DESIGNER ENGAGEMENT RINGS

HOW DESIGNER BRANDS OPERATE

 

Authorized Resellers

The business model of most top designers is to distribute their product through a network of authorized resellers. The top designers have strict requirements for the retailers who are representing them. To qualify to carry a top brand a retailer must meet certain criteria for financial strength, credit worthiness, and normally must place a substantial opening order and maintain a healthy sales volume over time. The retailer must have a strong reputation for customer service and a suitable physical location where customers can see the line. Retailers are also often required to participate in certain advertising campaigns to help drive new business. (Retailers are also usually given allowances in the form of credits for other advertising they might do related specifically to the brand).

 

Territories

Most designers have exclusive territorial agreements with their retail partners. Depending on many demographic factors the geographical territories can be fairly large in more rural areas, or they might be quite small in the case of high density urban areas. Typically there will not be more than one authorized reseller in a given geographical area but with the rise of e-commerce these lines are not quite as distinct today. Until relatively recently, the top designers have heavily favored traditional brick and mortar jewelers for the presentation and customer experience that they are able to bring to the brand. But the rapid growth of e-commerce has created a convergence where companies working primarily in the internet channel are setting up stores and traditional brick and mortar companies are going online.

 

Pricing

High-end designer jewelry can be expected to cost a premium over generic. The top designers are rigorous in enforcing pricing discipline among their re-sellers. In order to protect the value of their brand, they seek to prevent discounting. Each brand has different policies and some are more rigorous in enforcing uniform pricing than others. But in general you can expect to pay roughly the same price no matter which authorized reseller you deal with. The consumer is therefore free to choose a reseller based upon which one is more convenient or comfortable to deal with.

 

Service

Most designers have all of their operations under one roof including production, logistics, and administration. This promotes efficiency and quality control.

Service after the sale (repairs, sizing) is usually conducted at the factory, requiring the piece to be shipped to the designer. This is done to ensure the integrity of the product after servicing and to protect the brand. In some cases the retailer is authorized by the designer to do certain types of work in order to avoid delays and shipping costs.

An advantage of choosing a designer brand is the assurance that no matter where you go, you will be able to get service from jewelers qualified to restore the piece to original condition. This is especially important with jewelry that has intricate design elements or diamond setting techniques such as micro pavé that require a high level of expertise.

 

Warranties

Most designers provide warranties that will cover many different contingencies including repairs and resizing. These policies differ among the different designers, but in general they tend to be liberal in applying their policies in order to maintain their brand reputation and to assist their retail partners in maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction. Many require a product registration in order to be eligible for benefits, and most have limitations and exclusions.

 

Other Benefits

Some other benefits that might be found with designer brands are trade-up benefits, guarantee of service, and lifetime free sizing. Purchasing a designer brand can also add lasting value to the piece as the designer name becomes part of the provenance of the piece and represents an element of value in addition to the value of the precious metals and gemstones.

 

Designer Brand or Custom?

If you want something very unique there is sometimes a choice between a designer piece and having something made from scratch. The first thing to consider is warranties and other benefits that might be available on the designer item. In addition, the ability to know exactly what the designer piece will look like takes some of the uncertainty out of the custom process. It should also be pointed out that many of the designers will do customization of their designs and even complete custom build. This is something to explore if you want something very special but do not want to give up the benefits of the designer brand.

 

Copyright Enforcement

Many times customers like everything about a designer piece except the price! And many local jewelers are willing to copy trademarked designer pieces at lower prices, even though it is illegal and unethical to do so. It should be a red flag to any buyer that a jeweler willing to steal copyrighted material may not be trustworthy in other ways. Furthermore, the quality of the materials and workmanship may not be the same, and the benefits of owning the authentic branded piece will be sacrificed.

 

Turn around Times

Generally speaking if you are lucky and your exact item is in the jeweler’s stock you can expect delivery within a week or two. That means correct metal, center stone and finger size. Special orders will typically range anywhere from a couple of weeks to 6 weeks or more.

 

MEET THE DESIGNERS

 

Simon G.

Simon G. features perhaps the broadest collection of fine jewelry of any of the leading brands. Superb styling and impeccable craftsmanship are the hallmarks of this designer throughout both their bridal and fashion lines. While engagement rings and wedding bands are the focus, Simon G. has a multitude of exciting options to suit a wide range of occasions and tastes.

