Square Deal

January 1999


Square Deal

It's the shape-du-jour for upper-end customers seeking something new

When De Beers added square diamonds to recent consumer ads, it signaled significant growing interest in a shape retailers say is ideal for customers who've had their fill of rounds or who appreciate clean, crisp lines.

Perhaps the simplest but most profound explanation for the interest in square diamonds comes from a jewelry manufacturer in California. "They're not round," says Isa Can, marketing director for Advanced Jewelry, Los Angeles. "The traditional [round] cut probably has more sparkle, but it's been around forever. People are looking for something different."

OK, so squares – and princess cuts, emerald cuts, radiants, quadrillions and other variations – have been around forever too. But for the millions of customers with round solitaire engagement rings, matching earrings and perhaps some pavé jewelry, square is new.

The Numbers
Rising prices also indicate growing demand for princess cuts. Between September 1996 and September 1998, prices for princess-cut diamonds rose 15%, says Richard Drucker, president of Gemworld International, which publishes The Guide, a price guide for diamonds, colored gems and pearls. And remember this was during a period when De Beers didn't raise prices.

"I'm even getting feedback that suppliers are asking for premiums above what I've been showing in my price guide," says Drucker. "Diamonds of a carat and up are particularly hot."

Other versions of the square cut are moving well also. Prices of emerald-cut diamonds – a low-demand shape for many years – have risen 5%-15% in the past two years, he says.

And here's another sign of square's popularity: square schlock. "A lot of lower-quality goods are hitting the market," says Jeff Sahnazian, owner of The Diamond Mine, Los Angeles.

Why have squares become so popular? Credit a good economy over the past few years. People have money. Some have a lot. And many people with money already have a lot of jewelry. But you can tempt them to buy more if you know who they are and can offer them a jewelry style they don't have already.

The Customer
"People are in a cutting-edge mood," says Catherine Iskiw, a jewelry designer in New York City whose designs tend toward minimal geometric shapes for which she finds square stones ideal. "It's definitely an upper-end market," she says.

Retailer Diane Christensen of Christian & Rafferty in San Mateo, CA, says customers who want square diamonds appreciate the precision of the cut, the sharp, crisp lines. She does report difficulty finding princess cuts of adequate size. "I'm looking for stones in the 2-3-ct. range, but haven't found much that's larger than 2," she says. She describes the typical square stone in her market as being "like a piece of ice that really sits on your finger. It's an elegant, understated look" for customers ages 35-45 who "don't need to prove anything."

In Iowa City, IA, the square action is in engagement jewelry, says jeweler Mark Ginsberg of M.C. Ginsberg. "People are older when they marry and their tastes are more defined," he says. "Plus women now participate in the purchase, so the selection is less likely to be made by a male who knows only the round cut."

– by Mark E. Dixon

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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