National Jeweler Network

Retail Profiles

Buffett's Ben Bridge captures cultural shifts


Warren Buffett knows a good jewelry company when he sees it.

I'm at the JA New York show today and just finished helping GIA open its annual Career Fair. Joining me were Susan Jacques, acting president of GIA, who in her day job is CEO of Borsheim's in Omaha, Neb., one of the nation's best jewelers--and, probably not by coincidence, a Berkshire Hathaway property--and Joel Schechter, CEO of legendary pearl supplier Honora, also recently bought by Buffett.

Once the 300 job applicants at the fair were well on their way into a day of meets and greets, I began scanning today's news. In addition to the Pink Panther-type massive robbery in Cannes--$53 million in jewels at the posh Carlton International--one item especially caught my interest.

Seattle's Ben Bridge jewelry chain was announcing the launch of its new Rony Tennenbaum bridal line. On a primary level, this is newsworthy because it represents the trend at larger retailers of focusing in on and developing private label product. In this day of hyper-competition, jewelers are pursuing this avenue as a route to building margins through purveying of exclusive jewelry.

But what is even more interesting about this specific example of the trend is that Tennenbaum is well-known as a designer for LGBT consumers. For those of you who don't immediately recognize it, the acronym stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender." With the upwelling in cultural developments such as same-sex marriage legalization, this issue opens significant opportunity for a savvy retailer that is in-tune with all members of its constituency as well as the confidence and intelligence to serve them.

Further, Tennenbaum is an advocate of the use of EcoGold in most of his creations, ensuring that no toxins or waste materials are dumped into the environment. Certainly, this is a move on the retailer's part that addresses quite a few hot items in our cultural evolution in a single shot. It certainly seems like no mistake that Ben Bridge, too, is another prominent member of Buffett's rapidly mushrooming jewelry stable.