Focus on

THE DIAMOND MARKET

GETTING ON THE BRANDWAGON,
DE BEERS AIMS FOR MARKET DOMINANCE

 

An announcement in May 2015 that De Beers was set to revive its mythological catchphrase “a diamond is forever” sent a palpable wave of excitement through the gemstone trade. The expression, which was named “Slogan of the Century” by Advertising Age in 1999, is considered by many to be the expression that launched a multi-billion dollar luxury industry. 

But what many in the trade at the time failed to notice was that the rebooted “diamond is forever” campaign would be a considerably different to its counterpart from seven decades earlier. For while the original campaign had promoted gem-quality diamonds in general, the new campaign will focus specifically on goods carrying De Beers’ own Forevermark logo.

Launched in 2008, the Forevermark program represented De Beers’ most audacious effort to expand its direct involvement to the very end of the diamond value chain, transforming it into a player in a market where at the same time it operates as a collaborator and competitor with its own clients.

A BRAND WHERE EVERY ITEM HAS A UNIQUE IDENTITY

When it launched by De Beers in 2008, Forevermark was pitched largely as a program that would ensure the integrity and uniqueness of high-quality individual, natural diamonds. A person acquiring a Forevermark brand stone could be guaranteed that it was not synthetic, not treated, nor tainted by any ethical consideration, such as is the case with conflict diamonds.

“Every Forevermark diamond starts it’s journey as a natural mineral sourced from a handful of carefully selected mines in countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Canada,” De Beers explained on the brand’s website. 

Each of the Forevermark diamonds is inscribed with a microscopic logo and individual catalog number, employing what is described as “highly confidential patented technology.” These are invisible to the naked eye but can be seen with the help of a special viewer. The catalog number enables the provenance of the stone to be traced all the way to the mine from which it was sourced, providing it with a comprehensive chain of custody.

According to De Beers fewer than 1 percent of the world’s diamonds meet the standards necessary to include them in the branding program.

A Forevermark grading report. At the Forevermark Diamond Institute, each stone is subject to a 17-step process, including being scanned by proprietary machines to check for authenticity, carat weight and symmetry, and then hand examined for color categorization and inclusions. 

When it launched by De Beers, Forevermark was pitched largely as a program that would ensure the integrity and uniqueness of high-quality individual, natural diamonds.

THE CREATION OF A MONOLITH

For De Beers, the Forevermark clearly represented a great deal more than just a system by which a diamond’s provenance could be ascertained. It was a fully-fledged branding program that provided the company with not only direct control over the final product, but also with a share of the revenue derived from the sale of these stones all the way to the consumer.

To manage the program, De Beers carefully constructed a massive operation, building a network of authorized manufacturers, who cut and polish the goods, authorized jewelry designers and manufacturers, and authorized retailers, who are permitted to sell the branded stones, as part of jewellery collections that have been created on De Beers behalf.

And while the diamonds and jewelry are produced by outside contractors, the support services are for the most part managed in house. These include the Forevermark Diamond Institute.  There, according to De Beers, each stone is subject to a 17-step process, including being scanned by proprietary machines to check for authenticity, carat weight and symmetry, and then hand examined for color categorization and inclusions.

For diamonds of a half-carat or more, a Forevermark Diamond Grading Report is issued by in-housed gemologists, making De Beers a bona fide member of the gem lab community. 

Most significantly, in promoting the Forevermark, De Beers is putting money where its mouth is, and in this respect there is simply no other players that even approach its marketing clout.