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Zale’s Tales: JCK Las Vegas 2019 Wrap-Up

Zale's Tales JCK Blog Header

It was great being back at the Sands Expo Center. If my memory serves me right, it’s been since 2010 that the show was last there. It took about half a day to become re-acclimated, but after that, it was like being home. That is if your home is full clanging slot machines, throngs of people, and the need to walk about 13,000 steps per day just to get around.

“I was in Vegas for six days, but it felt like a month. Yet it also went by in a blur,” Stanley jokes.

 

JCK Las Vegas 2019 Group Shot

 

Here are a few observations while JCK Las Vegas 2019 is fresh in my mind.

 

Source Origin of Loose Stones

This trend has been moving at an accelerating pace toward critical mass. We’ve been hearing about blockchain platforms, mostly developed for specific channels, for a few years. Now we’re seeing these platforms go mainstream, which will enable nearly all industry players to offer diamond source verification to their customers.

Add to that the GIA’s new Diamond Origin Report, which confirms the country of origin of polished diamonds. The original rough diamonds and resulting polished diamonds are submitted to GIA for analysis so that they can be matched to each other and for origin confirmation based off the information provided by the mining company.

And then there’s what’s happening with gemstones. The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) is adding gemstones to its Code of Practices (CoP). As the industry works through this, it will result in greater transparency of the gemstone supply chain.

GIA Melee Analysis Service Diamonds Scoop

Sustainability

Speaking of the RJC, several of us participated on a panel discussion about sustainability, compliance, and supply chain transparency. These issues are of increasing focus and concern for many in the jewelry industry. Some key staff from the Responsible Jewellery Council were at the show, lending their insights at various forums and helping all of us navigate through a rapidly changing environment. Their website offers lots of great information.

 

Lab-Grown Diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds had their largest presence yet at this year’s show.

Whether or not you embrace them as a product for your business does not change the fact we all must deal with them at some level. That includes adding them to one’s product offering or, just as importantly, safeguarding your business against the possibility of undisclosed lab-grown diamonds making their way into your inventory.

We had a lot of discussions with jewelers about screening and detecting for undisclosed lab-grown diamonds. The GIA is a great educational resource for all of that, as is Project Assure, the initiative by the Diamond Producers Association.

Some questions remain about FTC guidance in regards to how lab-grown diamonds are described and marketed. It’s a complex issue with nuance, and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee remains the go-to resource for these and many other issues.

Rapaport also weighed in on lab-grown diamonds and source transparency at his annual breakfast presentation, which was well-attended.

And through all the discussions about web platforms, compliance, sustainability, and the other issues of the day, it can be easy to forget why we gathered in the first place: all of the beautiful product!

Okay, everyone — back to work!

 




Zale’s Tales: JCK Las Vegas 2018

Zale's Tales JCK Blog Header

As I write this, I’m still recovering from JCK. It’s amazing how in a week’s time we can go from feeling excited about the upcoming show to wanting nothing more than to get out of Vegas and head home. Besides the primary mission of seeing our customers, there was a lot of activity regarding some issues that are critical to our industry. Among those are:

1. Blockchain Technology

This seems to be everywhere these days, and JCK 2018 was no exception. Very simply put, Blockchain is nothing more than a web-based utility that allows for the secure storage and transfer of data. There are a variety of Blockchain initiatives swirling around the industry, some initiated from the supply and manufacturing side, another from the customer-facing side, and even initiatives in the midstream. But what does this all mean for the independent jeweler, whether traditional brick and mortar, web-based, or Omni-channel? Not a lot so far. It’s a new game, but the world is quickly adapting.

As it was explained to me, Blockchain is nothing more than a new internet protocol, which in a few years will be as ubiquitous as HTTP and SMTP, and none of us will need to know how it functions; it will just be! In the immediate term, we need to allow the various Blockchain developers to bring their initiatives further along to the point of easy adoption. At the end of the day, the benefit will be better transparency of the industry supply chain, which will serve to validate responsible sourcing protocols. And that is the underlying problem that utilizing Blockchain will help solve.

