By  on June 4, 2007

De Beers and its diamonds are entering cyberspace.

This month, De Beers Diamond Jewelers, the joint venture between South African mining firm De Beers SA and luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is launching e-commerce on its Web site at debeers.com.

E-commerce will be exclusive to the U.S. market and will offer diamond jewelry ranging from a $500 gold pendant detailed with diamonds to a $30,000 engagement ring with a 1.5-carat center stone flanked by two side stones. Prices will climb higher than $30,000 in the future.

The launch comes at a time when luxury goods, namely designer apparel, fine jewelry and handbags, are selling strongly on the Internet on sites such as neimanmarcus.com, Net-a-porter.com and eBay.

The jewelry Web site Bluenile.com has gotten lots of attention and considers itself the largest online retailer of certified diamonds, while smaller Web sites such as Angara.com specialize in novelty diamond jewelry, such as a bib necklace featuring fancy yellow and white diamonds, that climbs well over the $100,000 mark.

Many such sites say engagement rings are top sellers and that consumers can save up to 40 percent shopping online rather than purchasing in a brick-and-mortar store.

De Beers' site offers no such discount incentive, but rather access to the firm's branded jewelry in cities where it doesn't have stores.

The six-year-old brand opened its first store in the U.S. in 2005, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Stores in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas soon followed. Additional units are on deck, including a 1,353-square-foot shop in Houston set to open in August, and a 4,700-square-foot store in San Francisco and a 2,082-square-foot location in Washington, both planned for November. The firm has 14 stores outside the U.S., including locations in London, Paris and Dubai and expects to have 28 to 30 stores internationally by the year's end. But it's the middle of the country that chief executive Guy Leymarie anticipates will drive the site's sales thanks to the brand's cachet.

"Today, e-commerce is clearly the new route [for selling], including goods like diamonds," said Leymarie. "It suits a new concept, a new behavior. [We're] not only [offering] entry prices, but also the very high end."

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