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The Cut Of Excellence
IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. That's how Charles Rosario, senior vice president of Lazare Kaplan International Inc, describes the start of the partnership that the New York-based diamond manufacturer and distributor had with Larry Jewelry 30 years ago.
The latter, which was established 52 years ago in Hong Kong and has been in Singapore for 44 years, is the exclusive distributor of LAZARE® Diamonds in Singapore and Indonesia.
''Larry Jewelry is a quality jeweller who was looking to distinguish itself in the Singapore market and LAZARE® Diamonds is a unique proposition because we cut the world's most beautiful diamond from the technical and mathematical point of view, with the idea of producing the maximum amount of brilliance that's possible,'' explains Mr Rosario of Lazare's famous ideal-cut diamond. ''We had a lot in common, in particular, the high level of integrity, high quality reputation, transparency and commitment to service.''
While Larry Jewelry brings discriminating and quality-oriented customers to the table, LAZARE® presents its famous diamonds to close the sale, he says.
Over the three decades, Larry Jewelry has expanded its customer profile for LAZARE® diamonds across all ages in both Singapore and Indonesia.
''While our mature shoppers recognise the quality of the gemstones and design integrity, we have attracted younger shoppers as well,'' says Catherine Ng, Larry Jewelry Singapore's managing director, adding that the LAZARE® solitaire range remains most popular with the younger generation.
''Either looking for their proposal ring or their first diamonds, younger shoppers are very aware of what they want. Quality and brand recognition are crucial.''
The fact that every LAZARE® diamond 0.18 carat and larger has the LAZARE® logo and an individual identification number as proof of its authenticity as an ideal-cut LAZARE® diamond, allow shoppers to buy with confidence.
''With their first LAZARE® diamond purchase, irrespective of diamond size, these young customers become some of our most loyal, and end up being repeat customers as they celebrate key milestones throughout their lives.''
The strong partnership between Larry Jewelry and LAZARE® Diamonds notwithstanding, their challenge continues to be in educating consumers about why they ought to spend more on quality diamonds.
''We want to be the guy that talks calmly about the quality and value of the diamond. We don't want to be the guy in the corner screaming 'Sales! Discounts!' That doesn't resonate,'' says Mr Rosario, noting that LAZARE® celebrates 100 years of its ideal cut this year. ''Our approach has been to say the right thing, do the right thing and show the customers that we actually stand behind our brand.''
He says the main challenges facing the diamond market today are the competition for financing of diamond-buying at the manufacturing and wholesale levels; the supply of quality diamonds; and man-made or synthetic diamonds that are hard to differentiate from real diamonds, but cost a fraction of the genuine article.
''In the world of business, if there is an opportunity to make money and move outside of the lines, we know it's going to happen,'' he points out. ''So I can guarantee you that there are people walking around with synthetic diamonds in their jewellery and they don't know it.''
He says that's another reason for buying from a quality jeweller like Larry Jewelry.
''It's because you know what you're getting. You buy a brand for what it represents, its integrity. So if you buy a piece of jewellery from Larry Jewelry, you're getting peace of mind, you're getting confidence, you're getting quality and they stand behind it.''
At the local level, Ms Ng says that while the retail industry as a whole has many challenges, the challenges facing an independent brand like Larry Jewelry, are distinct.
''For one, we will never have the budgets to market ourselves at the same level as the bigger commercial brands,'' she says. ''We believe that the Singapore authorities need to promote independent jewellery ateliers such as Larry Jewelry on an international stage - not just promote individual brands, but Singapore as a leading jewellery design and retail hub.''
This is because while retailers can market themselves to the best of their ability, their reach is still limited. ''If we had festivals and events across the region and internationally to showcase the quality of the workmanship, the design vision and the heritage of independent brands such as Larry Jewelry, we could compete on a more even playing field.''
Meanwhile, she says Larry Jewelry's most critical strategy is to find the perfect balance between its mature customers and attracting younger shoppers.
''We have grown with our older shoppers who have supported us over the years because they believe in our quality and our design philosophy,'' Ms Ng explains.
''With the younger generation, there are many more choices and they are influenced by commercial brands. We are working with our design team to roll out collections that will be appealing, but without losing sight of our overall vision.''
Larry Jewelry's advantage, she says, is its bespoke service, which it is ramping up.
''Today's generation want to stand out and have an input in their jewellery designs. We embrace this wholly and want to forge stronger relationships with our customers by including them in the actual design process.''
CELEBRATING 30 YEARS TOGETHER
To mark the 30th anniversary of Larry Jewelry's partnership with LAZARE®, an exclusive Signature Ring has been designed. This classic beauty features a dazzling LAZARE® centrepiece that is brilliantly framed by a pair of tapered baguette-cut diamonds set in classic bar channels.
The rough was sourced from Namibia and cut using the LAZARE® mathematical formula to achieve its precise angles and proportions. The centre diamond is 13.68 carats and the total carat weight is 14.5 carats - all set in platinum.
This one-of-a-kind ring is only available at Larry Jewelry and once purchased, the buyer can choose to have a personalised message laserinscribed on the stone's circumference.