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Stephan Wolzok: When we’re all able to go back to our “normal” lives, then the market will do the same

03 may 2021

stephan_wolzok_xx.pngRubel & Ménasché, the well-known Paris-based diamond company, has been supplying the jewelry houses of Place Vendôme with high-end small goods for over 50 years.

The company has been granted European Commission “Authorized Economic Operator” (AEO) status by the government of France, which means that it meets EC standards in respect of customs compliance, record-keeping, financial solvency, security and safety standards.

Rubel & Ménasché was one of the first companies to be certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council.

Stephan Wolzok, CEO of Rubel & Ménasché, has kindly agreed to answer Rough&Polished's questions.

How has the pandemic affected diamond producers globally?

The pandemic has certainly affected gem producers. But they have been brave enough to keep their goods for part of the year, to “hold” their prices, and not to force purchases. From my point of view, they had the resources to absorb the costs of the stocks… So they have been very active in dealing with this crisis and had a very positive regulatory role. They have supported the entire industry. Their attitude has enabled us, here at Rubel & Ménasché for example, to continue purchasing, storing, and manufacturing. We weren’t running the risk that our goods decreased in value. The gem producers are now bringing their prices back up, they’re controlling supply, but it seems fair to me. In my opinion, we have had the oxygen we needed.

Could we say that the diamond market is slowly recovering?

Yes, of course, the figures at the end of 2020 were good, they were strong. At Rubel & Ménasché, our order books are much fuller, since July 2020, than at the same time last year! There’s a real upturn in all the product sectors, except high jewelry which has not yet picked up pace again. Brands are taking more and more of the market share. The crisis has well and truly strengthened the big Maisons, which is what I’m seeing in the orders placed in my company.

Finally, since the first lockdown last year, we have all had to take breaks at times, but the closure of such and such country was compensated by another country and enabled the business to be maintained…

When, do you think, it will be possible to speak of a full-fledged market recovery?

All I can say is that we’re off to a very good start. Complete recovery will go hand in hand with vaccination. When we’re all able to go back to our “normal” lives, then the market will do the same.

A positive aspect of this crisis is that many people wanted to treat themselves with jewels. And I mean really treat themselves.

What are the main drivers of market growth at the moment?

One of the main drivers of growth in our industry is the fact that we’ve been communicating about our diamonds to revive longing and enthusiasm. We must be clear and honest about our product.

Some consumers will prefer diamonds that come from the earth, and some won’t. But we have to remember that in our industry, the natural diamonds that we offer are respectable at over 99% and that we’re all thinking of reaching 100%! Transparency, best professional practices, committing to equality, these things are all fundamental. This is what is driving growth. And all of that with cheerfulness of course… Diamonds are not an austere product… Your eyes will always light up when you see them!

You know, in our business, everything remained secret for a very long time. The profession was passed on from father to son, we walked around with diamonds in our pockets and we lined those pockets… At the time there was no question of shouting from the rooftops that we were diamantaires! And, by extension, we communicated no more about the industry than we did about our profession!

Gradually, the situation was changed by the demands of the Maisons, the financial bodies, and consumers. We cleaned house, we demanded guarantees, and we made sourcing more secure… In short, transparency is essential, as is being certain that your supplier will be able to deliver to you!

Do you see the need for marketers to develop a fundamentally new strategy aimed at popularizing diamonds among the "Internet generation"?

Yes, of course, we need to develop an appropriate strategy… But don’t ask me what it is, as I don’t know! Rubel & Ménasché works in B to B. We have to give the youngest people a taste for diamonds, we have to create in them the values and the emotion that diamonds convey. The previous generation didn’t often wear their jewels, which didn’t help to raise awareness among young people! So we need to resume dialog and talk about what our industry is, in a fun, clear, vivid way; we need to tell its fine story exactly how it is. That will whet appetites!

To what extent do you think laboratory diamonds can threaten the natural stone market?

Laboratory diamonds represent no threat! Let’s stop thinking that. Each customer has to find what works for them. And in the end, why not wear both? Depending on the circumstances, perhaps someone will prefer to give, or to be given, a synthetic diamond. I’m convinced that the synthetic product could bring new customers to natural diamonds… What’s most important is that the jeweler’s message is clear. Let’s stop being afraid!

Tell us about your hopes and vision for the current year, 2021.

I think that Covid-19 must not be a pretext for doing less. Clearly, it’s not my thing. People are concerned. But, in my opinion, we can remain open, while assessing the threat. We need to be even closer to other people, show more solidarity and pay attention to our neighbor… yes, the one who’s just next to us, who we come across every day… We need to go to the shop on our street corner!

In this sense, my hope would be that, after this crisis, everyone will generally share a little more. For me, it’s not imaginable that today, people who are working can’t pay for a roof over their heads. That’s exactly why we can no longer say “we can’t”! We need to move towards sharing more! Moreover, this is something that we’re trying to put into place at Rubel & Ménasché. “Living well” and “wellbeing” in our company, in simplicity, without grand speeches.

I hope that all my employees will be increasingly satisfied coming into work! I want them to be happy, and I want their experience at Rubel & Ménasché to bring them much for the future…

Alex Shishlo for Rough&Polished