No Kidding? What A Revelation!

According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Kronos Inc. consumers are more likely to make purchases and inclined to buy more merchandise per transaction when retailers provide attentive, knowledgeable service.

Savvy retailers who focus on providing higher levels of customer service are able to influence shoppers to increasing their holiday spending, Recognizing that their workforce is critical to sales,leading retailers are utilizing their workforce as a strategic asset to satisfy customers and boost sales this holiday season.

The survey found that 85 percent of respondents were “somewhat to very likely” to purchase additional products if they interacted with a competent sales associate while shopping.

The survey also found that potential buyers will return merchandise to the shelf if they were unable to find the assistance they need, effectively reversing their decision to buy. An overwhelming 82 percent of consumers will wait on line no longer than15 minutes.

Additionally, 45 percent of those polled said that they shop for themselves during the holiday season, giving retailers another incentive to ensure that they are catering to the service needs of their customers.

“Because this survey gives retailers a glimpse into the consumer psyche during the holiday shopping season, they can work to ensure they are focused on the factors that most contribute to increased spending and customer loyalty,” Stuart Itkin, vice president of marketing at Kronos, said in a company press release.

Stuart, you’re a frickin genius. All that money spent on the MBA degree. Common sense costs a lot less.

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China Brides Want Diamonds.

Prices for diamonds in China are increasing between 30 and 40 percent according to Kevin Tomlinson, director of natural resources for Williams De Broe in London. Tomlinson told Australia’s PM radio show that demand for diamonds in China is increasing because brides-to-be in China “are demanding of their men that if they want to get married, then they need to have a diamond.” He added that demand growth has added pressure on the industry to find and mine more diamonds, especially in Australia.

Most analysts say the growth of the middle class in China has only just begun. This week, China revised gross domestic product (GDP) figures from 2004 pointing to larger gains than originally thought. For year 2004 China ranked No.7 in the world (behind Italy) at $1.6 trillion. On December 20, China revised its 2004 figures ahead 16.8 percent to $1.98 trillion, or slightly below France at No.5. But analysts say China is underestimating its total weight (and does not include Hong Kong or Macau in figures) to hide the nation’s real strength.

If China included Hong Kong in national figures, it would jump to No.4, replacing the United Kingdom. The United States’ economy is measured at $11.7 trillion, Japan at $4.6 trillion, and Germany at $2.7 trillion.

China measures its GDP with service sector returns (41 percent,) agriculture (13 percent,) and manufacturing (46 percent,) whereas nearly 70 percent of the United States’ economy is based upon consumer spending.

According to Hu Yanni, of CSC Securities Co Ltd, consumers in China are not yet willing to spend their money on nonessential consumption, because they feel more pressure to spend on necessities, he told China’s Interfax.

How do you say ‘bling-bling’ in Chinese?

Bling-bling!

Verify Your Diamond Grading Report Online.

GIA (Gemological Institute of America) announced today that consumers and retailers will soon be able to check information on any GIA Diamond Grading Report or Diamond Dossier issued post January 1, 2000 via GIA’s new online Report Check service, due to begin on January 1.

The new online service is free, and comes on the heels of recent reports of counterfeit grading certificates found in London and in Antwerp. The service will be available by entering the GIA report number and weight of the diamond, and will provide all of the critical information on the original report, including a cut grade if applicable. The Report Check will also help determine whether the diamond should be submitted for a new cut grade.

In a press release on December 21, the GIA’s laboratory and research senior vice president, Thomas Moses, said that the new service will dissuade the use of counterfeit GIA reports as well as help preserve public trust in diamonds. The institute will also update the laboratory section on its website to provide customers with useful information on how to submit diamonds to the GIA lab as well as on day-to-day business.

In a separate release on December 21, the GIA reminded clients that those who own a diamond with a GIA Diamond Grading Report or Diamond Dossier will be able to submit their old report for a new version. The new version will include the new cut grade for D-to-Z color, standard round brilliant diamonds.

For round brilliant diamonds graded between August 1 to December 31, 2005, the new report will be issued free of charge without the diamond through March 2006. For round brilliant diamonds graded from January 1 to July 31, 2005, a new report will be issued for a fee of $15 through March 2006. For round brilliant diamonds graded prior to January 1, 2005, a new report will reflect the current date and will cost 75 percent of the diamond grading fee. After March 2006, services will return to standard fees, the GIA said.

The GIA said its education branch will introduce the new Diamond Cut Grading System in its on-campus diploma programs and lab classes in January 2006. Hands-on lab classes will also be available for graduates of the Diamonds and Graduate Gemologist diploma programs in order to update them on the new cut grade. GIA Education will also offer seminars at selected trade shows.

Will I See A Difference?

