By Michelle Graff

After speaking with Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier in London a few weeks ago, Charles Stanley, who heads De Beers’ branded diamond program here in the United States, took some time last week to provide more specifics on how Forevermark will work in the U.S. market.

This upcoming week marks a big one for the launch of Forevermark here, as De Beers will unveil the marketing plans for its branded diamond to retailers at the Las Vegas jewelry shows.

Forevermark already is available via pilot sale programs at two retailers, Borsheims in Omaha, Neb. and five San Diego-area Ben Bridge Jewelers.

Forevermark will launch in the fourth quarter. Though Lussier said that he’s more concerned with doing it right then rushing to market before the program’s ready, a Forevermark executive told me they are “definitely” launching in the United States at the end of the year and will be sharing their plans with Forevermark retailers in Las Vegas.

Retailers will be able to sell Forevermark jewelry online (and in fact they already are). But they won’t be allowed to sell Forevermark loose diamonds on the Internet, Stanley said. And the price of the online product has to be the same as what they are charging in the store. Stanley said he doesn’t seem inter-market competition as being a big issue because so much of what drives people to shop online over going to stores these days is price--which won’t be an issue here--and because retailers have the freedom to create their own designs. A customer that sees a piece they like at Jeweler A won’t necessarily be able to find that same design and buy it online from Jeweler B.

He added that the nature of the program, which includes a viewer customers can use to see the Forevermark inscription, lends itself to more in-store sales and that’s where he expects jewelers to do the majority of Forevermark business.

“We’re not frankly expecting a lot of diamond sales to be made online. We fundamentally believe that to get the full experience of buying a diamond it needs to be done in store,” he said.

Discounting is a no-no. Stanley said there are clauses in the retailers’ contracts that pertain to discounting. And though he wouldn’t say if markdowns are strictly forbidden, he did say this: “We don’t see this as a product that should be heavily discounted or marked down.”

The cost of the program is...$10,000 per year for a store.

De Beers doesn’t see Forevermark as conflicting with the De Beers Diamond Jewellers stores it operates through a joint venture with LVMH. Forevermark enables retailers to use the equity of the De Beers Group name and extend it to their customers through a separate brand, Stanley said. He said one element of the program that further sets Forevermark apart is the fact that each of these diamonds go through the Forevermark Diamond Institute (FDI) in Antwerp.

I actually had the chance to visit FDI while in Europe a couple of weeks ago, and it was an interesting operation to be sure. The Institute housed about 5,000 loose stones on two floors and about 500 a day go through the process of becoming Forevermark diamonds, complete with the brand’s signature inscription.

Each diamond goes through a total of 27 steps to make sure it meets Forevemark standards, is not treated and gets inscribed. Forevermark standards dictate that a stone must be at least very good cut, L color (all colors are accepted for stones that are two carats or larger in size) or fancy colored, and SI2 clarity. De Beers will supply a Forevermark-branded grading report to customers that want them though it is not mandatory.

Stanley said there is a “clear light” between De Beers-branded stores and its branded diamond. He also noted that Forevermark diamonds won’t be offered in De Beers’ stores.

Here’s one last item regarding the jewelers that are already carrying Forevermark. Lussier told me that’s it’s “just a coincidence” that both retailers currently carrying Forevermark--Ben Bridge and Borsheims--are both Berkshire Hathaway-owned jewelers. Just in case anybody was wondering...

Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.