Here’s a quick overview of Blockchain technology

 

2. Screening for Undisclosed Lab Grown Diamonds (ULGDs)

This is a big topic, as it sits at the heart of consumer confidence. Along with my colleague Harold Dupuy, it seemed as though every time we turned around there was someone else with another screening device. Harold offers some great insight; all the instruments out there, for the most part, use one or some combination of the following six existing technologies:

1. UV Transparency vs Opacity

2. Infrared absorption spectroscopy (FTIR)

3. NIR absorption spectroscopy (UV-Vis)

4. Laser photoluminescence spectroscopy (PL)

5. Phosphorescence & decay speed

6. Fluorescence spectroscopy

 

To remain vigilant, Stuller has implemented the following advanced instruments into our QA process: IIDGR’s new AMS2, GIA’s iD100, and Raman, UV-Vis, and FTIR spectrometers. We’ve also welcomed GIA to Stuller to conduct independent melee analysis services.

Zale's Tales Diamond Testers Social Share

Shop diamond & gemstone testers on Stuller.com

Farewell, JCK Las Vegas 2018

At the end of the day, this is an industry of relationships, and what I value most about JCK is seeing old friends. Whether it was having morning coffee with someone I learned diamond sawing with (longer ago than I want to admit), attending seminars with a former colleague, or having dinner with my daughter Olivia — the fifth generation of our family in the jewelry business — it’s all about the people!

Oh, by the way…did anyone else hear a rumor that De Beers is now selling lab-grown diamonds? Okay, okay. I know that’s what everyone wants to hear about. Wait, what’s that? I’ve already exceeded my word allocation for this blog entry?

Sorry, I guess Lightbox will have to wait for another time.




Stuller Welcomes On-site GIA Melee Analysis Service

GIA Melee Analysis Service Blog Header

GIA (Gemological Institute of America®) brought its gemological expertise right here inside Stuller’s facilities in Lafayette, Louisiana. Thanks to a pioneering strategic service arrangement, Stuller will begin offering melee screened by the GIA Melee Analysis Service for diamond parcels coming through the building. GIA staff will screen melee on-site as they independently operate the GIA-owned system in a dedicated, secure space.

Why GIA Melee Analysis Service?

“GIA® is the most trusted gemological authority in the industry,” reports Stanley Zale, vice president of diamonds and gemstones procurement. “Therefore there is no one better than GIA for Stuller to rely on to deliver on our commitment to represent the product we are selling correctly.”

Launched in December 2016, the GIA Melee Analysis Service applies GIA’s decades of research into natural, treated and synthetic diamonds. Their advanced system quickly and accurately separates natural diamonds from simulants, synthetics, and HPHT treated natural diamonds. And while their technology screens, it sorts and color grades (D-to-Z) natural diamonds. GIA Melee Analysis Service will test all Stuller round melee in sizes 0.9mm to 4.0mm.

On Monday, April 16, Stuller officially commenced using the GIA Melee Analysis Service with a ceremonial ribbon cutting with Thomas M. Moses, GIA executive vice president and chief laboratory and research officer, and Stuller president Danny Clark. See below.

GIA Melee Analysis Service Ribbon Cutting

What this means for your business

Now more than ever, diamond and gemstone authenticity is of great concern in this fast-changing industry. So, to address the ever-present issue of lab-grown/synthetic and treated diamonds mixed into melee parcels, Stuller will employ GIA’s automated service to analyze and sort our melee diamonds quickly and accurately. The service can screen 1,800 to 2,000 stones per hour, enabling Stuller to deliver diamonds promptly while ensuring integrity.

“Locating our service within Stuller’s premises allows GIA to rapidly and efficiently analyze a higher volume of melee diamonds, helping to protect the consumer and ensure their confidence in the most prevalent stones in the market,” said Thomas M. Moses, GIA executive vice president of laboratory and research.

GIA’s mission to serve the public brings end-consumers the quality and assurance they’re due. And by working with GIA, Stuller mirrors those values to deliver diamonds with integrity and certitude we can stand behind.

GIA Melee Analysis Service

Shop Melee on Stuller.com

 




Zale’s Tales: 2018 Diamond Outlook

Zale's Tales Blog Header 2018 Diamond Outlook

I’m writing this as I reflect on 2017, catch my breath, and prepare for an exciting year. The 2018 diamond outlook is bright. And while change is constant, it’s the pace of change that continues to accelerate.

