Last May, when Rebecca Foerster (pictured) joined Hearts on Fire as president of its North America division, the diamond industry veteran felt as if she’d come full circle.
“When I was recruited into jewelry from the fragrance and cosmetics world, it was a big culture shock,” Foerster told JCK by phone last week during a break from the AGS Conclave in Louisville, Ky., a day shy of her one-year anniversary with the brand.
“At that time, Hearts on Fire was really the only branded diamond program that existed at any level,” she said. “It became my beacon, my guiding light, the brand I wanted to aspire to.”
In 2006, after spending nine years as senior vice president of marketing at Frederick Goldman, where she helped relaunch brands such as Keepsake and ArtCarved, Foerster went on to executive roles at Rio Tinto Diamonds and Leo Schachter.
In January 2019, she was named president of Alrosa North America, where she oversaw the Russian miner’s growing diamond business in the United States until 2022, when Russia’s war on Ukraine made the position no longer tenable. Hearts on Fire, which was acquired by the Chinese retail behemoth Chow Tai Fook in 2014, poached her less than a month later.
“Now I feel like I’m here to guide this mature 30-year-old brand into its next life cycle,” Foerster said. “What’s encouraging and exciting for me is that I still feel and see the power of the brand.”
Foerster spoke to JCK about Hearts on Fire’s point of difference, the new product focus that will be evident at the Luxury show, and why the brand just signed with one of L.A.’s hottest fashion retailers. (The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
Most of us are familiar with Hearts on Fire, but for newcomers to the industry, tell us about the essential aspects of the brand.
I believe it’s two things. The main one is the diamond: It is really differentiated because of the way it’s cut. We changed the rhetoric about how you look at a diamond. It’s all about the cut, which is what makes it special. This diamond evokes such emotion from people when they see it because it [rates] so well on all parts of the light scale.
With white light, it performs very high with brilliance and scintillation. And it also performs better than any other diamond on the fire side, the colored side. And that’s not common. The cut allows the diamond to release this energy, this life force, to release these flashes of color you usually don’t see. And people have an immediate emotional response to it.
In addition to that, the brand has legacy and history and the product quality is amazing and consistent. And over the years, it’s always capitalizing on new trends. It’s on trend, but not trendy.
But the brand is mature and needs to elevate. What we’ve learned is that it’s important to go back to basics. You don’t always have to reinvent everything. Hearts on Fire was really known for education and motivating sales associates in the store, and for sharing that moment with the consumer. A lot of what we’re doing now is going back to that. And making sure that a connection exists between the consumer and the product and the sales associate and the product.
You’d mentioned a return to a bridal focus. Tell us about that.
There’s no more emotional connection for a sales associate than selling an engagement ring to a consumer. This is the DNA of the brand and for various reasons, we kind of walked away from that. This is our main focus at JCK, to bring back bridal in a modern way that will allow sales associates to sell it with ease and with confidence. It will be complete bridal, so you’ll be able to try on a beautiful ring with a live center stone, and if its fits, you’re able to walk out of the store with it.
That’s right. Most bridal companies are selling mountings. We want the consumer to walk out with a Hearts on Fire piece: the diamond, the mounting, the whole Hearts on Fire experience—because the mountings have been designed to allow that diamond to perform at its best. The collection is going to be all platinum. We’re really excited to showcase the world’s most perfectly cut diamond housed in the world’s rarest and most precious metal. It’s a great union.
What else can buyers expect to see from Hearts on Fire in Las Vegas?
For the first time in a long time, we’re immersing ourselves in a complete campaign, from the in-store presentation to key visuals to a beautiful video that can be used on different platforms and in different ways. We want it to be the ultimate experience for the consumer. And we haven’t done that in a long time. The level of materials we’ll be giving to the stores [is top quality].
And we recently hired a brand new retail training director. Last week, for the first time in a long time, we held our first regional Hearts on Fire University, in the Chicago area. We brought our Chicago retail partners together and immersed everyone, including 48 sales associates, in a two-day Hearts on Fire event full of content and outside speakers, training, and getting them excited about the brand.
We’ll be doing at least another two this year. The format was really successful because it was really intimate and interactive.
Are you also introducing new fashion jewels at Luxury?
That’s another important part of our brand renewal. We want to be very timely in introducing signature collections that are proprietary to Hearts on Fire that showcase our beautiful signature diamond. Along with bridal, we will have a collection called Ellipse that’s all about encasing the Hearts on Fire diamond and creating this oval shape. We’ll have beautiful pendants, earrings, and ensembles, and some in higher price points, so we have that ‘wow’ piece in the case to bring attention to what we’re doing.
What’s new about your retail strategy?
When you have a mature brand, you need to elevate it, get a lot of buzz and attention. Not in lieu of our existing distribution channel—we love our retailers and feel they’re so important—but more to get some PR attention and to expose the brand to influencers and clientele shopping in some of these alternative-type retail environments. We are opening our first of this type—and doing it with geographic sensitivity.
We’re going into a few key markets where this alternative-type of distribution exists to generate this PR and buzz about the brand and expose it to stylists and influencers. The first one we’re opening is Just One Eye in Los Angeles. We’ll be in the store by the beginning of June. We’ll have a very curated collection, maybe 15 to 20 pieces, curated for their customer base.
It’s beneficial to everybody. You want your brand to be relevant, to have a cool factor, to be thought of as luxury. We want this brand to be looked at as a diamond brand, of course, but also as a luxury fashion brand.
Last but not least, where can buyers find you at Luxury?
My strategy this year was to move to Luxury, and take a ballroom, so we’d have more visibility. And we needed that type of space to show the collection. In addition, we have a small satellite booth on the floor of Luxury so if there are retailers interested in carrying either Hearts on Fire or Mémoire, they have a place they can go to learn about the brand. We’re not just entertaining people with pre-set appointments.
I think Vegas is going to be great this year. It’s probably the first time in a long time that people are not going to be thinking about COVID, and will be focused on business. We don’t know what we have in store with the economy, but you can do good business even in difficult times if you have the right strategy.Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
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