Bridal Q&A: Lee Ruben, Gemex

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Jewellery boss on a flusher fit and moving into engagement rings.

The February 2013 issue of Professional Jeweller is dedicated to the wedding jewellery market and the emerging trends and market evolutions that will shape it in 2013. Here Lee Ruben, sales director at diamond jewellery manufacturer Gemex, talks to us about a flusher fit, taking on the engagement ring market and why palladium 500 in a no no.

Professional Jeweller: What have you found to be the major changes to the wedding jewellery market over the past year? year?
Lee Ruben: We’ve experienced a sharp rise in platinum sales during 2012. That’s been mainly due to the gold price being consistently higher than platinum. The Platinum Guild International did a great job promoting the metal. I am very sorry to [former UK manager] Ruth Donaldson and her colleagues go.

PJ: Have you found much price sensitivity in the market of late?
LR: We cater for the upper end of the fine jewellery market so we haven’t found any price resistance to our product lines, it’s all about the quality and service. Having said that, Gemex will shortly begin catering for middle of the road jewellery retailers by introducing its award winning Raphael Collection in an HSI diamond quality. We anticipate this will bring prices down by 20% to 25%. We don’t, however, feel that this will cannibalise sales of our F/G VS market, it will just open up further avenues and distribution channels for us and allow more jewellers to get in on the action.

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PJ: What are currently the most popular engagement rings at Gemex?
LR: Definitely stone-set shoulders with and without halos. These have a tendency to make the centre stone look even bigger and brides are no longer afraid to experiment with their designs and go for something more fancy. Rings with shoulder set stones also offer more bling for less buck as these are set with much smaller diamonds.

PJ: What is the most popular metal at the moment?
LR: For Gemex it’s definitely platinum, without any hesitation, by a long way. Out of all the 950 platinum jewellery assayed in the UK, 4% is of our production so we know we’re doing very well in this market. 18ct white gold is in second place but still lags way behind platinum. I think our success in this market can be attributed to using high quality diamonds, superior finish as well as the fact the an ounce of platinum costs less than an ounce of gold.

PJ: How important is palladium to Gemex?
LR: Palladium has slowed down for us, albeit it’s still very popular with gents wedding bands due to hitting the right price points. Palladium is not something we actively push. I like to think of it as an additional service that we can offer our retail partners although we are able to offer every single piece in our Raphael Collection in palladium. Palladium 500 is a definite no no. None of our stockists have shown any interest in that, and anyway where do you draw the line between a fine metal or a fine metal mixed heavily with non-precious alloys?

PJ: Has Gemex noted an increase in the popularity of diamond-set wedding bands?
LR: Definitely. We have a range of over 1,400 diamond set wedding bands, the largest in the country, and you still can’t please everyone. That’s why our product development department is continuously designing new concepts based on crucial customer feedback. When we broke into this market as little as four years ago we concentrated on what we call bread and butter core lines. Until today, these core lines, consisting of channel bands set with rounds, baguettes or princesses still perform extremely well. We also manufacture a range of wedding bands with 4ct to 6ct total diamond weights. Although these will never be fast sellers because of their high price points, we nonetheless do very well with them because there aren’t many jewellery houses that can supply them.

PJ: Is a flush fit important to the design team at Gemex?
LR: Definitely. During the last six months of 2012 we’ve been busy developing a range of FlushFit engagement rings and the first tranche of designs were unveiled at The Jewellery Show, Birmingham. Our FlushFit designs will enable our stockists to sell both the engagement ring and wedding ring in one outing or at least should make their customers come back at a later date for their wedding ring. Every engagement ring in our collection, has a matching diamond-set wedding band.

PJ: We have noted an increase in demand for bespoke wedding jewellery – do you see that as a trend that still has growth?
LR: Definitely. I think it’s due to more and more internet sites and apps offering the design your own ring service. Because many of these sites don’t actually have a premise for the customer to visit, this process can be very tedious for the customer. Therefore, they’re more than likely to take their idea to a traditional bricks and mortar retailer because they’re able to discuss their ideas face to face. On average, we get about 40 bespoke jobs a week and at the first stage we provide the customer with a CAD/CAM illustration, which is always free of charge whether they decide to go ahead with the design or not.

PJ: Are you using any new technology to create your designs?
LR: When it comes to manufacturing technology I don’t think any set-up facility is as advanced as ours. We use a patented state-of-the-art laser guided arm setting technology which guarantees the best setting finish in the world. Our customers are amazed at the finish. We can go from concept to the finished article in a mere five days if we have to – that’s ultra fast.

PJ: What new bridal products are you planning to launch into the market in 2013?
LR: Interesting you ask! We have cornered the fine quality diamond wedding band and eternity market in the UK and Ireland. If the retailers want the best quality they know who to come to. 2013 is going to be a very strong year for Gemex. At The Jewellery Show, Birmingham, we launched Cherish by Raphael. Cherish pushes the boundaries of design to the maximum and we’ve emulated this magic into a brand new range of FlushFit engagement rings. The first tranche of 100 designs were shown at Birmingham. In just four years we have created a portfolio of over 1,400 wedding bands. We aim to do the same with our engagement ring collection and even more.

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