A Girl's New Best Friend?

June 1999


A Girl's New Best Friend?

Cubic zirconia yields good margins and is appearing in better metals and designer-look jewelry

There's little, if any, cubic zirconia jewelry in the showcases of independent retail jewelers in the U.S., though there's certainly a market for it. Television shopping networks and mass merchants sell plenty.

This polarization has become pronounced in the past five or six years as mass merchants expand their hold on the CZ market, says Casey Bolt of Fabulous Z, Dallas, TX. "The independent jeweler is out of the picture," adds Jack Malinowski of Swarogem North America, Austin, TX. "There's no way he can compete with mass merchandisers."

Some retailers find a way, though, according to several manufacturers. Nancy Nagamatsu, North American sales director for Germany's Friedrich Zettl, says Zettl's high-styled line affords jewelers an opportunity "to take on limited CZ collections and not compete with their diamond lines."

The key to selling effectively is to position CZ as a complement – not a competitor – to diamond lines. CZ may offer an opportunity for independents to bring in new customers and make good margins – as much as triple keystone – say many manufacturers.

A major target for CZ jewelry is the working woman who wants to wear good-looking jewelry but may not have the emotional or romantic attachment to diamonds or the budget to afford them.

There's a safety angle too. "Professional women who travel feel more secure with CZ," says Nagamatsu. If a customer already owns a diamond solitaire necklace, for example, encourage her to buy a CZ lookalike for travel.

Design Directions
Independents who haven't seen CZ jewelry in a while may be surprised by today's designs. First, stones often are 1 to 2 carats, much less ostentatious than the 4- and 5-ct. stones that marked early CZ jewelry.

Second, metals are better, with 14k gold starting to displace 10k; even higher karatages can be found (Kishek International of Costa Mesa, CA, offers some 21k CZ jewelry). However, sterling silver remains the most popular metal for CZ.

And third, more fashion-oriented designs are available. "CZ business is strongest when it comes out with the designer look," says Brian Chrisfield of Crislu, El Segundo, CA.

Fabulous Z is introducing a line of 18k CZ jewelry at the Reed/JCK Show in Las Vegas in June. Also making its debut at the show will be a line of new stone shapes for the millennium from Harten Jewelry, described by owner Offer Harten as futuristic, shapes that didn't exist before. "We're not planning these for the mass merchandisers," says Harten. "They're for the independents and fine department stores."

  • Fabulous Z, Dallas, TX; (800) 275-0641 or (972) 385-0202.
  • Swarogem North America, Austin, TX; (512) 478-8911.
  • Friedrich Zettl, Hollywood, FL; (305) 867-8383.
  • Kishek International, Costa Mesa, CA; (714) 556-9650.
  • Crislu, El Segundo, CA; (310) 322-3444.
  • Harten Co., Los Angeles, CA; (800) 722-8242 or (213) 489-7388, fax (213) 489-4212, hartennet@harten.com.

– by Jack Heeger

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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