Baubles Galore: Luxe Firms Seek Piece of $100B Jewelry Sector

A new gold rush is on as luxury firms look to strike it rich with high-end, branded jewelry collections aimed at fashion customers.

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"It’s been a tough year for jewelry, but we are super-optimistic about luxury brands in general," said Domenico De Sole, chief executive of Gucci Group which owns Boucheron, adding that Gucci is focusing now on beefing up the nine fashion, accessory and jewelry brands in its stable. "It takes years to build brands, and you have to take the long-term view."

Gucci is ringing up annual sales of $100 million after five years in the branded jewelry business, while Asprey’s new owners are so confident about the future of their brand that they’re building 20,000-square-foot stores in London and New York — at a total cost of $80 million.

The brands have also taken on board edgy, up-and-coming jewelers in a bid to appeal to a young-and-hip clientele. Boucheron began working with Solange Azagury-Partridge, who still has her own store on London’s Westbourne Grove, Asprey has linked up with Hussein Chalayan and others to develop its products and its sister company Garrard hired Jade Jagger.

Gianluca Brozzetti, chief executive of A&G Group, which owns Asprey and Garrard, said the brands’ relaunches were on track. "Despite all of the problems happening in the market right now, our project is going ahead," he said. "True, the current market is not helping us, but this is a complex, long-term project, and we have made no changes to our original plans. Keep in mind that it takes time to build luxury houses."

Alain Lorenzo, chief executive of De Beers LV — which has hired cult London jewelry designer Reema Pachachi — agreed, saying he was not bothered by the timing of the opening of the company’s first store in London’s Piccadilly last November, and is not daunted by the economy or gloomy world events. "When is a good time to open a store?" he replied. "We believe that in times of crisis, the top brands suffer very little. We are looking at this project as very long-term."

De Beers Group is obviously optimistic about the diamond business. According to the company, total sales of diamond jewelry are now $57 billion — of which the U.S. accounts for 40 percent — and the top five diamond jewelry brands represent less than 3 percent of that market.
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