By  on December 6, 2004

LONDON — Clothing designer Roland Mouret, who every day wears a dice-sized diamond suspended from a razor blade on a white gold chain, has grown accustomed to strangers asking him about the stone.

“It looks like a big crystal with a lot of light in it,’’ Mouret said of the rough stone, which is part of his small diamond jewelry collection, launched three years ago. “People are very attracted to it — even though they don’t know what it is.”

Mouret, who plans to unveil a second, more formal diamond collection in the summer, loves that people respond to his stone before learning it’s a diamond. “After the whole bling trend, it’s time to push boundaries with diamonds, to disturb the values of luxury,’’ he said. “I want people to react to the stone itself, to love it without the drivers of media and advertising telling them it’s a diamond.”

The French-born, London-based Mouret isn’t the only man taking on what was once the reserve of brides-to-be, elegant heiresses — and most recently Donatella Versace, David Beckham and Elton John. Fashion designers, including Vera Wang and Vivienne Westwood, and traditional jewelers are creating trendy — and traditional — diamond collections to satisfy a growing demand for the rocks, appeal to an expanding customer base and grab their share of what is essentially an unbranded category. Some 80 to 90 percent of the diamond market is still unbranded, said Stephen Lussier, worldwide marketing director of the Diamond Trading Co., the marketing arm of De Beers. The diamond jewelry category generates $60 billion at retail worldwide, and the DTC estimates that figure will grow 5 to 6 percent annually, on a compounded basis. “It is a massive category, and there is still significant room for brands to expand,” said Lussier.

For five years, the DTC has been working behind the scenes to help match fashion and jewelry houses with the appropriate diamond producers — one reason the market is seeing such a boom in fine jewelry.

“We went out and sold the jewelry industry to new players, including Gucci, Escada and Georg Jensen, and we put people together,’’ Lussier said. “Now the business has taken on a momentum of its own — they’re doing it without us,” Lussier said.

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