Professional Jeweler Archive: Be Careful What You Wish For

January 2004


Be Careful What You Wish For

Last year in the jewelry industry could be called the Year of Unintended Consequences. It was chock-full of news and change. For every action, there was a definite reaction, sometimes positive, other times unexpected and not always welcome. A few examples follow.

De Beers’ Diamond Trading Co.’s Supplier of Choice initiative is probably the best way to start. The strategy to stoke demand rather than control supply has prompted profound changes in the many companies DTC supplies with rough diamonds. But it didn’t always work out as planned. Some suppliers lost their DTC client status, despite jumping on the branding bandwagon early and enthusiastically. Speakers at two diamond conferences this past fall also said increased diamond demand because of Supplier of Choice is one reason behind rough diamond shortages in certain categories. This doesn’t mean Supplier of Choice is wrong – only that it’s hard to control the changes it continues to spark.

The success of fancy colored diamonds is another example. Marketers have done a great job selling these unusual stones to Hollywood celebrities and advertising them effectively. But you could argue their popularity is helping to fuel new interest in treated and synthetic diamonds, because these are easier to create in colors. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think it’s what marketers of natural-color diamonds intended.

In the colored gemstone arena, multicolored sapphires have grown in popularity, thanks to designers using the plentiful stones creatively and the fashion world’s love affair with color. But the increased demand has sparked weird new treatments, some yet to be identified. Unfortunately, treaters’ lack of disclosure has made some sapphires pariahs – a temporary situation, we hope.

Of course, the best laid plans often work out exactly as intended. The World Gold Council’s push to redefine gold jewelry yielded an extraordinary array of fresh takes on classics. Long may they continue. And the Platinum Guild’s wise decision to continue focusing on platinum bridal sales has kept demand for platinum rings strong despite big increases in the cost of the metal.

On the trade show front, BaselWorld had to cope with a debacle last year when it was forced to bar Far Eastern exhibitors from a new exhibit location in Zurich because the SARS virus was raging. This led show management to rethink being in Zurich at all. As a result, the entire show will be back in Basel this year – a real plus for attendees. The JCK Show also turned a negative into a positive when it moved its winter show from Orlando to Phoenix. Now jewelers can go to Arizona to shop for gems in Tucson and jewelry in Phoenix, simplifying travel at this busy time of year.

The lesson in all this? Stay conscious of the many ways change can alter your marketplace. Analyze change that’s presented as a positive and try to play devil’s advocate. This doesn’t mean you’re pessimistic, just realistic. Remember also that just because a change is bad for some doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad for you. DTC might not like that its campaign for right-hand rings has also empowered women to buy gold jewelry and fancy mechanical watches for themselves instead of diamonds. But it sure can’t hurt you! So keep your eyes open, and sharpen your ability to think divergently. More changes are ahead, and you’ll have to stay on your toes to make the right decisions.

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications