In 2015, SAND Diamonds enjoyed its first year of profit in the UK, with the momentum to be able to continue and see growth year on year. Chief executive officer Dovi Friedmann sits down with Professional Jeweller editor Stacey Hailes to discuss what his business offers retailers and his diamond trend predictions for 2017.
It was love that first brought SAND Diamonds chief executive officer Dovi Friedmann into the diamond industry almost fifteen years ago.
With no previous background or knowledge, Friedmann started working for a small diamond manufacturer in Israel as it was a job that kept him close to his now wife. Little did he know, diamonds would steal his heart too.
From working for a small firm in Israel, Friedmann then went on to work for De Beers’ largest siteholder in Hong Kong — running their HK office and SE Asian operations. Whilst in Hong Kong, alongside working in several different positions within the diamond industry across 10 years, Friedmann launched his own business, which today is known in the UK as SAND Diamonds.
SAND Diamonds is a three-dimensional luxury business which focuses on the creation of bespoke fine jewellery, the supply of large and rare diamonds, and the procurement of diamonds as an investable asset.
Large diamonds and ready-made jewellery
When Friedmann relocated to the UK he noticed there was little supply for 3ct+ diamond goods and fancy colours, which is his niche in the industry. While some companies worked in coloured diamond stones, very few, if any, completely focused on this and larger diamond goods.
Friedmann sources his diamonds from all over the world as he has good ties with people predominantly in Hong Kong, Antwerp, Tel Aviv and Mumbai.
“In the white diamonds, I focus on the 3ct plus, essentially D-K colour, flawless-SI1 (occasionally SI2),” Friedmann shares. “Our diamond offer is very broad and in all shapes. In terms of the fancy colours, we have all sizes. I warm towards those and look for the deals on the pinks and the blues, and also the yellows as I believe yellows are currently under priced.”
In terms of what Friedmann offers the industry, he works with retailers and diamond manufacturers to source stones and he also provides already made jewellery creations to the trade.
Friedmann explains: “I can offer retailers today, two main things: the supply of the diamonds that I specialise in — 3ct plus and fancy coloured diamonds — and the other is what I currently supply high street retailers and e-tailors, namely ready made up jewellery, generic diamond ear studs, rings, tennis bracelets and those type of things.”
Last year Friedmann secured more jewellery retailers than ever before to work with on the loose stones and jewellery arm of his company.
When asked about business in 2016, Friedmann replies: “Considering that I started out on my own in 2013, and we had two successive years of losses, to have completed 2015 in profit and 2016 with greater profit, with the momentum to be able to continue in that vain, I think is amazing.
“We’ve taken on more staff and we are taking on two new members through an apprenticeship scheme this year. One will be in sales, and the other in admin. We continue to see year-on-year profit and we are trading more with trade.”
Aside from stocking a wide amount of larger stones, Friedmann says his USP is that he has goods regularly and readily available here in the UK and he believes the price he is selling at is cheaper than any other diamond dealer or manufacturer in the UK at that level.
He is also very malleable and places going the extra mile for customers at the heart of his business ethos.
“If there was something that I don’t have, and this actually has occurred twice in the last week with two different retailers, they [the retailers] will call me and I will source and buy the stone and have it in their stores within a turnaround period of around about three days at no expense to them,” shares Friedmann. “I can move very, very quickly.” He continues: “I go to the nth degree for my customers. I always have done and I always will. The bottom line is that they don’t know who is going to walk through their door. They know who their customer is today, but they don’t know who their customer is tomorrow. It’s about being able to be their point of call to satisfy their customer. There are customers that you can satisfy today, that I want to satisfy today. Some customers are already seeing that. They’ve seen my work ethic, the product and they are happy with it, and I am malleable. Retailers are able to ring me up and get what they want, at a time that they want.”
Friedmann’s focus for the next 12 months is to become the retailers number one supplier for large diamonds and fancy coloured diamonds.
He’s also hoping to expand and offer retailers emeralds from a miner in Columbia. This move is in response to client demand. If successful, in the next six months Friedmann will offer the UK market good quality emerald stones at competitive prices.
Friedmann also wants to raise the profile of investment grade diamonds. This will be done through educating people via seminars in the UK in collaboration with experts from around the world. Lastly, Friedmann is looking to expand the jewellery side of the diamond business.
Last year this part of the business grew as Friedmann worked with high street retailers to put together small collections of generic diamond jewellery. This year he is looking to expand his manufacturing capabilities to offer retailers more of these items at higher volumes.
Looking ahead trend wise, Friedmann predicts coloured diamonds are the order of the day and this is a sign of a mature and healthy UK diamond market.
Friedmann explains: “I personally see more calls for fancy shaped diamonds than I do for rounds. I think the number one reason is the cost is lower. As a result, people are now looking for things close to a round. So cushions and ovals have seen a huge surge. I also think you are going to see a lot more demand in colour diamonds than you are going to see in white diamonds. A lot of people are utilising colour, people want to start mixing yellows and greens and browns. You can start to create significantly higher value pieces using different colour diamonds as opposed to what we have traditionally seen — white after white after white. Look at engagement rings today, people are not going for a single round solitaire, people are going for something different and it is a sign of a very mature market.”
“Traditionally, introducing people and markets to diamonds begins with round brilliant cut diamonds. One’s second piece may again be a round brilliant, though people would be tempted to opt for a fancy shape, especially if they go for a single stone piece like a pendant over a pair of diamond studs. Beyond a fancy shape one will then move to fancy coloured diamonds. You will start off with a yellow, then once you have accumulated more money you will go from a yellow maybe to an orange or a green or a pink or even a blue, depending on your level of expenditure. We’ve now reached a stage where we are almost at a post mature level because the UK is an exceptionally dynamic and multi cultural society that has absorbed so much from so many. We are now asking, ‘What is the next stage?’ Well the next stage has to be an amalgamation and amelioration of what has been before unless someone comes out with a new cut or a new colour is discovered,” he concludes.