2018 diamond outlook stones beauty shot

''While change is constant, it’s the pace of change that continues to accelerate. – Stanley Zale'' Click To Tweet

2017 in review

The big story of 2017 has been undisclosed lab-grown diamonds (ULGD’s) and what we as an industry are doing about that. It’s our industry, our chosen livelihood, and each of us has a responsibility to conduct business in a way that upholds the industry’s standards of professionalism and expertise. The Federal Trade Commission has a presumption that if someone works in this industry, they have greater expertise than the public at large. This includes performing the minimum level of quality control to ensure the product sold is accurately represented. It applies to the karat content of gold, as well as whether a diamond or gemstone is of natural or lab-grown (synthetic) origin.

This story is not going away in 2018, or beyond. Recent reports of lab-grown diamonds being cut to mimic a natural diamond with a GIA grading report, and lab-grown diamonds being fused with natural material, mean that the requirements for screening and detecting keep going up. To remain vigilant, in 2017 alone, Stuller added and implemented our QA processes with the following advanced instruments: IIDGR’s new AMS2, GIA’s iD100, and Raman, UV-Vis and FTIR spectrometers. And we are preparing for a major new addition to our internal screening capabilities! More about that in the weeks ahead!

2018 diamond outlook stackable bands beauty shot

Shop lab-grown diamonds on Stuller.com

 

2018 diamond outlook

More and more customers are asking about the provenance of the materials used to make the jewelry they want to buy. Not only do they want assurance that materials are sourced responsibly and sustainably, but they also want to know that some good resulted from the mining and manufacturing processes.

Some assessments have found that the Kimberly Process does not adequately address all the concerns of the diamond buying public.

The Jewelry Industry Summit will convene for its third edition in March 2018. This is becoming an essential forum for stakeholders to get together and collaboratively solve critical issues facing the industry and positively influence the 2018 diamond outlook.

Current events

In 2017, we all heard a lot about Bitcoin, but a bit less about the underlying blockchain platform that allows Bitcoin to exist. Blockchain platforms have the promise to provide clear tracking of diamonds and gemstones from mine to market. DeBeers announced in early December that they are investing in Blockchain technology, with Russian diamond miner Alrosa likely right behind them. They are joining companies like Everledger that have offered a blockchain platform for a few years.  So as the industry moves toward tracking the gemstones supply chain, we will all hear and learn more about this technology.

And then along came Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle, with a ring that could accelerate some current trends. A three stone ring! Does that mean we’ll begin to veer away from halo styles? Yellow gold! Will we start to see more traction there? And with the center cushion diamond being from Botswana and the side diamonds from the collection of the late Princess Diana, all the diamonds are of known provenance. We might be on to something here.

Diamond prices

And what about diamond prices? The roller coaster continues. Prices have been soft over the last couple of years resulting in sightholders unable to make much profit from manufacturing. In response, manufacturers bought less rough. That fact has lowered the available supply of polished, bringing a level of price stability to diamonds. Now as demand starts to pick back up in the Far East, we may be facing a shortage of polished. Will this cause Sightholders to buy and manufacture more rough? Probably. But how much more? Hopefully not so much that it creates a supply glut. Markets tend to self-correct in the mid and longer term, but the short term could be rocky.

2018 diamond outlook 3 stone engagement

All of us have to hit the ground running! The 2018 diamond outlook seems bright. Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.




Zale’s Tales: Lab-Grown Diamonds

Zale's Tales Blog Header Lab-Grown Diamonds

As I’m writing this, I’ve been back from Las Vegas for only a few days, and I think I’m finally settling back into my regular routine. A week at JCK is not a soothing experience, and the fact that I barely ever make it outside seems to be the least of the craziness. But all in all, it was a week well spent!

Of course, the primary reason we attend is to meet with our customers — to share with them what’s new at Stuller. Just as important is to learn from them what’s new in their world, so we can better serve their needs. Interspersed with all of that were numerous educational sessions and industry updates.

 

Lab-grown diamonds are still one of the hottest topics. It’s something we are addressing in multiple ways here at Stuller:

First, we offer lab-grown diamonlab-grown diamondsds starting from about ¼ carat on up. This is simply part of our product selection to help jewelers meet consumer demand.

The other aspect is the diligent effort we, along with the industry at large, are taking to ensure the integrity of the global diamond supply chain by thoroughly screening and detecting undisclosed lab-grown diamonds (ULGD’s). We’re undertaking many combative efforts in this regard, with more exciting news and updates to come.

