By Ashley Bailey
, Thursday, September 14, 2006
Several speakers at the GIA Symposium provided insight on the future of marketing and manufacturing, branding and the realities of the diamond marketplace. Eli Haas of ENH International moderated the session. Elliot Tannenbaum of Leo Schachter spoke on marketing and manufacturing and Glenn Rothman of Hearts On Fire spoke about the positives of branding. Martin Irving and Lawrence Ma discussed the future impact Canada and China will potentially have on the industry and Martin Rapaport commented on coming ethical issues.
Rothman’s message was for those developing a brand to simply find their own voice and then stick with it. He reinforced consistency as paramount, as consumers come to identify a set of paradigms and that set of paradigms becomes the brand's expectation. Rothman encouraged branders with a proven product to stand apart by amplifying the special quality of their brand. He said simple courtesies and considerations for customers (such as replacing a lost stone for no charge) can be great value-adds to enhance brand distinction and public perception. He encouraged branders not to get sidetracked; to be constant, consistent and heed their own voices in order to stay with the concept that made the brand identifiable and successful.
Martin Irving of Canada noted that his country is poised to become one of the world’s strongest future suppliers. Today Canada supplies 15% (by value) of rough diamonds to the trade. The Northwest Territories has been Canada’s bread and butter, but in Saskatchewan a mining operation is about to be created atop the world’s largest existing diamondiferous kimberlite field and more mining operations are in scouting and planning at this time than currently exist. By 2016 Canada’s contribution to the world supply is estimated to be considerably more significant.
Lawrence Ma addressed China’s role. It is becoming a widespread belief that his nation may soon be driving the diamond market. There are multiple cities of over 10 million people and a concentrated population center of over 30 million. The diamond tradition for engagement rings is escalating rapidly in China. Last May 1-7 (golden week) there were over 30,000 weddings in Shanghai alone. With regard to trade, VAT has been reduced from 17% - 4% for finished goods, opening supply lines for China’s vast population. Even more significant is the fact that there is no VAT on rough brought into China: There are currently 5000 processing units, 200,000 diamond cutters and some 2 million people involved in the Chinese diamond/jewelry manufacturing industry. Increasing demand from the Chinese population for diamonds is already changing the diamond marketplace, with much more significant growth anticipated.
Martin Rapaport, in classic fashion, reiterated this escalating Chinese demand as paramount, citing no shortage of future demand and maintaining that branding will be irrelevant in some cases. His message touched on economic and ethical issues introduced during his JCK Las Vegas address. He provided an update on the issue of conflict diamonds and the Rapaport Group's progress towards creating fair and free markets in troubled areas via a Fair Trade Diamond and Jewelry Association.