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Nov. 2001

In spite of melancholy economic indicators, De Beers is offering a glimmer of hope to the diamond and jewelry industries.

In agreement with many jewelers across the country, the industry’s leading diamond producer is hoping that the surge in sentimentality and emotional connections following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will lend a reprieve to the market. In particular, De Beers is anticipating a continued trend in engagements. “Since the 11th of September, engagements in America have shot up enormously, particularly close to military bases,” said Gary Ralfe, managing director of De Beers. “It is rather as though in those troubled times immediately after Sept. 11, and which will still go on, that people should make the great declaration and commitment that engagements stand for.”

Other industry groups, including the World Gold Council, are hoping that jewelry’s inherent romance aspect will play a role in an otherwise bleak holiday for most luxury goods retailers around the world.

Ralfe stresses that consumers must be reminded–in the most sensitive way possible–that diamonds are the ultimate gift of love. As a result, De Beers plans to launch a strong advertising campaign in the fourth quarter–when about 40 percent of annual diamond sales are made.

Further bolstering hope for the diamond engagement ring business is a report by Reuters that Americans are looking for love. Dating services report marked increases in business since Sept. 11.

While many retailers across the country are reporting a upswing in business since the events that virtually stifled retail for several weeks, others are taking no chances and wooing customers back with sale incentives. A Mississippi jeweler, for example, offered a 50% off sale for nearly all merchandise in the store. It was a first for the store, and represented an effort to show consumers “that it is okay to be an active consumer,” an advertisement read. “Show our strength and your mighty will and let’s get America back into the throws of being prosperous and the envy of the world,” proclaimed Lenoir Jewellers in Clinton, Miss. The jeweler echoed the voices of not only jewelry industry, but also political leaders across the country. Neiman Marcus, for example, went ahead with its festive annual Christmas Book, promoting such items as black and white diamond drop earrings, along with diamond and ruby fashions.

While there are hopes for jewelry sales, the dour news about luxury products dampers optimism. According to the New York Times, sales of luxury products are down across the board for the first time in a decade. And, while the wealthy continue to spend, “they are shying away from ostentatious purchases,” buying more for their homes and families.

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