Rapaport Magazine
In-Depth

Star players

These are the figures who stood out in the trade during the past 12 months.

By Joshua Freedman, Avi Krawitz and Leah Meirovich


Image: Stocksy

Person of the year

The US consumer

Among those who influenced the industry last year, the most powerful was not an individual within the trade, but the very people the diamond sector serves: jewelry shoppers. And no set of consumers was more important than those in the US, where the retail market supported a remarkable recovery in demand.

After a difficult 2020, the industry started last year with uncertainty. A rebound in retail spending had somewhat begun, largely because consumers were unable to enjoy travel and other experiences. But many in the trade expected these things to return and spell an end to the spike in jewelry demand.

In reality, with Covid-19 continuing, Americans carried on splurging on physical goods, leading to levels of diamond trading that many suppliers had never seen. Couples got married in large numbers following the end of lockdowns, while US government stimulus programs put cash in people’s pockets.

The US is the largest consumer market for diamond jewelry. For much of 2020, the outstanding performer was China, though it saw a slightly slower 2021. The American consumer stepped up to the plate to compensate, resulting in a truly astonishing year for diamonds.

Runners-up

Sarin Bachmann, Reed Jewelry Group

Exhibitions around the world fell victim to the pandemic. However, JCK Las Vegas saw enough domestic interest last year — and a sufficient lull in infections — to let the show take place again after the cancellations of 2020.

That the biggest event on the US jewelry calendar managed to go ahead signaled something of a return to normality. Therefore, it felt appropriate to recognize the show in this list and include Sarin Bachmann, group vice president at JCK organizer Reed Jewelry Group, as one of Rapaport Magazine’s people of the year.

That said, the success mainly reflected the rebound of the market rather than the strength of the show itself. Exhibitors reported solid sentiment at the Nevada fair because dealers were keen to transact in person for the first time in more than a year. Buyers also needed goods to meet growing demand ahead of the holidays. However, the show outlook is weaker now than it was when JCK took place in August 2021 after an initial postponement. Resurgent coronavirus cases have prevented a full resumption of travel and filled the trade with a degree of concern. The industry will be watching how these factors affect the ability of events such as JCK to run in 2022.

Patrick Coppens, Rio Tinto

In October 2021, Rio Tinto Diamonds held the final edition of its Argyle Pink Diamond Tender — the prominent annual sale of assorted colors from the company’s Argyle mine — following the 2020 termination of mining at the Australian deposit. As general manager of sales and marketing for Rio Tinto, Patrick Coppens has overseen numerous such tenders, and he therefore deserves a mention for his role in this milestone event.

In addition to yielding fancy pinks, reds, purples and blues, Arygle was the source of much of the industry’s low-quality material. The closure of the mine is one of the most significant turning points in the diamond market in recent years, and traders expect a noticeable supply gap.

All together, Coppens has worked for Rio Tinto for nearly two decades and headed its diamond sales division for 11 years.

Anthony Ledru, Tiffany & Co.

LVMH’s acquisition of Tiffany & Co., which was finalized in January 2021, raised concerns among purists that the French conglomerate would dilute the brand’s American character. However, the impact so far appears to have been positive. Under the leadership of CEO Anthony Ledru, Tiffany took on an edgier, sexier tone. The April Fools’ Day joke that the brand was changing its signature color to yellow brought a slew of “nooo” comments on social media but proved to be a cheeky launch of its new collection. The iconic yellow Tiffany Diamond then made a rare appearance as the brand rolled out its “About Love” campaign with Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Jay-Z.

Tiffany is showing how to appeal to a younger generation through savvy storytelling, even as it refocuses on higher-end products. For that reason, we include Ledru — who has led the tricky transition — in this list.

Iris Van der Veken, Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC)

Ethical business was a key topic that caught the trade’s attention in 2021. One of the main people driving this trend was Iris Van der Veken, executive director of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC).

During the year, Van der Veken oversaw the development of the RJC’s Code of Practices and pushed for the jewelry industry to align itself with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Those include implementing policies on human rights, health and safety, decent labor practices, product integrity, and climate action.

To mark International Women’s Day in March, Van der Veken called for sector-wide action on gender — a topic she describes as being close to her heart. In a partnership with the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO), she also started the Generation Equality Roundtables to help women in the artisanal and small-scale mining sectors.

“It is…widely recognized [that] the industry faces pressure, as it is losing market share to other luxury products like smartphones, designer handbags, clothes and the travel sector,” Van der Veken said in the August issue of Rapaport Magazine. “Time and again, industries have evolved and adapted to challenges such as these, and I am confident in the ability and strength of our industry to do the same.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2022. To subscribe click here.

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