Posted on | November 28, 2013 | No Comments
Every year I give a report on the diamond market, what people in the industry are thinking, and even worldwide sentiment about the diamond industry. This year, it was very difficult to get a really accurate gauge into the market, being that it was so unpredictable. Here are some trends in 2013 that I am seeing.
Are you kidding me? Is this train ever going to stop? This category is by far the strongest in the diamond trade. Several colored diamonds set new records at auction including the 59.60 carat “Pink Star” which went for a whopping $83 million, and the 14.82 carat Fancy Vivid Orange diamond that realized a price of $36 million, or $2.4 million per carat, another world record. These are just two extreme examples, but even the market on small pinks and blues is out of sight.
Is bigger always better? In this market, the answer is YES! Most diamond dealers go after larger diamonds (3 carats and over) more aggressively than the run of the mill diamonds. I think that most people like having these diamonds in their inventory because they are harder to find, and (of course) they are really fun to look at! Actually, the truth is that smaller very high quality diamonds are much harder to sell which brings me to my next category.
High Clarity Diamonds:
These diamonds continue to be weak. IF and VVS stones, unless they are very large/rare, are trading a large discounts. Traditionally, the Asian market would eat these up, but the US market does not want these diamonds. The simple way to put it is that when you have a VVS diamond, it makes the price higher. Most consumers would rather sacrifice a little on quality to get a bigger diamond. And let’s be honest, who really needs a diamond with perfect clarity? A VS or an SI (or a really nice I1) clarity diamond can still look fantastic to the eye.
Average Size/Quality Diamonds:
These diamonds are very common and therefore, they bring average prices. Good quality SI salable diamonds are always around, so no one is getting very excited about them. However, there are always customers for them, and in our world they are flowing pretty nicely. We are making some nice rings, studs, and jewelry from diamonds like these so we are always buying. In fact, we have seen a very nice influx of 2 carat diamonds, and they always do well.
Very small diamonds, often referred to as melee, are diamonds that go from .01 carats (tiny tiny) to about .20 (one fifth) carats. We sell a lot of these goods that are removed from the scrap gold that we buy. Recently, the prices have been weak compared to 2012, partly because of the weakness of the Indian rupee. The Indian buyers used to love these diamonds, but are not consuming them like they used to. In my world of second hand (or recycled) diamonds, it seems like the more we can separate these diamonds, they higher price per carat we can achieve. In other words, if we sort diamonds by size, quality and shape into matched parcels, we will get more. However, this process is very time consuming and tedious, so we sort them up to a certain point. Then our buyer takes it a step further and it goes down the line this way.
Diamonds are steady, definitely steadier than metals! Gold and silver have taken a pretty bad beating over the last 2 years and diamonds have been very reliable. So we are heavy into diamonds and will continue to move forward towards our diamond buying and selling goals. Our philosophy is to buy diamonds strong, develop our customer base, and, more importantly, nurture our current relationships and make new ones so we are poised for growth.
Happy Thanksgiving – we are thankful for our friends, family, health and…DIAMONDS!
Posted on | November 2, 2013 | No Comments
So I traveled again to see Phish. This time to Atlantic City for the anticipated Halloween run. I saw one of the best shows ever in Hampton that reviewed in my last post, so I was really pumped for Halloween. Traditionally, Phish plays a very special Halloween show which includes two sets of Phish and a surprise cover album in the middle. Such iconic albums have been played in the past like Waiting for Columbus, Exile on Main Street, Dark Side of the Moon, The White Album, and more. So we were really excited to see what the boys had up their sleeves for this show. Turned out they played…their own new album, Wingsuit! Was there a horn section? How about backup singers? No! Just the Abe Vigota dancers and a 92 year old Godfather character waving to the crowd. Let’s be honest, this was a real bummer. I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts, like Mr. Minor’s Phish Thoughts, where he exclaims:
The decision to play Wingsuit was incredibly brave, daring and risky—characteristics that have defined the band throughout their career, and traits for which we adore them. And for that alone, they must be applauded. But god damn, these songs were amazing.
Really? Just because you are mentioned in a song, doesn’t mean you have to love everything they do. Thank you Mr. Minor…for being such a wuss. This show was a HUGE disappointment and let down. I will admit that part of it was definitely that the expectation was so high.
