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Diamonds forever

Cutters have long experimented with the form of the diamond, and so it is not unusual that the most treasured of gems is again experiencing reinvention. CARLA CARUSO reports.

The diamond did not require the assistance of De Beers and its marketing arm, the Diamond Trading Company, to elevate its status to the top of the gemmological tree. Nor did the public need to be told that a diamond was "forever" to be able to notice and appreciate the splendidness of its overwhelmingly superior attributes. Such "features and benefits" have always been apparent, and even entirely obvious. But, like most things in life, even diamonds need to continue to be reinvented and marketed to hold the gaze of the consumer. And, a ring of diamond jewellery suppliers and retailers nationwide are working hard to do that.

Various styles, designs, fashion modes and combinations are being used to keep the stone relevant for today's consumer. And, it appears to be working. Forever in style doesn't have to mean forever the same.

One such trend is that of micropavé, which has grown more popular due to advances in technology and can be best described as the highly precise setting of very small diamonds using a microscope to create a honeycomb-like pattern.

Tiny diamonds are set into the metal and many tiny prongs formed in the prototype or wax to create the look. This is unlike pavé, where holes are drilled into the metal and prongs formed by hand.

Robin Sobel, the director of Sydney jewellery supplier Protea Diamonds, says micropavé on a ring, for example, could be made up of 50 tiny stones, but not weigh more than three-quarters of a carat in total - an extravagant look without the price-tag. "We are already selling 60 per cent of our products this way," Sobel says. "It's a totally different look - you get a much nicer spread and it's more durable. We have been getting a great response."

Protea is using micropavé on rings, bangles, bracelets and earrings. Also new for the brand known for Temptation by Protea - a mid to upmarket line - is to team diamonds with tanzanite. "It's going to be the next sapphire," Sobel says of the blue stone.

Another Sydney jewellery supplier thinking outside the square is Miller Diamonds, which launched its new jewellery line at the Sydney fair. The Gebrüder Schaffrath range secures solitaires beneath a bridge of metal that runs across the top of the ring, holding the stone in place while, equally, "setting it free", according to Miller Diamonds director Lonn Miller.

"The diamond is not attached to the ring; it moves around. It is a revolutionary design created to make the diamond sparkle even more than usual."

As well, while diamonds have been traditionally linked with the wedding trade in Australia, Miller says today's consumers are also looking for dress items: "Fashion jewellery, such as a pair of diamond earrings or a special diamond pendant, has gained ground over the years and it continues to show increasing strength from season to season," Miller adds.

Shahil Joshi, director of Sydney diamond and jewellery supplier Diasqua, agrees: "We do a lot of commercial jewellery for day-to-day wear. Seventy per cent of what we do is with white gold; 20 per cent with yellow gold."

Damien Bulian, the operations manager for Sydney supplier Jewelex, also says there is a demand for day-to-day and after-five pieces: "Initial pendants have been selling really well and we've also added a collection of 'inside/outside' diamond hoops from one to six carats."

Other popular items for the brand include channel-set eternity bands and earrings - particularly huggies from .15-carat to .5-carat - and earrings and pendants with floating diamond settings.

As for cuts, Melbourne wholesaler Metro Diamonds says round-brilliant remains the favourite, but princess and cushion cuts are selling strongly - the latter a close substitute for Tiffany and Co.'s trademarked Lucida cut that's a little easier on the purse. Bulian says emerald cuts are also in demand, while Metro Diamonds believes the market wants high quality fancy-colours: "There are better qualities being asked for, but there's a shortage of supply," said a Metro spokesperson.

This is particularly the case for champagne diamonds - stocks of the once-common stones are running low and consumers in Asia and the Middle East are generally the only ones willing to pay the high prices for them.

Sobel says pink diamonds continue to have a rosy outlook, but says: "Everybody loves pink diamonds, until they get the price - they're generally about 20 times more expensive than the white diamonds."

Miller agrees colour is turning heads, particularly overseas. "Outrageous combinations of bright colours, like orange, are all the rage in Europe at the moment, but we don't think this will filter through to Australia for some time yet."

One retailer who is giving colour a go is Sydney jeweller Venerari, according to owner Kingsley Wallman. "We specialise in coloured Australian gems, so we've been using natural coloured diamonds - either alone or mixed with other gems - in many of our designs. Like most jewellers, we always find the pinks are popular, but other less valuable or more unusual colours also work well, such as green, yellow, blue, black or cognac."

As is the case for any product, reinvention is the key to remaining fresh in the marketplace - as it is for diamonds.

And, enticing Australian consumers to be more adventurous will only help to nudge the gemstone from the traditional wedding market into more regular everyday use.

Image Gallery (5 Images)

Carla Caruso • Journalist
Carla Caruso has been a jewellery junkie for as long as she can remember, has covered the Vicenza gold fair in Italy and one day hopes to pen a novel about all that glitters. She has been a freelance contributor to Jeweller since 2005.
SAMS Group Australia

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