Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Many independent fine jewelry retailers have long viewed the Internet in general, and e-commerce in specific, as posing a significant threat to their businesses.
Frequently family-owned, and limited to one to five units, these companies rarely have the kind of capital necessary to create, staff and maintain a competitive e-tail site. Likewise, many believed the online channel would commoditize fine jewelry and lessen the importance of the luxury buying process, not to mention steal away their hard-won customers.
That could all start to change with the launch of Enjewel.com, which went live online Monday, making it the first e-tailer that seeks to combine in one place the efficiencies of cybershopping and merchandise from some of the leading fine jewelry brands and manufacturers with the service consumers enjoy through a local jeweler.
Initially created by a group of 10 independent jewelers and six manufacturers from around the country in January 1999, the nascent site has enlisted 260 retailers and 99 branded or generic manufacturers as its affiliates.
Among the retailers are Bachendorf’s, Diamond Cellar, Fink’s Jewelers, Fortunoff, Hamilton, Hyde Park, Levinson, London Jewelers, Lux, Bond & Green, Tiny Jewel Box and Tivol. Designer and manufacturer affiliates include Charles Krypel, Chopard, Corum, Craig Drake, Honora, John Hardy, Lagos, Michael Bondanza, Penny Preville, Robert Lee Morris, Rudolf Erdel and Scott Kay.
From Enjewel’s new offices in a loft-like space overlooking the campus of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Sheldon Ginsberg — who became the site’s chief executive officer in June after 15 years as executive vice president of Lazar Kaplan International — gave WWD a first look at the site, which went live yesterday. “We conducted a fair amount of focus groups to determine how to get the message about the Enjewel difference to consumers,” said Ginsberg.
Since some Enjewel affiliates have their own content-driven Web sites, consumers can enter the site any of three ways: via Enjewel.com, or by searching the Web for a particular jewelry name or retailer affiliated with the site, whose name-logo is then repeated on every page that comes up along with the Enjewel logo. Affiliates, in return, display the Enjewel logo on 75 percent of their sites’ pages.
The Enjewel home page seeks to explain the Enjewel concept by describing itself as “Your online jewelry store for fine jewelry and watches,” with “The designers you know…” “The jewelers you trust+” and “The service you deserve.”
Enjewel’s initial assortment includes 1,000 stockkeeping units, with another 4,000 slated to be added by Oct. 31, said Ginsberg. The merchandise offered to customers is determined by the way they come to the site. A user who enters via Enjewel.com sees the entire offering. Consumers entering after searching for a designer or brand will see only that designer’s or brand’s merchandise and a consumer entering via a retailer name will see only that store’s assortment. Shopping categories are jewelry, bridal, gems & pearls, designers, and gift ideas.
Once consumers choose an item and input an address, they are linked with a local jeweler who can service the watch or piece of jewelry. That jeweler can also handle an Enjewel return. Order fulfillment, shipping via UPS and insurance are handled via the Enjewel distribution center in San Diego, a factor that “gives us three extra hours to make next-day shipping requests,” noted Ginsberg. Orders more than $250 are not charged for shipping.
Through a password, each of Enjewel’s affiliated retailers and manufacturers have access to their own administrative screen that enables them to track sales and inventory. Retailers can also track the commissions they are paid on each sale, which range from 5 percent to as high as 50 percent of Enjewel’s gross profit, depending on how a client entered the site. Commissions are paid quarterly.
The site also includes a jewelry and gemstone encyclopedia, and “In the News,” a section with monthly editorial features pertaining to luxury and jewelry. The first features are about a new book, “People & Pearls,” and a story about fall fashion and jewelry. Present on many Enjewel pages are sketches of the company’s hip mascot, Julia, whom Ginsberg described as urbane, but not necessarily urban, as well as being whimsical, and possessing a sophisticated and affluent sensibility.

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