The diamond is no longer just for the rich and famous. Affordable outlets have made the glittering gemstone accessible to middle-class Chinese.[Photo/provided to China Daily]
With engagement rings becoming trendy among China’s lovebirds, a slew of cut-price jewelers have sprung up.
When actress Zhang Ziyi got engaged earlier this year her diamond ring took as much of the limelight as her new status as fiancee to rock star Wang Feng.
However, not everyone has a budget spanning millions of yuan. For such people, affordable diamond outlets have become the solution.
Yang Lei, a legal consultant in Beijing, is one of them. She bought a 7,000-yuan ($1,100) engagement ring at Make Lumer, one of the biggest diamond outlets offering affordable jewelry, after comparing prices with high-end brands such as Tiffany.
“The price meets my budget, and the quality is worth the money,” she says.
China is now one of the world’s three largest markets for diamond jewelry, along with the United States and India, says a Bain report published in December.
Sales of polished diamonds in China reached $2.24 billion in 2014, a 31-percent rise year-on-year, according to figures published by the Shanghai Diamond Exchange, the only import and export trading platform in China.
While the government’s anti-graft campaign has had a major impact on the luxury jewelry sector, retailers such as Make Lumer are undeterred as they tap into the growing consumption capability of China’s burgeoning middle-class.
“The government’s curb on luxury gifting doesn’t really affect us as we target the middle and lower ends of the market where people buy diamond for themselves,” says Hao Yi, founder and president of Make Lumer.
To meet the demand of young customers, it is updating its stores with customized services and an experience lounge. It is also working with third-party online retailers to promote its presence on the Internet.
In Love, another major player on the market, offers diamonds with wide range of prices－from hundreds to millions of yuan. It has opened three outlets in Beijing. Like Make Lumer, it advertises itself on reasonable prices and attributes its low prices to direct purchase from the original source of the stones.
Wan Zihong, founder and CEO of In Love, had once controversially blamed the high price of diamonds on the store rents and “middlemen payments”. While some labeled his outburst a marketing stunt, it did draw more attention to the rise of the affordable diamond market.
Young people are also going online to buy their wedding rings these days.
Zbird, an online diamond retailer founded in 2002, showcases its models online and invites customers to come to its brick-and-mortar store to check the rings out and place orders. Without the high rent and middlemen payments, Zbird is able to sell the diamonds half the price of that in traditional malls, says Xu Lei, CEO of Zbird.
The company introduced the standards issued by Gemological Institute of America in diamond identification in 2005, to ensure the quality of its gems. It recently bought Italian jewelry company Lani in a bid to expand its product range.
About 90 percent of its revenue now comes from online sales, says Xu.
“Our customers usually approach us online and later come to our physical store to seal the deal. About 30 percent of them place their orders online,” he says.