JCK Las Vegas, Here I Come!

It’s been almost five years since I returned to the USA to visit the JCK Show. Rather than getting carried away with the fun stuff,…

It’s been almost five years since I returned to the USA to visit the JCK Show. Rather than getting carried away with the fun stuff, I’ll dive into what’s happening out there. What are the hot topics? What are the things you might want to consider? Or what about the power of connections, which I know I keep banging the drum about?

This is the biggest jewellery show in America. Whilst the JCK Show is happening, other shows, such as Couture and the Antique Show, are occurring simultaneously and nearby. If you plan to go in the future, you need to register separately for each show, especially Couture, or you will not be able to enter.

In comparison, the September show in Hong Kong is far bigger. However, there are ranges of jewellery, unique designs, packaging, and tools you wouldn’t necessarily see in Hong Kong. The one big standout that this show brings is the incredible calibre of speakers, lectures, viewpoints, and wonderful networking events. If you plan to go to JCK in the future, it’s more important that you come a couple of days earlier rather than stay later as there are some scheduled lectures and events held before the show that I missed out on, and I regret it.

In the natural diamond space, larger stones sold well. Under $10,000 lab-grown diamonds are still dominating. The wholesalers are feeling the pinch because even if they sell double the volume, the wholesale price for the same stone 12 months ago is less than half. The retailers are now seeing that although their percentage profit remains the same, the net dollar is less. They are having to rethink how they will increase their turnover to the numbers they are used to doing, and there was a lot of discussion about leading their customers back to natural diamonds.

Meeting with the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) proved invaluable in acquiring insights for those who aspire to work with large international companies, highlighting the advantageous business opportunities accessible through the membership.

I lead a group called the Young Diamantaires. One of our meetings was driven by the whole Russia diamond story and America’s push to ban their imports due to the war with Ukraine. The complexity is apart from saying they are from a specific region, can you scientifically prove it? Can you consistently do so? And can it be done simply and commercially?

In Antwerp, AWDC (Antwerp World Diamond Centre) and Space Co, a very respected tech company, claimed that they are close to providing a tool to the industry that could identify the origins of a polished diamond by scanning it. Our group reached out to the chief operating officer of the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), one of our members, and asked if the GIA could give us a definitive answer if this is possible, as it has been a discussion point for over a decade.

GIA put on an excellent lecture at the JCK Show explaining the science behind determining the origin of a diamond, which in simple terms, if you are not at the mine when it comes out, you are trying to use a spectrograph to find trace elements, enabling you to determine its origins. The conclusions, even using the latest and greatest technology, do not support such a claim. I have included two slides that highlight the scientific facts.

The first slide explains what is required to take a sample from a diamond to test for trace elements, which if you’re lucky, will provide something you can work with for the spectrometer to identify. The first step is that you need a gigantic database from all over the world of sample diamonds and their origins before you even begin. GIA is the only lab in the world to hold such a quantity of data.

For those of you who are not scientific, the term ablated means you are micro-blasting the diamond with a laser, with the aim that it will release some trace elements to help you understand the morphology consistent with a region in the world where diamonds are mined. The diamond can be damaged if it hits any impurities. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think anyone will want to have their diamonds blasted with lasers and potential damage because somebody now wants to know what their origins may or may not be. 

The bottom line is that conventional techniques cannot guarantee a result. Even if Space Co had GIA’s database, they don’t consider it large enough to be an accurate baseline. On this basis alone, you risk garbage data in, leading to garbage data out. As of now, this cannot be done scientifically with any legitimate accuracy.

On this topic from the second slide, you can see that the GIA took the fingerprint from two separate deposits. Their graph showed near identical concentrations of trace elements, and these two samples were 2000km apart.

The Young Diamantaires were invited to a beautiful lecture by David Kelly, the chief executive officer of the Natural Diamond Council, who discussed the tremendous quality of teaching materials they have produced to help train salespeople to understand the benefits and positive messages they can discuss with their customers when presenting natural diamonds.

The highlight for me was David’s comments that whenever he talks to people who have sold natural diamonds in their retail operations, they are passionate about the wonderful stories they share. Unfortunately, when he went to view their website, he saw pictures of jewellery. What they fail to share is their own stories. I know I’ve spoken about this in previous articles – the need to put a face to your business, the need to tell your story, the importance of your story and your history and connection to diamonds is what differentiates you from just another diamond jewellery website.

On day three, I attended an excellent lecture by Martin Rapaport, the chairman of the Rapaport Group, founder of the Rapaport Diamond Report and the RapNet online diamond trading network. The one thing you cannot deny is that Martin can galvanise and challenge the conversation in our industry. The highlight for me was a youngster who was on stage in a panel discussion representing a huge diamond wholesaler from New York. He was 23 years old. His comments about what his generation is interested in. 

In his opinion, the younger generation enjoys and wants the experience of a great retail operation. Of course, they will do their research online, and if you’re going to communicate with them, do so by text, not email and don’t try and have a call on the phone. This generation was not brought up with natural diamonds as the pinnacle sign of wealth. It is a generation that earns more and likes to acquire things that reflect their success, such as a Rolex watch or Hermés bag — a statement piece that is immediately identified.

Another person on stage was a young woman named Aleah, who had built a Facebook group in America with 29,000 members. Aleah’s comments were straight to the point. A customer comes to see you because they want your advice and guidance. You guide them, teach them, and then they will look at the reviews on your business. Aleah used an example of when she buys something on Amazon, she looks for the one with the highest reviews because “if it’s good enough for 600 people, it’s good enough for me.” She doesn’t have to do the hard work. Others have done it for her.

In New York, their merchandising and display skills were truly impressive. Stepping into a department store like Bergdorf Goodman, where they carry over 50 renowned designer jewellers with curated collections, is like indulging in a gourmet buffet of five-star Michelin restaurants. The experience is undeniably inspiring.

I’ll finish off by saying sometimes you happen to be at the right place at the right time to view something extraordinary. How often do you get to see 120 carats plus pear-shaped diamonds, D colour, and internally flawless?

I could share so much more, but I prefer to end by reminding you all that the Jewellery Industry Fair is being held in Sydney from August 26th to the 28th at the Carriage Works. Apart from a huge array of suppliers, there will be several interesting lectures, and I will be personally speaking about the latest technology. If I haven’t met you before, please introduce yourself, and as always…

Trade well,
Rami Baron
President, Diamond Dealers Club Australia.

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