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Beyond the Price Tag

29 august 2012

True luxury is always about simplicity of design and function. And someone who needs to ask the price, is not in the luxury niche yet. Writing on Aasha Gulrajani Swarup of the Indian Jeweller explores the hi-end luxury market and design trends in exquisite jewellery and timeless pieces that are beyond value.

Luxury jewellery is never about the price tag. It is a life style. In a country with more than two lakh dollar millionaires, the market for luxury jewellery is geared for expansion and jewellery stores are preparing exquisite haute collections for the glitterati and celebrities.

Explains Abhishek Rastogi, design manager at Tanishq, “In the high end luxury business, it’s not just the price but the exquisiteness of the jewel, the rareness of material, the uniqueness of the idea, the craftsmanship, and the service offered. It is a wholesome lifestyle experience that influences the purchase decision. Yet Indian consumers, even the richest one, are price-conscious and always seek a higher value than the obvious.”

Agrees Jitender Jain, director, Entice Jewellery, “Hi end luxury jewellery may start from Rs 10 lakhs onwards, but the focus is never the price, it is about the design, the material, the craftsmanship and finish. For example, a solitaire ring may be priced less than one lakh but still be in the luxury jewellery niche. Luxury is an experience and Indians have the potential to be luxury customers, but they are currently not being served properly. Retailers have to create the right environment and the ambience,” he adds.

It is true that Indian retail space had failed to match the international standards in luxury retail due to its poor infrastructure, high rentals, congestion and insufficient high streets. But this is changing.

The Luxury Experience

Many high end jewellery stores are gearing up to provide Indian customers the luxury experience with the right space, ambience and attention in addition to the fine jewellery.

Entice is gearing up to launch its high end jewellery retail store in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad followed by a second store in Delhi and Mumbai, especially to cater to business and corporate customers, the primary buyers of high end jewellery.

Gitanjali, in an expansion mode has adopted the luxury – lifestyle retailing segment as a new area of growth through its high end luxury store—Giantti that retails high end Indian and international jewellery brands.
Tanishq too, is targeting the higher end jewellery market.

“We at Tanishq definitely see a huge potential in the high end jewellery segment. Not only does it make sense for the business, this segment also strongly reaffirms the need for unique designs,” says Rastogi, adding, “Tanishq recently launched an exclusive range of statement jewellery for its large format stores and plans to launch a series of collections for its high end brand, Zoya.”

It is true that with easy access to global trends, Indians have become demanding customers. But the luxury experience mandates a high capital investment, which not many in the Indian jewellery segment, being mostly unorganised, are able to deliver in a planned and structured manner.

The High End Jewellery Market

Meanwhile, the luxury market for cars, watches, jewellery, handbags, perfumes and other luxury articles, estimated at nearly US $6 billion in 2010, showed a healthy growth of nearly 20 per cent with watches and jewellery segments representing the largest and fastest growing segments. The luxury niche for jewellery is expected to grow by eight to 10 per cent this year. Another study suggests that the luxury market shall grow to nearly two and half times its current size over the next five years. Says Rastogi, “Unlike in the past when the luxury jewellery market was limited to the blue-blooded and few international brands, today, it has expanded exponentially and jewellery forms the biggest chunk in the luxury pie in India.”

Realising the potential, international life style stores across various luxury niches, have jumped into the ring and opened up in India. Several international luxury jewellery brands, including Cartier and Tiffany’s, are already in India. Besides, India too is moving out of the traditional mould. It has historically been the centre for cutting and polishing of smaller sized diamonds but this is changing with many large diamond manufacturing companies cutting and polishing larger sizes and fancy shapes, essential for high end jewellery. To keep up with the demand for international trends in jewellery designs, Indian jewellery manufacturers and retailers are in the forefront. After all, design and style have emerged as more powerful purchase drivers than investment value.

Luxury Designs

The writing is on the wall. In luxury jewellery, the classic look is back, but with a contemporary edge. There is a demand for bigger stones.

Manju Kothari, creative director, Entice, says “The classic combination of rubies and emeralds with diamonds is very much in demand. Colored diamonds have also finally acquired a position of their own across the world. For a casual look, classic could be mixed with flowers as floral prints are dominating this season. Long multi-layered chains with flowers and butterflies combined with a classic pair of ear studs and pretty rings, could complete an essentially feminine look. For a formal business look, a pair of solitaires or hoops close to the ear lobes could be matched with a brooch or a ring.”

At Tanishq, diamonds are the in thing, says Rastogi, “Diamond roughs and diamond slices are really hot this season. Fancy shapes like princess and marquise are very popular. There is also a renewed interest in exclusive coloured diamonds, with rich yellow and pink being considered most novel.

A marketing source in H Dipak, the largest manufacturer and distributor of princess cut diamonds, says that the design trend is for fancy shaped diamonds and big rock pieces with an invisible setting that gives a bigger diamond look. Customers are bored with round shapes. The preferred materials are rose gold, white and yellow gold.

Men’s Luxury

The majority of the high end jewellery designs, inspired by nature, paintings, rivers, human history or any creative muse, are for women. Though men’s segment makes a fraction of the size of the overall luxury jewellery business, it is now rapidly growing. “Today, less than 10 per cent of the luxury jewellery market is for men,” says the source at H Dipak.

“Today, men today do not want to be left behind when it comes to personal grooming and dressing up and an aspect of this is jewellery. Though, jewellery always remains understated for this segment, a crisply finished cufflink, an interesting tie-pin and a diamond band quite completes the look. It may also reflect the power, wealth and respect that the wearer commands,” says Rastogi.

It is true that jewellery helps the wearer to make a statement. A piece of jewellery can speak of the taste, wealth and knowledge of the wearer. Therefore, during weddings and special occasions are the main reasons for purchase of luxury jewellery, customers are also willing to spend more on jewellery. This has pushed up prices, increased competition and also inspired jewellers to deliver more. After all, luxury was and is never about need. Finely crafted luxury jewellery is meant to last beyond a lifetime, to be owned for generations and remain timeless.