De Beers opened its first store in New York, on Fifth Avenue at the St. Regis Hotel. But despite some Hollywood glitz — among the people there were Lindsay Lohan, Teri Hatcher and Paris Hilton’s mother — a $1 million party before the opening, and full-page ads in the New York Times and other magazines, the store seems to have made surprisingly little noise. We saw only some very small articles about it in the local press.
Most of the articles seem to be about the protest across the street. A group named Survival International that claims the eviction of the Gan and Gwi bushmen by the Botswana government are linked to diamond mining, shouted “shame on you” and “cultural genocide” at opening attendees. Feminist Gloria Steinem was on the picket line, and she called the store “another step in the exploitation of the U.S. market.” When Lohan was asked about the protesters, she said, “I don’t get involved in drama.”
The lack of media attention is more surprising considering the store was displaying the Millennium Star — a 203-carat flawless stone. When Cartier many years back displayed the Taylor-Burton diamond, there were lines around the block. Obviously, Elizabeth Taylor’s brand goes a little farther than De Beers.
We visited the store recently. It’s a very impressive posh structure in a nice location. It almost looks like a museum. It is more traditional than the London store.
But our favorite part of the trip was when we talked to the guard, an imposing young fellow wearing earrings with what looked to be a two-carat stone. We asked if the earrings were a real diamond. He said, “Of course.” It never hurts to have your people wear the product.