NEW YORK — Carrera y Carrera is giving its U.S. operation a fine polish.

Known for its nature-inspired sculptural and tooled pieces, the Madrid-based fine jewelry firm is in the process of reshaping its U.S. operation with a change in distribution strategy, a relocated marketing and sales division and plans for at least two Carrera y Carrera boutiques.

In December 2001, Lladró, the Valencia, Spain-based porcelain sculpture company with U.S. headquarters in Moonachie, N.J., acquired 58 percent of the fine jewelry brand for about $15 million.

Earlier this month, Jean-Luc Negre, executive vice president of Lladró North America, assumed the responsibility of overseeing Carrera y Carrera as executive director of U.S. operations. The jewelry company’s sales and marketing department moved to Lladró’s Manhattan division at 43 West 57th Street.

"Lladró already has a strong presence, strong logistics and administration in the American market," Negre said. "We want to reorganize Carrera y Carrera completely and improve the service."

Negre stressed that as far as marketing and sales, Carrera y Carrera and Lladró will be run independently of one another. The jeweler’s Madrid headquarters will continue to support the brand management and product development, headed by chief executive officer M. Eugenia Girón.

Carrera y Carrera originated in 1885, when José Esteban, a gem cutter and member of the Carrera family, established a small jewelry business in Madrid. Esteban expanded his business with his two nephews, Saturio and Pedro Carrera, and started making exclusive jewelry for Spanish aristocracy, including Queen Fabiola, who wore Carrera y Carrera’s gem-adorned crown and sword.

Today, the company is managed by Esteban’s great-grandsons, Manuel and Juan José Carrera. Popular collections include Pantera, which is based on a panther’s head; Eros and Seduction, showcasing the forms of a man and a woman intertwined, and Ecuestre, which features horse motifs.

Last year, the company launched the Garden of Roses collection. Designed by Miriam de Ungria, Princess of Turnovo, it features the rose as a central element carved into 18-karat yellow and white gold, with white and brown diamonds and semiprecious stones, such as quartz, amethyst and topaz.In the U.S., Carrera y Carrera is distributed in 80 specialty and fine jewelry stores, including Neiman Marcus, Baton Rouge, La.-based fine jewelry chain Lee Michaels and Dallas jeweler DeBoulle.

"The first thing is to reorganize the customer base," said Negre, who once held presidential posts at Givenchy and Baccarat here. "We are currently reassessing the distribution completely. We want to be in 50 to 60 couture jewelers. We would rather have few, but loyal, customers we want to grow."

Carrera y Carrera has shops in Madrid, Barcelona and Marbella, Spain; Tokyo and Fukuoka, Japan, and Moscow. Negre said the company is looking for locations for stand-alone boutiques in the U.S.

"With or without a partner, we may open one to two boutiques, first in New York then maybe in Las Vegas or Los Angeles," he said. "In New York, we will want to be on Madison Avenue or maybe Fifth Avenue."

While Negre could not disclose Carrera y Carrera’s wholesale volume, he said the jewelry line had $10 million in wholesale sales in the U.S. in 2000.

"The U.S. market is a key market for Carrera y Carrera," Negre noted. "They have been here for 10 years, but we feel the potential for growth is tremendous. The new direction will help speed up Carrera y Carrera’s growth plan in the U.S."

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