You can make a fine margin in the growing
market for enhanced colored diamonds
Many consumers and jewelers are learning that diamond treatment techniques, including irradiation and heating, have made quantum advances in recent years. Diamonds in all colors of the rainbow red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, violet and in a multitude of saturations and tones are now available.
According to some U.S. designers, appreciation for color-enhanced diamonds has been strong for several years in Europe and the Far East, especially Japan. Enthusiasm is now spreading in the U.S. also. The overall market here remains relatively small, mainly due to production limitations and some resistance to the notion of treatments and enhancements, say diamond dealers. Nevertheless, demand is growing at a rapid pace. Some retailers see enhanced diamonds as a unique selling opportunity. They differentiate the stores product mix from that of competitors. And these retailers quietly confide enhanced color diamonds bring in far healthier margins than ubiquitous, over-shopped colorless diamonds.
Diamond dealer Rahul Karnavat of Lotus Diagems Inc., New York City, says that from a producers standpoint, getting the product to market is not an easy task. A key to this product is consistency so we can resupply our customers consistently and dependably. Preassortment of rough goods, before treating, is critical. We grade everything before its enhanced, by color, tone, fluorescence, type and cut, he says (for techniques used to produce various colors, see Professional Jeweler, October 2002, p. 30).
Diamond dealers who specialize in enhanced color say acceptance of treatments is hardly an issue any more for manufacturers. One of our first steps in presenting the product was to show manufacturers and designers the combination of brilliance and color, as well as the advantages of price, says Karnavat, whose company has been dealing in color-enhanced diamonds since the mid-1990s.
Designers saw the potential immediately. My first exposure to these stones was in German designs, says Etienne Perret, Camden, ME. I started with blues and yellows. Now we have such a choice of colors: violet, dark red, orange, purple. Its great! Perret says colored diamonds now form part of one of his biggest commitments to design.
But some retailers still resist the opportunity. Im always perplexed at the resistance the market still has, says Perret. We have to overcome the stigma that diamonds shouldnt be enhanced. Often, Im met by jewelers who have a dyed yellow cotton blouse, bleached hair and plastic surgery and who carry treated sapphires, topaz, dyed black chalcedony and dyed pearls. But they reject beautiful enhanced-color diamonds.
Consumers, on the other hand, seem to enjoy learning about the available colors and the treatment technology. Perret notices a counter-culture of consumers who like colored diamonds for all sorts of reasons, including the fact they are more resistant to wear and tear than colored gemstones. Other consumers like colored diamonds because theyre unique or help fill out a jewelry collection.
Of course, its critical consumers be informed a diamond is color-treated. Its also important to tell the customer the diamond is safe to wear and the color is considered permanent under normal wear.
Jewelry-makers also should be educated about color-enhanced diamonds. Designers and manufacturers should know these diamonds could be susceptible to changes in color by the jewelers torch, says Karnavat. Exposure to over 900&Mac251;C can have drastic consequences. We recommend jewelers not use direct flame and that they use masking substances that absorb heat during the jewelry mounting operation.
Zack Dulgerian of ZDNY, a manufacturer in New York City, says enhanced-color diamonds work particularly well as accents or to mix with colorless diamonds to create pavé patterns and shading. They make for very colorful, fun designer-style pieces, he says.
From a manufacturing perspective, its easier to offer the market smaller diamonds because they can more easily be sorted by color and saturation.
Introducing the Product
Rahul Karnavat says jewelers should make several points when presenting enhanced diamonds to consumers. First is to be knowledgeable about the product, how it was enhanced and why. Its important to point out this enhancement is not done to hide flaws. Its done to meet market demand for color. He strongly advises his customers to provide consumers with full written disclosure and information on special care requirements (stones should not be exposed to extreme heat) and refers jewelers to the Federal Trade Commission requirements for disclosure.
He also says jewelers should:
- Like the product first. Wear it to generate interest.
- Dedicate showcases to highlight color-enhanced diamond jewelry.
- In describing the color enhancement, avoid terms such as zapped, burned or nuked. Karnavat doesnt even like to use the word treated because of its negative connotations.
- Dont use negative descriptive color terms such as muddy or washed-out. Instead, use positive terms such as delicate or soft.
- Maintain a selection. Customers like choices.
- Create special events or mailings to introduce customers to the product.
- Always link the diamonds to jewelry and fashion. The more store associates keep in touch with popular colors and fashion trends, the better.
Lotus Diagems, New York City; (800) 5C-LOTUS or (212) 221-5687.
Etienne Perret.com, Camden, MA; (207) 236-9696, www.etienneperret.com.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.
||Designers and manufacturers have a lot more choice today when it comes to brilliance and color. This rainbow of natural color-enhanced diamonds is courtesy of Lotus Diagems Inc.
Photo by Robert Weldon.
||Etienne Perret designed these Rainbow Collection rings, which feature channel-set color-enhanced natural diamonds in 18k yellow, rose and white gold and platinum.
Photo by Ron Saltiel Productions.