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Feb. 2004

Recently, the Diamond Registry Bulletin visited De Beers headquarters in London and had some fascinating conversations—and even a bit of a debate—with De Beers executives. More about that next issue. For now, we’d like to tell you about our visit to the De Beers retail store in London.

The store is meant as the flagship for the De Beers retail chain.

The store so far hasn’t done that well — in fact, an executive said that sales were “dreadful” during the war in Iraq, but that things had recently picked up.

The store is certainly beautiful and in a fantastic location, on Old Bond Street, where there are several other jewelers. When we visited, the store was mostly empty, although to be fair that could be because we came at 11:00 in the morning, not a prime jewelry shopping hour.

The store goes for a modern, trendy look. Unlike most high-end jewelers, it is not stuffy. The jewelry is modern as well. While most of it is nice, some of it — like a giant pear-shaped stone — seems to be meant more for models, like its spokeswoman Iman, than the general public. Some of the pieces also use unusual material such as leather.

The prices run the gamut from about $700 upwards. For the most part, it is too upscale to be competition for the average mom and pop jeweler. It’s clearly aiming at big names like Tiffany. In fact, it has its own brown version of the Tiffany “black box.’

The store is not shy about displaying the De Beers name — nowhere is partner LVMH mentioned, except as part of the name (“De Beers LV Limited”). One brochure says that “De Beers is dedicated to diamonds … since 1888, De Beers has been the world’s leader in the discovery, evaluation and the selection of diamonds.”

Right now, there are three De Beers boutiques in Japan, as well as plans to open stores in New York and Beverly Hills sometime this year.

De Beers says that they are only 50% owner of the store, with LVMH managing day-to-day operations. To avoid anti-trust issues, they buy stones on the open market, though it has a policy of not buying exclusively from sightholders.

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