A question we have been asked quite often, recently, is whether it is possible to “see” a difference in a diamond that has been graded with ‘Very Good’ (VG) Symmetry” compared to a diamond given a Symmetry Grade of ‘Good’ (G)?

First, what is Symmetry? Symmetry refers to the “meet points” or junction lines that align the top (Crown) with the bottom (Pavillion) of the diamond. See Figure below:

Diamond Symmetry.jpg

Diamond Symmetry.

The red arrows show the meet points and junction connections between the facets. When the meet points are exactly aligned the diamond will receive a Symmetry grading of Excellent or Very Good. If there is just a tiny deviation, then it a Symmetry grade of ‘Good’ is given.

These minute differentials can most always only be seen under microscopic magnification and is not something you will see just by looking at the diamond.

Buy I-Pod, Get A Diamond, Too.

Kyocera Corporation of Japan, which is largely a communications and digital imaging company, plans to add diamond jewelry to its product set by early January 2006.

The company also sells fine china. According to press reports, the marketing staff requested adding diamonds to the jewelry offerings in order to boost luxury sales.

“Growth is our mission, and creativity is our greatest asset,” the company writes as its mission statement. “Create. Change. Grow. Think creatively; execute logically,” which was the line of thinking used to add diamonds to the line-up of man-made opal and synthetic gemstone jewelry.

Kyocera will procure diamonds for its Diplea-brand diamond jewelry, according to the company.

Kyocera engages in the development, production, and distribution of telecommunications equipment, electronic components, solar energy systems, and industrial ceramics. Micro-gemstones and fine ceramics parts are used in many microprocessing products the company produces and sells.

Just another company looking to make a quick buck, in our opinion. See our recent entry on this topic: Virtual Diamond Databases

Why Do I See the Same Diamond Listed by Many Internet Diamond Sites?

Drop ship diamonds are an unfortunate internet practice where many internet “jewelers” and diamond vendors will attach a virtual database of wholesale diamonds from various diamond wholesalers and manufacturers.

These internet diamond stores have no experience with diamonds and jewelry and in most cases have no idea about the quality of the diamonds they are selling. They literally built a website and decided to sell diamonds! They will brag about how they have a database of a gazillion diamonds to sell. The only problem is that they never actually see these diamonds, much less know anything about the crucial nuances of any given stone.

What they are doing is simply attaching a database of stones to their website with a built in markup. In most cases you will see the same diamond on many different websites, since none of these guys actually own the stone. Then an unsuspecting customer comes along and makes a purchase for a diamond which the vendor has never seen or touched, and the stone gets “drop shipped” directly from the manufacturer to the end consumer, never once passing through the hands of the diamond seller.

Gold Fever Rages! Hits $530 on Friday.

Gold fever took prices as high as $530.40 an ounce for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century on Friday as investors, particularly in Asia, rushed to buy an asset that has gained over 16 percent in the past month.

“This buying is just more of the same of what we have been seeing. I suspect also that it may be central bank buying that is supporting it on the dips,” Paul Merrick of RBC Capital Markets said.

Spot gold was at $529.70/530.50 an ounce by 1604 GMT, up two percent from $519.50/520.30 last quoted in New York on Thursday. The metal has soared $75, or 16.4 percent, since November 7.

Gold’s tight supply, strong global demand, worries about inflation and growing fund interest in precious metals and other commodities have unleashed a wave of speculative buying, defying warnings that the market was overbought.

“The activity in the bullion market remains very impressive, with aggressive buying of any dips and a dearth of selling in the rallies helping to create a bullish chart pattern of higher lows and higher highs, thereby attracting more momentum-based fund buying,” Alan Williamson of HSBC said.

Fund managers were buying as part of a strategy to diversify portfolios, while some investors were speculating about potential purchases from some of the word’s central banks — previously long-time sellers

“I strongly believe that Asia and China are buying — but we will not know until they’ve finished buying or are close to it, for sure,” said Juerg Kiener, chief investment officer at Singapore-based hedge fund Swiss Asia Capital, referring to central banks in the region.

A spokesman at the China Gold Exchange said: “We have encouraged the Bank of China to buy more gold, or if not, to relax the barriers and allow more Chinese people to do so.”

Gold finished Friday Trading in New York at $529.85, Platinum at $1004, and Silver at $9.04

Sotheby’s Auction Nets 24 Mil.

Fetching $1.6 million, a 26.09-carat diamond ring by Harry Winston was the top lot at Sotheby’s “Magnificent Jewels” sale Thursday.

Harry Winston.jpg
Harry Winston Ring.

The auction house sold 90.6 percent of its pieces by value and 81.7 percent by lot at the auction, which brought in $23.9 million.

Other highlights of the sale included a fancy, intense blue diamond weighing 3.16 carats that brought in nearly $1.1 million,

Sothebys Auction.jpg

a sapphire and diamond ring that sold for $956,800 and a 12.6-carat marquise-shaped diamond weighing 12.6 carats that fetched $559,200.