It was painful, and I will venture to say it was selfish and unfair for Phish to do this to their fans. They need to know that not everyone at the show paid the $65 ticket price. A lot of folks paid $300 plus to see the most anticipated show of the year. Phish sets the ticket prices for face value, Stubhub sets the market price which was WAY higher for this show. What we got were some really new, unpolished songs. Trey even “apologized” afterwards by thanking everyone for listening. Here’s a better idea – scatter a few new songs in your fall tour. Don’t play them all at once! By the time they got to the last set, everyone was frankly too tired to get the energy going again. So if they would have had the 1st and 3rd sets only, I may have thought it was a decent show.
Here’s an analogy. You go to see Book of Mormon on Broadway – one of the hottest shows out there. You pay $500 for a seat because you hear that this Saturday night show is the original cast and a five year anniversary performance. When you walk in, the Playbill says “Book of Muslim” a new play by Trey Parker. Then Trey Parker, creator of Book of Mormon and Southpark, comes out and tells the audience that they want to try out a few numbers from the new Book of Muslim to see if you will like it. Then you hear songs like, Where is My Allah Tonight and Osama the Bomba. Forget that people paid $500 a ticket to see the real deal. Anyway, you get my point.
Phish: I love you guys and I thank you for your music. I listen every day. I saw three shows this tour, and I know you can’t play perfect shows all the time. I know you get paid millions of dollars and may not care, but this was not cool. You can do better.
On a positive note (yes there is a positive note here) the show last night, 11/1/13, was awesome and you did redeem yourself so I will be back!
Here’s what a real set list looks like from 11/1/13:
Set 1: Cavern > Runaway Jim, Sand, Halfway to the Moon, Halley’s Comet, Tube, Possum, When the Circus Comes, Sugar Shack, Jesus Just Left Chicago, David Bowie
Set 2: Twist -> Gotta Jibboo > Makisupa Policeman > Light -> Chalk Dust Torture, Meatstick > Boogie On Reggae Woman > The Wedge, Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley
Posted on | October 22, 2013 | 1 Comment
Plain and simple, there’s just no band on earth who gets it done like Phish. I see a lot of live music, and the energy, crowd, and flat out jams/guitar ripping at a Phish show is way beyond any other live act. So I headed four hours south to the Hampton Coliseum, AKA The Mothership, to check out the last show of three that Phish played that weekend. All I can say is WOW. This was possibly the best Phish show I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen dozens.
The set list:
Set 1: Julius, Funky Bitch, Back on the Train, Roses Are Free > Sample in a Jar, Ginseng Sullivan, 46 Days, Divided Sky, Bold As Love
Set 2: Paul and Silas > Tweezer> Golden Age> Piper -> Takin’ Care of Business> Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sand > Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: A Day in the Life > Tweezer Reprise
Check out the details from Jambase by clicking here.
For all you Phish Phans, this is a great one. If you’re a Hendrix fan, the Bold As Love second set closer was unreal. If you’re a Beatles fan, A Day in the Life encore was so fitting and done very well. Hell, if you’re a Bachman Turner Overdrive fan, they busted out a Taking Care of Business in the middle of the second set. The first time for that one.
So what’s next? Halloween for me in 10 days! I’m ready for that one where the boys will play an entire album from another band. The White Album, Exile on Main Street, Waiting for Columbus, what will be next? Whatever it is, these guys are Takin’ Care of Business, that’s for sure!
Posted on | July 26, 2013 | 2 Comments
I can’t believe it has taken me so long to talk about my Howard Stern experience, but here goes. We were staying at The Four Seasons at Mandalay Bay for the yearly JCK Jewelry Show. As my wife and I are walking out to the elevator area, I see Howard Stern standing right there waiting for the elevator with Ralph Cirella and a bodyguard. I immediately walk up to him and say, “Howard! I’m a huge fan,” and go to shake his hand. He, of course, gives me a fist pump because of his OCD, which makes sense. So, we get on the elevator and he says to me, “What’s in the backpack?” We were heading to the pool and I had my backpack with me. I said, “Jewelry.” Then he asked if I was there for the jewelry show, when does it end, and we had a nice conversation on the elevator. As we are riding my wife nudges me and says, “Ask him for a picture.” I say, “I don’t want to bother him.” So as we are getting off the elevator my wife says, in these exact words, “Would it be terrible if we asked you for a picture?” Howard said, “Sorry I have to go to work.” He was in Vegas for America’s Got Talent – which by the way is one of the lamest, sellout things he has ever done. Remember this incident because it plays out again at the end of this story.
