JCK Special Report: Diamond Displays Get Creative

"The old way of displaying diamonds is gone," says Shane Decker, president of Ex-Sell-Ence. Gone are the days of linear, symmetrical displays of diamonds and diamond jewelry that blend a store’s best and brightest with the rest of the inventory.

In recent years, jewelers have been taking the advice of sales professionals, visual merchandising experts, interior design gurus, and lighting luminaries and are even devising their own ways to improve diamond display. Following are some prime examples.

The inventor. Loose diamonds have always been the focus for John Sabet, owner of Charles Alexander Diamond Importer, City, State. For years Sabet and his staff shuttled goods back and forth from the diamond safe to the counter during a sales presentation. Add the time needed to rummage through inventory, and staff were "wasting 15 minutes with each sales presentation," says Sabet.

When Sabet moved into his 16,000-square-foot upscale store in 2005, he wanted everything custom-made, including the museum-style cases that would be five inches higher than average for easier viewing of diamonds. Sabet further customized the display with his own invention, a gemstone grip running down the center of a small column covered in cream-color ultrasuede that fits in a display riser. The grip can be separated from the display column to give customers a convenient way to view all sides of a diamond.

From conception to final production, Sabet made 15 different mock-ups until he arrived at a workable model. After seven months of tinkering, a custom display team Sabet works with produced the diamond holders that now make up his loose diamond display.

Sabet also fiddled with the number of diamonds he wanted to display. Stones ranged in size from 1.00 ct. to important stones weighing 6.00 to 7.00 cts. Sabet started with 120 loose diamonds and pared that to 50, a not inconsiderable number but small enough to avoid sensory overload.

"People rarely have the chance to see such a selection of loose diamonds in so many sizes, shapes, and color," says Sabet. "It’s the first case people go to when they walk through the front door."

Mural magic. In the late 1990s, when Rockefeller Center built a new entrance to its then-new observation deck, Louis Martin Jewelers had to move a few doors down. The jeweler got a better spot in the Center and with it the opportunity to make some changes.

When interior designers GRID 3 International took on the job of creating the new store, a key element of their concept was a large mural showing a diamond’s journey from mine to market.

The showroom’s diamond counter is dead-center of a 4-foot by 50-foot art deco-inspired mural. "Customers really like it," says store owner Louis Martin. "They often say how interesting it is and how they like the continuity of the design."

After considering several options, Martin and GRID 3 decided on a mural design in a sepia tone and style compatible with Rockefeller Center’s art deco look, which has defined the buildings since John D. Rockefeller Jr. leased the space from Columbia University in 1928 and began developing it in 1930.

When asked if the mural helps sell more diamonds, Martin said: "For us it adds to the overall atmosphere of the store and communicates to customers they’re in the right place to buy a diamond and that we’re serious jewelers."

Price points. When discussing De Beers’ 48 retail outlets throughout the world, Hamida Belkadi, CEO of De Beers Diamond Jewellers U.S., uses words such as transparency, modern, and accessible. They describe not only the store’s interior design but also its point-of-purchase pricing. That’s right. In an opulent, contemporary retail setting where many might think money is no object, prices are the main subject in the store’s diamond displays.

De Beers Display

"More and more retail jewelry stores are listing jewelry by prices," says Belkadi. But there’s more to it than just keeping current with retail trends.

"We want people to shop for a piece of [diamond] jewelry much like a woman shops for a couture dress," says Belkadi. "With prices listed, customers can choose pieces they know they can afford."

Listing prices is done with the refinement one would expect from De Beers. For larger, more expensive pieces, a clear-window display tag usually has the name of the piece or the collection it belongs to. For smaller pieces set with fewer diamonds there’s a range of retail prices and a range of carat weights.

Another feature common to De Beers’ diamond displays is the fiber-optic LED lights inside the cases. Contemporary high-tech lighting has been transferred from the square and rectangular display cases to curved cases in glossy black that define De Beers’ new concept. "It has a softer, more feminine look," says Belkadi.

