Professional Jeweler Archive: Diamond Brands and the Cut Debate

November 2002


Diamond Brands and the Cut Debate

Choosing whether to stock diamond cut brands leads to a lot of questions among jewelers. Will consumers pay more for branded diamonds? Will they stop valuing an individual store’s expertise if an outside brand becomes the arbiter of quality? There’s also a question of which diamond cut system – that of the American Gem Society or the pending system from the Gemological Institute of America – will become the authority jewelers and consumers rely on. And how will these standards affect many of the brands that rely on cut to differentiate themselves?

I’ll share what I learned as a guest of Hearts on Fire, Boston, MA, at its annual university held in Las Vegas. I came away better understanding branding in general and how the cut issue affects and intersects with it. Though many jewelers don’t carry HOF diamonds, the strategy the company followed to become a brand might help you gain insight.

HOF says its unique selling proposition is it sells diamonds that consistently surpass others in terms of what most people believe makes diamonds beautiful – proportions, symmetry and polish. Retailers I met at the university told me they can demonstrate real, clear differences between HOF diamonds and other branded or generic cuts on the market.

Their sales presentations go far beyond the AGS certificate that comes with each HOF diamond showing the lab’s highest cut grade. The company gives sales associates diagrams and simply stated evidence to show skeptical customers how HOF diamonds consistently exceed the proportions, symmetry and polishing of many of the highest-graded AGS-certified diamonds on the market. Though some of the industry’s diamond experts might quibble with HOF’s definition of highest excellence, it’s a pretty well-substantiated argument, backed up by impressive differences between how it cuts rough and how other diamonds are cut.

Even above cut, consistency and rarity are big selling points with these branded diamonds. Generic diamonds with AGS’ highest cut grade can vary slightly from one another – there’s a range in the proportions AGS ranks best. But with HOF diamonds, customers can be assured each one is cut and polished according to consistent high standards. Because only a small percentage of rough can meet these standards, there’s also a rarity argument to be made – an ace-in-the-hole at a time when new finds are making some consumers question the rarity of diamonds. These factors may not matter to everyone, but HOF diamond sellers say they matter to more people than you think, especially those who want to buy the top of a category.

What of the notion a diamond brand may come to be trusted more than a local retailer – canceling out your position of authority in consumers’ minds? HOF’s detailed educational program for its retailers illustrates why this won’t happen. It takes time to learn the differences among today’s best-cut diamonds. The company desperately needs its retail ambassadors to nurture customers through the learning process. There may come a day when consumers are so sophisticated they’ll understand the distinctions between good and great polish and symmetry and the slight change of angles that makes a diamond sparkle more. But I doubt it. Brands that differentiate by the complicated-but-compelling message of great cut need trusted local retailers to explain it all.

– Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications