September 21, 2014

Argyle Diamond Jewellery Collection Tells A Dreamtime Story



AUSTRALIA’S breathtaking landscape, rich Aboriginal culture and the deep red colours of its earth all form the diamond story being sold to China’s emerging middle class in a jewellery collection created with gems from Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine. 
The Chow Tai Fook Sunshine collection, to be launched in China on Monday, is the fourth creative collaboration Rio has worked on with Chinese giant Chow Tai Fook, and follows the great success of the Australian Colours collection.

Rio Tinto’s managing director of diamonds, Jean-Marc Lieberherr, said the Chow Tai Fook Sunshine collection was a fantastic story centred around Australia’s landscape and built on the different shades of diamonds from the Argyle mine in Western Australia’s Kimberley Region.

“You can feel it is all based on the colours of the sunshine of Australia — you can feel the heat through the whole thing. I think it will be a great success,” he told The Weekend Australian in Hong Kong. “All the designs of the jewellery in this new collection are inspired from Aboriginal designs. We are selling what is deepest about Australia: the landscape, the Aboriginal culture. it’s pretty powerful.”

Mr Lieberherr said the diamond industry had been stuck on the “four Cs” — colour, cut, clarity and carat — which was commoditising the product because it was a formula simply to decide value.

“We need to turn that around and really leverage the unique story of the diamonds and make people feel good,” he said.

A new dimension that was introduced to the collection, in stores in October, was to add a “mine of origin” program to the pieces. Customers are given a certificate with the jewellery item that guarantees every single diamond in it is from Argyle.

It’s the first time in the Asian jewellery market that customers are being offered a diamond of known origin.

Kent Wong, managing director of Chow Tai Fook’s jewellery group, said the mine of origin program didn’t just offer customers the confidence they were purchasing a genuine diamond — it also added to the experience of buying into the “whole diamond journey”.

“When the Sunshine collection comes out, I think the ­Chinese customer will be excited with a new collection talking about the diamond journey, because that is an attractive selling point,” he said.

Australian Colours was the first creative collaboration between Rio Tinto Diamonds and Chow Tai Fook and was the latter’s first foray into fashion jewellery. It has proved its most successful collection, selling in more than 1000 of its 2000 stores in China.
The “affordable fashion” jewellery ranges from $350 to $1000.

Mr Wong said his company had shown the jewellery market that diamond demand was not just about a solitaire diamond market, but that there were other markets, such as fashion jewellery for daily use.

“China has changed so fast in recent years and customer demands have changed so fast,” he said.
“Fifty per cent of our customers now are aged between 20 and 40 years.

“ They are young, well educated and they like to try something new, so we created the diamond fashion jewellery program through Australian Colours. We had the different design, the ­Australian story and an affordable price.”

Mr Lieberherr said the Chinese market had followed the trends seen in the US in the 1990s when consumers started buying diamonds for daily wear, not just for special occasions.

He added that the Asian giant’s market growth had been more rapid than that of the US.
“The work we are doing in China, as our underground volumes at Argyle grow to full production by the middle of next year, is what we had been doing in the US in 1990, which has really opened this whole new opportunity of fashion jewellery.”

The diamond boss said what had been fascinating was the speed at which Chinese retailers had embraced the opportunity. Chinese diamond jewellery growth has been about 2½ times faster than its economic growth in the past three years.

Over the next five to 10 years, China is expected to become the second-largest market for diamonds after the US, and to represent almost a third of global demand.

Given the increasing interest from China, it is no surprise that Rio Tinto finished the global roadshow of its annual tender of Argyle’s top pink diamonds in Hong Kong this week.
Argyle produces up to 90 per cent of the world’s annual output of pink diamonds, and yet that is only 0.1 per cent of Argyle’s total volume.

Of that 0.1 per cent, the top 50 or so stones by value and beauty make it to the annual tender, with some stones likely to fetch more than $US2 million ($2.23m).

Mr Lieberherr said the miner was blessed to have the most extraordinary product.
“The pinks are the most extraordinary product on earth — the most concentrated form of worth on earth,” he said.

“The tender is a flagship for the entire Rio Tinto diamonds business. Nothing better than to bring the image bearer of the whole business here (Hong Kong) and to present it to the trade.”

By Sarah-Jane Tasker who travelled to Hong Kong courtesy of Rio Tinto



With thanks to The Australian


Above: The Argyle Siren Diamond - details here.

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