So throughout the next few days we saw Howard and Beth again in the elevator, (he was staying a few doors down from us) Beth at the pool, Ralph in the gym – I even tweeted Ralph thanks for chatting with us and he replied.
— RALPH CIRELLA (@MYGEEKTIME) June 7, 2013
Granted, Ralph is the guy everyone tools on, but have been a devout listener for 25 years so it was all very cool to me. He was actually a pretty nice guy. Even seeing and talking to Howard was surreal because I feel like I know so much about his life and now I am interacting with him – it was weird.
After I get back from the trip I decided I wasn’t done with Howard yet. So I call the show and get an answer. I said, “I met Howard in Vegas and wanted to talk about what it’s like for a fan to meet him in person.” HOLD ON. I was in the car on the way to DC and just stayed on hold and listened to the show. Thirty minutes later…“Ron from Baltimore, you’re on the air!”
OK – now this is crazy. I don’t have an audio of the conversation but here’s how it went:
Howard: “Ron from Baltimore, you’re on the air.”
Ron: “Howard, I’ve been listening for 25 years, thanks for taking my call, we just met out in Vegas”
Howard: “Which one were you?”
Ron: “I was in the elevator wearing an Orioles hat.”
Howard: “Oh, the jewelry guy.”
Howard to Robin: “There was a big jewelry show out there. I also saw Adam Levine from…”
Ron: “Maroon Five”
Howard: “Yeah, he was out there”
Ron: “Yes, he played a private concert for the jewelry industry one night”
Howard: “How much do you think they paid him for that?”
Ron: “We were talking about that, maybe $200K?” (if any JCK people are reading this please chime in)
Howard: “At least a million.”
Ron: “I saw Beth at the pool, she looked great, it must be really hard for you to go places because you are such a daunting figure.”
Howard: “Yeah, I tried to go to the pool and some fucking lady was trying to take a picture of me – I could see that she was trying with her phone and I told her to stop taking my fucking picture.”
And he went on a little rant about this and how he hates when people try taking pics of him – then I interrupted:
Ron: “You know my wife asked you for a picture after we got off the elevator.”
This is when the conversation completely turned.
Howard: “Well, I was on the way to work and…”
Ron: “Do you have a policy where you don’t take pictures with fans?”
Howard: “I take plenty of pictures with people, listen Ron, I gotta go.”
Ron: “But you were really cool about it…”
Howard: “Stop interrupting me! CLICK”
That was it. Then he proceeded to insult me after he hung up on me.
Howard: “Ron was only 4 feet tall so a picture would have looked stupid anyway.”
Disclaimer: For those of you who don’t know me, I am 5’9 and my wife is 5’4. Not tall, but average Jewish size. Howard is just an awkwardly sized goon so everyone seems short.
Robin: “I love the way people always ask AFTER you are leaving the elevator”
Howard: “Yeah, we had like 10 minutes on the elevator, he could have just asked me then. I was trying to explain to the guy why I didn’t take the picture. Whatever, then he would have shown it to everyone, and I didn’t look good…”
BLAH BLAH BLAH
So I got hung up on like everyone else. I did have him on the hook for a good 2-3 minutes which is pretty damn good.
Of course, after he hung up on me I went into a stream of regrets. I should have just shut up and hung around for the news, I didn’t have to mention the picture, I could have been his best buddy and gotten invited to his house at The Hamptons – a lot of fantasies and bullshit went through my head about what I could and should have said. Reminded me of the Seinfeld episode “Jerk Store” – if you watch Seinfeld, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
I also got a number of calls from friends who heard it and couldn’t believe it. In fact, two days later, Howard mentioned me AGAIN. He said that a nice couple asked him for a picture and he said no, and then went into the same schtick about how he hates taking pictures.
