Rapaport Magazine takes an in-depth look at five developments in the diamond world over the past year.
Picture: Karla Ticas
Another step towards diversity was the rise of the Black in Jewelry Coalition. An impressive list of industry heavyweights founded the organization in late 2020, and last year it offered several initiatives, including digital workplace anti-racism programs and competitions. of design to earn valuable vital materials. The group has also partnered with the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to offer distance learning scholarships.
Famous jeweler Lorraine Schwartz has also taken up the cause. As part of a project called the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative, she partnered with the National Diamond Council (NDC) to pledge $1 million in support for Black, Indigenous and Color (BIPOC) designers. In October, the first cohort of six jewelers presented their creations in a Moda Operandi trunk show.
Even Beyoncé got involved. The singer collaborated with Schwartz and the GIA to create a scholarship for two black jewelers to study at the institute.
Sotheby’s launches sale of black designer jewelry
Black jewelers have long fought for greater exposure, equal footing and a shot at the big time. In 2021, there was good news on this side, with several initiatives promoting diversity in the profession.
One such project was “Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance”. The Sotheby’s New York sale exhibition — which journalist and author Melanie Grant curated in partnership with the auction house’s jewelry director, Frank Everett — featured the work of 21 black jewelry designers in September.
The screening was in New York, but the attention it drew was global. While some may have feared the event was an exercise in color washing by an organization founded long before the end of slavery, it was actually a sparkling showcase of world-class jewelers at the top. of their art, who happened to be black. also.
The pieces offered for sale were therefore of high quality. Designer Maggi Simpkins wasn’t kidding when she created a fancy 2.43-carat pink diamond ring for the occasion, and her $1 million price tag targeted a new audience of wealthy individuals.
Pandora mines lab-grown stones and drops mined stones
Just as the right battled the left in global politics in 2021, the jewelry industry had its own information war as natural diamonds pitted against lab-grown ones. At times, the volley of “facts”, data and emotions was so constant it was almost a whiplash trying to keep up.
The NDC pursued a pincer strategy, reaching out to consumers with expensive advertising campaigns and an editorial-style website, while using partnerships with trade organizations to hammer jewelers with legislative-sounding nomenclature warnings. Proponents of lab-grown stones held their ground, trying to bolster the argument that man-made diamonds were more environmentally friendly despite NDC data suggesting otherwise.
In a glorious month – April – America’s National Advertising Division (NAD) hit Diamond Foundry on the knuckles following an NDC complaint about the lab producer’s murky rhetoric, then weeks more later, publicly, the NDC reprimanded its environmental claims after Diamond Foundry filed its own complaint.
One of the major flashpoints between the two camps came when global jewelry brand Pandora announced in May that it was launching a lab-created diamond collection and stopping using natural diamonds. What the brand probably hoped would be a popular PR story turned sour when its fairly moderate press release on “aiming to transform the diamond jewelry market with affordable, sustainably created products” caused an uproar.
Needless to say, the NDC has spoken out on the issue, as have the Responsible Jewelery Council (RJC) and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), which all called for retractions in a joint statement. By claiming that lab-grown stones were enduringly superior, Pandora was disparaging the mined diamond industry and the communities it supports, the statement said, accusing the Danish jeweler of creating “confusion”.
Going against the precedent of other parties in this glittering information war, Pandora has responded with silence.
GemFair program sees first gross sale
In October, we witnessed a meeting between two traditionally opposing sides of the diamond mining industry: the big producers and the artisanal miners. The convergence came with the first GemFair tender, a new initiative by the De Beers group.
What GemFair aims to do, according to the marketing video on its website, is to empower small diamond mining communities by connecting them to the international market. Mining communities receive a kit that includes a tablet with the GemFair app so they can document diamond finds – including a quick selfie with the rock – and QR code-tagged bags to secure the gems. They can then sell the diamonds to GemFair, which uses blockchain technology to create a provenance record as the stones move up the supply chain.
