Professional Jewelerpoll shows concern about the possibility
of De Beers selling branded diamonds
"It's an idea that's been a long
"Branding will be a bad thing for
Those diverse views represent both streams of thought in the debate over
De Beers' decision to test-market branded diamonds in England. That test
being conducted by Boodle & Dunthorne, an upscale retailer reportedly
is meeting with an "excellent" reception by consumers.
The test has captured the attention of jewelers worldwide, some fearing
they won't be able to compete if De Beers rolls out a full branding program
after the test is completed, others feeling such branding would breathe
new life into their diamond sales.
Both sides have made their feelings known in private discussions and
publicly on the Brainstorming page of Professional Jeweler's Web
site [www.professionaljeweler.com]. The Brainstorming participants are 2-1
against branding at this time.
Here are the major questions raised on-line and in telephone interviews.
What Is the Meaning of Branding?
"What will the brand stand for in the public's eye? Does it offer superiority?"
asks Bill Underwood of Underwood's Jewelers, Fayetteville, AR. Marion Halfacre
of Traditional Jewelers, Newport Beach, CA, says diamond branding can't
be compared with a brand such as Cartier: "A diamond doesn't have a
distinct look." One jeweler says branding is here now. "Diamonds
are, in effect, already branded by the Gemological Institute of America,"
says John Green of Lux, Bond & Green, West Hartford, CT.
What Would Quality Standards Be?
"If it [the brand] is truly used only for better-quality diamonds,
it can add value," says Georgie Gleim of Gleim the Jeweler, Palo Alto,
CA. Some wonder what sizes would be branded and what the minimum criteria
of the other C's would be. De Beers says the diamonds are high in all four
C's, but has yet to be specific.
How Would the Brand Be Displayed?
The brand can be seen on the girdle through a special microscope reportedly
costing $5,000. Lee Berg of Lee Michaels Fine Jewelers, Baton Rouge, LA,
says branding is "only as good as the viewer. If you don't have the
viewer, you can't see it [the brand]. If you drive a Mercedes and wear a
Rolex, people can see them. No one will see 'De Beers' on the diamond."
Underwood says he'll probably buy the equipment, but Barbara Hight-Randall
of Hight & Randall, Rochester, MN, asks, "Who can afford the machine?
It's a stumbling block for stores like ours."
Would There Be Premium Pricing?
John Cohen of Carlyle & Co., Greensboro, NC, wonders whether it would
cost more to get the branded diamonds. He's also concerned the branded diamonds
would be more heavily discounted. On the other hand, Mark Moeller, R.F.
Moeller Jeweler, St. Paul, MN, says consumers are willing to pay a premium
for other branded goods. Gary Gordon of Samuel Gordon Jewelers, Oklahoma
City, OK, thinks branding will help jewelers sell diamonds, even if they
are more expensive "It's one more thing to talk about."
Would Branded Diamonds Affect the Sale of Non-Branded
Jewelers with a reputation for quality and integrity say they can sell branded
or unbranded diamonds. Moeller doesn't think it would change the market
at all for unbranded stones. Cohen disagrees: "This could hurt unbranded
diamonds those you're trying to sell and those that have been sold.
It could hurt the confidence of the diamond market if a customer thinks
the diamond he bought earlier would be worth less."
Would Branding Help Jewelers?
Walter Ife, a New York City marketing consultant who formerly was with the
Diamond Promotion Service, says jewelers "who are aggressive and progressive
will see it as an opportunity to help overcome consumer fear and suspicions
about diamond buying while selling a quality diamond at a premium."
Would De Beers Sell To Consumers?
Dale Perlman of King's Jewelers, New Castle, PA, wonders whether De Beers
might sell the branded diamonds directly to consumers. Francis Kisner of
Kisner's Gems, Towanda, PA, feels De Beers' control of the flow of rough
diamonds has been good for the industry, but "let us not make the error
of expanding market control through the cutting and distribution levels."
Steven R. Martin of M. Martin & Co., Chicago, IL, offers an even tougher
view: "De Beers is using branding to protect its channels of distribution."
In the end, most jewelers who have a clear identity and a reputation
for integrity feel branding will make little difference with their clientele.
"It's more important for me to sell branding of myself and my store,"
says Marion Halfacre. Perhaps the strongest feeling comes from David Rotenberg
of David Craig Jewelers, Langhorne, PA, who freely admits he's antibranding.
"I don't want anything in my store with someone else's name on it.
We're selling David Craig Jewelers. Period."
De Beers is expected to continue the test through summer, then may expand
it to other markets. Before making a final decision, De Beers says it will
consult with all sectors of the trade.
Next month: dealers tell how they think branding will affect retailers.
by Jack Heeger
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.