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Jeweller's Hits & Misses 2017

As the year draws to a close on what can only be described as a wild ride for the jewellery sector, COLEBY NICHOLSON reviews 2017 with his annual list of the industry’s highs and lows.

Our Hits & Misses feature started in 2011 as a little end-of-year whimsical fun; however, it has developed into an annual magnum opus where each time I find myself predicting that the next year can’t possibly be as weird as the last.

How wrong I have been!

This year has been a doozy; perhaps the ‘mother’ of all years when it comes to stuff-ups and embarrassments.

A famous quote comes to mind,"Houston, we have a problem!”

It would be all too easy to award almost every category in 2017 to the JAA and its board for the endless public relations disasters and ill-fated decisions, so we won’t do that.

If there is one thing Jeweller can never be accused of, it’s taking the easy road, and besides that wouldn’t be fair on the other ‘entrants’.

Therefore, and remembering that Hits & Misses is not exclusively an Australian competition, we need to ensure that everyone worldwide is given equal opportunity to take out a win.

Having said that, it would be wrong for our annual awards to ignore the confusiion and self-inflicted wounds the JAA caused throughout 2017.

Have you ever heard of the underpants stealing gnomes? No? Well, believe it or not, these gnomes have a lot to teach many people in the jewellery industry, as you will soon discover!

On more solemn matters, it is with regret that 2017 will also go down as a year of terrible armed and violent jewellery store robberies, especially in Victoria.

There were far too many attacks – some stores were robbed multiple times – for them to be unrelated. Many in the industry knew that the crime spree conducted by such young perpetrators would not be happening without somewhere for the stolen product to be offloaded.

In other words, logic said that the attacks were not random in so much that they must have been part of a much larger organised crime operation. Thankfully, it would appear that police have finally nabbed the kingpin and that the attacks have stopped, at least for now.

Rumours and goss

Catching up on some goss from last year’s Hits & Misses, we can report that nothing came of the local supplier who took umbrage to one of Jeweller’s 2016 stories and decided to employ a bumbling ‘Dennis Denuto’ style lawyer.

We heard he wasn’t happy being connected to the famous line from The Castle, “It’s just the vibe”, and perhaps the frivolous complaint and the resulting legal threat was aborted when the said lawyer realised that the Queensland District Court had already deemed it OK to facetiously refer to a lawyer as Dennis Denuto when it threw out a $250,000 defamation case in 2015.

Fancy that, it's not illegal to call a lawyer Dennis Denuto!

We’d like to thank the many people who provided Jeweller with confidential tips and information throughout the year, including the anonymous phone calls about the identity of the thief who stole a $30,000 diamond from a Brisbane jewellery store in 2013.

As always, we’ve attempted to report on the serious and important issues affecting the jewellery industry and, at the same time, have a little fun along the way. The Jeweller office has closed for the year and by the time you're reading this I will be a long way from home. A very long way; and it is on these trips that I realise how lucky we are to live in Australia.

I will leave you with a final 'ponder this' for 2017: When there's nothing left ... go right!

So, without further ado, Jeweller presents 2017 Hits & Misses. As I state each year, if you’re left scratching your head after reading some of the stories, don’t fret it’s not lice … it’s simply the jewellery industry!

If we can’t laugh at ourselves who can we laugh at?




Biggest Surprise
What were they thinking?
Best Punch Up
Say What?
New Product
Weird & Crazy Stuff
A Good Number
Births, Deaths & Marriages

Biggest surprise

There’s no doubt that 2017 was a year full of surprises. Some were unexpected and, for others, it was a surprise that the decision was not made much sooner.

Deciding on this year’s award winner was easy, but before I reveal the recipient let’s consider some of the contenders.

It was perhaps not a complete surprise to hear that Indian jewellery company Tara Jewels would acquire a 49 per cent stake in Bevilles; however, it was a surprise to learn that Karin Adcock’s House of Brands and US jewellery brand Alex and Ani parted ways.

These events aside, by far and away the biggest surprise of 2017 was the announcement in October that Thomas Jewellers was closing its entire retail operation.

