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 feasible the branded diamond business could eventually account for 20 to 25 percent of the market," said Stephen Lussier, the international marketing director of the Diamond Trading Company, the sorting, sales and marketing arm of the De Beers Group. "Our research has shown us that consumers are willing to pay a premium price for branded jewels."

Lussier said those customers can be broken down into three categories: those who are looking for the traditional engagement ring; fashion- and design-driven shoppers, and status-seekers. "The engagement ring customers say they’re happy to pay extra for the confidence that a brand gives them, the fashion customers are driven by the excitement the brands ignite — Gucci is a perfect example of that — and the status seekers want a big diamond from a branded name."

De Beers is betting on all three sets of customers to drive its new joint venture with LVMH. Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers, said he never thought he’d see the day that De Beers sold jewelry. "It was never in our mind-set," he said at the opening of De Beers LV’s London store. "But for 60 years we’ve essentially been buying advertising for jewelry that we never even sold. We weren’t getting value from the brand."

He added that he’s curious to see what the future brings. "Will this venture be a success? Come and see me in a year’s time."

The first De Beers LV unit, a 7,500-square-foot store on the corner of Piccadilly and Old Bond Street that opened last November, offers four collections: signature, bridal, classics and watches, with starting prices that range from about $780 to $4,750. For big spenders, there are diamond rings that cost upward of $1.5 million, and colored diamonds in vivid blues, yellows and pinks that cost several million dollars and will be set according to a customer’s preference. At the opening, guests had a hard time keeping their hands off the rocks. Solitaire rings from the bridal collection, which start at $1,500, were scooped up virtually as fast as the hors d’oeuvres, and waiting lists were drawn up for items like the three-prong diamond pendant and the diamond-studded leather choker.
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