DMCC announces Ambassadors of WDC’s System of Warranties

DMCC has announced that its Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ahmed Bin Sulayem, and its Special Advisor - Precious Stones, Dr Martin Leake, have been appointed as ambassadors of the World Diamond Council’s (WDC) updated SoW initiative...

Today

WDC launchеd an upgraded and expanded System of Warranties

The World Diamond Council (WDC) has marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment by the United Nations of the International Day of Peace with the official public launch of its upgraded System of Warranties (SoW).

Today

Botswana Diamonds completes nine-hole drilling on Thorny River

Botswana Diamonds has completed its nine-hole drilling programme on the Thorny River property in South Africa. It said the objective of the hole drilling was to see if two kimberlite blows were one contiguous orebody, thus increasing the overall resource...

Today

Lifeline for small-scale chrome miners in Zim

Zimbabwe Zhongxin Smelting Company, a joint venture between a Chinese firm and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, is constructing a $60 million smelting plant in Masvingo.

Today

Out of the deep blue: Buyers at Christie’s will have a chance to bid for Rolex Experimental Deep Sea Special N°1

Developed as a prototype for perfecting the Rolex diving watch concept, this Rolex Deep Sea Special N°1 was attached to the hull of Auguste Piccard’s bathyscaphe Trieste for the inaugural deep-sea trial to a depth of 3,150 meters in the Mediterranean...

Yesterday

Costantino Papadimitriou: Our Design Gives Shape to Emotions

15 october 2012

Costantino Papadimitriou is General Manager at the Forevermark Design and Innovation Centre in Milan, Italy. He received Rough & Polished in his office and gave his take on the marketing strategy of the Forevermark brand and the status of diamond jewellery in general.

When did your career in De Beers start, and what is your actual role?

I have had two experiences with the De Beers Group: the first one started in 1994, and then again with DTC Italy in 2003, which has now closed, on the development of relationships on the Italian territory. In 2007 I worked on some development projects and De Beers asked me if I wanted to continue my experience with them. Since 2008 we have been working on the development of Forevermark products and communication strategy.

Why did De Beers feel the need to launch Forevermark?

There are many reasons. First of all, we live in an increasingly complex and confused world and the primary objective was to grant consumers all the reassurance they deserve. People are concerned with blood diamonds, but also with non-transparent financial transactions, the working conditions of the employees, environmental sustainability. In the past, diamonds have not been always clean in those areas. This is why Forevermark takes the responsibility to become the reference mark. Our “Promise”, this is the payoff of our brand, is to give diamond buyers the best in terms of ethical products. By engraving a serial number on the diamond we ensure that every single stone will be guaranteed forever. Even if you lose the paper certificate, you will be able to retrieve its history from our archives.

And of course, Forevermark is also about diamond quality.

Absolutely. It is the best 1% of our diamonds, as we say.

Why did you choose Asia for your debut, and why is Europe not covered yet?

We chose Asia only because when we launched our product it was the best market in terms of commercial response and production capacity. When you start with a new brand it is important to catch the right wave. We are a young company, we still have to build our image and improve our distribution channels. China offered us the possibility to grow rapidly and safely; in Hong Kong the response to our product was great; we have landed in India just eight months ago and have drawn a lot of interest.

Now we are slowly returning to the West. We have a project for the United Kingdom and I would love to have Forevermark products in Italy. But Europe has to solve its financial problems first. During a recession is not easy to convince people on buying diamonds; you must be extremely focused on the product and the message. Asia has a big advantage in this sense, because in growing economies people are more curious. Just a decade ago it was unthinkable in those areas to buy a diamond jewel, it is something fresh and new to them.

How did other jewellery firms respond to Forevermark diamonds?

We encourage everyone to use Forevermark diamonds on their collections. We already had a positive response in this sense. Firms are interested in giving more guarantees to the customers when selling their products. In the English market there is interest in using ethic gold, and this means that on top of it you must have an ethic diamond. It is a principle that is slowly, but steadily, expanding.

Is it hard to maintain a balance between brand expansion and exclusivity?

Well, maybe one day we will reach the critical mass that will force us to expand from the 1% of our production to a bigger number. But if you think about it, 1% of our diamonds is already a big number in absolute terms. I might be a visionary, but ideally one day all diamonds should have a Forevermark classification, at least in terms of ethical guarantees.

Why did Forevermark decide to set its Design and Innovation Centre in Italy?

