May 18, 1999
ICA Congress Addresses Membership Numbers
Rebuilding a significantly reduced membership and shifting promotional efforts were the main topics of discussion during the eighth International Colored Gemstone Association congress, held in the resort town of Abano Terme, Italy.
The atmosphere surrounding the congress was more somber than in past years, mostly due to a 25% drop in membership since 1996. Since ICA's major source of income is membership dues, the promotional organization is facing tough times financially. The economic downturn in Asia contributed to the loss of members as firms downsized and closed, said ICA secretary Toshio Takada. Several delegates also said ICA had no way to recover the funds invested in its 1997 consumer ruby promotion, which it launched just before the Asian financial crisis began.
Congress delegates say they plan to step up ICA's membership drives and review member benefits. One plan is the development of a financial facility through which short-term funds can be raised by leaving gems as collateral. The facility is expected to generate income for future gem promotions.
President-elect Israel Eliezri, whose term starts at the end of the congress, pledged to initiate some dramatic changes in the way ICA promotes gems, aiming promotions at manufacturers instead of consumers. "We are selling the beautiful parts that are needed by manufacturers to complete their jobs," he said. "We want to support jewelers and manufacturers. We also want people to trust ICA and will be promoting the name aggressively for increased recognition."
- by Robert Weldon, G.G.