By  on February 23, 2012

JOHANNESBURG — Forevermark, De Beers’ diamond brand that guarantees that each stone is responsibly sourced, launched in South Africa this week.

“In the last four years since we first entered the market, starting in China and Hong Kong, and then expanding to 10 countries around the world, including the United States, there was always a piece missing,” said Forevermark chief executive Stephen Lussier at the launch event held at Wits University Art Museum here. “Even if this year we look set to surpass the half-billion dollar mark in sales internationally, there was one thing that to me was emotionally missing.  And that was the fact that we weren’t here in South Africa.  After all, this is the emotional home, it’s the heritage of De Beers. It’s been, for the last 124 years, where the expertise of the brand is based. So I think it’s particularly special for us to be able to bring Forevermark to South Africa.”

Lussier pointed out that many of the diamonds that carry the Forevermark symbol had been mined in the country, in the De Beers-owned mines of Venetia and Voorspoed, for example. Moreover, “many of them have been cut and polished here by some of the world’s greatest craftsmen.”

To distribute Forevermark in South Africa, the company partnered with local diamond distributor and jewelry manufacturer Caratco. Under the agreement, Jewel Africa, Caratco’s retail outlet, became the first exclusive authorized Forevermark jeweler in the country. Caratco intends to expand this retail network to 15 doors by the end of the year.

Caratco ceo Tim Watson said, “We are continuing the roll-out in this market to select retailers who have a reputation for diamond expertise and passion which can match the high standards demanded by Forevermark.” So far jewelers Lorraine Efune, Peter Gilder, Shemer and Ntinga have made the cut.

Lussier spoke about the relationship between De Beers and Forevermark, reiterating the symbolic and sentimental value of Forevermark’s entry into the South African market. “Although De Beers has its own retail jewelry outlet, in partnership with LVMH [Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton], we kept the two entities quite separate,” he explained. “De Beers as a jeweller is really focused on diamonds, beautiful diamonds, obviously, particularly on creating beautiful designs. Of course we source from the same De Beers mines. De Beers’ jewels carry its own De Beers inscription in the same way that Forevermark does. But for us, Forevermark is really just about the diamond. So we’re really like an ingredient to a finished product. So we work together with all sorts of designers, like Stephen Webster recently in America, to create different designs.”

Asked if Forevermark’s presence in South Africa would be long term, bearing in mind that in 2006, De Beers launched its first South African retail brand, Kya, to great fanfare, only to sell it a year later to American Swiss, Lussier replied that “De Beers then used to be about creating a generic brand that all the industry could use. That was right when we had the majority of the world’s diamond production. But now we’re much more focused on our own proprietary business and our own diamonds. So Forevermark is our only marketing initiative around the world.”

To demonstrate this, the mini-show that accompanied the launch featured models wearing exclusive pieces created for Forevermark in Hong Kong and Hollywood, which had been worn at red-carpet events by the likes of Uma Thurman, Joely Richardson and Alicia Keys. The final three pieces were commissioned for the South African launch. The piece de resistance was a 35-carat fancy yellow marquise-cut diamond pendant necklace crafted by Forevermark diamantaire Steinmetz Diamonds and modelled by local actress K.B. Motsilanyane, named Forevermark’s brand ambassadress in the country. Motsilanyane wore an outfit by local designer Craig Jacobs, whose “clothing with a conscience” range, Fundudzi, markets itself on being ethically produced.

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