Shop lab-grown diamonds on Stuller.com

I attended an industry-wide meeting about this the day before JCK opened, conducted a daily afternoon update at our booth for our customers, and participated in numerous conversations with a myriad of customers, competitors, and industry news organizations. What I’ve found is that the industry continues on its journey towards responsible sourcing, with the colored gemstones industry being the next hurdle to be tackled under the leadership of the Responsible Jewelry Council. Stuller is proud to be a member of the RJC, and we look forward to working with the industry to bring responsible and sustainable business practices to the entire industry supply pipeline.

The various industry organizations were also in full swing. From the Women’s Jewelry Association to the Diamond Empowerment Fund to Jewelers for Children, there was seemingly no end to the celebration of good works and opportunities to pick up market news and intelligence.

See Stanley’s live lab-grown update from JCK Las Vegas 2017

 

Women in the Industry

It all makes the old days of the summer JA New York show seem quaint. Back in the day, before the Javits Center, the summer JA New York show was THE industry buying event. Buyers floated between the Hilton on 6th Ave. & 52nd and the Sheraton a block away on 7th Ave. You could walk another block to the Carnegie Deli for lunch, though there always seemed to be a corned beef sandwich available for a customer at an exhibitor’s booth at the show.

We’ve evolved since then and come a long way as an industry since those days. Back then, the show was in New York because that’s where the jewelry industry was. Who could have imagined the geographical diversity we have today?

But that change in diversity is much more than geographical. Not only were there no female members of the 24 Karat Club of NY back then, women were not even welcome at the annual dinner in January.

Lab-Grown Maren Rosen VP Bridal & Finished Jewelry

Maren Rosen

Lab-Grown VP Findings Fabricated Metals & Tools

Tammy Kidder

Today I am proud to count Maren Rosen and Tammy Kidder among my talented co-workers. Maren is our Merchandising Vice President for Jewelry and Bridal, and a board member of the Women’s Jewelry Association. Tammy, our Merchandising Vice President for Fabricated Metals and Tools is an incoming member of the 24 Karat Club of the Southeastern US, as well as the Vice President of the Louisiana Jewelers Association.

We’ve come a long way, and the world continues to change. In order to stay current, we all have to adapt and change with the times. The next generation of professionals is here and it’s up to all of us to pass the knowledge, insights and even some of the traditions, all while learning along the way.


Speaking of lab-grown, check out this informative infographic detailing the basics of lab-grown diamonds.




A “Real is Rare” Reaction

The Diamond Producers Association, or DPA, represents a union of the world’s leading diamond distributors. “Our mission is to protect and promote the integrity and reputation of diamonds – and to celebrate them – in all shapes, colors, and sizes,” says the DPA. Their newest campaign, titled Real is Rare. Real is a Diamond. features contemporary themes in a push to modernize its diamond marketing and target millennial buyers.


A few of us in the diamond department contrasted our differing generational viewpoints of the new advertising campaign—

 

Baby Boomer

Stanley Zale – Vice President, Diamonds & Gemstones

“The new ads by the Diamond Producers Association are, to me, complimentary to what the Diamond Promotion Service has done in the past. The difference is what we as a society have become accustomed to seeing in advertising. The new ads feature a here-and-now moment, without a focus on what might or will be. That’s not the point. So regardless of whether or not the couples are on the life journey together, a diamond remains the perfect symbol to celebrate their time together.

The ad that I feel best captured the spirit of the old A Diamond is Forever campaign is the Stand By Me commercial, of the older couple and the younger couple, passing by one another in the park. Two couples on the same journey, just at different stages along the way. This nostalgic ad is quite different than the two in the Real is Rare campaign, shown above.

There’s a lot of conversation about how the jewelry industry can connect with millennials and keep the diamond dream alive. The view from this Baby Boomer is that millennials are really no different than we were. We were as determined to do things our way, different from our parents, as the generations that preceded us, and those that will follow us. The secret is to remain young at heart.  Gee, I wonder what we can celebrate that spirit with…”

 

Generation X

Vivek Mishra – Diamonds Director

“The two commercials are a definite departure from the traditional and staid old ways of advertising for diamond jewelry. In that context, these are definitely a whiff of fresh air. Having said that, the first ad, Runaways came out to be a little too wild for me. I kind of lost thread of the message they were trying to convey. However, in the end, the tagline in both the ads make you realize that finding that rare person with whom you can have a real relationship and want to share the rest of your life with does not happen too often and one should cherish the same.

The two advertisements are definitely non-traditional and breaking the old mold of hitherto emotive reasons for buying and gifting diamond jewelry. There is one common theme in both the ads and that is being wild and carefree while not worrying about long term commitments. The characters seem to think if things work out, fine, if not, it’s water under the bridge.

