Interview with Charles Stanley, President of De Beers Forevermark
Charles Stanley’s insight into the luxury jewellery business comes from his time at some of the biggest diamond brands in the world, including Harry Winston and DeBeers. He was part of the team that helped to brand the DeBeers name, and was later involved in launching Fovermark, of which he is now President.
During his career, Stanley has seen many changes take place in the diamond business, and in the luxury market as a whole, but the most major trend he is seeing at the moment is to do with customisation.
“It could definitely be considered a macro trend,” he says. “It drives the affluent mindset to think that they are getting something special, something unique to them.”
This plays into status, and something which luxury has always been about, he says, arguing that the affluent consumer will always want to show off their unique purchase.
“People buy into luxury so that they can feel that they have got something unique and special that not everybody is getting. Luxury has always been defined as this – something that I can get that others can’t.”
Although of course major jewellery brands can and do tap into this, the trend does play into the hands of smaller and less well-known labels, which is why we are seeing so many of them thrive.
“What has been consistent both pre- and post-pandemic is the emergence of small-scale designers that are tapping into an affluent person’s mindset, one which is looking for something special and really unique or customised to them. This pulls on various psyches that have always existed in luxury, but we are now seeing these very small and niche players doing very well.”
Stanley explains that part of the reason for their success lies behind being able to connect with their customer so well, because they are the customer.
“Quite often, they are connected anyway already with a certain social set, and they use their passion for jewellery, which is connected to their social set, to create these pretty successful businesses. Some of them have the capacity to break out into the mainstream, but many are happy to stay in their niche little space.”
“You can see it in other industries too,” he adds. “These brands use insights from their social sets and their own experiences to build the brand with this in-depth knowledge of the consumers, and then they are connected via social media to get the message out.”
Understanding what makes the consumer tick is of course key to appealing to them and this is why niche brands can do so well. In a broader sense though, it is about recognising the wider trends too that allow consumers to express themselves and their views through their purchases, which for the jewellery market now means prioritising ethics and sustainability because many consumers are becoming hyper aware of climate change.
“Luxury is being impacted as many other categories are by the consumer’s increasing interest in ethics, social purpose and provenance of the brands they are buying into. There is a heightened need to demonstrate that there is a good purpose behind how you are bringing your products to market.”
This has changed quite dramatically, he says, since they launched Forevermark in 2008, where responsible sourcing was one of the key pillars of the strategy, but one which they didn’t believe consumers would care about.
“That has now become so important. It has filtered into the diamond industry very seriously.”
And, this importance placed on values has only been accelerated by the pandemic, which Stanley believes has caused people to stop and reset when considering how to spend their money.
“When I think about what happened to our brand over the course of the pandemic, we hypothesized that people would take a bit of a reset and consider what was really important to them, their family, their friends, of course. But, we believed that diamonds with their symbolic value would do well during the pandemic and this has proven to be the case.”
This trend, he believes, will continue.
“I think the notion of fewer things, but better, will continue, and our category will benefit from that. This event has made people reflect, and I think now consumers are thinking that if they want to spend their money on things, they need to be really meaningful and have lasting value. Any category that can deliver a meaning which can last will do well.”