Strangely, the news came just one month after the jewellery chain announced it would close its high-profile store located at the Royal Arcade building in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall because it had decided to place a renewed focus on regional locations and the roll-out of new store designs.

The news also regretably came 121 years after James Thomas founded the business in Ballarat.

HIT OR MISS?  Sadly, a miss

Previous winners
2016 - 'Business as usual' after Endless Jewelry collapse
2015Pandora in hot water
2014 - Showcase Jewellers CEO asked to stand aside
2013 - Karin Adcock shock return to the industry
2012 - Pandora’s Karin Adcock calls time
2011 - Indian jewellery company buys Zamels


What were they thinking?

This category has been hotly contested over the years, with the judges always having difficulty in deciding the eventual winner. Such was not the case in 2017 as it was, without a doubt, a lay down misere.

A worthy award winner any other year may very well have been the Perth CBD jewellery retailer that was raided by WA Police for allegedly having a store full of stolen items; however, that bungle was not good enough this time around.

Or we could add the dill who attempted to pass off a synthetic diamond as natural by arranging for it to be inscribed with the same number as that of a natural diamond report. The synthetic was submitted to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), which described it as “blatant fraud”.

But no, this year we couldn’t go past the JAA board for betting the farm on the novel idea of turning the industry association into a jewellery trade fair organiser only to then cancel the grandiose plans in May, resulting in a huge financial loss of members’ money. 

This is where the underpants stealing gnomes become relevant.

The story is a cautionary business tale and comes courtesy of South Park. The gnomes offer a wonderful piece of satirical advice and illustrate perfectly why the JAA’s own grand plans were doomed and resulted in major industry turmoil.

You see, the underpants stealing gnomes came up with a great business concept to make a fortune.

Lots of money! They even had a business plan; the only problem was that it was missing a vital link!

Like the underpants stealing gnomes, the JAA’s business plan had not considered Phase 2 – watch video.

What were they thinking?

Maybe the corporate regulator, Australian Securities Investment Commission, should make it mandatory for all boards to have at least one director who is a South Park devotee!  

HIT OR MISS?  Miss ... as in mistaken, mismanaged, misinformed and mislead

Previous winners
2016 - HRD Antwerp exposes ‘fraudulent’ diamond reports
2015 - Tata Consultancy Services
2014India tackles huge increase in gold smuggling
2013 - Jewellers steal $2.4 million from own store
2012 - Zamels, making the same mistake twice!
2011 - John Abolins and Jewellery World, for making the same mistake twice!



 This is always a fun category, mainly because there have been some classic dolts over the years. We have had to consider everything from stupid online polls and lesbian love triangles through to bumbling thieves who thought they were breaking into a jewellery store only to discover they smashed through the wrong wall and landed in a KFC restaurant.

Of course in 2015 we had Dad’s Army – a group of burglars between the ages of 46 and 78 – who decided to loot a safety deposit company in London’s jewellery and diamond district, Hatton Garden.

A major contender for WTF OMG this year was the thief who switched a 5-carat diamond valued at about $300,000 for a stone of lesser value at the Cerrone store in Sydney’s CBD.

The brazen thief performed the act in September while starring directly up at the store’s CCTV camera.


We could also add an international contender here – the Government of Bangladesh for forcing the local jewellery industry to rely on smuggled gold after it imposed a new gold tax.

What did the new policy do? It increased gold smuggling! 

One Dhaka jeweller was quoted as saying “About 65-70 per cent of jewellery in my shop is made of smuggled gold as we cannot legally import gold.”

Did the Bangladeshis not learn from the Indian experience in 2014 when the Dehli government decided to tackle gold smuggling with an economic policy that unleashed a latter day Cobra Effect.

None of these, however, could top this year’s winner Miranda Kerr. The Australian model found herself embroiled in an international financial scandal involving embezzled money and diamonds.

Kerr has been the face of a number of luxury brands over the years and one morning in June she awoke to find that the US Justice Department was claiming assets valued at more than US$1.6 billion (AU$2.1 b) that were linked to a Malaysian Government fraud.

