Jewellery Technology & Machinery - JTM
Lightbox jewelry Gets into the store as lab-grown diamond collection heads for expansion

De Beers caused ripples across the diamond jewelry world when it introduced its launch of Lightbox jewelry set with lab-grown diamonds. The jewelry line features pendant necklaces, stud earrings, bracelets and stacking rings set with synthetic pink, blue and white diamonds, priced uniformly at $800 per carat.

Until recently, the range was only available for purchase via the Lightbox website and retail ‘pop-ups. However, the company recently announced that it would be teaming up with Bloomingdale’s department stores and Reeds Jewelers for a trial run of sales in bricks-and-mortar stores.

Chief Marketing Officer Sally Morrison explained the thinking behind the jewelry and future plans in an interview with Albert Robinson, The New Jeweller's Vice-President for International Business.

It's been more than a year since the announcement of the launch of Lightbox Jewelry, can you firstly give our readers a reminder of the reasons why De Beers launched the brand?

Our research showed us that while there was significant consumer confusion around the laboratory-grown category, once consumers are clearly told what it is, they are interested in this product for accessibly priced, fashion jewelry, particularly in color. Lightbox was launched to provide consumers with a brand that answered those needs. We are especially excited about it because we feel that fashion jewelry is a category that is ripe for growth.

De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver said the idea was to tap into a new market while pushing down the price of lab-grown diamonds in order to force them into a different jewelry category. Has your research shown that this is working?

It is still early days. What we can say is that, as we expected, there is demand for an inventive brand, particularly in color, in the fashion jewelry space. As an example, over the first year of trading, pink and blue lab-grown diamonds have outsold the traditional white stones. For nearly all consumers, this is effectively a brand new product. Most people have never even seen a natural pink or blue!

Do buyers believe that Lightbox stones are, as Cleaver has stated, just fun objects and that when the time comes younger buyers will be looking for a real diamond when it comes to a wedding ring?

That certainly has been our experience. The vast majority of consumers tell us that they prefer a natural diamond for life’s milestone moments. But they are open to considering lab-grown for pretty, decorative, jewelry, especially when prices compare favorably with other products in the competitive set - designers handbags and shoes, for example. So we believe there’s a real opportunity to build an entirely new space in jewelry.

Until recently, Lightbox stones have only been available for purchase online but you announced a link-up with Bloomingdale’s department stores and Reeds Jewelers in a trial run. Can you explain why you decided to sell them in bricks-and-mortar stores, and why specifically the companies selected?

It was always our intention to test in brick and mortar stores and we made that clear when we announced Lightbox. We began by going directly to consumers to “pressure test” interest in the brand. Further consumer learnings were gained through a few pop-ups that we ran (in NY, LA, and Miami).

These were tremendously important in gathering learnings about the consumer response to the brand, and it allowed us to refine some things, from our educational messaging about the category all the way to our designs. Armed with that, we felt ready to proceed with a limited brick and mortar test which will allow us a deeper understanding of consumer tastes. Bloomingdales and Reeds were selected because they are trusted retailers, have a strong business in fashion jewelry, and share our belief in the opportunity to grow this part of the category.

Reports state that just 20,000 carats were being produced in 2019, while the new factory the company is building in Oregon will enable the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of carats annually. Has demand exceeded supply this year, and does your research indicate that the production of 200,000 carats annually will be justified?

Currently our rough stones needs are being met by Element Six in Ascot, England. However, once the new factory comes on stream next year in Gresham, that plant will support the requirements of the Lightbox brand.

Are tie-ups with brick-and-mortar stores actually vital to the sale of such a large production of stones? And will we therefore see more such link-ups in future months?

We start with the consumer. It is clear that the modern consumer gathers information all over: in store, on line, from personal recommendations from their friends etc. In order to be a relevant modern brand, we need to be communicating - and available - wherever that consumer is. It’s become clear that consumers want an omni-channel experience from brands and they want to learn, and shop, across multiple channels. So, in order to build a holistic and successful brand, we believe we need to be available in brick and mortar stores as well as online. Production is there to support that, not vice-versa!

Can you give an indication of the type of buyer you are seeing? Are they mostly younger buyers or a broader range?

We are seeing a very broad range of consumers shopping on our site. There is no dominant demographic that has emerged as yet.

What are colors that are currently being produced, and which extra colors may be produced in the future?

Currently we offer pink and blue. However, our scientists are at work on other colors, and we hope to offer more at some point in the future.

How do you respond to the claims by some diamantaires that Lightbox may affect demand for lower-quality natural diamonds?

This is an entirely new product, and we believe it will be an entirely new market, and help grow the fashion category.

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