The Romans had a superstition: Begin every journey stepping forward with the right foot.
The Diamond Trading Company’s “Journey” diamond jewelry campaign launched right on the money with the “squiggle” or “S-Curve” pendant. “It’s stylish, it’s clean, and price points are perfect,” says Lyle Rose, new CEO of L.I.D. in New York, a sightholder that in a few short years has grown from selling largely to the majors to tailoring bread-and-butter programs and one-of-a-kind pieces to middle and high-end independents. “The DPS advertised it just right, straightforward, on topic, very much like the category itself. The market was ready for the shape, particularly women. I saw that, from a purely jewelry point of view, with all the looks and comments, and the touching of the pendant when my wife wore hers at Christmas parties. It’s a piece that speaks to women. I saw it, on the business side, with one mid-range independent in Pennsylvania who sold literally hundreds of units.”
A jewelry category reaches critical mass, as the Pluczenik Group’s Rob May puts it, “when it becomes a cultural imperative. You think at first, of course, of the diamond engagement ring, but it applies equally to the successful multi-stone categories, three-stone, the tennis bracelet, and now Journey.” The squiggle, a piece born of very little gestation (keeping it in stock was the issue this Christmas), reversed that process. Piggybacking on an icon-driven culture that buys sneakers for a swoosh, that adorns its shirtfronts and bumper-stickers with breast cancer ribbons and yellow ribbons, and that navigates high-tech with desktop aliases, the S-Curve was recognized, very quickly, as an icon. The cultural imperative drove the jewelry.
“New product concepts have been the lifeblood of the market since 2000,” May says. “Journey made the fourth quarter for us. We sold literally tens of thousands of pieces.”
Three other graduated diamond pieces unveiled by most Journey manufacturers—the circle pendant, the ladder style, and graduated hearts—had followings as well. “The circle is doing very well,” says Rose, which had particularly strong sales of their oval circle pendant—diamonds covering half the pendant, with a reverse side of polished metal. “And the hearts really surprised me. In the past, customers loved to see hearts in the case, but they also tended not to buy them, and as a retailer you know how distracting that can be to keeping customers on topic during a presentation.”
Journey’s straightforward, diamond intensive simplicity kept the focus steady. But there were drawbacks: “As an industry, we tend to cannibalize old categories with the new,” says Nehal Modi of sightholder Digico Holdings, which markets jewelry in the U.S. through its Jewelry Marketing Company division. “To some extent, Journey cannibalized three-stone, five-stone, and the eternity. To a sightholder, the upside is that it uses so many sizes, and true accounting for a sightholder begins with keeping inventory low. Margins are okay with Journey, but they’re well-protected, and because it’s a simple construction and setting, you’re able to offer attractive price points to retailers. I think it’s here to stay.”
“One of the ironies with Journey,” says Pady Shah, of sightholder K. Girdharlal, “is that it was a campaign built for sightholder cutter-manufacturers, those who have to match seven stones not 10 times or 20, but hundreds upon hundreds. Because the diamonds used tend to be the lower colors and clarities, people also receiving goods from Rio Tinto are making the pendants with diamonds sourced outside the syndicate.”
Now in its 12th year as a sightholder, the Mumbai firm, which built its name on fine makes, grew jewelry to 30 percent of its total business in 2006. Journey was huge in that: “We carried the graduated look to bangles, bracelets, one dimensional clusters for rings. It’s a lot of bang for the buck, smart, stylish but not pricey, and the story behind it was so good—ongoing love, the circle of love. Yes, it compromised three-stone sales, but Journey was so strong, particularly the midwest for us at total carat weights from 1/4 to 1.50, with some inquiries up to 2 carats. We couldn’t manufacture or design new styles fast enough.”