The namesake and inspiration behind Simon G. is Simon Ghanimian, a master jeweler who emigrated from Beirut to Los Angeles with his wife Silvia some thirty years ago. Beginning from scratch with nothing but talent, a strong work ethic and an optimistic and fun-loving attitude, Simon has become one of the most respected and admired designers in the country.

The extensive line includes tailored and classic styles, but always features leading edge artistic design as well. Presently Simon G. is putting special emphasis on rose gold, with many exciting new designs in this distinctive metal which is enjoying resurgence in popularity today. Their white gold alloy is made with palladium making the jewelry hypo-allergenic.

ROUND PROPRIETARY-CUTS

Round proprietary cuts give retailers an extra selling point, but how do they differ from branded generics? GARRY HOLLOWAY explains.

Approximately a third of all branded and proprietary-cut diamonds are round-shaped yet, while there are a few hundred round-shaped branded diamonds available, only a handful of those are marketed with promotional support here.

Round is such a popular shape for proprietary cuts: it can have the same pavilion and crown facets all around the stone, allowing for better cut-quality control; it is easy and inexpensive to brand simply by using a trademark name and it is easier to tool and cut than fancy shaped diamonds.

What are some examples of round proprietary cuts? Firstly, remember there is a difference between proprietary cuts and generic cuts with trademarked names. In last month’s column, proprietary cuts were defined as new variants – often patented – as opposed to pre-existing, generic cuts with trademarked names.

Tiffany & Co’s Lucida is a patented proprietary cut, while Hearts on Fire is an example of a generic branded cut. One of the first heavily promoted generic trademarked round diamonds in Australia was the BHP Aurias diamond.

Generic, branded cuts can be created with the same tools found in modern diamond manufacturing plants, while most proprietary cuts require new tools and techniques.

An exception to this is the Leo Diamond, a successful proprietary cut with eight additional facets on a standard 57-facet round. In theory, these facets could be added to any generic round diamond by any cutter – though one might be in breach of the patent in doing so.

The process of adding facets to round cuts is popular these days.

More facets create more small sparkles; but, many experts believe that cut rounds sparkle better than full cuts in small sizes, not everyone is attracted to diamonds that have more facets. At smaller sizes, it’s almost impossible for the eye to resolve the sparkles of all these additional facets. Most cuts with a lot of facets work better on large stones of three or more carats.

Also, remember that some cuts – such as the princess and radiant cuts – have fewer facets, yet they appear to have the crushed glass effect of many more small facets.

It is common for the vendors of new round cuts to claim higher light return, and this is often the case; however, brilliance is a function of light return and contrast.

An analogy is a chess board, which has only half the light return of white paper, but its greater contrast makes it appear brighter, especially when it moves. Extra facets often reduce the excellent contrast of a well-proportioned generic round brilliant.

 

SQUARE PROPRIETARY CUTS

Square proprietary cuts are popular with cutters because they have a very high yield from an octahedron rough. GARRY HOLLOWAY reports.

An octahedron crystal is sawn in half, so the crown of the larger stone is already in place, with a smaller stone polished from the remainder (see image 4, above). If the octahedron has all its corners intact, then two princess cuts can be polished, with the yield as high as 80 per cent. So a one-carat rough can yield as much as two 0.40-carat princess cuts with a total weight of 0.80-carats.

This explains why one-carat, square, fancy-shape diamonds cost around 30 per cent less than rounds, which typically have total yields of only 45 to 50 per cent.

If the octahedron has a few damaged points or inclusions in that area, then it is common to polish one or more diamonds with “cut corners”, like a radiant cut.

The octahedron is a common crystal habit for diamond. This shape is called a “sawable” because the stone is usually sawn into two stones, as opposed to a “makeable”, (a rough diamond that will be polished into a single stone). It can be sawn right on the edge into two equal halves, with the saw plane becoming the table of each diamond. (See image 4.)

Sometimes the saw blade is run just above half way, leaving the thickness of the crown height to make one diamond a little heavier.

As shown in the images of a rough diamond, this also helps explain why many cuts, and princess cuts in particular, tend to have very large tables. In fact, princess-cut tables are usually too large by 5 to 20 per cent more than the optimum. Sometimes the crown height is so low that it reduces optical performance.

The first square (and rectangular) outline diamonds to be cut were the step-cut family, where the facets run parallel to the outside edge. These include Carré (small square cuts), bagutte and emerald cuts. The next article in this series will cover that family.

