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Forevermark Selectivity, Integrity, Exclusivity
Forevermark to take its next step in India – a launch in the two premier metros.
By: Diamond World News Service
May 4 2011 12:25PM
Reference: 5967  

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Forevermark which officially launched in India late January 2011 through its Bengaluru foray, in its second phase was launched first in Mumbai and then Delhi. Nilan Singh reports on the launch; and discusses various facets of the brand and the programme in a conversation with CEO Stephen Lussier.

With the successful launch of the Forevermark in Bengaluru in January this year, could Mumbai and Delhi, India’s foremost markets, be far behind? Clearly not. By early March it was time for Forevermark to take its next step in India – a launch in the two premier metros.

In Mumbai, the hip and happening Tote restaurant at the Mahalaxmi racecourse had a corner dedicated to Forevermark. The festive looking area where camp was set-up, so to say, had a host of people including media, retailers and their families, other industry veterans, and celebrities streaming in and out – to meet the team, to get introduced to the programme, to gaze in awe and wonder at the Steinmetz Yin Yang twin diamonds and to be dazzled by the glittering Forevermark jewellery displayed in the showcases.

The programme was launched by Bollywood star Rani Mukherji, who said on the occasion: “For someone who loves diamonds, being present at the start of this journey by the foremost diamond experts here in India is truly an honour. Making this even more memorable and exciting was the thrill of holding in my hands a true miracle of nature - The Forevermark Steinmetz Yin Yang.” (These are said to be the world’s largest pair of identical 35 ct, D colour, Flawless round brilliant cut diamonds manufactured by the Steinmetz Group, and specially showcased to celebrate the occasion).

In a candid moment, Rani also confessed that as her next gift she would love to have an engagement ring with a Forevermark diamond - though who would give it and when was something that could only be ascertained by “placing a trunk call to God.”

Coming down to earth, and more specifically to this country, Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier said, “The Indian diamond market is one of the largest in the world and we see now as the right time to be expanding Forevermark’s footprint here, particularly the vibrant and dynamic cities of Mumbai and Delhi.”

He announced that De Beers’ has partnered with eight retailers in Mumbai and six in Delhi. Authorised Forevermark Jewellers in Mumbai include Anmol Jewellers, Giantti Luxury Ensemble, Mahesh Notandas, Notandas & Sons, Manubhai Jewellers, Mehta Emporium, Orra, Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri – The Original. In Delhi the brand partners are Bholasons Jewellers – Gold Souk and Karol Bagh; Blues Jewellery Company, Hazoorilal Jewellers, Khanna Jewellers, Notandas & Sons and Mirari.

According to the company, “Forevermark diamonds are the world’s most carefully selected diamonds,” - less than one percent of the world’s diamonds are eligible to become a Forevermark diamond - and that “Each offers a promise over and above the traditional 4C’s – a promise that not only gives assurances of quality, but also assurances of integrity – every Forevermark diamond has been responsibly sourced and has been nurtured at every step of its journey. Only a select group of Master Diamantaires are eligible to cut and polish Forevermark diamonds. Only a few, exclusive jewellers; each passionate about creating the finest designs inspired by these exceptional diamonds are able to sell at retail.”

Each Forevermark diamond bears a unique inscription at its heart. This inscription is “a promise that the diamond has been carefully selected to meet Forevermark’s high quality and integrity standards.”

Invisible to the naked eye, the actual size of the inscription found on Forevermark diamonds is only 1/20th of a micron deep and can only be seen using a special Forevermark viewer which can be found with Authorised Forevermark Jewellers.

Over the next few months, Forevermark will also select partner jewellers in Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata to further introduce Forevermark diamonds to the discerning Indian consumer.

Excerpts from the interview:

Could you explain the Forevermark concept in the context of the changes in strategy and company structure of De Beers?

Till about 10 years back, De Beers’ overall strategy focused on supply control. Its marketing strategy focused on growing the entire diamond market through its generic promotions. With the evolution of the market, we didn’t believe it was a sustainable strategy. Going forward we decided to focus on mining, selling and marketing our own diamonds. We shifted from generic marketing to Forevermark promotions. Having said that we still have a 40 per cent share of the rough market and we are interested in a healthy market growth. We are committed to building the diamond dream for our existing and new consumers and at the same time ensuring growth for our partners.

Earlier statements said that Forevermark can be used by your sightholder clients even for diamonds from other mines. More recent statements and from what you just said it appears that Forevermark diamonds will be those exclusively mined/distributed by De Beers. Could you clarify the position?

The Forevermark programme predominantly benefits our own mines, but not exclusively. There are some other mines which we have considered.

Could you elaborate which other mines would be eligible to be included?

We have identified some BHP and Rio Tinto mines which could be eligible, mainly those which have primary production. It would depend on the mines and the manner in which they are managed. But the programme is mainly for De Beers mines and its sightholder clients. To the consumers it is the promise of “selectivity” which is an assurance of exclusivity and integrity.

What is the criterion for choosing diamonds which will be branded with the Forevermark?

The criterion is based on the 4Cs. Clearly size is important. But of course this means different things for different people. For some, anything below a couple of carats is not good enough, and there are those for whom a 20 pointer is the ultimate. We have fixed that a Forevermark diamond must be a minimum of 0.14 points and could be anything above that. In terms of clarity, it should be eye-clean so anywhere from SI2 to Flawless. Where colour is concerned it is so much dependent on the eye of the beholder – some like an absolutely white diamond while others might find it too cold and others might want a slight tinge to make it warmer – so between D to L and of course fancy colours.

