The Latest from the DTC and the Forevermark

I’ve heard considerable head-scratching about the DTC’s latest announcement – that the Forevermark, its “promise that your diamond is special,” is going to be available for use for both sightholders and non-sightholders alike (as long as the diamonds comply with the criteria, of course). Here is what the always-gracious Lynette Gould, De Beers spokeswoman, has to say:


On Monday, Francois Delage, CEO of De Beers Group Marketing, sent a letter to all DTC Sightholders to advise them that, in future, participation in the FOREVERMARK will be open to all eligible diamantaires, and not just DTC Sightholders.  Details of the eligibility criteria, and how to apply to become a Forevermark Diamantaire, will be communicated by De Beers Group Marketing during the first quarter of 2008.  This means that existing DTC Sightholders, through their continuing compliance with the De Beers Best Practice Principles, will certainly meet one of the fundamental criteria to be a FOREVERMARK diamantaire …


Doesn’t this undercut the Forevermark as something which adds value to DTC clients?


[J]ust because the FOREVERMARK is potentially available to a wider selection of diamantaires, and on a wider range of diamonds, it doesn’t necessarily undermine the value addition of the FOREVERMARK proposition. We are confident that the proposition of the FOREVERMARK will add value for all participants.   The changes that we have signalled this week will improve the FOREVERMARK proposition for participants because of the greater flexibility in terms of supplying FOREVERMARK product. 


Will it be available in the U.S. anytime soon?


No, it’s business as usual in the US.


Thank you, Lynette. Now here are my thoughts:


First off, I am still hearing mixed reports about the Forevermark. Now granted, I’ve long been a skeptic. Apparently, there are still logistical issues, though those may fade as they open more marking centers. And there are certainly reports of people doing well with it. De Beers was smart to launch it in brand-crazy Hong Kong. Obviously, anything that increases consumer confidence is good. De Beers has smart marketers, and if they put enough muscle behind something, you can’t bet against it. But does it provide any more reassurance than, say, a lab report? And can it command a premium? From what I hear, it doesn’t always.  


As for making it available to non-sightholders, it does seem to contradict what I’ve long considered its purpose, which is to provide something value added for its own clients (sightholders are, of course, still being charged for value-added services.)  Some are speculating this is a legal maneuver – if De Beers offers the same services to both sightholders and non-sightholders, it may soften the blow for clients that lose their sights on Monday. And if you read Varda Shine’s commentary on Idex today the way I do, there may be quite a few clients losing their sights Monday.   


Speaking of which, maybe I’m projecting a bit, but doesn’t it seem like that De Beers executives are just as stressed out about this selection-process -slash- beauty-contest -slash- reality-show-elimination-round as their clients are? Forget about putting sightholders through this every three years. Why are they doing this to themselves?

UPDATE (12/13): Chaim picks up the story today, and wonders about potential anti-trust issues. Of course, that depends on the Forevermark being a success ….

JCK News Director