ICA members launch ruby marketing campaign in Japan

A group of some 50 Thai and Japanese gemstone manufacturers and dealers launched a new marketing campaign this summer to promote rubies to the Japanese jewelry market. Most of the campaign’s initiators are members of the International Colored Gemstone Association, 34 participants are from Japan and 17 are from Thailand.

The campaign initiators call themselves the Japan Color Stone Promotion Committee. The Thais were the first to cooperate with the Japanese members of the JCP, but recently gemstone dealers and manufacturers from China, Taiwan, South Korea. and Italy have also expressed interest in joining this marketing alliance, ICA said in a statement.

The campaign follows a promotion in 2002 that also focused on rubies. “We chose to promote the ruby because an earlier effort had been successful and because ruby is a well-accepted gemstone in Japan,” said ICA member Toshio Takada. “This promotion is not a one-time promotion. We want to continue until it becomes popular [in Japan] and then we will choose to continue similar activities for other leading gemstones.”

This time, the participants joined together to raise $400,000 for a campaign that links rubies to four life cycle events—the birth of a baby girl, 20th and 60th birthdays, and 40th wedding anniversaries. The campaign slogans include (in free translation): “Ruby…wholehearted my love” and “My wishes inspired into a ruby.”

The campaign managers are asserting tight control over the rubies to be spotlighted. Stones selected for the promotion must weigh between 50 points and 0.5 cts. and must answer to a number of quality criteria. Under the current agreement the Japanese members buy their rubies from associate members in Thailand, paying a 7 percent surcharge which goes back to Japan for the campaign.

After purchase, the stones are sent by the campaign’s Thai committee president, Chavalit Salwala, who is also an ICA member and president of Thai Lapidary International, to the Gemological Institute of Thailand. There they receive an identification report and are laser-inscribed with the JCP logo. All stones sold through the JCP are also accompanied by a “Guarantee Card” issued by the campaign steering committee. Once the stones are furnished with all the requisite documents, the Japanese members sell them to associate members, who set them in jewelry which they may only sell to department stores, chain stores and retailers that have agreed to participate in the program.

Takada said that more than 300 retail stores are expected to register. These retail participants will receive display sets, stands, props, posters and special price tags for the rubies. To ensure wide exposure, the JCP will also advertise in two leading Japanese women’s magazines between October and December.

Salwala reported that since its July launch, the campaign has only generated about $1 million in ruby sales and he expects that after the Sept. 1-3 Japan Jewellery Fair (JJF), where the JCP will have its own exhibit, ruby sales will begin an incremental growth, to reach around $8 million by September 2006.