Got the Look

May 1998


Got the Look

Jewelers slowly warm to high-end designs in Cubic Zirconia

There was a time when jewelers fought cubic zirconia like knights against dragons – one good, the other inherently evil. Jewelry stores were the defenders of the genuine, pure and rare, while their nemeses with fake-gold findings hung on drug store displays.

"Until five or six years ago, independent jewelers didn't want to be close to CZ," says Ofer Harten of Harten Jewelry, a veteran of CZ jewelry design. "You were talking about 'fakes,' and three-generation family jewelers with good reputations in their communities didn't want anything to do with fakes."

But as TV shopping networks and department stores began to promote new CZ designs, a wave of manufacturers and designers introduced high-quality jewelry set with the diamond simulant. While most are still reluctant, some independent jewelers have begun to catch on to what U.S. boutiques and European jewelers have accepted for years: high-end design in CZ is for customers who covet the diamond look but can't cope with diamond's value.

Here's a closer look at some issues involved with selling CZ jewelry.

  • Value without expense. Harten Jewelry introduced its Onishi Setting, a sleek design that suspends the stone from a 14k or 18k gold pendant, to enthusiastic response. Other firms, including Friedrich Zettl GmbH, a German company known for well-made jewelry designs, offer CZ in everything from 8k (in Europe) to 18k gold, sterling silver and stainless steel. These can be sold just like precious metal jewelry but with a diamond look.
  • Building a diamond collection. "CZ is not an alternative to diamonds," says Harten. "There are occasions in life when it's diamond time. But for many people, building a jewelry collection is like building a wardrobe with metals and stones. None of us wants to wait until we're 60 to start building a collection, but some people can't afford a lot of diamonds before that." Such jewelry is a way to keep younger clients without the cash for diamonds interested enough to come back for the real thing when they can afford it.
  • Popular diamond designs. When a fashion catches on, it catches on at all levels of the industry. Offering affordable, quality versions of these styles as alternatives to cheaply made goods maintains the customer's faith in fine jewelry. "Many of our patented products have been well-accepted by independent jewelers due to the price points that can be offered with CZ," says Nancy Nagamatsu of Friedrich Zettl.
  • Security. M&Savitt, a jewelry design firm in New York City, sees a lot of attention for its sterling silver and CZ designs from worldly women who already are diamond customers. "A lot of women don't feel safe wearing diamond jewelry when they travel," says Janis Savitt. CZ designs are fashionable but don't require insurance when leaving the house.
  • Customer's trust. Harten argues that CZ jewelry designs can enhance a jeweler's reputation and broaden the customer base. "I have one customer with a magnificent diamond store and three cases of beautiful CZ jewelry right in the middle," he says. "Customers trust you; you're the one who can explain the difference between real and simulant."


 Harten sells many of its original Onishi Setting pendants and rings in CZ to independent jewelers.

 Friedrich Zettl's patented hinged hoop earrings and other jewelry designs are popular with cubic zirconia because of the affordable price.


by Stacey King

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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