GUEST COLUMN: A positive outlook for the luxury jewellery sector?

Diana Verde Nieto

Diana Verde Nieto, chief executive officer, Positive Luxury

What makes a luxury product like jewellery desirable in 2017 is very different to what made an item a must-have even five years ago. As the world around us changes at what feels like a dizzying pace, the luxury industry does too.

Last month, Positive Luxury released its Predictions for the Luxury Industry report in partnership with Forevermark, a De Beer’s Group Company. On the one hand, our research shows shoppers in 2017 are as mindful of the central pillars of luxury products – quality and craftsmanship – as ever.

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Yet creating a luxury product that sells is no longer just about sourcing the best materials, having high quality values and demonstrating brilliant creativity. Luxury for today’s emerging consumer also means knowing that the brand behaves consciously and that it holds positive values.

The brands that are thriving are making themselves and their products agents of positive change in society. They have goals that promote growth not just for themselves, but for the communities they work in.

What does this mean for the luxury jewellery industry? Well, this means someone looking for an engagement ring for their partner will place stock – quite literally – in a brand that can guarantee the ethical provenance of its gems. It also means they will research a brand’s purpose and impact on the environment and society online, long before they make a purchase.

As ethical diamond brand Forevermark, a De Beers Group Company’s Constantino Papadimitriou says in the report, “Purchasing patterns are changing, and consumers are now ‘looking under the hood and kicking the tyres’ of luxury brands.”

The luxury jewellery industry works with diamonds and precious metals, uses mines and large numbers of human workers, water and energy. These are important resources that customers, more than ever, want to know have been taken care of.

If a brand can show its commitment to making the world around it better, customers will respond positively, particularly younger customers.

For Forevermark, this means creating hospitals run in partnership with the Botswana Ministry of Health, which are not just for staff but free and available to everyone, along with a HIV and AIDS support programme.

The firm supports a series of enterprise development funds, such as the De Beers Zimele fund. In 2014, Zimele worked with over 62 small and medium-sized businesses in South Africa, creating over 1,175 jobs in farming, jewelry, design, food distribution and other sectors. Over a third of the people who benefited directly from that funding were women.

For smaller, start-ups and new businesses, the idea of being able to set up or finance a hospital or run an enterprise programme, is, of course, a financial impossibility.

But any brand, big or small, that can show they have looked after their resources and the land and people that produced them, even on a modest, highly localised scale, will earn the respect and trust of their customers. That translates into longstanding client relationships and sales: one of the ways brands can hedge against the uncertain political and economic climate we find ourselves in in 2017.

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