Amazon.com Enters the Jewelry Business

Amazon.com—which in recent years has branched out from its bookselling business to sell other products, including apparel, sporting goods, and gourmet food—has launched a jewelry store Web portal.

The site (www.amazon.com/jewelry) opened April 22 to great fanfare by the Seattle-based company. In fact, the company’s home page was dedicated to advertising the new site. The launch was timed to coincide with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and graduation celebrations, says Eric Broussard, vice president of the Amazon.com Jewelry Store.

The company released a statement saying it plans to be a “single shopping destination for consumers, committed to offering low prices on a large selection of high-quality rings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings, and watches.” It has more than 75,000 “unique items” on the site, ranging from blue topaz earrings for $15 to a platinum, radiant-cut diamond necklace totaling 31.74 cts. for $93,000.

The company says it will charge margins of about 13% for its jewelry, which it says is far less than at retail jewelry stores. Amazon.com says it can do this because it doesn’t have the overhead that jewelers typically have. “Amazon.com doesn’t incur costs such as store rental, salespeople, or display cases, so our markups on jewelry can be dramatically lower than the industry average,” Broussard says.

The company will hold a substantial amount of inventory at a secure site and ship jewelry from the warehouse. “I can’t give you a specific number, but I can tell you that Amazon.com owns millions of dollars in jewelry inventory,” Broussard says. “We tend to keep the higher velocity items in 24-hour availability stock.”

The company also has relationships with retailers and designers, including Fortunoff, Ross-Simon, Mondera, Caroline Ballou, Lois Hill, and Zoppini. “Amazon.com is responsible for fulfilling orders from its own inventory, while merchants handle fulfillment for their inventory,” Broussard says. “Each merchant also provides customer service related to returns, product specifications, and fulfillment for their own products.”

To ensure that it’s offering the lowest price, Amazon.com is including a feature that it says will make it easy for customers to inform the company if they find a lower price on a comparable product from another reputable seller. If a lower price is verified, Amazon.com will reduce its price on the Web site for all customers.

Amazon.com has hired a staff of gemologists and other jewelry experts to inspect its jewelry. In addition, many of its diamonds and gemstones will come with grading reports and other inspection criteria.

The site also will offer a “Create a Diamond Ring” feature to help customers find a diamond engagement ring based on their choices of diamond shape, carat weight, color, clarity, and setting style. A Learning Center provides buying guides for pearls, diamonds, precious metals, and watches.