So…the real question is, should he have taken a picture with a loyal fan? Without people like me he wouldn’t have shit. Did he hang up on me because he was put on the defensive and didn’t want his fans to think he was a dick? Should I call back? I know he’ll remember me. I think he made my wife feel like he did when Paul McCartney dissed him and his daughter at his concert when he asked for an autograph.
What do you think? Is it over and just another good story to tell?
To me, of course it’s never over until he dies and maybe “Ron The Jeweler” will cross paths with Howard again!
Posted on | May 16, 2013 | No Comments
The value of our various internet properties has not been HITS (How Idiots Track Success) but lead generation and appointments. We want to attract QUALIFIED visitors, not a large volume of unqualified visitors. This cannot be achieved from just having a website up and running google ads to your homepage or to other pages. It’s not a secret that relevant landing pages are the key to having your customers react to your website/brand the way you want them to.
Here are some samples:
SELL YOUR DIAMONDS
Sell Diamonds in Washington DC
SELL YOUR SILVER
Sell Silver in Washington DC
SELL YOUR WATCH
Sell Watch in Baltimore
SELL YOUR COINS
Sell Coins & Bullion in Washington DC
So you get the picture. There are hundreds more. Landing pages are important for all websites and for every product/feature that you want to promote. Now is the hard part for me…patience. If you build it, they will come, just not right away.
That’s it for my educational post of the month. Enjoy!
Posted on | March 23, 2013 | 2 Comments
I came across a recent situation where a service provider is (constantly) making a mistake that we used to do here at Samuelson’s all the time. It’s all about setting expectations.
Here’s an example:
Someone wants an engagement ring made. Back in the day, we would do everything we could to do it as fast as possible. “Sure, we will have this ready for you by the end of the week.” This puts stress on me or the salesperson, the jeweler, and eventually the customer. A lot of things happen within a week that we can’t control. The jeweler doesn’t get it done on time, a part needs to be ordered, it doesn’t look right and has to go back to get fixed, someone gets sick, etc etc. So then we are in the uncomfortable situation of telling the customer their ring will not be ready on time. Can even ruin a proposal plan. How can this be avoided? “Your ring will be ready in three weeks.” Now, if you have it in a week or two you look like a hero. Under promise – over deliver.
This discipline is very hard to adhere to for a service provider because you NEVER want to say “no” to a customer. Especially if it means losing a sale. Here’s another situation. “I have to have this ring tomorrow.” My advice – learn to say no. Nine times out of ten it’s ok if you explain it right. If someone needs instant gratification, then they are often not great customers.
What prompted me to write this post is that I have been receiving these promises from a service provider. And all of my stress could have been avoided had the expectation been set properly. “I’m working on it now, I’ll have this for you in an hour, you’ll have this today…” If he would have said, “You will have this next week, or next month, or next year,” this would have made for a much less stressful situation. Instead, I was expecting these things to be done faster and I had to keep asking/emailing/calling to check my status. Not a good situation for either of us to be in. Again, a simple “It will be done in a month (or two or three)” would have solved this problem for me and the service provider.
It’s a rookie move that a lot of businesses do, and my staff here at Samuelson’s is trying NOT to do this anymore. Took a long time to learn.
There was an interesting article in the New York Times about this titled, “What Did You Expect? It Makes a Difference”. It starts out talking about a doctor setting expectations, but what’s most interesting is the scientific explanation:
…how we manage expectations applies to everything, from dating to job searches to what presents we’re going to get for our birthdays.
“It’s so central to our lives,” said David Rock, author of “Your Brain at Work” (HarperCollins, 2009).
There are two sides of expectations — what we expect from others and what we expect from ourselves. And how we manage those expectations is critical to how we view our experiences and pursue our goals.
Mr. Rock, who is also director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, which aims to improve leadership through applying the latest research on the brain, says there is a physiological reason we are disappointed when life does not meet our expectations. The neurotransmitter dopamine is released in our brain — and makes us feel good — when something positive happens.
Take an event as mundane as crossing the street. We push the button and expect the light to change in maybe 30 seconds. If it takes five seconds, “there’s a pleasant release of dopamine, and a general feeling of well-being,” he said, even if it’s only fleeting.
The downside is that when our expectations are not met — let’s say it takes a minute for the light to change — our negative feelings are much stronger than the good feelings we get when expectations are exceeded.