After a pilot project in Sierra Leone in 2018, the project is now underway at 200 sites across the country. In October, the first fruits of this initiative hit the market and the tender was sold out, including an 11-carat stone.
While strong provenance and uplifting ethics can be strong selling points for consumers, GemFair has little interest in being a brand; what matters is getting the money on behalf of the miners. As such, those who purchase the stones are not required to disclose them as GemFair products.
This contrasts sharply with other ethical strategies such as Fairtrade gold or the women-led Moyo Gems operation in Tanzania. However, the model of a business enterprise rather than a charity may be exactly what the artisanal sector needs. Visiting miners from impoverished regions telling heartfelt stories at fundraisers might make us feel satisfied championing conscious consumerism, but a decent cash flow would make more of a difference in their lives than decent media coverage. . GemFair is perhaps an example where cold-hearted capitalism can bring genuinely heartwarming change.
De Beers says “yes” to its new marketing campaign
The lion’s share of the commercial bridal market still consists of heterosexual couples who intend to marry in the traditional way. However, engagement jewelry marketing is undergoing a revolution, becoming more inclusive of alternative sexualities, genders, and relationship types.
The number of people who don’t fit the cookie-cutter image of the bride and groom is on the rise. While 70 years ago married couples made up about 80% of U.S. households, that number was 49% in 2020, according to the country’s Census Bureau. Meanwhile, Americans identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender rose by one percentage point between 2017 and 2020 to 5.6% of the population, according to a Gallup poll.
These numbers indicate that our definition of love is changing. And an industry that relies on love for the majority of its revenue should embrace these changes, rather than fall behind.
The De Beers group is certainly wise in this regard. In November, it launched a deliberately ambiguous campaign that will continue to roll out in key markets in 2022. While the main slogan, “I Do”, has its roots in marriage, the ads also use the wording “to cherish loved ones”. bonds that last,” alongside images that could suggest a number of relationship types, from romantic couples to family ties and self-love. As CEO Bruce Cleaver said at the time, “Today we see a new generation of consumers who want to communicate a broader commitment: a commitment to their own personal development, to their friendships, to their families, towards society and towards the nature world.”
A 101-carat diamond is worth $12 million in cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), jewelry collections thrown in video games – it suddenly feels like hard luxury is getting more ethereal. And while these concepts may be a headache for many of us, there were jewelry opportunists in 2021 rushing to dominate the space – or at least to create fashionable fodder for marketing plans. .
While part of the industry is still struggling with the merits of PayPal and Klarna, others are now accepting cryptocurrency instead of dollars. In June, New York-based Jacob & Co and Belgian brand Baunat announced that customers could use this new form of currency to purchase luxury jewelry and watches. Family-owned jewelry stores quickly followed suit, including Chalmers Jewelers in Wisconsin, Reeds in North Carolina and Jewelry Affairs in New York. Still, the question remained: was this just posturing, or were there crypto consumers willing to deposit Bitcoin or Ether on jewelry?
In July, we had our answer. Auction house Sotheby’s has sold a 101.38 carat flawless diamond from the maker Diacore to an anonymous buyer for $12.3 million. Besides the massive size of the diamond – it was the second-largest pear shape ever publicly sold – what made the sale worthy of headlines was that the buyer paid in cryptocurrency. By accepting this method of payment, the auction house was extending its “reach to a whole new clientele, many of whom belong to the digital generation”, commented Wenhao Yu, vice president of jewelery for Sotheby’s Asia.
Another player who set their sights on Gen Z last year was Pandora. The collectible jewelry brand has been investigating a number of avenues towards younger consumers, including launching a collection through the computer game Animal Crossing in September. The brand has created its own in-game “island”, along with digital jewelry and clothing, and a virtual version of its factory in Chang Mai for players to explore.
Meanwhile, in New York, Saida Mouradova of jewelry brand Object & Dawn has collaborated with DRESSX to sell virtual editions of physical jewelry, allowing shoppers to download them for a 10th of the price.
Article from Rapaport Magazine – January 2022. To subscribe click here.