Let’s ‘Rock & Gold’

This is one of a series of articles by Mónica Arias of Excellence Consulting, a luxury sales and marketing consulting firm based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. These articles will focus on ways that sales and marketing professional in the jewelry and luxury industries can improve their techniques.

Gold has a story, legacy and beauty of its own that’s managed to survive through the ages and whose mystery is still attracting hot genuine value as the number one preference of investors worldwide.

At the same time our beloved earth has also been gracefully producing beautiful and valuable diamonds and gemstones since ancient times for us to appreciate and admire.

The moment jewelry makers discovered the art of joining the two they set the foundations for a fantastic and alluring business, as if declaring: “Let´s rock and gold,” long before Elvis ever existed.

Why is the combination of gold and stones so appealing?
There is no conclusive answer. Rocks and gold simply look fantastic together. The simplest set of earrings can make all the difference if designed elegantly, respecting a true balance between the metal and the stones.

But this is too simple a statement because we are leaving aside the main elements to this gold and rock success: As in the movement once presided by Elvis, the revolution of Gold & Rock is directly associated with intense color. Magic comes out of brilliant colors in full vibrancy of grades which produce the fascination that comes from choosing a jewel we love.

As an example, let´s take rubies. According to many experts, rubies, which mainly come from Myanmar and Thailand, are considered to be the most powerful gems in the universe, usually associated with astral signs and protection to the living. Its magical influence is associated with life force, passion and love. It’s been said that to own a ruby is to have contentment and peace. And when rubies are set in gold they are considered the symbol of vitality and royalty.

However, what is even more striking and fascinating about rubies is their wide range of color, which varies from slightly vermilion to intense red, with the most desired and valuable being the famous “pigeon´s blood” tone.

It’s amazing to have such a wonderful description of meanings and features to help us make the most appropriate connection with the jewel. So wouldn´t you agree that you could literally add value to your demonstration if your customer showed a certain inclination to one of these features?

Whenever possible, do yourself a favor. Next time you are in front of a client, try to Rock & Gold a bit before making any demonstration. In other words, seriously, make the effort to express your true passion for gemstones and gold.

Ask the customer as many open questions about them as you can (see the “open question parade,” which appears in most of my articles). Then begin working towards influencing what you perceive as their preferences by associating the exact feature of the piece that will make the strongest impact in your customer. Trust me, the rock and gold tactic will help you see through your customer’s real passion about a particular piece and you will celebrate a long-term sales bliss after having investigated further on Rock & Gold and its infinite benefits. I am sure Elvis will give a thumbs up.

Mónica M. Arias
Excellence Consultant: Helping you discover how to reach your next level through excellence.
copyright: Mónica M. Arias

Who Bought What at the Elizabeth Taylor Auction and Why

 I’ve never thought of my jewelry as trophies. I’m here to take care of them and to love them – Elizabeth Taylor

After viewing one of the most complete and magnificent private collections of jewelry, art, memorabilia, accessories and other articles ever amassed by a single person during The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor exhibition at Christie’s New York, I wrote the following:

This collection represents a life well spent. Christie’s presentation of the exhibit makes it seem as if her life’s work was complete.

It’s almost a shame that these items will soon be separated.

However, after attending the two days of the fine jewelry sales (part of the four-day Elizabeth Taylor auction at Christie’s New York along with an “online only” component), my mind has changed.

I met friends of Taylor and those who never knew her. I met people who purchased the product because of their ties to Taylor, because of their fascination with a particular piece, or to use what they purchased in their business. It was auction that attracted some of the world’s wealthiest people, celebrities, top professionals in the jewelry and gems industries, and those of modest means.

Bidders prepare for the opening night auction to begin. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

The jewelry and other items amassed will be used in all sorts of ways. The important part is that it appears that the jewelry will be used and that’s the way Taylor, it seems, would have wanted it. After all, this is a woman who wore a 33-carat diamond ring almost every day and who was filmed wearing a priceless ruby jewelry collection by the pool. Taylor didn’t put her baubles away for special occasion, she wore them. And her collection showed an appreciation of priceless pieces along with far less expensive items because she either admired the work or they had personal meaning.

Photo credit: Christie's
Jewelry designer to the stars Lorraine Schwartz bought back the fringe diamond bracelet that Taylor bought from her for her 70th birthday.

“I was wearing it for her party at the Bel-Air Hotel, and she kept calling me over to look at it and to try it on,” Schwartz wrote on her facebook page. “Finally, the next morning she called me and said “‘I know who’s buying that bracelet for my birthday … I’m buying it for my birthday!’”

Photo credit: Christie's
Schwartz also bought a pair of earrings that Taylor’s third husband, Michael Todd, created just for her.