It was said that among the assets were jewellery items valued at US$8 million (AU$10.6 m) given to Kerr as gifts in 2014 by former partner Jho Low, who is accused of being one of the main offenders in the scam.

Apparently the former Victoria’s Secret model handed back the jewellery in June, proving that a diamond is not forever.


Previous winners
2016Jeweller accused of switching diamonds for fakes
2015 - Dad's army - Hatton Garden jewellery heist
2014 - Jeweller caught trading $2 million of stolen goods
2013 - KFC jewellery store finally unlucky
2012 - Lesbian love triangle
2011 - Stupid online poll


best punch up

 This category has had some humdingers in the past!

Who could forget Martin Rapaport vs The World in 2015, which was of course a follow up to winning the same award the year prior for Martin Rapport vs The Diamond Industry?

There has been no shortage of contenders for Best Punch Up in 2017, with many on the local front making the Jeff Horn v Manny Pacquiao world title fight look like a kindergarten sand fight. 

For example, there was Nationwide Jewellers managing director Colin Pocklington issuing a comprehensive barrister’s report in March that aimed to refute “offensive” allegations made by the JAA?

While the JAA board stood by its allegations, it’s interesting to note that the widely circulated media release that led to the brouhaha was removed from the JAA website and has never been seen again.

We also had Swatch Group and Apple at each other’s throats once more. The two behemoths had previously fought over the trademark iWatch in 2014 and this year they went toe-to-toe over the marketing slogan ‘Tick different’.

Apple lodged a complaint with the Swiss Federal Administrative Court about Swatch’s use of the slogan to market the Swatch Bellamy watch. This, however, wasn’t enough to secure the crown (pun fully intended!).

In keeping with the international flavour, this year’s Best Punch Up award goes to Tiffany & Co. The high-profile brand has fought a four-year battle with Costco over the use of the word ‘Tiffany’.

In August the supermarket giant was ordered to pay the jeweller US$19.35 million (AU$24.7 m), which was broken down as: US$11.1 million (AU$14.7 m) in compensatory damages – three times the amount of Costco’s profits from the sales of the rings in question – and US$8.25 million (AU$11 m) in punitive damages.

We don’t believe there’s any truth to the rumour that Tiffany used the money to open a new cafe within its New York store … having said that the rents on Fifth Avenue are pretty steep!

HIT OR MISS?  Hit, as in 'kapow' cop that!

Previous winners
2016More industry division over two jewellery fairs
2015 - Martin Rapaport v The World
2014Industry called to fight diamond over-grading
2013 - New jewellery group emerges
2012 - Jewellery Association creates its own furore
2011 - New Zealand jewellery industry for a year-long punch up


say what?

This category is always fun, it usually ‘writes’ itself.

Over the years our colleagues at Jewellery World have dominated this award. While they’ve even managed to get stories about themselves wrong (Say what?), it’s hard to go past a 16-page feature story listing Australia’s ‘Best 100 Suppliers’, which, unfortunately, contained only 70 companies.

Worse, one of the ‘top suppliers’ had gone out of business!

Meanwhile, last year’s winner was a beauty – it involved a Sydney jeweller who was forced by a ‘court’ to sell a $34,000 diamond ring for $1,100! Say what?

The case made headlines around Australia and also generated coverage from international media, including the BBC. This year we have a couple of noteworthy UK contenders.

Take, for example, the strange case of a sexagenarian salesman in a UK jewellery store who was awarded £63,000 (AU$111,000) in damages for age discrimination. This salesman was able to prove to the court that he was nicknamed “Gramps” by younger staff, although there had been no apparent complaint from him about this while he was employed.

I hope there were no jokes about “Who’s your daddy?”

While in the UK, I did get a chuckle out of this piece of jewellery industry wisdom …

Since the engagement news broke about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, there has been much speculation about the cost and size of the three stone ring that Harry apparently designed. Little is known about it, which led the Evening Standard to resolve the problem by talking to jewellery industry experts.

So, what did these ‘experts’ come up with?

Well ... the ring looks like a 3–4-carat cushion cut diamond flanked by two round stones and could cost anywhere between £25,000 (AU$44,000) and £200,000 (AU$352,000).

