Happy Birthday, Moissanite

July 1999


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."

Success Stories
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 sizes.

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 Gaines.

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."

New Business
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 to 11mm.

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.


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