer of the Diamond Dealers Club who recently signed on with on-line retailer; Liz ChatelainNVI Marketing consultant to the jewelry industry including the Argyle mine; Cecilia Gardner, Executive Director of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) and Martin Rapaport of Rapnet.

The panel of experts, moderated by National Jeweler Publisher, Whitney Sielaff, discussed using the Internet for sales, the quality of sites to be found, the possibility of scams, the Net as the communication tool and the future of selling and the marketplace.

Selling on the Internet

On the minds of many of the jewelers in the audience was the most basic question: How to make money on the Internet. Voorhees, whose presentation included a look at several Web sites, noted that there was “a lot of mediocre stuff that hasn’t been thought through.” Mayer Herz continued the discussion regarding the mediocrity of many sites, “You need to do it right and you need to do it right the first time.”

The question of how to do it right, though, is a complex one. The Diamond Registry’s Joseph Schlussel explained the evolution of his own Web site: “We started the site to be a direct benefit geared to retail jewelers, but the way the site is used now – and the people who are using it – has changed drastically.” Where was originally an industry/trade site, it is now frequented by the individual buyer as well. “Because the Diamond Registry started receiving thousands requests for specific diamonds, we implemented a referral service to those jewelers who are members of the Diamond Registry Fellowship.”

In terms of direct Internet sales, Liz Chatelain’s presentation was the most telling. In her I-net search for a new car she came across one – yes, that’s right, one – dealer who could give her what she wanted. Not a bargain, not a “steal”, but the most important thing of all: the goods she wanted to buy. “I got it all and the price was incidental to me,” said Chatelain. “I predict that we’ll lose another 10,000 [jewelers from the JBT] in the next 8-10 years. But there will be 10,000 new Websites with e-commerce capability. Don’t walk, RUN to the Internet. It’s important!” Chatelain continued.

Herz said, “This is really bringing us back to an earlier stage of commerce where people bought from the artisan directly. The Internet is huge, there’s plenty of room for all of us.” Unfortunately, many of those using the I-net for sales are expecting miracles instead of good old hard work. The knowledge that can be obtained by use of the I-net is as valuable as any commodity you can think of. “This is the Age of Information. The more you have the more power you have over your business and over your competition,” Rapaport said. But simply putting up a Web site is not enough, said panel members. It must be accurate and easy to use, the consumer must be able to trust the business behind the Web pages, the site must be maintained, and most importantly, it must have what the consumer wants to buy. As our own Joseph Schlussel said in his summing up, “Having a Web site is like having a telephone. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it’s going to ring.”

Is the ‘Net Full of Scam Artists?

But lest you think the ‘Net is “virtually” trouble-free, Cecilia Gardner of the JVC said, “It’s a pretty Wild West atmosphere on the Internet and it’s certainly beyond the capability of the JVC to oversee.”

Some sites ask for wire transfers instead of credit card payment — saying that the use of credit cards over the Internet is not safe. Of course, the smart consumer knows that credit cards are the safest way to buy, especially now that most card companies are making firm fraud statements and will not require legitimate cardholders to cover fraudulent costs.

On one site, the audience was able to see an advertisement for a diamond “Color G, clarity FY?” Excuse me?!

The Federal Trade Commission has published the results of its surf of 100 Internet Web sites that advertise and sell jewelry. This investigation, which covered only a tiny portion of the total number of jewelry sites has turned up a shocking amount of deceptive sales claims. For instance, of 90 sites selling diamond jewelry, 62 had ads with weight representations and only 58% of those sites appeared to be advertising the weight correctly. Only 5% of the 64 sites it reviewed that sold gemstones (including diamonds) disclosed treatments of those stones correctly prior to sale.

But the good news from Gardner and the JVC is that “All the laws that apply to your business that have bricks and mortar apply to the Internet as well.” But she says the JVC is still working on questions with regards to what “disclosure” means on the Internet.

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