De Beers Postpones Branding Decision

September 17, 1999

De Beers Postpones Branding Decision

A year after it began a controversial program to sell branded diamonds, a De Beers official says the company will wait until sometime in 2000 to decide whether to widen its branding initiative.

"By the middle of 2000, the branding project will be clearer," Derek Palmer, De Beers' international trade director in charge of branding, told Professional Jeweler. He said the company is watching the program carefully. "We're still in the learning mode," Palmer said, adding, "We can say that only for so long."

Palmer says the program has been successful: the three British stores used for test marketing all found they could get a higher premium for branded diamonds. "They got 10%, then 15%, then 20%," Palmer said. He maintained an unbranded product still has value, but a branded product has more.

"Some people are still unsure or are worried about branding, so we need to explain the concept of branding," he said. "Brands give people comfort in knowing they're giving the right thing, and if it's a De Beers diamond, all the reasons for buying a diamond are increased and magnified. Branding is an extension of our 50 years of marketing support for the retailer."

Responding to concerns by some jewelers that De Beers will start selling directly to consumers, Palmer said, "Everything we've done so far has been to improve the value of a diamond. If we tried to sell diamonds, we'd probably do very poorly. If we retail, we would have to be a prestige retailer as well as the low end."

- by Jack Heeger