The key to our requirement is the cut, but it is not a question of any single cut. Every individual diamond is different and requires to be cut in different proportions. Each Forevermark diamond must be cut to perfection – symmetry of its facets, the table just right and so on. The cut must be able to bring out the magic of the diamond.

You talked about selectivity, and only one per cent of the world’s diamonds being eligible to become Forevermark diamonds. Do you have a special assortment process to pick Forevermark diamonds?

No we do not do any separate assortments. The rough which will become Forevermark diamonds is included in the boxes of our select group of sightholders – about 31 of them – who are eligible, based on their manufacturing abilities, to produce Forevermark diamonds. These sightholders then cut and polish the diamonds knowing our criterion, and submit them to our Antwerp lab. At the lab these diamond are put through a thorough and complete screening on all aspects, including the cut quality, to check for treatments etc. About 10 per cent of diamonds are rejected – I am happy to say, never for treatments or suchlike! They are then inscribed with the Forevermark logo and a special number, and get a certificate carrying that number. This works as a complete guarantee of quality and integrity of the secure pipeline through which the diamond has come. For retailers it represents freedom and flexibility to work with complete assurance and confidence.

What would be the price differential between a Forevermark diamond and a non- Forevermark diamond for the consumer, assuming that all else is equal?

How can you compare the two? It is like comparing apples to oranges. A diamond which has gone through the process to become a Forevermark certified gem is a completely different animal! It has value added to it.

So how much more value, let’s say, does it represent for the retailer?

Pricing is entirely the retailer’s business. We don’t interfere with it. Three-five-seven-ten per cent – depends entirely on the retailer’s strategy. We view this as a partnership, and price points, designs are all left entirely to the retailers. There could be different designs in China and India, different interpretations. We expect our partners to create their own unique Forevermark creations.

How does De Beers create value for itself in this set-up?

We get value in two ways – and we invest that back into the programme in the marketing area. One, we charge for the evaluation – quality control – and inscription of the diamond in the laboratory, which we own; and we charge a fee to the retailer to become a part of the Forevermark Club. The manufacturer invests in his factories and facilities. We have an independent audit firm, SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance) which audits our partners to ensure the integrity of the entire process.

De Beers earlier spent close to US$ 200 million annually on generic marketing of diamonds - a very successful programme that helped sustain and grow the market. We believe generic marketing is being entirely replaced by Forevermark promotions – the US was perhaps the last country where generic marketing was taking place – and the budget is now diverted to the Foerevermark programme. Could you clarify the status?

The marketing budget of Forevermark diamonds is a little under US$ 100 million actually.

Those earlier generic marketing programmes were very effective, no doubt. But they also have to be economically sustainable. And as we discussed earlier, after De Beers share of the rough market went down it was no longer viable to continue the generic programme.

In the US, the generic marketing came to an end in the last quarter of 2010. We are in a state of transition there, but the entire team there is now under the Forevermark programme. Even as we prepare for the launch there, and even before that happens, all campaigns and events in the US will now be held under the Forevermark umbrella, like the Red Carpet event etc.

We are looking at developing the Forevermark programme, growing our budgets and focusing more on China and India, focusing on our messages to keep the diamond dream alive.

Do you think that the withdrawal of generic marketing will have an impact on the overall market growth? In India, especially, the contribution of De Beers marketing and its role in developing the DJ market is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and close to everyone’s hearts.

Well when you withdraw something, you leave a gap and that is bound to have some kind of impact. But as I said we hope to grow and develop the Forevermark programme in a very focused manner. If Forevermark can achieve its goals, if we are able to spread the message of the diamond dream, then we can sustain the market in a similar manner and it is bound to impact the market as a whole.

You had earlier launched the Forevermark programme across India in 2007. Were there any learnings from that phase which have been incorporated in what can be called the second coming? If so what are they?

Well yes, we did run a kind of pilot programme in China and Japan and also in India. We wanted to understand the market and we learnt a lot.and built the lessons in the programme in the current stage.

The most important lessons I would say are: 1) selectivity and criterion to build real value and 2) selectivity of retail partners.

For Forevermark to be built in the correct manner, our partners are very important. Our retail partners must have a passion for beautiful diamonds and they must have the integrity which we expect to deliver to the end consumers. I would say we have become even more selective this time round.

Are your retail partners also audited?

Retailers are also audited, but it is a simpler process. Once the diamonds get inscribed with the Forevermark we are more comfortable. The retailers in our programme have a sense of BPP (Best Practice Principles). We have pipeline integrity that is the principal aspect. Then we are confident that the brand is the real thing. Our retailers aspire to the BPP, they are handpicked, like-minded people.

How do you think that a price sensitive market like India will respond to the concept of branded diamonds? Did you conduct any studies and was it necessary to adjust your strategy or tactics for a market like India?

All markets are price sensitive. No one will pay only because you are a brand – you have to deliver actual value. People want value. They are after all investing their money, they want to be assured of the value they are getting.

India is unique in that quality is very important to the Indian consumer. They look at these purchases more as generational purchases – something to be handed down – so it must preserve its value. This is not so much the case say in China, where it is more of an individualistic purchase. Maybe Binita can tell you a little more.

Binita Cooper adds: We found that the concept was particularly appealing to men. For them, it makes diamond buying rational; for women it is a more emotional decision. So with Forevermark, the men feel that they are guaranteed to get what they are told they are getting. They feel a sense of assurance.

Reports say that so far in the two years since the launches in Japan and China, Forevermark sales have reached about US$ 200 million. Have you any projections of sales growth over the next five years, say. Could you share those with us?

We do have our projections. And I can of course calculate the figures from our growth – for example in China we are growing at 50% per annum. Maybe we can discuss sales figures when the programme has run in India for some time and we are here again say one year down the line.

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