Which is a real shame. As Mr. Rock explains it, “If we expect to get x and we get x, there’s a slight rise in dopamine. If we expect to get x and we get 2x, there’s a greater rise. But if we expect to get x and get 0.9x, then we get a much bigger drop.”
“When we don’t hit our expectations,” he added, “our brain doesn’t just get slightly unhappy, it sends out a message of danger or threat.” That suggests that the cliché “hope for the best but expect the worst” has a lot of truth.
It’s all about setting expectations…
Posted on | March 14, 2013 | No Comments
It’s that time of year again! I will be going to see the Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theater in NYC this weekend. It’s the best place to see them. Here’s a great clip from a few days ago with a horn section and Eric Krasno from Soulive playing Southbound. Derek trucks looks especially happy in this version of Southbound and I can see why. Enjoy!
Posted on | February 11, 2013 | No Comments
As any reader of this blog will know, I’ve always been a big proponent of Facebook. Hell, I’m even the unofficial inventor of the word “unfriend”. I’ve spoken at various jewelry trade shows about social media and Facebook, and even national shows like Etail2009 about my Facebook Fan Page, which is now at 1.5 million likes. Back in 2008, I was amazed and enamored with the site. I thought it was crucial to building new connections, getting back in touch with old ones, and getting your name and personal brand out there. And it was…and maybe it still is. The PR I received from it probably helped my career in some way. However, at this point in my life I feel like Facebook is a huge distraction for me both personally and professionally. And this is probably more of a personal thing, nothing more, nothing less. Frankly, I would deactivate but two things hold me back.
1) The DiamondFans Page of which I am an admin and creator. As stagnant as it may get, it’s still a big traffic driver and a valuable asset.
2) If people want to get in touch with me, whether it’s business related or personal and they don’t have my email/phone number, I feel like I should still be available through Facebook and vice versa.
However, the reasons for me to try and stay away outnumber the pros:
1) It’s a bad habit. Going on my phone and refreshing my feed on the Facebook app means that I am not spending time with other people, mainly my family, or concentrating on more important things, like work or driving a car! It becomes a routine on my phone and one my computer and it’s one that I would like to break.
2) On a personal note, I can’t deal with seeing other friends/acquaintances or random people (who I don’t even know) having the time of their lives while I’m stuck at home. Let’s be honest, the only time most people are sharing their pictures and checking in is when they are on vacation or at a great event. The Super Bowl was an example of adding fuel to the fire of me missing out on something great. It’s not healthy to feel envy, jealousy and regret. And it’s not cool to brag about how great your life is at a certain time. Tell me about it over dinner one night and I just may be happy for you.
3) Facebook in it’s nature is extremely narcissistic and self serving. Five years ago, I when I was in the WSJ about Facebook and being referred to as some kind of expert, it was perfect. I got a lotta free trips to Vegas for it. Maybe I am not as into myself as I once was, or maybe I have just outgrown it.
4) Facebook is very childish. In what real social circumstance do you act like such an attention seeking yutz? If you went to a party and showed everyone pictures of your kids, vacations, and also updated them on what you did every day and your random personal thoughts, they would think you were really annoying. Think about it.
5) I don’t think it’s ok for children to be on there, and when my kids get to be teens I don’t want to set an example that’s it’s ok to be on Facebook all the time. There are a lot of scary people out there which brings me to my next point.
6) Remember when you didn’t even want to put your name online, and ESPECIALLY your kid’s names? Now it’s open season. That is a scary thought. Someone coming up to your kid and knowing what they look like and their name and asking them to get in their car. I don’t like it. How about people knowing when you are on vacation so they can rob your house? Paranoid, maybe. Cautious, yes.
So you may ask. What about updating your business pages? Well, I may do that once in a while and I’m hiring a marketing company to do that. You may also say, “Ron, there is no way you can do this.” Now that may be true. But I haven’t checked today so like an addict, I’m gonna take it one day at a time.
What do you think about this subject?
Posted on | January 3, 2013 | 2 Comments
I received an email from Martin Rapaport this year talking about the diamond and jewelry industry. I don’t always read his emails, but this one in particular hit home because it was not just about diamonds but about the business world in general. I’ve written about Mr. Rapaport before. He’s arguably the most powerful man in the diamond world, publishing his monthly Rapnet Pricelist and magazine, the blue book and bible of wholesale diamond pricing.