The radiant cut article, featured in November 2008, discussed how the radiant cut (first patented in 1976) is one of the more recent diamond cuts and was the first rectangular or square cut to have a complete brilliant facet pattern applied to both the crown and pavilion. This cut presented more sparkle than the emerald step cut.

The princess cut article (March 2008) mentioned how this cut was designed as a square version of the round-brilliant cut, also known as a square modified-brilliant. The goal of its development was to achieve the weight retention of emerald step cuts when cutting from octahedral crystal rough, and the superior scintillation and -brilliance of the round-brilliant cut.

These are a princess cut’s selling points – a bigger carat weight, for less money and plenty of sparkle.

The Regent is a square, proprietary, hearts and arrows cut designed to show the same hearts and arrows patterns as round brilliant cuts (see images 2 and 3).

It is important to remember that the eight faces of an octahedra (four crystal plane directions because the opposite sides are parallel) are also the easiest cleavage direction and as such, all square cuts are prone to chipping from the girdle edges during setting. For that reason it is a good idea to suggest rings to clients that are insured. Slightly thick to thick girdles are less likely to chip. Chipping can also become an issue with sharp corners – 90 degree corners – such as the princess cut.

Buyers should also be aware of Fish-Eyes (girdle reflections). It is a good idea to have a comparison stone to compare these stones for brilliance, fire and scintillation.

Treasures and Talismans at the Cloisters, Puts Rings on a Pedestal

Why do people wear rings on their fingers? For personal adornment, of course, but as often as not because of the social meanings they bear and communicate. Perhaps the world’s oldest form of jewelry, rings symbolize love, betrothal and marriage. They represent the wearer’s status, group affiliation and ancestry. They express religious, superstitious and moral beliefs. They may be trophies, memorials and, as in the case of the signet ring, a device for sealing and authenticating letters and documents.

In its most basic form as a small hoop made of anything that can be turned into a circle, the ring is the simplest, least encumbering kind of jewelry. Yet, as shown by “Treasures and Talismans: Rings From the Griffin Collection,”an absorbing exhibition at the Cloisters, a ring can be a miniature sculpture of marvelous complexity, skill and imagination.

Rings, including this Roman key ring, are the primary focus of the exhibition.CreditRichard Goodbody/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Organized by C. Griffith Mann, the curator of the Cloisters, the exhibition features more than 60 rings made in Europe from late Ancient Roman times to the Renaissance, and it’s amplified by two dozen paintings and sculptural objects relating to ring making. All the rings are from a trove that was acquired over 30 years by a private collector and is on long-term loan to the Met. With rings and other objects involving many varieties of metalworking techniques, all kinds of gems and precious stones and many different social functions, the exhibition is an excellent introduction to a field of study that is both highly specialized and loaded with popular appeal.

Photo

A Renaissance cusp ring from Northern Europe.CreditRichard Goodbody/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the most impressive pieces is a Renaissance gimmel ring made in Germany in 1631. A gimmel ring has multiple hoops that fit together like puzzle pieces. This one, made of gold, has two circles that separate to reveal within each one’s bezel a little cavity occupied by a baby in one and a skeleton in the other. The hoops are molded in the form of snakes with additional, decorative elements painted in bright enamels. Together they share the inscription “Whom God has joined together, let no man tear asunder.”

A sixth-century architectural ring from France. CreditRichard Goodbody/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

At the less complicated end of the spectrum are British posy rings from the 16th and 17th centuries, the simplest of which are ornament-free gold bands with amorous inscriptions on the inside like “I Like My Choyse” and“Providence Divine Hath Made Thee Mine.”

(Incidentally, unless you have superhuman vision, you might consider bringing a magnifying glass. Otherwise, for the many details that elude the naked eye you can see every ring in bigger-than-life photographs on the Met’s website for the show.)

A gemstone ring. CreditRichard Goodbody/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Some rings are as interesting for their back stories as for their immediate sumptuous presence. One of the collection’s rarest pieces, an inscribed sapphire ring, has a large blue stone engraved in Arabic — perhaps in the 10th century — with the name “Abdas-Salam ibn Ahmad.” Associated with chastity and purity, sapphires were quarried in Ceylon, Arabia and Persia. This one had traveled along trade routes to the West where, ultimately, a 14th-century Italian goldsmith set it into a vigorously sculptural gold ring inscribed, “For love you were made and for love I wear you.” There’s the seed of a Hollywood epic in that.