Diamonds are forever, which makes them a great buy in this shaky economy of disappearing wealth. Or at least that's the message De Beers and other diamond sellers across the country are pushing this holiday season. But whether customers buy into the diamond market as they shop for gifts in December remains to be seen.
De Beers doubled their advertising campaign for the holidays, hoping to take advantage of the global diamond jewelry market estimated to be worth $70 billion. During the holiday season, 97 million Americans will run into a diamond message from De Beers six times. But the diamond industry stalwart isn't just tossing out the same old ads. They're emphasizing the longevity and stability of purchasing a diamond with slogans like "Two Things Last Longer Than Time. Love is One of Them," "Here Today, Here Tomorrow" and "Fewer Better Things."
"This campaign seems like a smart and direct response to the current economic climate," says Benita Das of Collective LA, a marketing and branding firm. "This sentiment speaks well to consumers in this market who are making fewer purchases." According to DeBeer's own research, diamonds are the top choice for 25% of holiday gift purchasers, doubling that of the second most sought after category, electronics.
Das notes that the attempt to marry the ideas of romance and practicality is a difficult, but potentially effective strategy. "It says giving a diamond is a gesture of love and a smart economic decision, because it can be enjoyed for a lifetime and passed down." She believes that this argument is tailored to convince men that purchasing diamonds is a sound investment. "It is designed to make a man think twice about purchasing a flat screen instead of jewelry."
But is the message making a difference in the stores? According to the IDEX Market Report, New York diamond trading levels are on the rise, especially in the .75-2.00 carats range. Moderately priced diamonds are still attracting average consumers driven by the holiday demand, the report goes on to say. Also, a survey conducted by National Jeweler Magazine after Black Friday found that jewelry retailers’ sales across the country had exceeded expectation in sales on the day after Thanksgiving.
However, not everything is rosy in the jewelry world. After Zales (ZLC) reported a 3.7% drop in same stores sales in the quarter that ended October 31, CEO Rodney Carter said the national jewelry chain would not meet previous 2009 earning expectations.
Tracy Matthews, CEO of Tracy Matthews Designs, a boutique jewelry designer in Manhattan says she's still selling diamonds this season, but often with a consumer conscious cut. "They're more in a flat rose-cut shape that offers more surface area. The diamonds look larger than their actual weight."
For those seeking an alternative to dropping dough for a high-priced diamond, there are other attractive stones out there. "I would recommend blue or pink sapphires, faceted fluorite, various quartzes and purple and green amethyst," says Matthews. "We have been selling a lot of those types of stones in our cocktail ring collection because they are substantial without the cost of a diamond." These various stone cocktail rings range from $175-$240 in sterling silver and $650 in 14K gold, which is less expensive than the smaller diamond rings which range from $450-$1100.
Of course, for some people a diamond is the only way to go. "I guess the biggest difference is perception," says Matthews. "Diamonds are perceived as the fanciest, most expensive stones." Whether De Beers can capitalize on this perception will mean the difference between a warm afterglow from a happy holiday or a long, cold winter.