Illustration credit to @saranassarjewellery
Luxury & heritage
Luxury goods are a social signal, as psychologists and economists will attest. They broadcast a message about status and taste, in part through their high-end materials, craftsmanship, and of course price tags. Birth-placed in Central Europe, jewelry was reserved for whom could afford such jewels, showing off their wealth. The now so-called, High Parisian and British jewelers, hired crafts from the best hand-made jewelers from Armenia (for gold), India (for silver) and Africa (for diamonds and gems), providing the best high jewelry for exclusive clientele (elites, actors, actresses and businessman’s wives). Pearls were still naturally cultivated, diamonds illegally mined from Africa and regulations not yet written. To be successful, a brand must have heritage, a story to tell customers that engages them to walk into the store. Moving fast-forward with time, alternatives were born to maintain the order and control diamonds trafficking: diamonds standards were certified by experts (GIA, HRD, gem specialists), saltwater shelves were forced to give birth to bigger pearls in bigger quantities, fluctuation of gold prices was affected by stock inquiries and many more… It was time for a change.
Luxury & Services
Jewelry, among many other luxury products, is not a must needed item someone buys from any store. It is a memory of a lifetime. DeBeers, the diamond giant, created the first luxury campaign specifically focused on storytelling and the diamond is produced. “Every girl needs a diamond”, “diamonds are forever” are both statements that gave birth to today’s jewelry service. The beautiful moment where a man needs to decide what diamond should he buy for his future wife, the moment where she says yes on top of the Empire State building and wears it every day for the rest of her life. A simple well-crafted product using precious metals and diamonds was not enough. Customers were seeking a good customized client service with good after-sale service. Also, they were savvier so a bit of teaching the 4C’s were introduced by major labs around the world. Gemstones and diamonds hubs were providing the supply brands needed to. It is not any more jewelry for the elite, it is a luxury for everyone due to its variety of prices accessibilities. You could buy a “perfect diamond” for 5,000$ as well as for 50,000$, it all differs of what you were looking for. Now, DeBeers is not the only one to be the major act of customized engagement rings. Many more “senior start-ups” offer a similar service blending both online and offline experience, take Vashi Diamonds or Taylor & Hart as prime examples.
Luxury & Experiences
Services such as instant taxi sharing, “anything” delivery “anywhere” and online shopping was invented to help anywhere customers reach a broader range of product, easier, faster and using competitive prices. It is only natural that luxury services followed that pathway. A few years ago, it was impossible to think that you could visit available live diamond stock through an application (Virtual Diamond Boutique, Blue Nile), buy vintage jewelry online from anyone who’s willing to sell (eBay, Etsy, …), be delivered in the same day (Amazon, Farfetch) and even Google search increased,… All this became possible and luxury was not yet 100% discovered yet. On the contradictory, room for innovation was at stake. On that note, jewelry became an experience, a memorable experience. Walking into a store was like a theatrical act: A hostess welcomes you in the entrance of each secured Place Vendome store, “a coffee or tea s’il vous plait” is proposed, creative street windows attracted more attention and obviously, a private salesman accompany you along this journey. Well, this became an even more competitive business along major actors.
Luxury & Crisis
Time is tough: Luxury sales have gone down these few decades is one of the hardest business to invest in. Most family-owned businesses are being targeted by big conglomerates, emerging startups with big innovative ideas are too, the supply chain is reducing to one core, “made in China” is more acceptable among European customers and luxury customers emerge from low-income countries… On the other hand, counterfeit products have been overwhelming the world and question the existence of a demand for luxury products anymore. Customers are still interested in buying luxury services such as a cruise trip or a vacation but a luxury product such as a 100.000$ Cartier ring or a 15,000$ Chanel bag are truly a luxury you don’t need. Buying luxury is much more as an investment. Customers prefer investing in a house, especially that Brexit does not make it easy, Trump increases new taxes every day, laws on export and import reduces carbon footprints… TV ads, as well as magazine ads, disappear every day replaced by social media contents and online youtube pop-ups. Trends keep changing following fashion week standards. Rings are sold only on Black Friday, outlet stores emerge even in the middle of the Dubai desert offering a good quality product for discounted prices. With the omnipresence of social media influencers, applications, and online platforms, customers are driven to get access to this dream without even affording it. It was time to innovate!
Luxury & technology
In 2019, you can’t just walk into a jewelry store in Bond Street and just buy a ring for your wife anymore. Every customer got influenced in some way to walk up into that specific store which targets specific values and sells specific inventory; seeking for a specific design they shared on their Pinterest or liked from some influencer’s Instagram or blog. If branded well, clients were seeking excellent quality, a long-lived heritage, and an impeachable service. Everyone wants to buy their own ring, customized by a specific designer they love with a specific finishing and probably their choice of synthetic or natural (or even treated) diamond. Technology helps with enhancing this 360 decision-making experience: 3D printing directly on metals, lab-grown diamonds, track diamonds directly from their source (Everledger) through blockchain, 3D live customization, virtual stocks, chatbots and many more… The future of jewelry is not yet written as innovative businesses are yet to be discovered. Even though Netflix is available on the tip of your finger, customers still can’t pay 15,000$ through online payments or on directly their smartphone. Diamonds are not forever as DeBeers once marketed, the earth is quite tired of sourcing gemstones for us to eventually mine, cut, wear or even sit on a shelf in a department store. Did you know that 92% of the world jewelry inventory is not even worn, kept in store, not sold or just left away by their owners? We are the only industry that does not embrace technology at its full potential and unfortunately, we are paying the price.
Luxury & hopes
For as long as I can remember, the people in this jewelry industry have been a shining example of unity, hope, and humanity to the rest of the world. In the contradictory, luxury shows vast competitiveness. Is there hope for the -3.6% down-sale of the luxury world in 2018? Have clients gained enough knowledge in prime leather, high-quality diamonds or even hotel standards? Are luxury shoppers ready for the internet shift? Could we one day 3d print your own jewelry at home? Are brands able to predict trends and adapt to the ever-changing behavioral switch? Well, all these questions are constantly asked and never clearly answered. Luxury brands have a hope investing more to online shoppers, bloggers and obviously aim to sell more lab-grown diamonds to save the planet. Vintage inventory has a big opportunity targeting new clientele suddenly interested in old inventory, seeing the opportunity gold fluctuation appear. Unfortunately, along with its glitz and glam, the jewelry industry is notorious for ripping through the earth and subjecting workers to dangerous conditions; except for some exceptions. While there may not be a clear winner, consumer demand will play a role in the future of metal extraction. When considering a new ring purchase from your local jeweler, ask if she knows about the source of the metal. Odds are, she won’t, but expressing your desire for sustainable jewelry can make a difference. Hold the industry to the highest gold standard.