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Driven by Design
Retailers and sightholders are discovering margins are made, not mined.

A diamond ring in Marleton, New Jersey, catches my eye. Its price does as well, for in a glance it sums up the edicts of Supplier of Choice in 2006: Add value. Brand. Market. Sell on romance and luxury, not price. And let it be jewelry.

The ring is Escada, and it sits in the first showcase to the right as you enter the Bernie Robbins door at the Promenade at Sagemore, a Rodeo Drive-esque mall in this affluent part of central Jersey. A 1.02 round brilliant is centered between the signature half-oval shanks forming the Escada heart, with white 18k gold shanks inlaid with 3.35 carats of micro-pavé. The main event is a well-cut, very white stone with a touch of fluorescence, and the melee forms two luscious diamond walls. At the end of the day, however, from a purely diamond point of view, it's a carater and some melee. The retail price: $21,200.

"We're doing very well with Escada," says Madalyn Rovinsky, sole partner with her husband Harvey of the nine-store Bernie Robbins chain, which has carved out a chunk of the high-end across a 100-mile swathe of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They've done that, yes, with Rolex, David Yurman, Michael Beaudry, etc. But increasingly, they've done it with diamond jewelry based, partnership-like relationships with sightholders such as Escada's partner, Pluczenik.

Particularly, with jewelry: By itself, this ring might be a hard sell at that price. In that showcase, surrounded by several dozen pieces reiterating the Escada sensibility and shape, Robbins sold three this holiday season. Rovinsky feels—and insiders at Pluczenik agree, sotto voce—that it took the firm some time to make the transition into diamond jewelry. "But they really get it now," she says, "and this is a branded fashion product, with all the momentum and magic of a true brand."

Down the two half-moon showcase areas that form the display floor, she and Robbins' buyer Sondra Moren show me other sightholder-jeweler products—a virtual walk down the aisles of Supplier of Choice:

Vera Wang. "It's just magic with the girls," says Rovinsky, "the perfect marriage of fashion, diamonds, and bridal. She's even in China now, people are registering with her."

Cento. "It took time for us to get it, but now the 100 facets, 100 ways to say I love you, make it an instant seller. It really helps sell the Roberto Coin one case over."

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