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GIA Symposium Day 1

May 29, 2011 11:25 PM   By Ricci Dipshan
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RAPAPORT... The annual Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Symposium kicked off at the group's headquaters in Carlsbad, California, with an opening speech by Steve Forbes, who spoke on global economic trends. He added a specific focus on what economic environments are most favorable to retailers, jewelers and diamond industry businesses.   
Following the Forbes' presentation, symposium attendees made their way to a seminar on diamond identification, as well as to a forum on global business trends entitled: “Where is Luxury in this Brave New World?”  The luxury forum included speakers Amit Dhamani, managing director of Dhamani Jewels; Nicolas Luchsinger, vice president of retail operations for Van Cleef & Arpels; Ken Royal, senior client service manager for Gallup; and Ulrik Thaysen, vice president of international retail for Pandora. 

During the forum, Royal observed that while luxury spending is growing, it is still far from pre-recession rates.  “In general, people are not spending more than they did in 2008,” he said.  A recent poll, put out by Gallup, saw 41 percent of U.S. consumers spending less than they did in 2008, while 29 percent were spending the same, and 30 percent spending more. 

One of the biggest challenges to the jewelry industry, he noted, was a customer’s level of trust.  A poll of the most trusted professions placed jewelers near the bottom, with only a 20 percent rate of trust.  “New people, new customers,” Royal said, “don’t come into your store with a high level of confidence.”  In a study asking what customers cared most about in jewelry sales, trust was ranked second, just slightly lower than quality. 

To appeal to customers and build trust, Royal advised retailers to start with great customer service, and appeal to consumer’s emotional buying habits.  Nearly 70 percent of all jewelry purchasing, he added, was emotional.  “Are you selling a purchase or a relationship?” he asked attendees.

Royal went on to say that customer service is pivotal as sales move away from stores and onto the Internet, especially in light of a new Gallup poll that asserted that customers were more loyal to online stores, then they were to real, “brick and mortar” establishments.

Dhamani,  explained that the luxury market is taking off because of stronger global trade.  Global tourism, he observed, had opened up markets all around the world for luxury jewelry, with luxury spending being heavily supported in Chinese, Indian and Arab markets.

Dhamani also noted that strong luxury spending in the Far East is forcing the industry to reassess its expectations.  “Since 2008, all the industry’s records have been broken,” said Dhamani, alluding to the record-breaking sale of a fancy intense pink diamond in November by Sotheby’s Geneva.

During the afternoon session, attendees were treated to a presentation by Patrick Peys, a detective in the Belgian Federal Police, who described the exploits of Antwerp’s Diamond Squad in stemming the flow of diamond and gem related smuggling, swindles, fraud, and money laundering.

Also in the afternoon, a presentation was made on the use and influence of digital marketing by Scott Galloway,  an associate professor from the NYU Stern School of Business and Thomas T. Yang,  a senior vice president of international sales for  Callaway Golf. 

Attendees had a chance to sit in on a two-part lecture series on gem location and formation, which featured many professionals speaking on a wide range of mining topics.  

Dr. Thomas Stachel, of the University of Alberta, Canada spoke on the relationship of diamonds and cratons in Canadian mines.  Howard Coppersmith, a geologist from Coppersmith & Associates, presented a scientific analysis of the rarity of diamond mines, most of which, he noted, have very low grades of ore and varied size frequencies of diamonds.

Dr. Bram Janse of Australian based Archon enticed audience members when he described the cases of “Mystery Diamonds” – diamonds retrieved from alluvial mines with no clear source of origin.  “In many alluvial deposits you can’t find where the diamonds come from,” he said.

In the second part of the lecture series, Jim Clanin of Maine-based JC mining, and a consultant for USAID in Pakistan and the World Bank in Nigeria, elaborated on how gem mining is riskier and less certain from many other types of mining, and explained the challenges and intricacies that gem mining entails.  

Emmanuel Fristch, a professor at the University of Nantes, France, concluded the series by expounding on opal mining in Ethiopia, with a look into how opals and their brilliant colors are formed. 
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Tags: Amit Dhamani, Dhamani Jewels, Dr. Bram Janse, Dr. Thomas Stachel, Gallup, GIA, GIA symposium, Ken Royal, luxury, Luxury spending, Nicolas Luchsinger, Pandora, Patrick Peys, Ricci Dipshan, Scott Galloway, Steve Forbes, Thomas T. Yang, Ulrik Thaysen,, Van Cleef & Arpels,
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