June 20, 2000
Abe Allison has 111 diamonds for sale, and his Web site lists each one. It also says they range from $991 for an oval 0.65-ct. (H color, SI2 clarity) stone to $64,444 for a brilliant 5.23-ct. (I color, VS1 clarity) rock. Basically, Allison shows customers his spreadsheet and let's them shop for carats more or less the way they shop for carrots: by the pound. After which, no doubt, they'll print out the information and head to their local jeweler to compare prices.
Sound familiar? It should because the diamond business is changing. After decades of controlling the prices of these common crystals, the power of the De Beers cartel is beginning to fade. New mines are opening in Canada and elsewhere, and the Internet makes price-shopping a breeze.
Indeed, some observers say the net effect will be to reduce diamonds to the status of wheat and pork bellies, just a commodity whose price is determined by supply and demand. So if diamonds are your store's bread and butter, Allison's site may provide a glimpse into a scary future.
Unlike most online jewelers, Allison offers no romance, no gift registries, no mushy text and no photos of models draped in whatever. Instead, the site opens with a view of the South African coastline, reinforcing the message he buys "direct from South Africa." Below that, there's a link for a featured item or "special" ‚ in this case, a 1.92-ct. brilliant-cut diamond for $13,900. Visitors who check out the special can review all of its vital stats and click to see its certificate. However, there's no image of the diamond itself.
After this, the site offers a few basic choices:
Visitors who click on "About Us" can view a photo of Allison standing at a "Welcome to Zambia" sign on that nation's border and read his abbreviated rÈsumÈ. He's a member of the Florida Diamond Dealers Club and an attorney. There also are basic facts about Allison's operation: He'll buy diamonds for cash, he's located two blocks from the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale and he meets with customers by appointment.
- Click on "Our Inventory" to see a list of Allison's stock.
- Click on "Buying a Diamond" for a short primer on the characteristics to look for in a diamond.
- Click on "Diamond Bookshelf" for some suggested books to read about diamonds, with links to Amazon.com.
- Click on "More Info" for a form to request more information.
And, finally, there's this promise: "Lowest prices guaranteed."
- by Mark E. Dixon