It definitely made me feel old as Generation X, and a little outdated, perhaps. My generation has grown up with traditional values of commitment and lasting relationships. We try everything possible to work out a relationship, even if it becomes hard and stale after time passes. These two advertisements do not reinforce these ideals.

I suppose, however, the DPA’s message will resonate well with millennials’ changing values and culture. Living in the age of always being connected, millennials yearn for real connection among of the multitude of superficial relationships that abound their world at times.”

 

Millennial

Heather Chustz – Diamonds Product Manager

“The two ads are real. They evoke real emotions, both good and bad. I believe the ads capture what a real relationship is actually about. When you love someone, you love all of them and you accept them for who they are. You accept their bad habits, smelly feet, kind gestures and gorgeous smile. But, at the end of the day, the connection you share with that person is unlike anything else. It is real. And it is rare.

The ads emphasize this, focusing on the two people and the connection they share as opposed to the diamond itself. They send strong messages to evoke real emotions. Instead of marketing the diamonds directly, the campaign calls upon customers’ emotions to influence diamond purchasing. They urge buyers to feel an intrinsic desire to buy their special someone a diamond.

As a Millennial, I value real connection. While watching both ads, my emotions about my own relationship began to surface. It made me look back and think do we have a real connection? Is our connection rare? Of course my answer is yes, but these ads force viewers to reach into their emotional banks and reflect. Millennials today are very aware of everything that’s going on around them, which naturally makes them aware of their feelings. The ads bring about an awareness of real and raw emotions, perfectly speaking to young adults of today.”

 

What are your thoughts? How do you feel about the Diamond Producers Association’s new themes in advertising to millennials? Share with us in the comments below!




Zale’s Tales: Diamond Cutting

Zale's Tales Diamond Cutting Blog Header

I started learning about diamonds and diamond cutting as a teenager, working in the old Zale New York office at 450 W 33rd St. Because Zale was a DTC Sightholder, from the late 1950s to the mid-1980s, we were fully engaged as diamond manufacturers.

My Early Diamond Cutting Days

zale's tales diamond cutting dodecahedral

Dodecahedral rough diamond

In the New York office, we received the rough and then determined how best to take each stone in order to maximize its value. Because we were mostly cutting rounds from octahedral and dodecahedral rough, we would saw the goods in our factory at 450 West, where we had about 120 sawing benches. That is how I began my diamond education — over the summer when I was 17.

 

 

zale's tales diamond cutting octahedral

Octahedral rough diamond

In the days before Galaxy machines, we would assess each rough stone by eye and then mark it for either sawing or cleaving. To mark the rough, we would touch a fine point dip-pen to a metal coil that had been dipped in a small bottle of India ink, and then draw a line, as fine as possible, for the Sawyer. Learning how to draw the fine line took a while, and my first stones seemed to be covered in ink! But, in time, I could draw a line as fine as a laser.

 

The Blocker first cuts the four top corners and the four bottom corners of the diamond. Next, it goes to the Girdler for bruting in order to make it round. Then, it goes back to the Blocker, who would make the stone in 8/8 cut: eight top facets (four top corners and four bezels) and eight bottom facets (four bottom corners and four pavilions). If you compare diamond cutting to building a house, blocking is akin to the framing.

zale's tales ink bottle holder diamond cutting


My old ink bottle holder, with a metal coil, for marking rough diamonds. Thank you, Howie!

 

Most of the rough would be sawn, but some were bolles (the Flemish word for ball, a rough stone from which you would only get one polished diamond). On those, we would mark the table for the Blocker.

Lastly, the diamond is finished by the Brillianteer, who applies the stars, top halves and bottom halves (the final painting and wiring on your new house).

Tricks of the Trade

I learned about rough and diamond manufacturing from an old-school expert named Howard “Rocky” Rothwax. Howie was a piece of work, but he really knew rough diamonds. He was an expert’s expert. He was also a cousin of the famous NYC Judge, Harold Rothwax, a.k.a. “The Time Machine” because of the long sentences he would hand down. But I digress.

diamond cutting saw benches zale's tales

Diamond cutting benches

The same bench that would saw a rough diamond, using diamond powder mixed with oil applied to a copper blade, would also put the groove in a blocked out heart shape. You just needed to replace the thin copper blade with a wedge-shaped blade. Our factory in San Juan, PR, would block the diamonds after we sawed them in NY, and then send the hearts back to us for grooves. Then, we would send them back to San Juan for brillianteering.

