By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogBut I was inspired to write this blog after spending the greater part of the week around so many retailers and other leaders in the industry and hearing what was on their minds. So, without further ado, I present to you three issues that will be worth monitoring for the rest of this year and beyond.

1) The diamond industry crisis. With this first one, I am not talking about over-graded diamonds (though that certainly still an issue; see below) but rather the giant morass the diamond industry finds itself in right now. Global demand is sluggish, the rough is overpriced and now it seems nobody is even making money off diamonds, even the mining companies.

De Beers’ earnings dropped by 25 percent in the first half of the year, dogged by a 21 percent decrease in rough diamond sales. Alrosa’s first half sales also fell 21 percent.

And the situation doesn’t appear to be improving.

News surfaced this week that De Beers is allowing sightholders to defer as much as 75 percent of their allocations at their upcoming sight in August and my colleague Rob Bates reported Thursday that Alrosa is considering canceling its August allocation altogether.

At the WJA gala Monday night, one industry colleague made a statement that sums up the current state of affairs in the diamond industry perfectly: It’s as if we are driving 90 miles per hour into a brick wall with our eyes wide open.

2) Diamond grading reports. Back in December, one of the attorneys involved in bringing cases against Genesis Diamonds in Nashville, Tenn., Brian Cummings, told me that a class-action lawsuit against EGL International and “major retailers” for selling over-graded diamonds would be filed in the next 60 days.

I haven’t heard any more about this alleged lawsuit since then (Cummings has not yet replied to my latest query on the topic) but that certainly doesn’t mean this issue is going away.

The Diamond Council of America’s Terry Chandler gave a presentation Monday at the JA New York Summer show that made an excellent point: Millennials don’t like being lied to; they expect honesty from the brands and companies from which they chose to buy. One whiff of dishonesty in the form of an over-graded diamond will send them packing, turning them off buying diamonds and jewelry and general. So, Chandler said, don’t do it.

Between the issues with grading reports and the profitability problems, one has to wonder when, or even if, diamonds—once the staple of a jeweler’s inventory, the money-maker, the stone widely marketed to consumers as being forever—will ever regain their shine, no pun intended.

I recently had a Facebook conversation with one jeweler from the South who doesn’t seem to think so.

“I honestly believe that money cannot be made in diamonds anymore. Money has to be made where value can be added, and that means more jewelry, as opposed to diamonds,” he said, a point which bring me to my final issue to watch for the rest of the year …

3) Wearable technology. The Apple Watch hit stores in April, TAG Heuer’s answer is supposed to come in October or November, and there are any number of other products on the market that monitor heart rate, sleep or relay phone messages that are available in the form of jewelry.

[caption id="attachment_3255" align="alignleft" width="398"] This Instagram snap taken by our associate editor Brecken at the show features yours truly stacking up a Beacon & Lively piece with my own watch and bracelets.[/caption]

Wearable technology is a category to which retailers need to dedicate showcase space.

Sad as it may be, our smartphones and their functions are becoming a natural extension of our bodies. They keep us in touch with friends and family 24/7, let us shop and pay for things, and keep track of our health.

At the JA New York show, I had a chance to stop by the booths of the four wearable technology companies exhibiting at the show: Looksee Labs, Beacon & Lively, Oura and iFit (there were supposed to be five but one company, Viawear, did not make it).

Personally, I thought Philadelphia-based Beacon & Lively’s “The Beacon” cuff was the most jewelry store-ready of the four products I saw. It’s sleek, pairing well with other pieces, and simple. It’s easy to understand what The Beacon does and, therefore, easy for a jeweler to explain to their customer.

Like Ringly the ring, this bracelet lights up and/or vibrates when the wearer gets notifications about calls, texts, emails, etc. from certain people on their smartphone, all of which the wearer decides on and sets themselves.

You could, for example, set The Beacon to light up blue when you get a phone call from mom and red when your current beau sends a text, but not set any alerts for messages from that guy you were dating who lied about the fact that he still lives with this mother.

The idea behind the bracelet is to alert the wearer when something important is coming through on their smartphone; no buzzing or light show means nothing of note is happening, so there’s no need to pull out your phone every five minutes to check.

The Beacon is brass plated in silver, gold and black ruthenium, has a five-day battery life and will retail for $200 when it comes out, which Beacon & Lively hopes will be later this year.

Think Beacon & Lively is not for your store? That’s fine, but at least check out Looksee Labs, Oura and iFit, or jewelry from one of the many other companies now in wearable technology. It can’t hurt to at least consider something new, especially at a time when there are so many issues with those products you’ve depended on for so long.

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