Color coordinated. Miner’s North is a store in the small town of Traverse City, Mich. Given the town’s small population of 19,000, the store’s co-owner, Wayne Guntzviller, doesn’t worry about security when displaying 30 to 40 loose stones.

But don’t let the town’s small size fool you. Traverse City is a commerce hub in the local seven-county area and is a thriving tourist destination. To better serve a diverse group of customers, Guntzviller decided to color-code diamonds by shape, which also adds visual interest to streamlined display designs.

Each display card typically lists the diamond’s size, color, and clarity as well as its measurement. Prices are listed in the lower left corner.

Diamonds are placed in small, round gemstone holders fitted into plastic displays. All display cards have the store’s name in the upper-left corner. If the stone is from one of the store’s diamond vendors, which include Hearts On Fire, Cushette, and South African Diamonds, that company’s name is in the upper-right corner of the card.

The store has its own branding initiatives with Miner’s North Ultimate Diamond Ideal-cut diamonds. The Lakeshore collection is also unique to Miner’s North. The name started with jewelry set with Petoskey stone-the state rock of Michigan-and its popularity persuaded the store to use the Lakeshore name in other collections, including the diamonds.

Depending on the stone, display cards can also denote its gem lab credentials, a SKU number of whether the stone’s light performance has been measured using GemEx technology.

Educating consumers is also part of the store’s diamond display. Lucite representations of diamonds in various stages of production demonstrate how a diamond is transformed from a piece of rough to a polished and faceted gemstone.

Vaulted dealings. Shreve, Crump and Low’s Boston store sells high-end goods of unparalleled quality. Recent examples include a 6.00 ct. pink diamond and a 15.00 ct. canary yellow diamond. To keep expensive diamond jewelry and important loose stones secure, Shreve, Crump and Low’s owner David Walker created a walk-in vault, an idea that came to Walker over 30 years ago.

The vault, 12 feet by 25 feet, isn’t a cold, uninviting place like a bank’s safe deposit room. Paneled in dark mahogany, the walk-in vault has a warmth and richness that matches the rest of the store.

When customers enter they’re all "very impressed," says Walker. "It takes buyers into a whole different environment where what they are seeing becomes so much more important."

The vault took six months to create and opened for business in 2005, part of a store redesign.

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Diamond Lighting Solutions From Kate Peterson

As lighting technology advances, retailers are combining different types of lighting, for example, LED or fiber-optic for diamonds displayed in the case, with ceramic metal halide lights above.

Lighting experts agree that CMH lights provide the best illumination for diamonds. A 70-watt CMH bulb with a color rendering index of 90 or more and a temperature of 4,000K to 4,200K, is ideal for diamonds.

CMH lighting fixtures should be less than 5 feet above cases, with space fixtures approximately every 3 to 4 feet. Higher ceilings require either more fixtures or closer spacing. Suspend fixtures as "pendants" to bring light closer to the diamonds.

Kate Peterson is president and CEO of Performance Concepts.

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Diamond Display Solutions from Shane Decker

Shane Decker

Shane Decker says jewelers should remember that women prefer to try on finished jewelry whereas men like loose stones.

Segregate diamond jewelry by categories so goods don’t become a blur of shining objects under glass. "In a car lot you don’t see the old used cars next to the new ones, do you?" says Decker. Separate Ideal-cut diamonds, colored diamonds, and fancy shapes from round brilliants. Of the fancies, give princess cuts prime placement because square cuts are popular with diamond customers.

For jewelers with sit-down diamond display cases, Decker encourages retailers to serve beverages or snacks to make the selling environment feel like home. "When customers sit down at your diamond display, the closing ratio goes up 50 percent," he says.

Don’t put a diamond display in the front. Place it in a quiet corner away from high-traffic spots like a repair take-in counter or customer lounge. Diamond customers like their privacy and don’t want interruptions.

And avoid using gem tweezers.

Shane Decker is president of Ex-Sell-Ence.