I have paraphrased his email, but there are so many important points in here. Here are some excerpts:
2012 was a year of great change, challenge and development. The idea that American economic power had lost significance proved wrong as the boom in China, India and Pacific Rim fell flat and strong U.S. demand saved the diamond and jewelry trade. Let us learn from this – while it is important to develop new customers, it is as important to maintain relationships with old customers. There is more to business than the latest fast buck. Loyalty and maintaining relationships serve our long term interests. Make room for the new but keep room for the old.
President Obama’s re-election is a clear sign that a generational shift is taking place. New priorities and values will dominate the political, social and economic landscape in the years ahead. Youth, women and minorities will have increasing say about what happens. The Arab spring, protests in India, and a changing government in China are all signs of new values and the power of the people to demand change. The jewelry trade must learn to excite and serve a much more diversified and segmented customer base. Our traditional and conservative industry must adopt new values and adapt to new customers. Our emotional products must be in sync with a new generation of emotional values. The idea that we can ignore what our new customers want and continue selling questionable products is false. It is vital that we re-vitalize and re-legitimize ourselves and our products. We must excite diamonds in the mind of a new generation of consumers.
As we head over the fiscal cliff we must recognize our need for financial responsibility. Even a wealthy country like America cannot live beyond its means. Eventually, everyone must pay the bill for indiscriminate spending. The idea that a society is entitled to a standard of living that it does not create is false. The same holds true for our trade. We cannot grow ourselves or our industry on funny money from irresponsible banks. Bank credit that enables firms to buy diamonds at unsustainable artificially high prices that inflate Ponzi scheme balloons must be stopped. Legitimate firms have no business manipulating prices. Given expectations that the fiscal cliff will reduce demand for luxury products due to higher taxes, increased unemployment and reduced government spending, responsible companies should refuse to buy diamonds at prices that do not allow for healthy profits. Buyers should just say no to high prices. The real value of diamonds must be based on real money from real buyers.
The emerging middle class demographics in India, China and the Pacific Rim are huge and unstoppable. While there may be a few bumps in the road, steadily improving demand from these markets will support the diamond industry. Economic and currency uncertainty will also increase demand for higher quality investment diamonds as wealthy consumers seek alternative stores of value.
While there is no denying the fact that the year ahead looks challenging I believe that the challenges will bring great opportunities for those that have the right positive attitude. A key opportunity will be getting to know your customers much better. Not just as customers but as people with real wants and needs. Get to know yourself better as well. What are your strengths? How exactly do you add value? What is the cost benefit of your added value? Be brutally honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself. Most importantly, accept the fact that the world around you is changing. Recognize that people will always desire diamonds and jewelry. And position yourself to meet that desire.
Posted on | November 20, 2012 | No Comments
Several years ago, when we had the pawnshop, I learned a valuable sales lesson from my father. We had a great guitar, a Fender Stratocaster, for sale. An old customer who doesn’t play guitar picked it out and brought it to the counter to purchase it. I got bent out of shape about it. If you read this blog, you know I’m a guitar player, so I wanted this to go to a guitar player who would put it to good use, not a schmo who didn’t even play. My father said to me, “What’s the difference if he buys it, take its out of the store and throws it in the gutter? He’s paying our price.” And that’s true. As a salesperson, don’t be concerned with what happens to a piece after you sell it, just make the sale.
This lesson probably resonates more when we are BUYING diamonds, jewelry, and especially sterling silver flatware from our customers. A common question is, “You aren’t gonna melt my family’s silver, are you?” I used to dodge the question. Now, I’m brutally honest with people. The real answer to the question is if we’re giving a great price (with silver at $33 an ounce the prices are very high) what’s the difference where it goes after you sell it? It may get sold to a customer who uses it every day, or it may get thrown in the scrap pile.
Another lesson a diamond dealer told me – after you sell something don’t look back. It’s gone, you got your price, so move on to the next deal. In other words, if you’re treated fairly, like we treat everyone at Samuelson’s, make the deal and forget about it.
So remember this Holiday Season, if you want to sell your diamonds, jewelry, silver flatware or engagement rings, we will treat you with the utmost fairness and respect – what happens to the life of your piece is a mystery…
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