Ed Adams: Choose exotic gems to attract sales

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The gemstone on which stones to showcase to win Christmas spend.

In his second market report for Professional Jeweller, gemstone expert and E.W. Adams managing director Ed Adams explains why a sprinkling of unusual coloured gemstones and jewellery tailored to the higher end of the market could help to win customer’s hearts – and cash – this Christmas.

As the summer drew to its rather rapid end and we all lost our hard-earned tans in a week, it was suddenly time to face the music and make plans for Christmas.

It comes every year and most of us have worked through more of them than we’d care to mention; yet it does not seem to get any easier to predict the buying trends.

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The branded, lower end of the market usually has some pretty obvious winners and is generally more straightforward to call. But ask retailers about high-end fine jewellery sales and most will tell you the biggest trend from the last three years is that there is no trend. One slightly disgruntled buyer said to me: “They want anything I’ve not got in stock”.

This has been an unfortunate development; it seems that the already discerning consumer has become increasingly harder to please through these difficult times. You have her perfect sapphire ring in 18ct white gold, she only wears platinum; they love the nicest emerald you’ve seen in five years, but could you get a couple more just a tiny bit smaller. How often do you hear ‘We’ve decided we want the main diamond from this ring, with the shoulder stones from that ring, but set like the one in this picture – oh, and our big engagement party is this Saturday’ . These are testing times indeed.

But the combined efforts of retailer and supplier in successfully and speedily meeting these discerning needs will no doubt bring rewards. Bespoke jewellery sales are growing very quickly – our in-house CAD designer has never been busier – so this Christmas it seems more important than ever to have UK-based suppliers with the capabilities and fast turnaround to meet these demands.

It seems that the consumer is now looking for something that little bit different, even if it is an off-the-shelf purchase. Sales of less common gemstones are on the rise; Paraiba tourmaline, the neon blue-green gem from Brazil and Mozambique, always hooks customers with its rarity value. Equally rare Padparadscha sapphires are also likely to create great interest. Lightening Ridge Black opals seem to have a magnetic effect on jewellery lovers and chocolate brown diamonds will appeal to the customer seeking an engagement ring with that must-have point of difference.

These stones, set in non-standard settings with a little more design or some fine fancy shaped diamonds, will no doubt attract the right kind of buyers. They also allow the retailer a more generous margin while setting them apart from multiple or online jewellery retailers.

The bespoke theme continues, as Ascot fine jewellery retailer Tom French reports: “We are seeing more and more customers wanting to be involved in the design of a bespoke piece or buying one-off designs from our window.”

French has also noticed two more patterns. “As the economy improves we have seen a lot more interest in big solitaire diamonds, diamond line bracelets and necklets. We are also selling more coloured gems set in yellow gold.”

One more point to consider is higher-end sales. While the middle market remains a very difficult area, higher-end pieces are moving better than ever. Generally speaking, the wealthy have fared well through the recession and as the outlook improves they are increasingly happy to invest in more serious pieces. Given the very large price rises witnessed for diamonds in 2011, and now in fine coloured stones, fine jewellery is being viewed as a solid investment.

But this poses a big question for many retailers; they need to carry high-end pieces to lure these clients in, but which pieces? One retailer told me that they look for pieces that they love and see value in. “If we love them, then we feel our enthusiasm will rub off on our customers. [So] that’s what we think will sell well this Christmas.” Another has told me that they are selling large diamond pieces very well, but only if they offer exceptional value or are on the margin scheme. They have also been selling very fine sapphires, mostly unheated, and one or two lovely Colombian emeralds.

With emerald green being the Pantone Colour of the Year, and the wonderful advertising that Gemfields is doing, emeralds look like they will be even more popular this Christmas. Also, given the scarcity of fine emeralds, they fit well with the investment criteria, too.

The so-called Kate effect has helped blue sapphires sell well for a year or two now, and I believe this trend is set to continue. If you are reading this, William, I’ve got an amazing 5ct pear-shaped sapphire in stock that I’m sure Kate would love.

So, this Christmas, while you can guarantee all your customers will want watches, why not fill your windows with huge diamonds, sapphires and emeralds, and sprinkle a few rare gems around the edges. You might just pleasantly surprise them.

This report was taken from the October issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.
 

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