Jewelers Market America the Bountiful



Whether it’s made in New York City, Beverly Hills, or small-town America, jewelry with a domestic pedigree is earning praise—and premium pricing—from consumers (even the Chinese!)

Driven by patriotism, a quest for quality, and a campaign courtesy of the Obama administration, consumers are elevating American-made goods to most coveted status. That fact is not lost on jewelers, many of whom—seeing the value of touting “Made in the USA” to shoppers—are finding unique ways to communicate the message.

The American-made movement is not only altruistic, but also savvy business backed up by hard numbers. In a study by the ­Boston Consulting Group released Nov. 15, 80 percent of U.S. ­consumers and, surprisingly, 60 percent of Chinese consumers said they were willing to pay more for Made in the USA products than for those marked “Made in China.” Quality is the main driver; 85 percent of U.S. consumers in the United States and 82 percent of those in China said they believe American-made products have higher quality. In the United States, shoppers say they will pay between a 10 and 60 percent premium for American-made.

Photograph by Michael Dote
Mander Jewelry Classic Collection men’s Jefe ring in blackened 18k white gold with 1.5 cts. t.w. black diamonds; $5,790

“There’s a big opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to command a price premium by promoting the ‘Made in USA’ brand—not only in the U.S. but in China,” said study coauthor Harold L. Sirkin, a BCG senior partner and managing director, at the time of its release. “Retailers may want to adjust their strategies.”

By all accounts, that’s already happening. Karen Giberson, president of the Accessories Council, has seen a shift just within the past few months. “We’ve met individually with countless retailers and found that last year they were willing to pick up product that just looked great. They didn’t care where it was made,” she says. “In 2013, they’re proactively looking for product that’s made in the U.S.”

Photograph by Michael Dote
Mander Jewelry Classic Collection women’s Midtown ring in blackened 18k white gold with 0.45 ct. t.w. colorless diamonds; $1,895

The Accessories Council has been actively championing the cause. Last year, the nonprofit advocacy organization launched a program called USAMade with the goal of reviving the domestic jewelry manufacturing industry, creating new jobs, and supporting American-produced brands. New York jewelers such as Colette Malouf, Angels & Emeralds, Crowe, and sponsor Swarovski ­Elements all are participating in the Accessories Council’s effort.

Many other jewelers are doing it on their own—in some cases, in campaigns that tout a beloved metropolis. In fall 2011, for example, David Yurman portrayed his collection as inextricably linked to the Big Apple—where the designer was born, raised, and still lives—in an ad campaign titled “Born in New York. Designed in New York. Loved in New York.”

Photograph by Michael Dote
Silhouette Vintage-Inspired Pendant Necklace with pink sapphires and white diamonds in 14k rose and white gold; $3,500; Barbie Rocks, Beverly Hills, Calif.; 310-278-4944; alandiamonds.com

Jewelry designer Alex Woo went one step further recently by overhauling her brand logo to include the phrase Made in New York, which is now located beneath her name. “New York is an essential and important part of my jewelry and makes it special and differentiates it,” Woo says. “It’s even in a font called Goth, an American-designed font that was used in Obama’s [presidential] campaign.”

Inscribed on a seal that introduces this Manhattan jeweler’s website: “Me&Ro: 100% made in New York City.” It’s also the first line on the company’s About page. Robin Renzi, designer and CEO, says she uses the message as a marketing tool every chance she gets. “I believe New York City attracts the best and the brightest, so I think the care and quality that goes into our jewelry is a direct result of the workforce we’ve been able to tap,” she says. “And by being able to oversee and control every facet of the company in my ‘backyard’ unquestionably translates to the quality of our products.”

Photograph by Michael Dote
Silver Baroque cherub cuff with 75 ct. faceted amazonite and emerald accent; $2,550; Angels & Emeralds, NYC; 917-324-4777; angelsandemeralds.com

Jewelers across the country are jumping on the American-made bandwagon as well. Alan Friedman, owner of Alan Friedman Beverly Hills Jewelry, has a long history of sourcing goods abroad, both in Europe and in China, but his current priority is manufacturing at home. “I’m deeply patriotic,” he says. “We do a ton of [‘Made in the USA’ promotions]. One of the most recent is a ­partnership with America’s favorite style icon, Barbie, for a line of fine jewelry.” And this isn’t kids’ stuff: The Barbie Rocks by Layna and Alan Friedman line includes, for example, diamond and sterling necklaces featuring a Barbie silhouette ($595) and a 29 ct. blue topaz diamond-and-gold set Princess pendant ($2,495).

“If you really study America’s strengths, you can explain to your customer the technical aspect of why [producing in America] makes sense with a particular product,” Friedman says.

Competing with brands that can offer consumers lower prices by sourcing offshore does not seem to be a concern for jewelers who’ve decided to keep production on domestic soil. Woo believes higher control over the quality, better communication, and better execution over the final product offsets any savings she’d gain in lower labor costs. “The amount of fixing, time, headaches, traveling—I don’t know how much you are saving while keeping the integrity of the product,” she says. What’s more, Woo believes it’s becoming important to Americans to know exactly where and how a piece was made. “There’s a ­conscious effort in the way people buy,” she says, noting consumers appreciate that she uses 100 percent recycled metals from American refineries, makes the pieces by hand, and distributes them from her own workshop.

Photograph by Michael Dote
Scratch-finish Flying Octopus earrings in rose gold vermeil; $286; Crowe, NYC; 504-451-8289; crowejewelry.com

Theodore Mander, CEO and creative director of New York City–based Mander Jewelry, emphasizes to customers that the line is made in the United States by skilled craftspeople in socially conscious and regulated environments. He has noticed that people feel better about a purchase if they think it does some good. Shoppers can have, he says, a “sense of patriotism and support local businesses through a rough economic time.”

Whatever the reasons jewelers give for keeping production at home, they’re ahead of a larger trend. BCG claims that the United States is becoming increasingly attractive for production by improving its cost-competitiveness at the same time that China’s labor and shipping costs are rising. That, combined with consumers’ willingness to spend more on American-made goods, has provided a good incentive for American businesses to move their manufacturing facilities back home. As a result, a significant amount of production already has “reshored”—from China, in particular. The momentum could add 2.5 million to 5 million new domestic jobs by the end of the decade, according to BCG.

“I think the great American company is aspirational and inspirational and I sell all over the world,” says Renzi. “But for me, there’s no place like home.”