Globalization 101: How the Jewelry Trade is Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic

Our little shop – like so many other retailers – has seen a roller-coaster ripple effect over the last week as the response continues to develop to the coronavirus pandemic. Most of our vendors have been ordered closed, with a few exceptions, which is pretty huge. Much of this has to do with the geography of the global jewelry trade, so I thought I would run a little primer on this dynamic market and how it affects our local shop. If you’re wondering why this is so complicated for our particular industry, read on!

 

 Photo credit: Frederick Kelly/The New York Historical Society/Getty Images
Not much has changed since this photo was taken – transactions are often made on the sidewalk, and communication is done face-to-face between vendors. Check out this article in Smithsonian Magazine for a quick outline of the workings of NYC Diamond District.

 

First, let’s take a look at New York City, which houses the fabled Manhattan Diamond District. This entire economy is built on person-to-person relationships and transactions – there are no online sales here. Our vendors who are based in New York have been ordered to shut down and stay inside, bringing to a halt millions of dollars worth of diamond transactions for the foreseeable future. One of our primary NYC vendors told us last week, before the stay-at-home order, that they had at that point already sent their employees home and were spending the week shipping inventory back into their storerooms for safekeeping. They felt good about their own inventory holdings, having just returned from a buying trip to Sri Lanka and India, however their neighbors are sweating more because supply chains for them have been interrupted as well. This means that whenever these diamond vendors are allowed to re-open, they won’t be able to hit the ground running to fulfil inventory needs from buyers – especially with regard to melee diamond requests which make up a huge portion of large-scale buying. Melee diamonds are the tiny diamonds used in pave style and halo style settings and as little accent stones for all sorts of inexpensive to extremely expensive jewelry. Melee diamonds are primarily cut in…

 

Photo credit: The New York Times 

 

India, which as of Monday of this week is under a complete nation-wide curfew lock-down. In recent days, 32 of India’s states or territories have announced state-wide lock-downs, meaning two-thirds of the population must stay at home. In those states, all non-essential services such as public transportation, malls, and markets – including, of course, diamond cutting facilities – have been shut down. Indian manufacturers cut and polish an estimated 90 percent of the global supply of diamonds – diamonds which are mined in Russia, Australia, and even China, which are all affected by this pandemic. We’re lucky to have melee available already and to work with a vendor who had the foresight to stock up but, as you can imagine, this will likely have a huge effect on the availability (and cost) of jewelry of all types – custom and prefabricated – for quite some time. Which brings us to…

 

Photo credit: Erin Tetterton Photography

 

Our American manufacturers. Last week, a big supplier of ours based in San Francisco temporarily closed shop under orders and its own supply chain is affected because its items are primarily manufactured in Italy, which has been hard hit by the pandemic. The good news (for now) is that our favorite caster is still open and accepting projects, so we should be able to continue cast custom work for the foreseeable future. We have additional suppliers as back-up, so at least for now we can continue this work. At the same time, the US’ largest jewelry supplies manufacturer has just announced that per a statewide order, it will be shuttered until at least mid-April. This affects just about every facet of the American jewelry industry because this supplier manufactures a huge portion of the tools, findings (the little pre-made pieces used in jewelry repairs), wire, pre-made wedding bands, and even gemstones that jewelers like us use every day.

 

Photo credit: Erin Tetterton Photography

 

And, this brings us to our own little workshop here in Alexandria. As I mentioned last week, we took the precaution of closing our workshop in advance of the governor’s orders to close all non-essential businesses out of an abundance of caution for our employees, their families, and our clients. Tim and I are setting up a system to continue custom design consultations via video conferencing and we hope to have our staff back and working in our workshop on rotating shifts in the next few weeks. This is, without a doubt, the benefit of working with a jeweler who does mostly everything in-house: at the very least, we can control our own schedules and do our best to keep our employees and clients healthy. So, we will continue to be able to create rings, set them, and furnish repairs – we just don’t know exactly on what timeframe. As you can tell, things are complicated! But, we have appreciated the outpouring of support and understanding while we sort this out conscientiously. We have taken measures to reach out to every client with pending jobs in our workshop, but if you haven’t heard from us or have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to help! Just… stay home for now, please!

 

  • The latest from Meaghan
Creative Director & Co-Owner | Alexandria & Company
I came to join Alexandria & Company by way of love: my husband Tim has owned the stop for nearly ten years, and I started by helping him on Saturdays so that we could spend more time together. Eventually, I quit my other life in the legal field to become Alx&Co’s Creative Director and co-owner with Tim. Now, we run our small business together in Old Town and I haven’t looked back.

Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.

inquiries@alxandcompany.com  |  alxandcompany.com

121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

703.548.0659

Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment

Appointments encouraged for custom design.

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