Casta-Way: Diamond.com Forced to Cover Up Billboard

A racy billboard from Web site diamond.com recently proved too much even for New Yorkers.

The ad featured a shot of the site’s spokesmodel, France’s Laetitia Casta, clad in nothing more than gems. But publications such as Architectural Digest and The New York Times magazine refused to run the ad until computer-enhanced strands were added to make Casta’s image more discreet. Even with the changes, NASDAQ has refused to run the ad on its Times Square billboard, and the ad has been declined at other locations in New York as well as in Los Angeles and Miami.

“They just thought it was too provocative,” says Nicolas Topiol, the company’s chief strategy officer. “They thought it would create traffic jams [and] other accidents.”

In related news, in spite of the woes in the dot-com sector, diamond.com-owned by Israeli sightholder R. Steinmetz-keeps getting more money from venture capitalists. The company recently received $12 million in funding.

Topiol notes that the Web site-formerly known as diamonddepot.com and odimo.com-currently gets one million unique visitors a month, though he declined to reveal sales figures. He says the company’s decision to go with a “generic” Web name seems to have paid off. “It was against the wave of the time, because then most Web site names didn’t mean much,” he says. “But we realized that ‘odimo’ would take us millions of dollars to promote.”

Recently, there were rumors that diamond.com had bought space in New York for a retail store. Topiol confirms that the company is thinking about it but says nothing final has been decided.

Nevertheless, the company seems to be one of the most active dot-coms. It’s signed a deal to become an anchor tenant at wedding portal knot.com, replacing the previous tenant, jewelry Web site mondera.com. And it’s added an “instant chat” feature, intended to replicate the advice one gets in the jewelry store. Finally, Topiol says, diamond.com has settled its dispute with price sheet publisher Martin Rapaport, owner of the sound-alike domain diamonds.com.