As the new executive director of the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) Gary Roskin’s main goal is promotions – to advance the organization, its members and the colored stone trade.
“If we can help promote more natural colored gemstone sales, then more and more suppliers will see the ICA as being a great organization to be a part of,” says Gary. “So the most pressing issues for ICA as a trade organization is really summed up in one word – promotion, of natural colored gemstones and the ICA.”
Gary has a unique skill set to achieve such promotional objectives. He is best known for his 20 years as a trade journalist. Much of those two decades was spent writing about colored stones and topics related to timely gemological issues for JCK magazine. Throughout his career, Gary has always been involved in gemological training and teaching. Before that, he worked in the family jewelry store for a number of years, giving him the added perspective and experience of jewelry retail. Still, managing the ICA is a large task for Gary and his support staff.
To put matters in perspective, the ICA has more than 700 members across the globe. The organization also has 18 committees. Gary’s main task is to make sure ICA committees have the resources needed to complete their established objectives.
From New York to New Delhi, the colored gemstone trade is a vast global network of miners, wholesalers and manufacturers all with various needs along the mine-to-market supply chain. Add in working across multiple time zones, different countries and diverse societal and business cultures, and the average workweek for the ICA’s executive director is anything but ordinary.
His appointment to the ICA’s top position comes at a noteworthy time for the trade association. Three years ago, the ICA moved its headquarters from New York City to Hong Kong. In 2012 the ICA president was from Hong Kong, and the Asian nation had a very strong economy. With China’s economy weakening (Great Britain returned control of Hong Kong to Mainland China in 1997), the ICA’s newly elected president based in the US, and certain logistical issues, the ICA decided to move its office back to the US.
“The non-profit status in Hong Kong was never granted, which was disappointing,” says Gary. “We’ve moved our New York office into a larger space, and moved our Hong Kong office into a smaller space. This is simply the fiscally responsible thing to do.”
As with any new executive position, Gary has immediate and long-term goals. In the short-term, last month Gary attended the September Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair. In addition to planning the Brazilian Night Reception to honor Brazil’s ICA members, Gary also attended a full board of directors meeting and met with members of the Hong Kong office.
Long-term, Gary has an ambitious to-do list. For the ICA, he’d like to improve communications between members, manufacturers and retailers. He’s also seeking to improve how his group works with industry related national organizations. Additionally, Gary wants to maintain strong ethical standards amongst its members, to make the ICA the world’s authority on any subject involving colored gemstones and help push the ICA’s publications to international acclaim by providing timely, enjoyable and invaluable gemstone information.
Being the executive director of the ICA also places Gary in the position of being a default ambassador for the colored stone industry. Long-term there are objectives he’d like to address too. “In my new position I’d like the ICA to work closely with the gem labs and such organizations as CIBJO,” says Gary. “This would create better harmonization with rules and nomenclature.”
Before Gary begins working down his to-do list, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed in the colored stone industry. Topping the list: “We really need to see more honest disclosure of gem treatments, as well as origins, both color and country,” says Gary.
After reporting on topical issues such as conflict diamonds and dirty gold, Gary wants to continue the ICA’s and the colored stone industry’s commitment to supporting ethically, socially and environmentally responsible business practices. Gary wants the ICA to lead by example to get more of the industry on board.
“Our ICA members are proactive in all of this, but we face a huge challenge moving everyone in the industry to follow this path,” says Gary. “It begins by communication, reaching out to everyone in the industry to see that this is all a good thing for the natural colored gemstone business.”
With communications and promotions key tools to accomplish his stated objectives, Gary is working with internal and external teams to improve online outlets starting with an ICA website remodel (www.gemstone.org). With its existing and anticipated database of gemstone images, Gary and his team will make the ICA website more image-intensive. This will certainly be a natural progression to Facebook. More importantly, other social media websites that are visually driven, such as Pinterest and Twitter, will boost the ICA’s internet presence, from trade members to consumers.
“With so many beautiful gems amongst our members, images to create a need to own one of Mother Nature’s little beauties should be something we could be posting on the Internet, not only for the retailer to see, but for the gem enthusiast and consumer as well,” says Gary.
Coming from a print magazine background, Gary and his staff also want InColor, the ICA’s quarterly magazine, to expand its focus to reflect more of a logical progression from mine to market. “The magazine would not only be a better educational tool for the supplier, and retailer, but could also be used at the counter for retail sales,” says Gary. “It’s easy to envision how successful a magazine like that could be, but it’s more than challenging to actually create it. With member support we can pull it off.”
The ICA has traditionally been viewed as a gem wholesaler and manufacturer industry association, but Gary has plans to help retailers. Having grown up in his family’s jewelry business (started by his grandfather and then managed by his parents), Gary knows the retailer-customer dynamic well.
“We will be looking at everything in our promotional arsenal to see how it can be a useful tool for the retailer, something for them to use with their customers,” says Gary. “After all, it’s fairly simple to see that if the retailer sells more colored gems, they will most assuredly be back to buy more colored gemstones from ICA gemstone suppliers.”