The management asked me this very same question when I proposed Milan for our centre. You know, I am Greek and am extremely respectful of history and traditions. The whole World recognises the leadership of Italian design, from the fashion industry to the design of appliances. Italy has so many excellent schools of design. In London you can find St. Martins or the Royal Academy, but here in Milan there are at least five schools. And then there is Florence, Venice, Rome. All of them have different characteristics. Such a melting pot of styles, knowledge and experiences is unique; I would not be able to find it anywhere else. And moreover, in Italian schools you do not just learn a style; you learn how to realise a concept. You can see the results on collections such as Encordia and Forevermark Setting.

Apart from design, Italy also has the expertise of families who have been designing jewels for years. I sometimes sit down with a 70 years old goldsmith and he helps me to understand where I could improve my products. This is very important for a young brand.

Forevermark aims at being a global product. What does it mean to design a jewel that should be appreciated from Mumbai to New York? Is it possible to find symbols that are universally accepted?

I spend a lot of time analysing consumer choices. We make studies all over the world to understand their desires. I believe there is something that links them all regardless their provenience: the need express their love. It is not always easy to find a symbol of love that is accepted everywhere, but if we study carefully, we can find some connections.

Take in account that creating a new collection requires at least 18 months. I do some analysis and propose some leading concepts. Then we try to translate them into a product. There is not a recipe for that. We are good at understanding what people want and are lucky because there is an important firm such as De Beers that believes in our approach.

I do not want to speak ill about other firms, but sometimes I see some of their collections and ask myself - “What were they thinking of?”

What is your customer target in terms of age and gender? Is it changing compared to when Forevermark was launched?

I believe that society is changing. This is something we should think about. Markets and values are changing, and people are more focused about themselves. Couples are less stable than in the past, and the recession is putting unity under strain. Keeping this in mind, our target is all those people who want to keep the promise of love alive. I think this is what diamonds are supposed to mean.

What are the future trends in jewellery design? There is much talking about the rise of alternative materials. What is your opinion on that?

The world is changing and materials are changing as well. An example? Young people use the iPhone but donʼt have watches at their wrist anymore. Designers must take this into account.

Then there is the problem of the price of gold, which is forcing many firms to reinvent the way they express themselves. In Italy a taboo was broken when small diamonds were used on steel jewelry pieces. I do like the idea of new materials making their way into the market, but we should avoid confusing customers.

At Forevermark we are very careful on using alternative materials, because our primary objective is to make people understand the value of diamonds, and when you really want to celebrate love with a beautiful diamond, gold and platinum are the best solutions. Nonetheless, we are doing some experiments and in Japan we launched a small collection of bracelets partially made with PVC. It was a success.

Where are Forevermark jewels crafted?

Everywhere. We leave all decisions on crafting to the market where our products will be sold. When local retailers who are part of the Forevermark chain decide to use our collections we give them everything they need from the technical point of view. Production is local because it reduces costs and gives more flexibility in terms of numbers and materials. In return, they give us feedbacks and suggestions on how to improve our products.

Is there any relationship between Forevermark and De Beers Diamond Jewellers?

We are completely independent one from the other. I worked with them on some projects, but our products and target are completely different.

De Beers has decided to switch from generic advertisement to brand advertisement. Do you think this approach is working?

I firmly believe that today customers are interested in understanding the story behind a diamond. Years ago we made an experiment in Italy: when people entered a jewellery shop, we tried explaining them what was behind our diamonds. Just that, with no selling strategy. What did they do? They decided to buy them, because they understood that there was nothing better in terms of guarantees.

Over time I am sure the level of awareness will rise. But we are proceeding slowly because the economy is not helping right now.

How many designers work at the Design and Innovation Centre?

Here there are three people I have been working with for years. Professionally speaking, we grew up together, learning one from the other. This is the core group of the office. Then there are young designers, stagiaires and specialists that come and go all the time. It is a small, nimble team. This is more than enough to do the job.

What is the average age?

Unfortunately it is me who increases the average. They are all young, I would say between 28 and 35 years old.

If I wanted to be a Forevermark jewels designer, what characteristics should I have?

We are open to different backgrounds. Some people came here straight after college; Some others came from completely different sectors, such as interior design. What is important is your ability to work on a project that brings together ideas and design. You must be inquisitive, open minded, humble and cheerful. As you can see, this is a small office; there is a bit of competition, but we want to keep our friendly environment.

Which is more important in this job, the pencil or the mouse?

I am not that good at using the mouse, so I would definitely say pencil. Everyone here can draw, but we also use 3D software to speed up the process.

I have visited some jewellery designers in China. They receive a set of stones and start composing them together as if it was a puzzle. They literally assemble them. The result is beautiful, but it is not how we work here. When we design a Jewel, we give a shape to emotions. We want to express a concept by putting the diamond at the centre of our design, and we definitely need a pencil for that.

Do you have any new collection coming out?

Probably in the second half of 2013.

Matteo Butera, Rough&Polished, from Milan