Say what? Geez, thanks for that guys, $44,000 or maybe $350,000 ... that clears everything up!

(I wonder what valuation non-experts would have given the ring?)

Though, having seen the ring design, most people suggest that as a jewellery designer Bluey makes a great helicopter pilot.

However, we don’t think any of the above comes close to this year’s winner. In May, synthetic diamond manufacturer Ada Diamonds issued a press release stating it had discovered undisclosed natural diamonds mixed into laboratory-grown stones.

Until that time the industry was on the lookout for (cheaper) synthetic diamonds being mixed with (more expensive) natural stones so who would have thought about the reverse happening, right?

I mean, you can imagine the fraudsters saying, “Hey guys, let’s be counter-intuitive and put the cops off our track by substituting cheap fake diamonds with real, expensive diamonds. That will confuse them!”

This case came much to the bemusement of at least one industry commentator, who raised questions about ‘publicity trolling’. 

JCK’s Robert Bates noted, “It was a little hard to take this release seriously. There have been numerous documented cases of the opposite – undisclosed man-made diamonds being passed off as naturals. There is a good reason for that: Since non-mined diamonds typically sell for less than naturals, there is an economic incentive to disguise one as the other.”

Bates correctly noted that there is little incentive to do the reverse saying, “That would be a pretty inept criminal activity. In addition, while it’s obviously wrong to misrepresent any stone, a mined diamond does not legally have to be disclosed, like a synthetic does. That’s because, under the Federal Trade Commission Guides, a diamond is assumed to be from the earth.”

We had to agree.


Previous winners
2016 - Jeweller to sell $34K ring for $1,100 after error
2015 - Jewellery World for getting a story about itself wrong!
2014 - Diva jewellery stores shutting down, or maybe not!
2013 - Jewellery World Top 100 List only includes 70!
2012 - Man swallows diamonds at trade fair
2011 - Who is Ken Raumati?


new product

Jeweller's New Products Thursday e-newsletter is a showcase of the latest and greatest jewellery and watch products entering the local market. In 2017 there were offerings from a wide range of suppliers, both large and small.

This year, perhaps more than ever before, homegrown product dominated reader attention. Seven of the Top Ten jewellery and watches for 2017 were from Australian suppliers, and the leader of the pack was Loona’s sterling silver and topaz earrings.

It should be remembered that the list is compiled by gauging reader interest via online views and is not indicative of anything other than reader curiosity. It is not a measure of sales but it nevertheless does show the wide range of product that captures our readers’ interest.

The Top 10 products of 2017 are:

 1. Loona
 2. Cluse
 3. Bering
 4. Ikecho Pearls
 5. Blush Pink Diamonds
 6. Buckley London
 7. Lost River Diamonds
 8. Bolton Gems
 9. Stones & Silver
 10. Ikecho Pearls

* The measurement process also takes into account the length of time each story has been published on and attempts to be a statistically relevant measure of reader interest.


Previous winners
2016 - Ice-Watch
2015 - Bausele Australia
2014 - TWM Co
2013 - X by Trollbeads
2012 - Pandora
2011 - Ice-Watch


weird & crazy stuff

Regular followers of our annual Hits & Misses will know that this category started in 2011 after we read about the launch of a Norwegian jewellery range that decided to promote its new collection with a video featuring a beautiful woman being doused in petrol and set alight at the stake.

Mind you it was not the eventual winner that year; no, the mysterious New Zealander, Ken Raumati, took the award. Ken, of course, has never come forward to accept the award on behalf of the Kiwi jewellery industry – in fact, he has never shown his face at all.

We did, however, hear a rumour around October that Ken had defected to Tonga, along with many of the Kiwi Rugby League team, and had opened a Michael Hill store. Surely not!

As for this year’s Weird & Crazy Stuff contestants, it’s hard not to go past vagina charm jewellery, which is available on Amazon. Japanese company BoDivas is pioneering the trend “for that special someone in your life”, with its range of intimate bling called Beachtail.

