Rapaport Magazine

Marking new milestones

Clients who seek to celebrate by upping the ante on carats and quality are driving sales at Universal Diamonds in Atlanta, Georgia.

By Joyce Kauf

Image: Craig Obrist/Universal Diamonds

The “save for a special occasion” attitude toward wearing beautiful diamonds is gone — largely due to the pandemic, which upended every aspect of life. “The American demand for jewelry is back, without places to go and black-tie events to attend,” says Ronnie Agami, who co-owns Universal Diamonds in Atlanta, Georgia, with his father and brother. “People don’t want to wait. Their new approach is ‘Look at what we’ve been through.’”

In this scenario, milestones take on a new meaning. “It’s okay to celebrate the 19th anniversary and not the 20th, [and] the 49th birthday is as worthy of celebrating as the 50th,” Agami states.

The growth in his business is a testament to that new thinking. Since October 2020, he hasn’t seen “less than a 50% month-to-month increase in sales, with some months exceeding 100%.” Speaking from his perspective as both a retailer and a wholesaler, he attributes these numbers to the rise in “super special milestone purchases that haven’t really stopped in terms of both larger stones and larger sales.” Before Covid-19, he was seeing one to three six-figure sales per month; now he estimates that it’s two to three a week.

Agami has also observed an uptick in higher-quality studs. He describes pre-pandemic sales as “commercial-grade,” but clients now request Gemological Institute of America (GIA)-certified stones in “good quality that wouldn’t have necessarily been seen before.” In addition to significant price increases, he reports higher demand for studs with a total weight of 6, 7 or 8 carats.

Trends for 2022

Looking ahead to next year, Agami forecasts that current trends will continue and that sales will remain strong. He believes “spending more for value” will remain a key driver in 2022, with quality taking precedence over quantity. Overall, he predicts a “move to the classics because of their inherent value,” noting that these “can also be a legacy statement piece that can be passed down to a child.” He further sees a “move away from pavé toward clean, classic, three-stone [pieces].”

In terms of shapes, elongated will remain “very, very strong,” he believes, including well-made fancy shapes such as emeralds, radiants and elongated cushions. Agami points to increased demand for antique old European and old miner cuts, which appeal to clients who want something unique. Emerald-cut eternity rings and multi-shaped bracelets are also trends he expects to continue, with round-diamond studs and pear-shaped drops doing well in the earring category. Yellow figures prominently in the forecast: There’s been a big return to yellow gold, and greater interest in yellow diamonds.

One way or another, he says, “there is no question that the sense of urgency will prevail into next year,” since clients are concerned that “what they want won’t be available in the next few months.”

A shift in shopping patterns

Shopping has changed since the first six months of Covid-19, Agami says. “At the height of the pandemic, people wanted to go to one place to shop. They didn’t want to go to a mall. Rather than a sense of urgency, they wanted to create a relationship.” Now, some competition has returned as people “start to shop around more.”

Millennials are “absolutely” interested in diamonds, he declares, in terms of both buying new ones and resetting stones they’ve inherited. He acknowledges the enormous impact of Instagram, where “the beauty of the diamond is on display, whether it’s on the red carpet or an ad from a high-end designer or a fashion diamond house. As a result, we’re seeing demand for 3 carats and up for young, successful professionals” — yet another trend he foresees carrying over to 2022.

“It doesn’t matter if the client comes to us from an Instagram ad or by word-of-mouth referral. It is the need for a level of comfort that a trusting relationship offers that brings them in and keeps them coming back. We’re seeing customers who bought five years ago or as long as 25 years ago returning, and we’re so grateful,” he says. For him, trust is a two-way street: “We invest in our clients as they do in us.”

Lofty styleSituated in a high-rise in the affluent Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, Universal Diamonds prides itself on being “the source of excellence,” as its tagline states. The family business that Amos Agami founded in 1980 now includes his sons — Ronnie, who is responsible for sales and marketing, and Jonathan, who designs rings and oversees purchasing.

An introduction to excellence began at a young age; Ronnie Agami recalls how he and his brother would tag along with their father on buying trips to Antwerp, Tel Aviv and London, and observe firsthand the strict criteria their father applied to selecting diamonds.

Sleek and sophisticated, the 17th-floor office reflects the Agami style as well as clients’ preferred shopping destinations. The reception area welcomes customers in stylish contrasting colors: a curved black couch, white chairs and a white marble credenza etched in black. Hanging pendants cast a soft glow.

The showroom’s modern, minimalist design focuses all attention on the diamonds and jewelry. Loft-high ceilings and large windows overlooking the city create an expansive feel. Tall cases, in the same burnished wood as the floor, feature open shelves that are visible from each room. Display cases are set against a wall in a muted pattern of grey and silver that sets a tone of contemporary elegance.


Article from the Rapaport Magazine - November 2021. To subscribe click here.

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Tags: Joyce Kauf