The Future of Diamonds
The Future of Diamonds, what is it going to be? This ambitious title was the subject of a very vivid discussion during VicenzaOro. I was on the panel and had the honor and pleasure to discuss the future of diamonds with some of the biggest names in our jewelry industry. Here is my report.
Talking about the future of diamonds is exciting enough. But talking about it in front of an expert audience is rather challenging! I can't deny feeling butterflies! However, after a short while on stage, I got so engaged in the Talk. I forgot all about those butterflies!
It helped to see friendly faces in the audience. Many people I knew from the jewelry business, my journalist- and blogger peers, designers such as Alessio Boschi and others who were all looking encouraging and ready to hear what we had to say. There really was a vivid, vibrant, exciting mood in the room!
The Panel on the Future of Diamonds:
The panel consisted of important players within the jewelry and diamond business.
Paola de Luca, creative director & founder of Trendvision Jewellery + Outlook
David Brough, moderator, and editor and co-founder of Jewellery Outlook.
Esther Ligthart, consultant, editor, and founder of Bizzita.com
Thierry Silber, CEO, and founder of Madestones.
Tomasz Donocik, Designer
Stephen Lussier, Executive VP. Consumers & Brands -De Beers Group
Pramod Agarwal, GJEPC Chairman
Ash Allibhai, Fashion Director- ASBO magazine
Marketing, we still don't get it!
For me, the most important thing was to give something to the audience to think about or to take away as inspiration. Too many times, seminars, workshops, and talks tend to focus on talking too much about the person or brand itself. Giving way too little on providing something of value to the listener.
In marketing today, it's all about listening and engaging with your targeted audience. It's not about sending, but about receiving and then giving people content that really solves problems, inspires them, and add value to what they find valuable.
Easier said than done. But it's the only way.
Would we be able to do that as a panel to a crowd of journalists, buyers, and designers, manufacturers, and brands? Or would we lose ourselves in the ongoing bickering between natural diamonds and lab-grown diamonds? I'll write more about that subject soon, but let's dive into the Future of Diamonds Talk on the morning of the 18th of January 2020.
Let's talk about diamonds!
After a welcoming word by Marco Carnielo and a short speech by Gaetano Cavalieri, President of Cibjo, Pramod Argawal, GJEPC from India got a moment to share something about their values.
David Brough from the Jewellery Outlook, a valued colleague of mine, was appointed moderator by Paola de Luca, the well-known jewelry trendwatcher who travels all over the globe to share her views on upcoming trends and guidelines with manufacturers and brands.
Paola is a force of nature. A woman with incredible energy and charisma. Seated on the other side, she played, with her usual passion, the disrupter.
We knew beforehand that emotions run high when it comes to diamonds, but we wanted it to be lively and exciting! Engage the public!
Lab-grown versus Natural? Both valid, let's move on!
We spent a little too much focus on the battle between lab-grown and natural diamonds.
Some people believe in lab-grown diamonds, some are somewhat in the middle, and some are passionately against the whole idea.
At this moment, we don't seem to be able to have an inspiring conversation about the future of diamonds without having a somewhat heated discussion on lab-grown versus natural. However, let's hope that we are smart enough to understand that the real threat of lab-grown is the fact that we have lots of people in our business that are not trustworthy. In fact, trust was one of the significant issues that we talked about. We want the consumer to trust us, and it's vital for the future of our (diamond)jewelry industry that they do! However, manufacturers still get lots of especially smaller sized natural diamonds mixed with lab-grown from suppliers.
There are people like Mehul Choski and his nephew Nirav Modi, big names in the jewelry world, that sold lab-grown as natural diamonds. The price gap between both types of diamonds is significant. This was a high-profile case last year, but I heard years ago about jewelers on Aruba selling lab-grown diamonds to American cruise tourists, as natural. This is what hurts our business most! We should immediately be able to punish every person who deliberately misleads consumers. B2B or B2C and tell media, bloggers, vloggers, and so on, about how we do this. We need to create content. I am one such a content creator with my own reach, and I am still waiting for better information from the authorities in charge.
Inclusivity is everything, and it means more than you think!
One of the most important outcomes is that we all agreed that the future of diamonds is bright. But not D-flawless bright. Inclusivity is the next big thing. I mentioned this very explicitly in my blog about Jewelry Marketing (link). I also believe that we need to let go of the idea of diamonds being the ultimate symbol of love. Sure, there will be a large group of people who will always turn to diamonds for their engagement rings or those special moments they want to celebrate with a beautiful piece of jewelry.
But inclusivity means two things in this particular case. First of all, Millennials and more so Gen Z, are all about inclusivity.
That means; celebrating body positivity and including people of all races, ages, gender, and sexual preferences.
Secondly, it means that we embrace ''imperfect'' diamonds. From fluorescent diamonds to salt and pepper diamonds and everything in between. There are companies such as Le Vian, who turned the less valued brown diamonds into Chocolate Diamonds and added value with design and marketing initiatives. But for way too long, we have been focussing on color and diamonds being as flawless as possible.
Stephen Lussier (De Beers Group) said that De Beers now offers all colors and actually sees value in not focussing on those 4 C's anymore.
Stephen Lussier was called out by Barbara Palumbo, jewelry & watches journalist from the US, about the ' Real is Rare' campaign. Although Stephen Lussier tried to explain where they were coming from as DPA (Diamond Producers Association), he also agreed that it totally failed. Barbara mentioned that the campaign showed models, way too perfect, of different ages, with clear help of botox, portraying in the Real is Rare campaign. How Real is that?