This new ‘collection’, described as jewellery “for your crotch”, was seen as pennies from heaven for the journos who reported on it. There were lines like: “Look, it’s not Tiffany, but …” or “Crotch charms, help you bling out your lady bits”.

A bit too much?

Well what about the German town that claims to be encrusted in diamonds? No joke, the residents of Nördlingen, halfway between Stuttgart and Nurmberg, believe that the suevite stone used when building the town was embedded with millions of tiny diamonds in a concentration seen nowhere else in the world.

One local has said, “Luckily they’re [the diamonds] very, very small, otherwise the church tower would've been taken down a long time ago.”

Maybe the Nördlingen mayor should call on the clever creatives at BoDivas to design some diamond Church Charms – we wonder what that would look like.

Just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, the same can be said of weird and crazy stuff right?

The above contenders, however, just don’t cut it; this year’s winner is the blingy Tampon Holder.

Yep, you read me right!

Not only is it true but there are also some big jewellery names behind it: Hearts on Fire and Jade Trau, along with high-profile silversmith Kevin Grey.

To be fair, the unique Tampon Holder ‘jewellery’ was created to lampoon US state laws that collect sales tax on tampons and pads. The campaign, created by J Walter Thompson New York, features actress Amber Rose wearing a bejeweled pendant as well as close up footage of the pendant with jewellery ad–like messaging running across the screen.


Previous winners
2016 - Armed robbery of Elsternwick jewellery store caught on dash cam
2015 - Jewellers Association of New Zealand apology
2014 - The backyard chicken farmer and avid cat lover!
2013 - Australian thief swallows diamond rings
2012 - Ellani Collections gaining 1,000 Facebook fans
2011 - Who is Ken Raumati?


a good number

Last year’s winner, ‘Ronnie the Runner’, was a hands down decision. It was impossible to ignore Ronnie Ben-Simon, the high-profile Melbourne jeweller to the stars whose business collapsed owing $10 million.

This sorry saga affected many people, and Ben-Simon’s father – who sold the family jewellery business to his son in 2013 – was not happy either. Eliyahou Ben-Simon filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating, "I am bitterly disappointed and embarrassed at the way my son appears to have conducted the business since his company bought it.”

We have had a lot of entries this year, including a Rolex Daytona that once belonged to the late movie star Paul Newman. It became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction after selling for US$17.8 million ($AU23.5 m).

That’s not a bad number! Though this one could be better: A diamond, emerald and ruby brooch that was originally purchased for US$8 (AU$10.5) at a garage sale in the US ended up fetching US$26,000 (AU$32,317) at auction.

What is the ROI on that number?

Could this be even better? A ‘costume’ diamond ring purchased at a car boot sale for £10 (AU$18) ended up being a 26.29-carat diamond and sold for £350,000 (AU$616,000) at an auction.

We reckon all of those are good numbers, but not good enough to beat 100.

Jewellery retailer Wallace Bishop celebrated 100 years in business this year. Founded by the original Wallace Bishop in 1917, the family-owned and operated business is now managed by third, fourth and fifth generations, with great-grandson Stuart Bishop serving as CEO.

The Jeweller team dips our lid to 'old Wal' – after all, who would have thought that in the same year someone invented crotch charms and blingy tampon holders, Wallace Bishop would be still trading as strong as ever. 

100 years young, now that’s a GREAT number!


Previous winners
2016 - Bensimon served bankruptcy notice
2015 - $3,000,000: incredible business turnaround
2014 - Jewellery merger creates world's largest retailer
2013 - Jewellery chain collapses owing $3 million
2012 - Ex Pandora man to launch “clicks and mortar” stores
2011 - Young Jewellers Group


births, deaths & marriages

Couture Kingdom

Thomas Jewellers

Sams Group Australia/Samsung
Duraflex/TW Steel
BYMR/Tom Hope
West End Collection/Swarovski

House of Brands and Alex and Ani

In memoriam - remembering those who have passed:
Mike Griese
Anna Bodikian (Bodikian Jewellers)


HITS & MISSES ARCHIVE: 2012 - 2016


SAMS Group Australia

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