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Jewelry of Choice

In the halls of Charterhouse Street, five years ago, I had a question to ask. It was the day after De Beers had announced Supplier of Choice—the end of the cloistered, parochial, supply-driven diamond world as it had been known for a century—and I was puzzled: "Why the name change?" Why was the world's great diamond miner taking the diamond's worldwide brand name off its awning?

"I suppose," said the company man I asked, smiling enigmatically, "to have our cake and eat it too?"

I smiled enigmatically myself, having no idea what he meant. Surely De Beers wasn't going into jewelry? "We'll see King Fahd pumping gas on Route 3," I wrote with the clueless certitude only a journalist can muster, "long before we'll see Nicky Oppenheimer selling solitaires on Fifth Avenue."

With the LVMH joint venture two years later, it was clear the former market custodian had reserved its brand name for exactly that purpose. And the De Beers Fifth Avenue jewelry store that opened this summer has few solitaires in its fashion-forward cases. Diamond Trading Company managing director Gareth Penny, in his comments on the 2005 sightholder list, made it explicit that each company on the list needed to work to increase the value of the diamond jewelry market. "Supplier of Choice is helping us, our sightholders, and the wider industry to achieve this," says Penny.

In most cases, the sightholder move downstream has been a classic marriage of power and style. The world's top diamond companies have transformed themselves into "Jewelers of Choice." And a few savvy manufacturers and even retailers have made the reverse move, becoming sightholders.

In any other industry, a mandate to grow the bottom line by reaching the end consumer would seem redundant. It shows how far we've come in the Supplier of Choice era. Five years ago, De Beers had two mandates: mine rough and publicize polished. Period. A "sightholder/jeweler" verged on conflict of interest, and besides, everyone knew better. "Diamonds and jewelry," as a third generation New York dealer puts it, talking about downstream moves diamantaires had tried over the decades, "are just different headaches."

"With Supplier of Choice," explains Chuck Lein, president and COO of Stuller, Lafayette, Louisiana, America's newest sightholder, "the DTC did reaffirm their core competencies of mining rough and marketing loose diamonds, but they also stepped into a new arena and a new philosophical direction. And with an evaluation format that applied internally consistent and identifiable criteria to gauge their clients' core competencies, they strongly encouraged these moves downstream. For both existing clients and aspiring ones, the metric was universal: added value."

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woman wearing diamond rings
Diamond, gemstone, and 18k gold rings from a new collection of Escada jewelry that sightholder Pluczenik is launching with a new consumer advertising campaign, (888) 5-Escada.
Dali Diamond’s special “Web” cut diamond ring
The birth of the new sightholder/jeweler led to an explosion of global brands and alliances. Stephen Webster’s new couture collection, “Femme Fatale,” features sightholder Dali Diamond’s special “Web” cut diamond, (212) 226-6160.
“Diavante” collection ring
rom supplier of choice to jeweler of choice: Many sightholders have expanded into jewelry manufacture. New “Diavante” collection ring by L.I.D., (212) 980-7500.
princess cut diamond ring
In addition to bridal, many sightholders are developing fashion jewelry collections. These princess cut diamond designs are from the new fashion jewelry line by E.F.D., (877) 433-5504.
princess cut diamond earrings
Jewelry line by E.F.D., (877) 433-5504.
yellow diamond ring by Ritani
A partnership with designer Ritani has helped sightholder Julius Klein capture some of the bridal jewelry market, both with smaller and larger goods. Fancy yellow diamond ring by Ritani, (800) 622-8654.
Diamond flower-themed jewelry by Dynamic Diamonds
From value to fashion: Sightholders are introducing jewelry with smaller diamonds, melee, and pavé but which have more designer flair and higher price points. Diamond flower-themed jewelry by Dynamic Diamonds, (212) 575-8880.
“Clash” collection by Star Diamond Group
Sightholders are focusing on fashion trends. This “Kavu” pendant in ebony, 18k white gold, and diamonds is from the new “Clash” collection by sightholder Star Diamond Group, (212) 869-5115.
Diamond rings by Dynamic Diamonds
New technology has been crucial for the new sightholder/jewelers and their focus on finished jewelry of all shapes and sizes. Diamond rings by Dynamic Diamonds, (212) 575-8880.
Ring from the Escada jewelry collection
In the U.S., many sightholders see growth potential with the guild jeweler— if the marketing, branding, and jewelry design is right. Ring from the Escada jewelry collection, (888) 5-Escada.