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De Beers: Making the Grade

IIDGR Head Jonathan Kendall Reports Progress Tapping the Asian Retail Sector

Sep 7, 2017 4:07 AM   By Joshua Freedman
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RAPAPORT... Since earlier this year, De Beers’ gemological unit has been partnering with Asian retailers to offer its diamond-grading reports to jewelry consumers. The miner’s International Institute of Diamond Grading & Research (IIDGR) launched the program with Singapore’s Soo Kee Group in February, and later struck similar deals with Hong Kong-based Luk Fook and Japan’s I-PRIMO. The latest retailer to join the De Beers subsidiary’s venture was the China-based Ailand Jewelry Company, according to IIDGR.

Why is IIDGR doing this?

While IIDGR is a business of its own, it’s also an important way for De Beers to help retailers meet customers’ needs, thereby boosting something the rough producer relies on: consumer demand for diamonds.

“From a De Beers Group perspective, we want to see the diamond market continuing to see polished sold to consumers,” said Jonathan Kendall, president of IIDGR (pictured).

Why the focus on Asia?

Retailers in the region are extremely creative and energetic, and therefore show a lot of interest in programs like these, Kendall explained.

“They are looking for new ideas to increase sales,” he said. “Of course, everyone is, but in the Far East, they are open to new ideas, as the markets are younger.”

What’s in it for retailers?

Jewelers are realizing they need to offer consumers something they don’t get elsewhere. Customers want to see integrity in the seller, but no longer have blind trust in the shopkeeper and the claims he or she makes, Kendall argued. The programs offer customers that extra guarantee of quality that they may not get in another store or on the web.

“They’ve moved beyond the whole world of ‘I trust them, I trust them,’” the executive added. “There’s a growing trend across the world for people to understand [products more].”

In Japan, for instance, the diamonds IIDGR is grading tend to include small stones that jewelers would previously have sold without a certificate or with a report from a local laboratory. Even these goods now need endorsement beyond what the seller alone can give.

“The key point is that the retailer has differentiated their products,” Kendall said. “[Consumers] may use the web, but they still have a differentiated product compared with generic basic grading certificates.”

Retailers are eyeing two main things, Kendall explained. Some are interested in being able to sell the science behind diamonds as a way of enhancing their story. Other clients of IIDGR are primarily interested in minimizing risk by having a recognized name to vouch for a stone’s quality.

“Consistency and accuracy of a grading lab is vitally important for retailers to minimize risk,” Kendall said.

Is it working?

The number of diamonds sold with an IIDGR report through these Asian partnerships has grown quickly, Kendall said, adding that some of the retailers were extending their supply deals, as sales had exceeded expectations. 

What about the rest of the world?

IIDGR also has an arrangement to supply reports to Osigem in Italy, and will unveil a collaboration with a major US retail brand later this year, Kendall said.
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Tags: Ailand Jewelry Company, Chengdu, China, De Beers, grading, IIDGR, I-PRIMO, italy, Jonathan Kendall, Joshua Freedman, Luk Fook, miner’s International Institute of Diamond Grading & Research, Osigem, Soo Kee Group, US
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