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Jane Seymour starring in “Open Hearts”

15 july 2009

Sterling Jewelers started dancing with movie star Jane Seymour and created a hit jewelry line in the process, as reports.

The way Mark Light, president and CEO of Sterling Jewelers, tells it, it was a stroke of luck his company ever met the acquaintance of Jane Seymour.

As a sponsor of the American Music Awards, Sterling was invited to an ABC dinner. Jane Seymour, then white hot after her classy turn on ABC's Dancing With the Stars, was seated with the Sterling team. Like any jeweler would, Light noticed Seymour's jewelry. Seymour explained that her piece was based on one of her paintings and custom-designed by her personal jeweler. That painting, with two hearts linked together, dramatized a philosophy that came from Seymour's mother: "If your heart is open, love will find a way."

"I thought: 'That's phenomenal,'" Light recalls. "I said, 'Do you know who I am? I am the president and CEO of Sterling Jewelers. We are the largest jeweler in America.' She had no idea. Talk about fate."

Light brought the idea to his merchandising team, which soon became as excited as he was. "Usually when a CEO comes around with a merchandise program, the merchandise people are like, 'Oh no,'" he says. "But our team just fell in love with the philosophy right away. They thought it was real and it would connect with the American public."

When talk came around to business, Seymour stressed that she wanted her jewelry to be accessible to everyone. That was perfect for mass-market Sterling. The chain fashioned product for a variety of price points, from $14.99 to $1,499.

After a 100-store test last Mother's Day, the idea was rolled out to the entire chain. Sterling heavily advertised it with a commercial featuring Seymour painting her hearts and giving the story behind them. "We wanted to make sure the commercial got Seymour's message out and let you know that she was an artist and that this philosophy came from her mother," Light says. "It's a lot to accomplish in 30 seconds."

Sterling declines to reveal specific sales numbers for the product, but spokesman David Bouffard calls it "one of the most successful programs that we've seen."

One Sterling source went even further, telling JCK: "It has become the strongest line Sterling has. It is insanely popular and completely replaced Journey, Circle, and practically the entire store's fashion merchandise."

The source added: "The prices, especially the silver at under and around $50 to $150, were perfect for the way people were shopping during the holiday. Every Kay and regional store was inundated with the phone calls all Christmas. Ask any store and they'll know what you mean."

Sterling plans more pieces built around Seymour's artwork and a possible branching out into men's jewelry.

The line's success owes much to Seymour's popularity. Bouffard notes that her career began as a Bond girl, and extended through her '80s run as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. But she's known to modern viewers, too, particularly after Dancing With the Stars. "Her performance on Dancing was very impactful, because people could see how approachable she is, how open," Bouffard says.

But Sterling has done celebrity-inspired jewelry before, including lines with Cindy Crawford and Joan Rivers. What has impressed executives is how the "open hearts" philosophy has struck a chord with America. Light notes that some customers have gotten "open heart" tattoos. Bouffard talks about a terminal cancer patient who wanted the necklace as her final gift. She even wanted to be buried with it.

"We think the message has resonated with consumers in these difficult economic times," Light says. "Jane wants to make her hearts a universal symbol of hope and love."