Happy Birthday, Moissanite
As synthetic moissanite turns one year old, about 150 U.S. retailers
are toasting it and the profits the simulant has earned for them
When synthetic moissanite was introduced one year ago, jewelers expressed
skepticism, fearing it would be seen as a substitute for diamonds, or worse,
that it would open the doors to unscrupulous dealers who would give the
jewelry industry yet another black eye. "I had a huge moral and ethical
debate with myself whether to carry moissanite," says Drue Sanders
of Drue Sanders Custom Jewelers, Albany, NY.
Fears were quieted when jewelers learned of the marketing techniques
planned by C3, the Morrisville, NC, company that owns the distribution rights
to the material. CEO Jeff Hunter insists it be sold as a new synthetic gemstone,
not as a diamond surrogate, and C3 carefully screens its retailers and offers
them exclusive territories.
"I was apprehensive because I thought it would hurt my diamond business,"
says Jeff Malvin, who operates Beverly's Jewelers, a three-store chain in
Fort Lauderdale, FL. "But it doesn't take away. Anyone who buys moissanite
wouldn't buy a diamond."
For the most part, moissanite customers are not diamond customers, says
Jerry Forrest of The Jewelry Forrest, Dallas, TX. Adds Al Rousso of Al Rousso's
Jewelers, Charlotte, NC: "I'm selling it to people who want the look
of a diamond but can't afford it. At Christmas I sold some pieces to customers
who probably would have bought cubic zirconia otherwise." Beau Beaudry
of The Jeweler's Gallery, Porterville, CA, says that even while selling
moissanite, he sold more diamonds than ever at Christmas, and in larger
Moissanite seems to have caught on quickly. "I sold out three times
in the first two months I carried it," says John Gaines of Pendleton
Jewelers, Atlanta, GA. David Baker Creative Jewelers, Dublin, OH, sold three
large pieces in the first three weeks of offering moissanite.
Forrest says moissanite also attracts new customers: "Sixty percent
of the people I've sold to are people I've never laid eyes on before."
Jewelers attribute much of the business to C3's advertising and its Web
site. "Every time an ad appeared, it stirred up interest," says
Women make up the majority of those wearing moissanite, but which gender
buys more is open for debate. "Women buy for themselves, men buy for
women and themselves," says Gaines. But Malvin sees it differently:
"I'd say 90% of buyers are women."
Synthetic moissanite has even helped some jewelers sell more expensive mountings.
Forrest reports several sales ranging from $500 to $1,200, and Sanders regularly
mounts moissanite in platinum and 18k gold. Beaudry, who devotes two showcases
to moissanite jewelry, says he sells more platinum mountings with moissanite
than with diamonds. He's so enthusiastic about the product he plans to open
a moissanite-only store in Bakersfield, CA, about 35 miles away. And Malvin,
who operates a manufacturing firm in addition to his retail stores, is producing
a new line of jewelry featuring moissanite.
What's ahead? Hunter says C3 will continue marketing to expand acceptance
of moissanite and expects to offer different shapes and sizes. "We're
testing ovals, triangles, princess and emerald cuts, and sizes from 2mm
Moissanite has caused some jewelers' customers to make hard choices.
Sanders says a man brought his fiancée to the store and offered her
a choice of a 2-ct moissanite ring and an 18k Rolex President watch or a
2-ct diamond ring. "She chose the moissanite and the watch," Sanders
reports. So maybe some moissanite customers could be diamond customers,
unless you throw a luxury watch in the mix.
by Jack Heeger
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.