Industry leaders are upbeat about prospects in the gemstone and jewellery business amid challenges arising from an evolving retail landscape and the rise of lab-grown diamonds.
New challenges will create great opportunities, according to speakers at a closing forum in the sixth GIA International Gemological Symposium. The event, held from October 7 to 9, attracted nearly 800 participants from 36 countries representing every aspect of the global gem and jewellery trade.
The roadblocks identified during the forum were continued consolidation in all sectors; how to appeal to talent in a rapidly changing workforce; and disruption caused by laboratory grown diamonds.
Six industry leaders – Bruce Cleaver, CEO of the De Beers Group; Gina Drosos, CEO of Signet Jewelers; Jason Goldberger, CEO of Blue Nile; Andy Johnson, CEO of Diamond Cellar Holdings; Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewellery at Christie’s; and Kent Wong, managing director of Chow Tai Fook – discussed these challenges and offered their outlook for the trade.
The panellists agreed that there are increasing challenges in the retail landscape, but also opportunities, and that customer shopping is more and more integrated across all channels. Kadakia commented that while 90 percent of Christie’s auctions are live events, online auctions attract a new audience and offer a starting point for new collectors. Johnson meanwhile observed that with the majority of people buying jewellery in retail stores, retailers have a chance to develop a sustainable relationship with customers.
Diversity is a great benefit to any business and that a one-size-fits-all approach to hiring needs to be examined, according to the panellists. Goldberger said companies should avoid being insular and recognise that a mix of viewpoints is helpful. Chow Tai Fook’s Wong pointed out that many millennial workers – who bring great value – want to build their own businesses, and that firms should work cooperatively with them.
Regarding laboratory grown diamonds, the panel recognised that they are attracting consumer interest, but that customers exhibit a preference for natural diamonds to mark important moments. Drosos commented that consumers have an interest in natural diamonds for special life purchases, and that they are interested in being able to trace the unique story of their diamond. Cleaver emphasised the contribution of mined diamonds and their positive impact on ten million people in Africa.