LONDON — It is a universal truth that a brand in search of a slice of the $100 billion fine jewelry market must cultivate the Japanese and U.S. markets.

“If you want your jewelry brand to be successful, you can’t afford not to be in Japan. The U.S. is very important, too, but Japan is an absolute necessity,” said Domenico De Sole, president and chief executive officer of Gucci Group.

The same goes for diamond jewelry. “For the diamond jewelry sector alone, the U.S. and Japan account for 65 to 70 percent of world consumption,” said Alain Lorenzo, ceo of De Beers LV, the joint venture between the diamond trading company and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

While both countries have voracious appetites for diamonds, they buy their gems differently.

“In the U.S., consumers want flash for cash — they want a diamond that makes an impact — even if technically the stone is a relatively inferior one,” said Lorenzo. “By contrast, the Japanese want a top stone, even at the expense of size. They tend to go for smaller pieces with a higher quality and they also take their time. A decision on a bridal stone in Japan takes about 12 weeks, compared with the U.K., where it will take anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks.”

According to De Beers, the U.S. generates the world’s largest retail sales of diamond jewelry with 50 percent of the market, followed by Japan (16 percent), Europe (12 percent), Asia-Pacific (6 percent), Asia-Arabia (5 percent) and other countries (11 percent).

The third largest, diamond-loving country is Italy, both in terms of jewelry manufacture and sales.

Meanwhile, the fastest-growing diamond market, and the fourth largest one in the world, is the U.K. According to De Beers, sales are driven by engagement and anniversary rings, women’s purchases for themselves and the “Beckham factor” — men mimicking soccer star David Beckham and buying flash jewels from themselves.

As for gold sales, the U.K. is Europe’s biggest market with 2002 retail sales of $3.2 billion, up 6.5 percent from the previous year, according to the World Gold Council. Italy runs a close second with $3.1 billion, up 9.8 percent from the previous year.France and Germany both lag behind. France saw sales rise 0.8 percent to $1.7 billion in 2002, while in Germany, sales dipped 0.8 percent to $1.4 billion.

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