Although it's inevitable to make mistakes in business, it's also precisely what I talked about earlier. Older white men who create marketing for jewelry. With all due respect, they need to get groups on board, females, people from the LGBTQ community, young people, older women, mothers, bloggers, etc. to talk about these campaigns. I mean, call me! I would be more than happy to give my input! :-)
Tip: big opportunities for non-gender-specific diamond jewelry
London based designer Thomasz Donokic showed the audience how he visioned diamond jewelry design and told me later that he doesn't market anything as female or male design. His bracelets are unisex, and this is one of the big takeaways about the future of diamonds: genderfluid designs. Not specifically male or female orientated, but for people. All kinds of people.
Personally, I love this idea! And I think it'll be more prominent than we can imagine now.
We need to tell better stories about diamonds to consumers!
I tried to convince the audience and the actors from the diamond world specifically, that the consumer today, still have blood diamonds in their minds. They have no idea how our industry is thinking about sustainability, human rights, and work conditions. And what about those holes in the ground? The impact on the planet? On top of that, we fail to explain to them the difference between lab-grown and natural diamonds.
Both have an absolute right to exist, and we need to explain without condemning one or the other, what the difference is.
We congratulate ourselves on how well we do everything and on how we communicate, but outside of our professional bubble, people have no clue. We failed absolutely to be transparent and provide useful information.
Talking bad about lab-grown or natural diamonds hurts the whole jewelry industry AND the consumer!
One thing I couldn't bring to the discussion but really wanted to mention is that we do nobody a favor when talking derogatorily about lab-grown diamonds. Lightbox, a lab-grown diamond brand launched by De Beers, is one of the most beautiful designed websites I have come across. It's transparent, easy to navigate, and beautifully designed. But it promotes its jewelry for a young audience that won't mind taking their ''not so precious'' lab-grown diamond to the beach. The message is: if you lose it, no worries, it wasn't a precious stone, to begin with.
That's incredibly tone-deaf and condescending! Jewelry is almost always emotion. It means something to people, and for the most substantial portion of consumers, a 400, 600, or 800 dollar ring is a lot of money!
Love and diamonds
The famous quote ''A Diamond is Forever'' brought big business to De Beers and to everyone working with diamond jewelry. But times are changing, and we see a whole group of people who choose design first and put the diamond in the second place. Or consumers who decide to go for entirely different gemstones, because it resonates more with their values and ideas of symbolism. It suits the new generations very well not to go along with a marketing idea about what love is and what brands say we should buy to seal that love. They choose a different path, their own.
Other luxury goods
Thierry Silber of Madestones said that as soon as we would stop bickering over lab-grown versus natural diamonds, we could focus on the real enemy of our industry; other luxury goods.
I talked about this issue also in this blog.
He is right, if we fail to enchant the consumer, we will lose them to other luxury goods. This is unimaginable, and we owe it both to ourselves, but even more to the consumer, to get our messages right again. Jewelry is the ultimate personal luxury. The gratification one gets from buying, owning, and wearing a piece of jewelry, can't be compared to a bag or sneakers. However lovely they both are too, jewelry is far more emotionally entangled in people's lives. It becomes part of their personality. Part of their story. We should always keep this in mind and provide jewelry that is relevant to who they are, what values they have, what visions on life, love, spirituality, etc. they have!
As the panel had 6 members, plus Paola and David, it was hard to get enough time to get all the ideas across. However, we noticed a room filled with excitement, and people really engaged with the panel and the conversation. Here and there, people started to applaud ( yes, I scored a little applause too! ;-) )
So what are the takeaways from the seminar:
Diamonds have a fantastic future, but...
We need to be truly inclusive in our thinking, embrace ''imperfection'' as it is the new perfection!
We need to create far better marketing and content about diamonds and stop bickering about lab-grown versus natural.
Sustainability is key. During the show, sustainability was almost the focal point of every Talk and event. Sustainability is not perfect yet, but we are getting there.
The traceability of diamonds is another big step, and it's not far away anymore. Tracer is one such invention, but surely there will be others.
A big market to explore is non-gender specific jewelry.
Proud of VicenzaOro
I am really proud of VicenzaOro. This show is doing so much to provide more and more value to their visitors. For the first time, the VO Vintage Room was launched, open to the public. I have taken a sneak peek and LOVED it. Beautiful vintage pieces of jewelry from big names or long ago and watches that will make collectors and fanciers drool. The show hosts numerous talks and is open to ideas on how to give even more value to their visitors.
A thank you:
Thank you, Paola de Luca, for the invitation and for being that warm whirlwind of female empowerment, wisdom and passionate creativity. Don't you ever lose your wild side ;-)!David Brough for leading the conversation and taking care of me when I shared my nervousness, thanks to Pramod Argawal for being so kind to share me your personal thoughts on how to speak in front of an audience beforehand too. Thanks to Thierry Silber for being there and share your views and visions, even when you got ''speldenprikjes'' (pinpricks) all the time when it came to talking about lab-grown diamonds. Thanks to Stephen Lussier, who told me to picture 5 friends in the kitchen and how would I share my points of view with them, when I shared my slight fear of talking in front of an audience, and for contributing to this vivid conversation with his rich experience in the diamond world. Thanks to Tomasz, who cooly talked about his idea for diamond jewelry design for the future (check him out, his jewelry rocks!). Thanks to Ash Allibhai! We met half an hour before the talk and we started to chat immediately and it felt like I knew him much longer. The jokes and laughs, awww, loved it! Thank you! And thanks to VicenzaOro for inviting and hosting me, to my colleagues for a great time together. And thanks to the audience and you, the reader. We really need to share, collaborate and help each other, in order to allow the jewelry world to sparkle like never before. :-)
More ideas to share and more insight into the diamond's future from my point of view next week! Stay tuned :-)