“I could feel Elizabeth nudging me telling me to buy them,” Schwartz said on the auction floor during the second day. “That’s what she used to do. She used to say, ‘go ahead buy it.’ She’d be kicking me under the table (saying), ‘Go ahead. You know you want it.’”

Photo credit: Christie's
Schwartz was very busy for the two days. In addition to what she purchased she lost a bid for one of her pieces and purchased a lot of three of her own bangles for Kim Kardashian, who paid $64,900, well above the high $8,000 estimate. “If you have a piece of jade, the energy goes into the piece and you absorb the energy,” Kardashian said by phone. “So I can feel Elizabeth in the piece.”

Photo credit: Christie's
Companies of course got into the act for the larger pieces. The 33.19-carat Elizabeth Taylor Diamond (also known as the Taylor-Burton diamond and formerly called as the Krupp diamond), a gift from Richard Burton, was reportedly bought by South Korean businessman Daniel Pang for $8.8 million. He was bidding on behalf of E-land World, a South Korean concern. The company plans to exhibit the diamond ring at “E World,” an amusement park in Daegu, according to reports.

Photo credit: Christie's
Bulgari, the Italian luxury jewelry house, bought back $20 million worth of jewels, including a 52.72-carat sapphire-and-diamond sautoir for $5.9 million and an emerald-and-diamond necklace for $6.1 million, according to the New York Post.

Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco
Then there’s the paper jewelry. The gag gift from Malcolm Forbes to Taylor has garnered a great deal of media attention—much of it from me. The suite of paper jewelry had a high estimate of $300. It sold on the second day for $6,875. It was purchased by Jenny and John Caro, owners of Jewelry By Design, an independent jewelry store in Woodbridge, Va.

The couple came to the auction with a $50,000 line of credit and in a few minutes it was obvious they were being priced out of buying any real jewelry. So when the paper jewelry came up on the second day, they went all out to win the lot. The couple is using the paper jewelry along with two jewelry pieces they purchased on the online only auction to create an Elizabeth Taylor display for their customers. The jewelry was chosen because they had pictures of Taylor wearing the pieces in books that will be used in the display.

“We’re a good example of a business doing things, being different and taking risks to help our business grow,” Jenny said in a phone interview.

“You couldn’t go by the intrinsic value of jewels, because the truth is everything was selling so high that what you bought you couldn’t turn around,” she added. “The South Korean who bought the Burton diamond bought it for a business reason. What is $8.8 million when it comes to advertising worldwide? What’s $6,800 when it comes to local advertising?”

Using the Forbes gift as inspiration, Christie’s created its own full-color paper jewelry book with recreations of 15 of Taylor’s most iconic jewels. It ran as a limited edition of 5,000 and was available for purchase in person at Christie’s headquarters during the New York exhibition, which was held December 3 -12. It was sold for $25 each, $5 of which went to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Los Angeles jewelry designer Sandra Müller had her own unique story. She first met Taylor as a child while living in Europe and credited the actress with inspiring her to build a life in the jewelry field. Taylor was a friend of her parents. As an adult working and living in Los Angeles, she said she would visit Taylor’s house often as a friend and to show her work. In 2001, Taylor bought three of her pieces.

Müller was already planning to go to the auction to bid for a client. While looking through the auction catalog, she discovered that those pieces were being sold as part of the fashion and accessories auction, held on the third day. Her pieces didn’t include her as the creator. She contacted Christie’s and the auction rectified the error.

The high estimate for the jewels was $300. Müller e-mailed me to let me know that her pieces sold for $15,000. With commission the total was actually $18,750.

“The 18k gold value alone would be about 10,000.00 if melted,” she added. “I think it was one of the few good deals in auction.”

I asked her how it felt to sit in the auction room and watch her pieces being sold at the historic event. Her reply was brief.


Matie Anne Patterson Gatz, 64, JCK Art Director

For nine years I worked at JCK Publishing Group and most of those years were good. One of the reasons was because of Matie Anne Patterson, who was one of our two art directors, a position she held from 1998 till 2004. Matie died December 27, on her wedding anniversary, after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 64.

The Telford, Pa., resident worked on several JCK publications, including Trendz, Luxury International, and Facets. Hedda T. Schupak, former JCK editor-in-chief, said that Matie’s “clean design sense and tireless efforts created a sharper, more elegant” look for the publications.

I remember Matie as a quiet and strong person who was able to create sleek, stylized pages for her publications. During the past few days, those who worked with her have been talking about her smile, which was a constant part of her personality. Matie fought breast cancer in the same way she took on her daily tasks in the office—quietly, with strength, dignity and with a smile.