That summer I grooved a lot of hearts in addition to sawing a lot of rough. So I’ve always considered myself a groove aficionado. Yeah, that and $2.75 will get me a ride on the subway.

The Graff Venus Diamond

It was exciting to see the recent announcement that Graff had cut the world’s largest D flawless heart shape diamond. 118.78 carats! It’s a beautiful, historic diamond! Now, far be it from me to second-guess Graff, but if you ask me…I would have gone a hair deeper on the groove. I’m just sayin’.

What makes the Graff Venus especially cool is that it is also a Type IIA diamond, meaning it is virtually devoid of nitrogen and nearly all impurities. Type IIA diamonds are rare. They make up about 2% of all mined diamonds. Sometimes they’re called Golcondas, referring to the original diamond finds in India, which yielded stones of exceptional color and clarity. Read more on the Golconda mines here.

Zale's Tales graff venus diamond cutting

The Graff Venus

I recall a magnificent type IIA rough of a little over 40 carats that I saw in the late 90s. It was cut to about a 28 carat D, FL briolette and cut in a style which so perfectly mimicked 19th-century faceting arrangements that not even experts could discern that it was a new diamond from South Africa and not an original Golconda.

Interestingly, at this point in time, type II diamonds also make up 100% of all lab-grown diamonds. So it’s wild to consider that the Graff Venus would not pass the basic screening that jewelers find necessary to use in order to ensure sure they aren’t confronting a non-disclosed lab-grown diamond. In fact, it’s downright ironic that the most beautiful diamonds are so similar to lab-grown diamonds in their appearance. So we all need to remain vigilant and screen for lab-grown diamonds, and when we do sell a lab-grown diamond— disclose, disclose, disclose! And as Phil Esterhaus would say, let’s be careful out there.

Maybe next time I’ll write about why you would never ask Howie Rothwax to bring you a cup of coffee from the break room. You’ll just have to remain in suspense until then.

P.S.

howie-rothwax

Howie Rothwax

A conversation with Howie Rothwax:

Me: Asking a technical diamond question

Howie: Responding with a technical answer

Me: Got it. Thanks.

Howie: Do you follow what I’m saying?

Me: Yes, thanks

Howie: But do you follow me?

Me: Yes

Howie: But are you following me?

Me: Yes, yes. I’m following you.

Howie: Stop following me

Me: Oy




Zale’s Tales: Lab-Grown Diamond History

Zale's Tales Stanley Blog Header Lab-Grown Diamond History

It’s been a busy last couple of months! First, there was all the prep for the JCK Las Vegas Show, followed by the event itself. Then, back to Lafayette for another great Bridge event immediately after. And in between, I managed to squeeze in my high school reunion in Great Neck, NY (don’t ask how many) and a little vacation in south Florida.

Through all of this, the talk seems to have been all about lab-grown diamonds.

Lab-Grown Diamond History stones beauty shot

Shop lab-grown diamonds on Stuller.com

A Rich Family Heritage

While visiting with my parents in Boca Raton last week, my mother gave me a great photograph of my grandfather, MB Zale, louping the movement of a mechanical pocket watch. It’s a cool picture that I’d never seen before.

Lab-Grown Diamond History M. B Zale

My grandfather, MB Zale

I learned a lot from my grandfather, and there’s one of his stories that I’ve thought about quite a bit lately. When he was building Zales Jewelers in Wichita Falls, Texas 90 or so years ago, he was an early adopter of selling on credit – a dollar down, a dollar a week. And he told a story of those early years about selling a sterling silver tea service on layaway to a local woman. When the woman made the final payment on the tea service, he packed it up and delivered it to her home. When he got there, he was taken aback upon seeing that she lived in what was essentially a wooden hut with dirt floors. He couldn’t understand why she would want something as elaborate and ornate as a silver tea service in such a home. But, her smile and the joy she radiated upon unpacking and setting up the silver was infectious. His takeaway was that he wouldn’t ever stand in judgment over how people would spend their money.

