A sampling of jewelry from Lightbox, De Beers’ line of fashion jewelry set with man-made diamonds. There is speculation in the market that Signet Jewelers, owner of Kay, Jared and Zales stores, might be in line to carry the collection.
Signet Jewelers CEO Gina Drosos made an intriguing statement toward the end of the company’s second quarter earnings call last month in response to a question from Needham & Co. analyst Rick Patel.

Patel noted that Signet is carrying an increasing number of pieces of jewelry set with lab-grown sapphires and rubies, and he asked if the retailer had plans to expand into man-made diamonds.

Signet, as has been well documented, has chosen not to carry any lab-grown diamond jewelry up until this point, even as more and more jewelry retailers—Helzberg, Reeds, Robbins Brothers, Borsheims and Amazon among them—have gotten on board with the category.

2018 Gina Drosos insetSignet Jewelers CEO Gina DrososIn an April interview with Yahoo Finance Drosos indicated that while Signet aims to be innovative and invest in trends its customers desire, the retailer’s research indicates that “people really want a real diamond,” meaning a mined or natural diamond, for their engagement ring. (Side note: A lab-grown diamond is a real diamond though, per the FTC, anytime they are mentioned in advertising or marketing, they must be accompanied by qualifying terms like “man-made” or “lab-grown.” If you say “diamond” by itself, then that means you are talking about a mined diamond.)

On the August earnings call, however, the retail CEO suggested that Signet might be open to man-made diamonds as long as they are not set in engagement rings.

I paraphrased Drosos’ words in my story reporting on Signet’s second quarter results. Below is her full statement, as included in the official transcript of the call.
“We have a very ‘customer first’ mindset on [lab-grown diamonds]. And we want to focus on delivering the products and experiences that customers want. So we are very closely monitoring and assessing the demand for this emerging category. What our research shows is that customers prefer natural diamonds for those really important purchases, bridal purchase, special birthday, graduations, those kinds of things. But there could be some growing interest in the fashion jewelry space for synthetic diamonds. So we’ll make sure that Signet is well positioned to participate in that space if the growth and the economics of it are attractive and if customers point us in that direction.”
Drosos’ comments shook me out of my early-morning earnings call coma and immediately brought to mind another company’s stance on lab-grown diamonds: De Beers.

As I’m sure you have not forgotten, earlier this year De Beers announced it would begin selling a line of fashion jewelry set with man-made pink, blue and white diamonds, online direct to consumers at first and then in select stores.

The company’s approach toward the line is to sell man-made stones cheap and market them for special but not-too-special occasions, keeping consumers focused on mined diamonds for their engagement rings and major anniversaries. They are, as one De Beers executive put it a Las Vegas lunch event introducing the line, for “friends, not fiancées.”

So it would seem that Drosos and De Beers have the same stance on where lab-grown diamonds belong on the consumer end of the market. And the two companies are already fairly closely aligned. The jeweler has been a De Beers sightholder since 2014, and it cuts and polishes its diamonds in one of the African countries where De Beers mines.

Signet was the first retailer tapped to participate in Tracr, De Beers’ blockchain program. It also is worth mentioning that Signet has a new concept store opening this fall, a millennial- and tech-focused store that will operate under the James Allen banner (and might be in line for fresh product that’s not carried in any other Signet stores.)

A line like Lightbox would also gel with Drosos’ long-term vision for the retailer, which includes stocking more fashion jewelry that appeals to women who are buying for themselves and, as she noted in her speech at JCK Las Vegas, “put[ting] jewelry at the forefront of our customers’ minds for many more occasions,” meaning birthdays and graduations, not just engagements.

A week after Signet announced its second quarter results and Drosos made her remarks about lab-grown diamonds, Rapaport’s website, Diamonds.net, ran a short news item that stated there is “growing speculation” that Signet might carry Lightbox.

For now, however, both parties are neither denying nor confirming the rumors.

De Beers, which is set to start selling Lightbox online later this month, said it hasn’t selected the retailers that will carry its lab-grown line yet, while Signet gave a classic corporate response when asked about Lightbox: “It’s our policy not to comment on market speculation.”

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