The auction also featured a private collection of jewelry by René Lalique, which brought a total of $1.12 million. The collection included an opalescent glass, enamel, diamond and seed pearl necklace, circa 1899, that sold for $352,000—more than twice its estimated value.

YO! Shopping Procrastinators! What You Gonna Do?

Last-minute gift shoppers may be a boon for jewelers, as jewelry is one of the top five gift choices for those who shop later in the holiday season for gifts, as well as for those seeking stocking stuffers.

If it’s the holiday-season 11th hour, then more than 20 percent of shoppers are desperately seeking gift cards, according the latest Shopping in America 2005 survey. The study finds that by the Thanksgiving weekend, the average consumer still had more than 64 percent of their holiday shopping left to do, according to the poll of more than 2,300 shoppers from across the country conducted by research firm August Partners for The Macerich Co.

The average consumer will give about three gift cards this holiday season, the survey finds, citing the cards as the top choice of last-minute gift shoppers. Other popular last-minute gifts include: CDs, DVDs or books, selected by 19.2 percent of those polled; perfume, for 14.6 percent; jewelry for 10.1 percent; and gift baskets for 8.8 percent. Jewelry also made it onto respondents’ top-five list of stocking stuffers, with 14.2 percent making sure baubles were among the small gift items included.

Many shoppers indicated they’ll be waiting until closer to Christmas to do their shopping, with 30 percent saying they believe they can get better deals at that time, a prediction borne out by retailers as Christmas nears.

“About 30 percent of shoppers surveyed think they can get better deals closer to Christmas, which will likely be the case, as deep retailer discounts are expected to continue throughout the holiday season,” said Garry Butcher, vice president of marketing and consumer research for The Macerich Company, in a release from the group.

Factors driving last-minute gift purchases, according to the survey, include: convenience, for 23 percent of those polled; price, for 20.5 percent; advertising, for 7.5 percent; and panic, for 4.8 percent. While a third of last-minute shoppers said they’ll likely spend the same amount as they otherwise would have, more than a fifth (22 percent) said their late gift-buying ways would require them to spend more than originally planned.

Gold Is Going Crazy. Update.

Gold hit a new long term record for the seventh consecutive session on Friday as Japanese private investors were once again prominent buyers and any dips in the price have provided investors with fresh impetus to buy bullion and therefore underpin prices.

Gold hit a high of $525.25 a troy ounce in European trade, up more than $5 on the late quote in New York on Thursday. A strong intra-day gain that underlines the recent acceleration in the gold price, which has risen more than 6 per cent so far this month, which is more than the amount it rose for the whole of November.

The bullion price rose by more than 7 per cent between September and October, having spent the first eight months of the year relatively flat. The next target for gold is breaking the March 1981 high of $540.50.

“The activity in the bullion market remains very impressive, with aggressive buying of any dips and a dearth of selling in the rallies helping to create a bullish chart pattern of higher lows, and higher highs, thereby attracting more momentum-based fund buying,” said Alan Williamson, metals analyst at HSBC.

Mr Williamson said both London and New York have lagged the rally in Tokyo, which has been the real driver behind the most recent surge higher in prices, with the Tokyo Commodity Exchange closing limit up on the day.

He said the Tocom October contract closed up the daily limit of ¥50/g at ¥2,105/g ($542/oz), the highest close for the benchmark contract since March 1990.

Tocom trading rules do not allow daily price movements of ¥50/g above or below the previous day’s close. “Although Tocom data is opaque at best, some estimates have put open interest in the market at 501,000 lots, up around 67 per cent from about 300,000 lots in early October,” Mr Williamson said.

He said Tocom’s market management committee met to discuss the possibility of intervening in the precious metals market, but concluded that no measure was needed at this stage. Nevertheless, the exchange will continue to monitor market activity.

Mr Williamson said there are a number of reasons for the surge in demand, not least the continued weakness in the Yen which has fallen by more than 10 per cent since the beginning of September to current levels of ¥120 against the dollar.

“In turn this has helped create a virtuous circle in the gold market of rising (dollar-denominated) prices, local currency weakness, increased retail demand (in Japan), higher (dollar denominated) prices, more fund buying etc, etc,” he said.

Gold has remained above the $500 level for the past seven sessions, and is on track to exceed the 10 day period it remained above this level in 1983. The last time it was trading at $525 was when it was sliding from the all time record of $850 in January 1980. During this period gold remained above $500 for a period of 13 months.

The price of gold bullion has been rising since 1999, marking its longest upward run since it was freely floated in 1968.

Silver rose to a fresh 18 year high of $8.99 a troy ounce.

New York Trading still going on.