IJO launches Web site to link consumers with jewelers

The Independent Jewelers Organization, a trade group representing more than 800 jewelers, recently introduced IJODiamonds.com, where consumers can select diamonds and have them delivered to a local store for a personal inspection before any money changes hands.

The Independent Jewelers say that the initiative is aimed squarely at BlueNile.com and other online diamond dealers that have taken about 4 percent of their sales in recent years, told The New York Times reports.

IJO says its Web site helps local merchants compete more effectively on price by offering consumers a selection of diamonds not from that local store, but directly from hundreds of diamond wholesalers. The wholesalers list the diamonds on the site, and when a customer selects one, the stone is shipped to a local jeweler so the customer can examine it before taking it home. If the customer likes it, the store shares an undisclosed portion of the selling price with the wholesaler. If not, the customer pays nothing and the stone goes back to the wholesaler.

While IJODiamonds.com will ship directly to consumers, it discourages the practice. The site’s home page advises customers: “Never consider buying a diamond without seeing it first.”

The organization told the Times that it is spending $100,000 to market the site’s debut, but the campaign does not include advertisements on search engines. Rather, the group plans to rely on retailers to market the site in their own ads, with the organization providing some in-store marketing materials.

According to Forrester Research, people bought $3.4 billion worth of jewelry online last year and will spend $4 billion this year. Offline, the growth is but a fraction of that amount.