Sterling Jewelers made a number of big announcements during its conference call on Thursday, not the least of which is that it is now a “Select Diamantaire” of mining giant Rio Tinto, and that it's making a bigger push into the world of colored diamonds.

The company is introducing “Shades of Wonder,” the new name for a line of brown and white diamond jewelry previously called “Shades of Australia.” The Shades campaign is part of Rio Tinto’s new “Diamonds with a Story” initiative, which they introduced in Las Vegas.

Diamonds with a Story is designed to highlight Rio Tinto’s social and environmental efforts in the areas around the world where it mines diamonds while giving retailers a story to tell about the product when they are trying to sell it. It’s also a way of providing marketing support for diamonds, filling the void left by the absence of De Beers.

Separately, Sterling announced that it is also is testing a line of blue diamond jewelry, which a Sterling spokesman said would be created with irradiated blue diamonds. (Natural blue diamonds are comparatively more expensive, with one industry source estimating that a 1-carat natural fancy blue would wholesale for about $200,000.)  “Blue is just another color trend that is happening right now,” Mike Barnes, CEO of Sterling parent company Signet, said during the company’s earnings call on Thursday.

Sterling acknowledged that while the goods for Shades of Wonder are from a Rio Tinto mine--primarily the Argyle Diamond Mine--they are not similar to those being supplied to Sterling for its rough-to-polish initiative as a Select Diamantaire (similar to a De Beers sightholder). However, the program “strengthens and leverages” the relationship between the two companies, the spokesman said.

On the technology side, Sterling said it is implementing “digital sales technology” in both Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry stores. Translation: Each store will be equipped with a number of electronic tablets, brand not specified, that allows for browsing and shopping on Kay.com and Jared.com while in-store. 

The stores already are equipped with wireless, though access is limited to Kay.com and Jared.com.

I don’t know if Sterling is considering expanding this access in the future--and I understand not wanting to give the public free rein over the entire Internet--but  allowing people to visit sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share their shopping experience would be a good idea.

It’s also not a bad idea to give customers access to competitors’ sites, such as Blue Nile or Zales.com. They are going to check out the competitions’ price and selection anyway--who doesn’t these days --so why not just let them do it while they are still in your store?


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Filed Under: Retailing
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