A Brief Lab-Grown Diamond History Lesson

Fast forward about 30 years later when General Electric announced that they had made diamonds in a laboratory. A shudder ran through the jewelry industry. Zale Corporation, not knowing what would happen to the diamond business, made moves to diversify into other retail categories: shoe stores, sporting goods stores, and drug stores. Interesting moves. But at the end of the day, as my grandfather recounted to me in the 1980s, Zales decided that they were in the jewelry business. It wasn’t their place to decide or pass judgment over what someone might want in a piece of jewelry. If it came to be that lab-grown diamonds would rule the day, then so be it. My grandfather was too good of a merchant to think otherwise.

Stuller’s Promise

So here we are in 2016 and we are finally at the point where it is economically viable to produce diamonds in a lab. And I have the opportunity to discuss their place in the world with another titan of our industry, Matt Stuller. Our conclusion, we’re in the jewelry business and it’s not our place to make judgments regarding what someone wants in a piece of jewelry (as long as it’s reasonable, legal, etc.) and how they want to spend their money. There are so many options now: natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, moissanite, and the list goes on. But, it is our role at Stuller to make those options available for our customers.

The Future of Jewelry

Lab-Grown Diamond History JCK Brilliant Brooch

Brooch by Alexandre Reza. Photo credit: JCK Magazine

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And what does it all mean? I don’t know yet, but we’ll all figure it out together.

And then I saw a picture of something truly fantastic, a news report that a diamond brooch sold for nearly $14 million at auction. But not just any diamond brooch, this brooch has some beautiful blue diamonds and was made by the legendary jeweler Alexandre Reza. This is jewelry at its best!

But $14 million?! One can do a lot with that much money, and who am I to pass judgment on anyone’s decision to spend it on a piece of jewelry!




Zale’s Tales: Family and Friendships

Zale's Tales Stanley Family and Friendships Blog Header

Family and Friendships

Zale's Tales Family and Friendships MB Zale & Wife

My grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary, back in 1976

This month would have been my Grandparents 90th wedding anniversary. They’ve both been gone now for about 20 years. The jewelry journey that MB Zale took, beginning in Shereshov Russia in 1901 (today it’s in Belarus) that took him to northwest Texas, and then all around the world many times resulted in his making numerous friends from all corners of this wonderful industry. And one of the great things about the jewelry business is that those friendships span the generations.

Earlier this month while in Tucson, I had the pleasure of meeting with the scion of one of the oldest and most significant companies in the colored gemstones business. I told the gentleman how my grandfather traveled to India many times: Surat, Jaipur, Bombay (back in the day) and Delhi.  Vendors became friends. And of course, this particular company was among those that did business with Zale in the 1950s through the 70s and we have many mutual friends today.

Building Global Connections

My grandmother even arranged for some of my cousins to become pen-pals with the children and grandchildren of some of their new friends in India. This helped to make the world more approachable for us.

Traveling with my grandfather inevitably included running into friends from the business, regardless of where we were — from random restaurants in Hong Kong to even simply walking along E 72nd Street in New York.

Giving Back

One of the most satisfying things I was privileged to do was attend the dedication ceremony of a hospital that we helped fund in a small village in the state of Gujarat in northwest India. The village, about a two-hour drive from Ahmedabad, is home to one of the Indian families we did a lot of diamond business with. Building the hospital, which provides essential basic services to the villagers, was their way of giving back. And our family was extremely happy to help.

Ninety years after their wedding in Wichita Falls, Texas, my grandparents’ legacy lives on in many ways. Among the most poignant is in the friendships that span generations and a culture of charity and goodwill (Tzadakah).




Zale’s Tales: A Short Biography

Zale's Tales Stanley Blog Header Short Biography

I know we are all very busy this time of the year, so I’ll keep this edition short.

Zale's Tales MB Zale

My grandfather, MB Zale

A Little About Me

I’m the third generation in the jewelry business and grew up in a culture that revolved around the jeweler’s annual calendar— The New York Show at the Hilton and Sheraton twice a year, and then in early July when all the store managers could get together. But most importantly, nothing, and I mean nothing, was scheduled between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Okay, so I never asked my Father how much time he spent with my mother and me at General Rose Memorial Hospital in Denver when I was born on December 4th in 19-whenever, but 13 years later, my Bar Mitzvah had to wait until after the New Year. What would be the point of having it in December? Everyone was working! And if you knew my Grandfather, MB Zale, you could almost hear him saying, “Whatever you do, don’t close the stores!” Though he might not have been that polite.

Back to Work!

So in that spirit, let’s all get back to work. We have customers to take care of. That’s how MB would do it, and Matt Stuller too! Happy Holidays!