Matie was born in Upland, Pa., on March 5, 1947, to William and Wilhelmina "Billie" Patterson, the founders of Patterson Funeral Home in Media, Pa, now Cavanagh-Patterson. She attended the Media Public Schools and graduated in 1965. Upon graduating from high school, she enrolled in the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, majoring in illustration. During her career, she worked as an art director, designer, and illustrator at North American Publishing Co., InterMed Communications on nursing journals, before working for JCK.

She enjoyed traveling with her husband, as well as dancing, snorkeling, swimming, attending minor league baseball games, gardening, and decorating her home. Family and friends will remember Matie for her endearing sense of humor, compassion, calmness, and extraordinary artistic ability.

Survivors include her husband David Gatz; his children and grandchildren; brother William "Pat" Patterson of Livermore, Calif; cousin John Suplee of West Chester, Pa; and many friends. Visitation/Service will be held on Friday, December 30, at Cavanagh Patterson Funeral Home in Media, Pa. Calling hours are 10 to 11 a.m. with a service to follow at 11 a.m.

Last Surge Boosts Holiday Sales Past Last Year's Total

Late holiday shoppers—in the week leading up to Christmas and on the day after—provided the boost to lift 2011 holiday sales past the same period last year, according to data released Wednesday.

Consumers spent approximately $44 billion in GAFO retail sales for the week ending Dec. 24, a 37.8 percent increase over the previous week and a 14.8 percent gain over the same week last year, according to ShopperTrak, which provides traffic counting services at retail stores and malls. Foot traffic was also high, increasing 32.4 percent from the prior week.

GAFO is derived from the U.S. Commerce Department's and stands for general merchandise, apparel, furniture, sporting goods, electronics, hobby, books and other related store sales.

Last week’s sales increase ensured this December will outpace December 2010. Month-to-date figures are up 4.7 percent over December 2010, the Chicago-based firm said.

“With good weather in most of the country and the season coming to a close, procrastinators and bargain hunters hit the stores and gave retailers the sales lift they needed to outpace last year,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin

According to ShopperTrak, a late holiday shopping surge is not uncommon. Last year, the 10 days before Christmas accounted for 24.4 percent of total GAFO retail sales in the entire holiday shopping season of November and December.

“Increased foot-traffic does not always translate into sales,” added Martin. “Retailers who monitored their foot-traffic hourly and adjusted inventory and staffing to convert shoppers into buyers were the most successful last week.”

As expected, shoppers came out in full force on the day after Christmas because it fell on a Monday for the first time in six years. The day ranked fourth in foot-traffic and sales for the entire holiday season, behind Black Friday November 26, Friday December 23 and Super Saturday December 17. Foot traffic increased 25.9 percent over the same day last year and consumers spent $7.1 billion on Dec. 26 in GAFO retail sales, an increase of 25.5 percent percent over the same day in the prior year.

“Dec. 26 was likely the last door-buster day of the season as shoppers returned unwanted gift items and shopped for marked-down merchandise,” said Martin. “ShopperTrak expects a drop in sales this week as the season ends. Retailers must continue to monitor same-store traffic to capitalize on the final week of the holiday season.”

ShopperTrak analyzed foot-traffic from more than 25,000 locations in the United States to create this National Retail Sales Estimate of GAFO—a nationwide benchmark of GAFO retail sales.

Weekly Holiday Internet Retail Sales Up 16%

The most recent week for holiday Internet sales, ended Dec. 25, saw a 16 percent increase in spending, year-over-year, to $2.8 billion, according to comScore, a company that measures digital data and provides digital business analytics.

The figure is an expected steep drop from the record-breaking $6.28 billion for the prior week, ended December 18, the last week where delivery of online orders could be guaranteed.

Retail e-commerce spending for the first 56 days of the November – December 2011 holiday season reached a record $35.3 billion, marking a 15-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year. This increase has been consistent throughout the holiday season.

“Holiday e-commerce spending has remained strong throughout the season,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “We can now say with certainty that the $1.25 billion spent on Cyber Monday will rank it as the heaviest online spending day of the season for the second consecutive year, but we should also note that it was accompanied by nine other billion dollar spending days this year.”

The Reston, Va.-based company noted that over the past several years there has been a dramatic increase in Christmas Day purchases of digital content and subscriptions, a retail category that includes digital downloads of music, TV, movies, e-books and apps. As many consumers get new smartphones, tablets, e-readers and digital content gift certificates for Christmas, they spend Christmas Day loading up their devices with new content.

On an average day during the 2011 holiday season to date, digital content and subscriptions accounted for 2.8 percent of retail e-commerce sales, but on Christmas Day the category accounted for more than 20 percent of sales. Consistent with past years, comScore expects sales for this category of products to remain elevated throughout the entire week following Christmas Day.

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