Tiffany to open retail jewelry stores focused on pearls

Tiffany & Co., New York, has appointed Robert L. Cepek as president of a new retail jewelry venture that will debut later this year. The venture will operate under the trade name IRIDESSE and will operate retail jewelry stores focused exclusively on pearls and pearl jewelry.

Cepek, 49, is a 10-year veteran of Tiffany & Co. with 28 years of jewelry industry experience. He recently held the position of vice president and general manager of Tiffany’s New York Flagship store.

“We believe there is an important opportunity to present pearls and pearl jewelry in an innovative, exciting new retail format,” Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Through IRIDESSE, we hope to establish a position of authority and merchandising leadership in this fragmented, underdeveloped jewelry category.”

IRIDESSE stores will showcase a comprehensive range of pearl types, including South Sea, Tahitian, Akoya, and Freshwater, the New York-based company said. Pearls being sold will include classic styling of the traditional pearl strand and the creative use of the enormous variety of pearl shapes and colors in everyday/casual pearl jewelry collections. Approximate price points will range from slightly under $100 to $40,000.

Two IRIDESSE stores are expected to open in fall 2004. The first will be at the Tysons Galleria Mall in McLean, Virginia, and will be approximately 1,300 square feet. Details of the second store will be announced when the lease is finalized. Four additional IRIDESSE stores are being planned to open in 2005.

The name IRIDESSE was inspired by the iridescent play of colors and light on the surface of a pearl, the company said. Translucent and iridescent materials will reflect and refract light to highlight and showcase the natural beauty of pearls.

“We believe the IRIDESSE concept provides an excellent opportunity to leverage and deploy Tiffany’s highly efficient operational infrastructure against the unrealized potential of the pearl jewelry market,” Kowalski said, adding that the company expects of open at least 20 stores within five years.

These stores will not carry TIFFANY & CO. jewelry. IRIDESSE is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Tiffany & Co.